Ask Darrel: Politics And Your Church

Welcome to Episode 57 of the Ask Darrel podcast. On this episode we’re talking about dealing with people who want to talk politics on social media.

Okay, let’s talk about politics (everyone makes an audible groan). While I know this is not everyone’s favorite subject, you may have to deal with a staff member or pastor that is really passionate about politics on social media.  So how do deal with this gracefully and still let people voice their opinions? 

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Why Podcasts Matter

I write a blog, do a weekly podcast and I’ve tried my hand at vlogging. If you told me I could only do one for the rest of my life. The answer would be easy.

My podcast.

Why? One reason is that it’s the easiest for me in terms of content. There’s always something to talk about. Plus, talking about a subject is much easier then writing about it.

But that’s not why I would choose podcasting. I would choose podcasting because there something intimate about audio. I’ve listened to enough podcasts to know that over time those people behind the microphone can become a comfort for a lot of people. There’s something about a familiar voice talking to you while you go about doing life’s work.

Now I have no idea if I have that effect on people, but I know they do on me. Here’s a quick list of podcasts that I’m currently listening to:

Each of these podcasts bring me some joy throughout the week. Every episode is like hanging out with friends that you haven’t seen all week. I don’t think I’m the only person who feels that way.

It’s why I love podcasts, and I think they’re here to stay.

Determining the Priority

One of my favorite books from last year was Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I loved this quote:

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.

In short, the author is pointing out that priorities (the plural of priority) is a fairly new invention. Sure, you can claim to have multiple priorities, but in reality you only have one priority. Only one thing can be the foremost thought in your mind. You may want multiple priorities to matter to you, but you can really only focus on one.

Your church’s communication channels are no different. You can claim that you have multiple ministries and events of equal importance, but you can’t give them all priority. When you do try to give them all priority, nothing will have priority and therefore nothing will be communicated.

Declaring something as a priority is hard, because you’re saying that something else (a person, ministry, event, etc…) is not. However, that’s why your in charge of communications. To make the hard calls and decide what is the priority.

The Two Paths of Social Media

I’ve come to realize that are two paths you can take when you’re trying your hand at social media. 

The first is rapid growth. You consume every video, podcast, and article on social media that you can find, and you go at it with brute force. No tip or trick is too small to try. Of course, over certain period of time you find yourself eventually doing the following:

  • Creating listicles to get quick easy page views. (I’m guilty of this one.) 
  • Creating unsustainable content creation strategies which ultimately lead to burn out.
  • Creating click-bait articles that could pass for writing on Buzzfeed. (I’m guilty of this one too.)
  • Employing third party algorithms that will tell you who to follow in order to gain more followers. (I’ve tried this.)
  • Trying to mimic social media celebrities without asking if that’s who you really are. 

The second path is much harder. It’s about creating something that’s durable. It’s about finding a rhythm to the work, that keeps the work in line with who you are. Again, this path is difficult because it means the following:

  • Saying no to the latest trend or social network that will help you “enlarge your audience”. It’s not because you’re against growth, but you want maintain your focus. 
  • Coming to the understanding that generating value for an audience isn’t about volume or speed. It’s about building a relationship that helps you understand that they want. 
  • Realizing that the word “hustle” is code word for always being on the go and never resting, which is not sustainable.
  • Finding contentment not from your social media numbers, but from the quality of product the you produce. Knowing that in the end those numbers are meaningless if what you’re producing won’t last.

I’m not against growth. I’m against the culture that defines your value by arbitrary numbers or lures you into practices that  are contradictory to who you were created to be. 

Your Only Competition

When I was first starting out as a creative director in the corporate world, I was really competitive. I spent a good portion of my time sizing up our competition, identifying what I though were their design weaknesses and then creating plans to surpass them. 

This competition was my daily fuel. That was until my mentor sat me down, and gave me this one piece of advice.

Your only competition is yourself. You need treat this like a game of golf. You’re the only one keeping score, and your goal is to get a little bit better each day. Stop comparing yourself to those around you.

To this day, those worlds still ring true to me and I’ve learned to apply them not only to myself, but my church’s social media as well. 

This is hard to do, because of the things that the world does is tell you that you’re not complete, and your effort is not enough. In fact, I’ve become more resolute to the idea that the world’s ultimate goal is to rob you of contentment. More specifically, contentment in Christ. 

That’s why it’s difficult to not want to compare your church’s social media with the church down the street or even across the globe. Yes, their graphics look cooler, they have more “Likes”, and everyone in their photos looks like a model from an H&M ad. 

But that’s what the world does. It sows little seeds of doubt and discontentment in our hearts, and before you know it we trying to be something that we’re not. We end up with angry and fustrated that our attempts to be cool or relevant haven’t connected with our audience. 

When I have those moments, I have to remind myself that my soul will never be satisfied by being cooler than the church down the street. My contentment will be in being who God created me to be, and my church doing the same.

Will I push my church to get better? You bet. But I’ll do that in context of knowing who we are and what were designed to do. I’ll focus on helping us get a little bit better every single day. Knowing that my goal isn’t to be better than the church down the street, but be better for our audience and those who were trying to reach.

The Future is on Your Side

I’ve sat where you sat. I’ve had the yelling matches and felt the frustration when you try to explain to your church leadership the importance of social media and the digital world. I know what is like to think that you’re the only who can see the future. 

It’s easy to feel defeated when you’re the only one in your church who’s passionate about social media. You see churches around you using Snapchat, Facebook live, and creating hashtag campaigns to help in slavery in some third world country. 

But don’t lose hope. You know why?

Because the future is on your side. 

It wasn’t too long ago that churches thought that having a website was “nice” to-do. Not something that you had to have, but you could if you wanted to be the edgy church down the street. I mean, who needs a website when everyone can just find your church in the Yellow Pages?

Of course that changed, and now when someone is starting a church one of the first things they do is grab a domain name, and build a basic website to make sure they show up in Google results. 

Social media is the same way. For a lot churches, this is still a “nice” to-do. Do we need a Facebook page? Do we have to share photos on Instagram? For these churches, these are seen as legitimate questions. For others, they might not have even thought about them. 

If this is your church, don’t worry. This will change. Maybe it will be when your pastor looks up at the congregation and sees them all looking down at their phones reading the Bible. Or maybe it will be when your pastor attends a conference and is influenced by a nationally known speaker to “get online and share the Gospel”. 

Either way the future is on your side. Churches can’t escape the digital future, whether it’s social media, mobile devices, or online worship. The future is here whether they like or not.

So when you have those moments when you think you’re on an island and no one is listening, don’t worry the life boat is coming. It’s called the future, and it’s going to be awesome. 

The Hardest Part of Social Media

I often hear people say that running social media for a church or a brand is hard.  When I ask why they think it’s hard, I usually get the following answers:

“I don’t know what to post.”

“I can’t keep up with all the social media networks.”

“We can’t compete with the church down the street, there so much cooler than we are.”

“We just don’t have the resources or the time.”

I think there’s some legitimacy to these responses. But, here’s why social media is hard. 

You have to show up everyday. 

There’s nothing more difficult then showing up everyday to create create and share content. To be there to listen online, take feedback from people, and then turn around and give them what they want. Every single day.

Is it grueling? Yes, it is. But it’s what separates the good from the great. 

By showing up everyday you’re forcing yourself to dig deep and get beyond the superficial. Why? Because there’s only so many ways that you can create content like “10 Cats That Look Like Taylor Swift”. At some point, you have to show your true colors and that comes by showing up everyday. 

This is why I have such great appreciation for people like Seth Godin and John Saddington. These are two bloggers who show up everyday, regardless of what is going on in their lives. 

It’s also why I think that the path to creating durable social media that will last is not about creating catchy headlines or the latest Internet meme. It’s about showing people that you’ll be there every single day no matter what is going on in your world. 

So start today and show up. Get on your computer, tablet or phone, and be there. Listen, learn, and converse with those around you.

Every single day. 

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