CHURCH GUESTS 101 & Don’t Say That – Say This! Revitalize a church with the words you speak. Here is a list of things not to say when you want to connect with your visitors.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Church Revitalizer Magazine, 4/27/21.

Learn more about the changes needed in your hospitality ministries in the course, Church Guests 101 part of ChurchLeadership.university on uDemy.

When leading a church it is very easy to miscommunicate your intentions. It usually happens because you’re concerned about pressing organizational needs as well as the needs of the believers you shepherd. Subsequently, we often use phrases that appear to prioritize the needs of the saints over the needs of the non-churchgoer.

I’m going to show you how this happens in your greetings, your announcements and even your church vision statements … and what you should say instead.  

Jesus’ message of compassion for the not-yet-believer.

Jesus emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of those who don’t yet have a personal relationship with him. The “parable of the sheep” (Matthew 18:10-14) where the shepherd leaves the 99 to retrieve the one lost lamb, visualizes this. And in his actions, Jesus demonstrated a deep concern for the wellbeing of not-yet-believers (Mark 1:33-34, Luke 5:1-11). Mark records a poignant image of this when the crowds followed Jesus and his disciples to the seashore. Jesus saw their desperate needs and Mark noted: “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:32-34).

Your message for the not-yet-believer.

Many times those first messages a visitor receives will inadvertently push them away, rather than draw them in. This is because when welcoming church visitors, leaders use phrases often tainted by the concerns of the congregation. Church leaders are worried about church finances, not having enough volunteers or reaching a new culture of people. And, this comes out accidentally, but clearly in your welcome. The result is often an unintended pushback by church guests.

I don’t believe that most churches are intentionally putting the church family’s needs over the needs of non-churchgoers. It’s only that we spend so much time every week deliberating on the church’s internal needs that this colors the things we say. And though we intend to reach out to newcomers and help them experience a new life and growth in Christ, we often share those concerns in a way that communicates the organization is more important than the people who need Christ.

What is the most important type of church growth?

Donald McGavran, the Fuller Theological Seminary professor credited with founding the study of church growth, said there were three types of church growth – but only one was desirable. 

Biological growth:  This is a church that grows because families within the church are expanding. 

Transfer growth: These are people who are moving into the area and transferring their attendance or membership. In my research I believe this may be the largest contributor to church growth in America. Often we find growing churches in growing suburbs. The growth is often fueled by transfer growth, not by new believers. McGavran said that this type of growth means, “The increase of certain congregations at the expense of others… But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.” Transfer growth grows one church at the expense of other churches.

Conversion growth: The third type of growth is what McGavran calls conversion growth. This is a church that is growing because people are being spiritually transformed from their former lives and embarking upon a new Christ-centered journey. McGavran stated, “The third kind is conversion growth, in which those outside the church come to rest their faith intelligently on Jesus Christ and are baptized and added to the Lord in his church. This is the only kind of growth by which the good news of salvation can spread to all segments of American society and to earth’s remotest bounds.”

3 categories of crises that push people to want to change their lives.

Researchers (using the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Scale) have found that people who are interested in changing their lives are usually motivated by a combination of three categories of crises. 

Concern about death and the afterlife. The first crises that drive people to seek to change their lives is a concern about death and dying or a loved one’s death. They have questions about eternity and heaven. They wonder if their loved one went to heaven and who will help them with their grieving. Churches can meet these needs in part by preaching/teaching on the afterlife and offering grief share ministries.

Family or marital difficulties. A second area that drives people to want to change their lives is marital or family difficulties including marriage problems, child-rearing difficulties, divorce, adultery, etc.. Many times they feel inadequate or a failure due to such difficulties. They come to the church seeking to change their life and to be a more adept and competent person. Little wonder that child-rearing classes, marriage enrichment seminars and divorce care have been helpful (and popular) programs in our churches. 

Concern about illness: The third category that pushes people to change their lives is illness they are experiencing or someone they know is experiencing.  They have questions about healing, helping others and improving their outlook on life.  Need-meeting congregations have embraced prayer ministries, counseling programs and support groups for those who are suffering.

Because these three major categories cause people to want to change their lives, we must welcome guests and greet them in a way that shows we know they have needs and we are here to meet them.

THE LIST: Don’t Say That – Say This!

To help understand how to communicate your true intentions (of meeting the needs of others) I have created a list I call: “Don’t Say That – Say This!” Consider each statement and then notice how one better communicates your true intentions.

Don’t Say That: “I’m glad you are here” or “We are glad you are here.”

Say This: “How can I help you?” “How can we help you?”

Why: When you say, “I’m glad you are here,” it is usually a true statement. You are glad that they are present. You see their potential to encounter Christ and become a committed part of the faith community. But what they hear is a statement focused upon you and the believers, it’s not about helping them, but it’s about us being happy. Remember, people often come to a church because they have needs and crises in their lives. And healthy church growth comes from people’s lives being transformed for the better through the community of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Don’t Say That: “We want to tell you about the church.”

Say This: “We want to know how we can help you.”

Why: The purpose is not to tell them about the church, but for them to tell us about their needs. Though it is helpful to offer information on the history and theological perspective of the church, guests are usually not ready to learn about this unless they are engaged in transfer growth. Most guests want to let you know why they came to church and what they’re looking for.

Don’t Say That: “I love being in the house of God.”

Say This: “God is here and he wants to connect with you (or help you, or fulfill your life).

Why:  As Christians who are growing in our faith journey, we often talk about our growing enthusiasm as we know God better. But for people who are just beginning their journey of discovery about God’s love, we may seem too far ahead of them to lead them forward and be a relevant leader. Though you love being in God’s house, re-phrase that statement in the context of God‘s presence being there and that he wants to connect with them.

Don’t Say That: “We have a gift for you.”

Say This: “We would like to know how we can help you. So please visit one of our guest services booths so we can help.”

Why: Even though you want to show your gratitude, an appreciation gift can inadvertently create a sense of this-for-that at best, and manipulation at worst. In the leadership world we call this transactional leadership. You give something in order to get something. A person gives 40 hours or more a week at their job and they get a salary. If a better job comes along, they might leave because their motivation is based upon a transaction: giving their time in order to get money. Can you see how a gift might be perceived as a lure to sign a card or visit a booth can feel transactional? One former student of mine offered a $100 gift card to be drawn from the names of newcomers who visited each month. I know him and his generosity is exceptional (they have a region-wide food pantry in their smallish church). But the message he was sending was not helpful to the newcomers. Instead tell them you want to know about their needs and see if we can help meet them.

Don’t Say That: “I don’t know.”

Say This: “Let me find out.”

Why: Many people have heard about the art of hospitality practiced by the Walt Disney organization. Part of their Disney hospitality is to never say, “I don’t know,” and instead to respond along the lines of, “Let me find out for you,” or “That is a good question. I will find out.” This takes the emphasis off of the lack of knowledge of the hospitality person. And instead it puts the emphasis upon the hospitality person’s desire to help the newcomer find an answer to the problem.

Don’t Say That: Our mission statement is Belong – Begin – Become

Say This: Our mission statement is Begin – Become – Belong

Why: “Belong – Begin – Become” is focused on how the organization sees the newcomers journey. The organization expects a commitment, to which the organization will respond with tools and community for the newcomer to become a new person. But look at this from the newcomer’s perspective. They want to know more about you first. Unless they are transfer growth, they are not ready to “belong” in their initial step. Rather, starting this mission statement with “begin” reminds new travelers that there is a process in getting to know one another, experiencing the community of faith and encountering Christ. One of my former professors, John Wimber, described this relationship as dating. When a person first learns about the Good News, your relationship with them is similar to dating. There is no commitment, but you’re getting to know one another. The next stage of the relationship is engagement, and that’s where a new believer begins to give of themselves and the church responds by giving back even more. Finally, marriage serves as Wimber’s metaphor for when a person is ready to make a commitment to both Christ and the church. So, check your mission statement. Even run it by people who are not churchgoers. Look closely and you may find that its focus is on inspiring churchgoers rather than informing those who are just beginning their journey with Christ

Don’t Say That: “You’re welcome.”

Say This: “I am happy I was able to help.”

Why: Of course if you’ve helped people at your church they will be appreciative. They will usually say, “Thank you.” And the most common reply is to say, “You’re welcome.” But that has become so overused that it’s almost like adding a period to a sentence, rather than opening up to converse further. Instead it’s better to say, “I am happy I was able to help you.” That lets them know that you derive your happiness in part because of your ability to help them. Though it may be focused on your happiness, that happiness is based upon your ability to help others.

Don’t Say That: “Come back soon (or next Sunday).”

Say This: “This week, think about ways we can help you.”

Why: As we’ve seen above we want to leave the message, and especially with our parting words, that we are here to help.

Now, make your own list!

This list is not mechanical phraseology to be memorized or anemically repeated. Instead this list is designed to remind leaders how our intentions can be miscommunicated due to the words we use.

Rather than memorize this, do these three things.

1. Re-read the list often and add more phrases to it. Create an ever-expanding list of things you don’t want to say and things you should be saying to better communicate your heart. And, you can join together as a ministry team and create a ministry team list. At your meetings add an agenda item to add to your list and ask people for their suggestions.

2. Re-write and edit the short paragraphs that explain each of your list items. Help someone who is reading your list for the first time to understand why one phrase is preferable over the other.

3. Resist shaming or criticizing others who say the wrong thing. Everyone goes through cycles where their own pressing needs cloud what they want to say. After years of doing this I still catch myself saying things because it’s customary or because my own needs are driving my attention. Have grace in the way you encourage one another. Don’t criticize or tease those who speak out of their needs rather than the needs of others. Rather, use this exercise and your expanding list as a reminder about how to keep the needs of others first.

MINISTERIAL TRANSITIONS & Utilizing a simple graphic, such as this one by a client church, helps congregants visually track the ministerial transition process.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., April 11, 2021.

While designing a course to help pastors and churches successfully navigate pastoral transitions for Fuller Theological Seminary, I became aware of how much church communication must be a priority during pastoral transitions. But often too much or too little information is shared, leading to confusion at best or suspicion at the worst.

This client congregation overcame this problem and communicated its process well through three simple charts.

CHART 1 (behind the word “prayer”) depicts the 5 stage process with a time for each stage. Attendees can quickly see where they are in the process and which steps are still ahead.

CHART 2 depicts how the selection process “narrows” to the selection of a candidate. It is important for attendees to see that the eventual selection has emerged from a significant pool of candidates.

CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed) reminds that the overriding consideration is that this is a spiritual exercise and prayer is how each stakeholder participates.

The above is CHART 1 (without the word “prayer” superimposed)
& CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed)
The above is CHART 2

COMMUNICATION & This Ridiculously Simple Change to How You Say ‘Thank You’ Will Make It Much More Effective

UC Berkeley’s Emiliana Simon-Thomas says “Gratitude 1-2-3” has big benefits for both you and those you thank.

BY MINDA ZETLIN, CO-AUTHOR, THE GEEK GAP, Inc. Magazine, 10/7/20.

…When most of us say thank you, we should be much more specific. That advice comes from Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. That’s why she recommends what she calls “Gratitude 1-2-3,” a way of thanking people that takes just a little extra time and effort, but can provide huge benefits to both you and them.

Here’s how it works.

1. Be specific about what you’re saying thank you for.

… “Instead of just saying, ‘Hey thanks, Dave, that was great,’ I can say, ‘Dave, thank you for inviting me to be on the show with you.'” That puts you and the person you’re thanking into what she calls a “shared mental space,” both of you considering the nice thing that the other person did.

2. Acknowledge the effort involved.

Make it clear that you’re aware of the effort others have made to help you out…

3. Describe how it benefits you.

This is an important step, because it’s the only part of Gratitude 1-2-3 that the other person won’t already know.

I first read about Gratitude 1-2-3 in a post Feldman wrote for Psychology Today.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/gratitude-1-2-3-grateful-saying-thank-you-emiliana-simon-thomas.html

CRITICISM & Synopsis of the new book: How to have impossible conversations.

by Eric Barker, 12/20/19, from How to Have Impossible Conversations (2019) by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay.

1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. And only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

How much more positively would you respond if someone did that? In this era of hostile polarization I fear I would immediately and uncontrollably hug them.

Read more at …https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/this-is-how-to-change-someones-mind-6-secrets-from-research

COMMUNICATION & The 6 Best Techniques for Communicating Clearly and Persuasively. #IncMagazine

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I am a big fan of using stories to communicate the truth, not only because research shows that it helps you retain what you’re learning almost 3 times better (1), but also because that’s primary how Jesus taught.

Here’s more ideas (in addition to metaphors) for communicating effectively.

Footnote (1)  Scott Wilcher, MetaSpeak: Secrets of Regenerative Leadership to Transform your Workplace, Ph.D. dissertation (Nashville: Turnaround 2020 Conference, 2013).

The 6 Best Techniques for Communicating Clearly and Persuasively, According to a Speechwriter for Top CEOs by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 9/17/19.

truly persuasive, impactful communication is a skill that’s learned and earned. Simon Lancaster, one of the foremost speechwriters for politicians and CEOs in the world, has learned and helps others to do the same.

His TEDx talk on clear and compelling communication (especially in speeches) is provocative, with smart advice for upping your verbal voracity. I’ll share the talk below and then I’ll summarize the six keys to persuasive communication within–as well as add my perspective as someone who gets paid to speak from stage.

… Use the power of juxtaposition.

In one of my keynotes I use a line to grab leaders’ attention about the power their words and actions hold. Of this I say, “You can plant seeds of growth, or seeds of doubt.” The line is always fed back to me by audience members afterwards. Lancaster calls this using “balanced statements” and says it triggers an underlying presumption that the thinking behind the statement must also be balanced, and our brain likes balanced things.

…Use metaphors.

Caveat: Make them simple and easy to understand. A good metaphor illuminates the point you’re trying to make in a way 1,000 words can’t match. In one of my keynotes, to illuminate the power of a leader choosing to be liberal in granting autonomy to employees, I compare it to the process by which power flows through a light bulb (a light bulb will flicker at best if you give it only a bit of power, as will a high-wattage employee).

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/the-6-best-techniques-for-communicating-clearly-persuasively-according-to-a-speechwriter-for-top-ceos.html

PREACHING & The 25 Most Popular TED Talks Include This 1 Surprising Word Over and Over, and the Reason Why is Eye-Opening.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I am conducting a communication consultation for preachers in Ohio and it’s exciting to see the improvement every couple weeks. This TED talk research shows that using humor that leads to engagement is a key to great communication. I’ve studied today’s Christian communicators and I have found this to be true. Peruse this short article for more insights.

By Bill Murphy Jr., Inc. Magazine, 5/16/19.

The official TED website includes a list of the top 25 most-watched TED Talks of all time. 

The playlist runs seven hours. The transcripts are a combined 70,000 words. That’s like a 200-page book.

Still, I wondered if analyzing all of the language across all 25 talks might yield some takeaways. With 679 million total views, even though they’re about different subjects, what makes these TED Talks so popular? Would anything jump out?

Laughter

Even more striking than the frequency of “laughter” is the odd fact that none of the speakers actually ever says the word. Instead, it’s inserted into the transcript every time the audiences chuckled or laughed, with parenthesis around it, like this: “(Laughter.)”

Across 25 talks, there are 380 instances of laughter, which works out .948 per minute — just shy of “a laugh a minute.” But then I realized something else.

Applause(?)

Look, a lot of TED Talks are amusing and even interesting, but they’re not uproariously funny…

Often as not, the audience “laughter” in the combined transcript seems more like the audience communicating with the speaker..,

It’s related to “applause,” which appeared 95 times throughout the transcripts. Combine both words, and we reach an average of 1.2 verbal audience reactions per minute.

Of course, there’s also a third, very common way that speakers keep prompting audience engagement: by asking questions. So next, I counted the question marks. There were 579 total…

The power of engagement

Here’s my big takeaway, which I think has implications for anyone called on to give a speech or presentation.

Calling these super-popular TED Talks “talks,” is a bit of a misnomer. They’re more like a guided conversations, with the speakers giving the audience prompt after prompt after prompt — practically begging and cajoling them in fact — to stay engaged.

Combine my admittedly unusual metrics, and you find that there are a total of 1,061 instances across 25 talks during which the speaker either asks the audience a question or delivers a line inducing either laughter or applause. That works out to about once every 21 seconds.

No matter what they’re talking about — from Pamela Meyer’s “How to Spot a Liar,” to Amy Cuddy’s, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are,” to Elizabeth Gilbert’s, “Your Elusive Creative Genius” — they keep doing the same thing: prompting the audience to engage, over and over and over.

Think of that the next time you sit through a not-so-great presentation, or you have to prepare and give a talk yourself. The secret isn’t just to share information, it’s to prompt engagement — and to keep doing it the whole time you’re up there.

Because anybody can give a talk. It’s another level entirely to lead an engaged conversation.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/the-25-most-popular-ted-talks-include-this-1-surprising-word-over-over-reason-why-is-eye-opening.html

PREACHING & 7 Golden Tips To Make People Engage During Your Presentation

by Paloma Cantero-Gomez, Forbes Magazine, 5/9/19.

“…there are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” (Mark Twain).

However, there are also thousands of different tips that can help you to rock it and even enjoy it. 

1. Start with a shocking fact

Such as a personal story from someone you know (or not) or an astonishing data that make everybody open wide their eyes. Beginning your presentation with something sharp and memorable will immediately get everyone’s attention and predispose the audience to believe this will be something worthy to listen to.

2. Introduce your project/product by comparing to other more successful projects/products

… A straightforward and impactful way to make the object or subject of your presentation seems incredibly important is to place it at the end of a list of memorable and successful things or hits. Showing the evolution from a historical perspective and proving your stuff to be the one step forward will may people prone to listen carefully.

3. Make it interactive

Ask your audience to stop you at any point. Make it a two-way experience getting your audience to feel that they are part of the process or the solution…

4. Make the slide visual. Avoid text

Put an important word in the center of every slide. Or even better. Put an icon or image that make your audience think about this word. White text over a dark background is always a catchy combination…

5. Ask for questions. Praise people’s questions. Answer questions

Get audience feedback in real-time… Many different tools can be used for this purpose. DirectPoll let you create quick polls that your audience can access and vote on from their mobile device while showing results in real time. 

Praise people’s questions. This would make them believe they are smart and they got a good point. Everybody likes to feel intelligent.  Answer every question. Even if you do not have a very clear response. ’I am not sure but let me consult it and come back to you’ is always better than making people feel ignored. 

Ask them if it is okay to move on. This will absolutely help all those undecided souls with a shy question in mind to finally formulate it!

6. Take notes of people’s inputs

…Writing down peoples’ comments and inputs provide them with this feeling of belonging. This is a very simple way to make them genuinely think that what they are saying really make a difference and it is taken into consideration as part of the solution.  

 7. Ask the audience for takeaways

Every excellent presentation ends with a neat list of key takeaways. Engaging speakers do not provide them for free but work together with the audience, so actually, it is the audience who came up with the main findings…

Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/palomacanterogomez/2019/05/09/the-7-golden-tips-to-make-people-engage-during-your-presentation/#384f86472f65

#CommunicationCoaching

SPEAKING & Your Audience Tunes Out After 10 Minutes. Here’s How To Keep Their Attention.

by Carmine Gallo, Forbes Magazine, 2/28/19.

Cognitive scientists have a reasonably good idea of when audiences will stop listening to a presentation. It occurs at the 10-minute mark...Neuroscientists have found that the best way to re-engage a person’s attention when it begins to wane is to change up the format of the content.

1. Introduce Characters

There aren’t too many commercially successful one-person plays. Few people can pull it off…. include members of the team. Hand off a portion of the presentation…

2. Show Videos

If you can’t bring someone else along, do the next big thing and show a video… Apple does this with nearly every keynote when they show a video of chief designer, Jony Ive, describing the features of a particular product…

3. Use Props 

Steve Jobs was a master at using props. In 1984, Jobs didn’t have to pull the first Macintosh out of a black bag like a magician. But he did. In 2001, Jobs didn’t have to pull the first iPod out of the pocket of his jeans. But he did. In 2008, Jobs didn’t have to pull the first MacBook Air from a manila envelope. But he did. Props are unexpected. They get attention.

4. Give Demos

Former Apple evangelist and venture capitalist, Guy Kawasaki, says demonstrations should start with “shock and awe.” In other words, don’t build up to a crescendo. Show off the coolest thing about your product in the first sixty seconds…

5. Invite Questions

A presentation shouldn’t be about you. It’s about your audience and how your product or service will improve their lives… Change it up by pausing and inviting questions before you move on to the next section.

Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2019/02/28/your-audience-tunes-out-after-10-minutes-heres-how-to-keep-their-attention/#15109dee7364

COMMUNICATION & How one church used Instagram story wallpapers as invitations for Easter (examples).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  My friends at United City Greensboro, a No. Carolina church, used the following Instagram story wallpapers.  Perhaps they will inspire you as you plan for a worship opportunity.

image.pngimage.png

(Please don’t use the artwork of United City Greensboro without permission.  Find out about this innovative group of believers here: http://www.unitedcitygso.com

image.png

FAITH & New research suggests people who see God as someone they can talk to, take the Bible literally, “because this is how the Bible presents God.” #BaylorUniv

by Sarah Watts, Forbes Magazine, 2/22/19.

A new study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion has some interesting findings about gender and God.

…Kent and co-author Christopher M. Pieper, PhD analyzed data from nearly 1400 respondents who participated in the Baylor Religion Survey. In addition to being asked about frequency of church attendance and frequency of prayer, respondents were also asked questions about attachment, such as whether they felt like God is loving and caring, or whether they felt He was distant and uninterested in their day-to-day life. Respondents were also asked questions about Biblical literalism, including whether they believed the Bible contained any human error, and whether it should be taken word-for-word on all subjects as a historical text.

more so than gender, researchers found that Biblical literalism is tied to a person’s attachment to God. In other words, the more personally attached to God a respondent was, male or female, the more likely he or she was to interpret the Bible literally.

People who take the Bible literally tend to percieve of God more as a person who can be interacted with,” says Kent. “You can talk to God, he hears you, he talks back. Our argument is essentially that in order to sustain a personal relationship with God as a person, one has to take the Bible literally because this is how the Bible presents God. He’s a being that talks to prophets and prophets talk back.”

Biblical literalism is also not exclusively tied to any religious group, Kent says.

“People who look at religion tend to associate literalism with evangelicals,” says Kent. “What we found is that if we break out each of these religious groups – Evangelicals, Protestants, Catholics – we found that you have literalists in each of these categories. There’s more of a relationship between literalism and close personal attachment to God than there is to denomination.”

Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahwatts/2019/02/22/new-research-tells-us-who-is-most-likely-to-take-the-bible-literally/#4f53662f7eab

COMMUNICATION & Researchers find it’s getting harder to talk about God #NewYorkTimes

by Jonathan Merritt, New York Times, 10/21/18.

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people now say they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time.

… More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions — either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation once a week.

According to my survey, a range of internal conflicts is driving Americans from God-talk. Some said these types of conversations create tension or arguments (28 percent); others feel put off by how religion has been politicized (17 percent); others report not wanting to appear religious (7 percent), sound weird (6 percent) or seem extremist (5 percent). Whatever the reason, for most of us in this majority-Christian nation, our conversations almost never address the spirituality we claim is important.

A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology analyzed 50 terms associated with moral virtue. Language about the virtues Christians call the fruit of the spirit — words like “love,” “patience,” “gentleness” and “faithfulness” — has become much rarer. Humility words, like “modesty,” fell 52 percent. Compassion words, like “kindness,” dropped by 56 percent. Gratitude words, like “thankfulness,” declined 49 percent.

A decline in religious language and a decrease in spiritual conversation does not necessarily mean that we are in crisis, of course. But when you combine the data about the decline in religious rhetoric with an emerging body of research that reveals how much our linguistic landscape both reflects and affects our views, it provides ample cause for alarm.

Read more in the Dallas News reprint of the New York Times article here … https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/10/21/getting-harder-talk-god

PREACHING & 5 Key Steps to Rehearsing a Presentation Like the Best TED Speakers

by Carmine Gallo, Inc. Magazine, 7/30/18.

Every year I teach a class of elite business professionals who are enrolled in an executive education program at Harvard University. They are required to participate in group and individual presentations to graduate. After their presentations are complete, I recommended that each student practice their final presentations a minimum of ten times from start to finish. The ones who do stand out.

I learned this technique from studying and interviewing the TED speakers whose talks went viral…

Here are five steps to rehearse effectively.

1. Start with presentation notes.

Start writing notes for each slide in full sentences. Read the transcript out loud as you review each slide. Next, cut down the full sentences into bullet points and rehearse out loud again–relying on notes even less…

2. Practice under ‘mild stress.’

…The famous entrepreneur and author, Tim Ferriss, applied this concept to his TED talk. “Mimic game-day conditions as much as possible,” he said after his presentation. Ferriss gave the presentation in front of friends and strangers at various startups to groups of about 20 people. “I don’t want my first rehearsal in front of a large group of strangers to be when I stand up in front of 3,000 people,” he said…

3. Ask for specific feedback.

Once you’ve practiced your presentation in front of a small audience, most people will say “good job.” They don’t want to hurt your feelings and they’ll have limited feedback. While “good job” might help you feel good, it won’t help you get better. Ask them to be specific: Is there something you didn’t understand? Do I use jargon that you’re not familiar with? Did I make strong eye contact? What did you like–or not like–about my delivery? What can I do to make it stronger?

4. Record it.

Set up a smartphone or a video camera on a tripod and record your presentation. You’ll be surprised at what you see. You’ll

5. Practice until it’s effortless.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/carmine-gallo/5-key-steps-to-rehearsing-a-presentation-like-best-ted-speakers.html

PREACHING & The Surprising Power of Asking Questions #OrganicChurchBook #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When researching my Abingdon Press book, “Inside the organic church,” I found growing young churches often have sermons in which the audience is asked to respond to the preacher with live questions. Traditionalists usually found this worrisome, because they feared losing control of the learning experience. But research cited in this Harvard Business Review article demonstrates that asking questions deepens learning.  Not surprisingly, I practice questioning of my listeners in my courses, seminars and even sermons.

by Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018.

“Be a good listener,” Dale Carnegie advised in his 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. “Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering.” More than 80 years later, most people still fail to heed Carnegie’s sage advice. When one of us (Alison) began studying conversations at Harvard Business School several years ago, she quickly arrived at a foundational insight: People don’t ask enough questions. In fact, among the most common complaints people make after having a conversation, such as an interview, a first date, or a work meeting, is “I wish [s/he] had asked me more questions” and “I can’t believe [s/he] didn’t ask me any questions.”

…Dating back to the 1970s, research suggests that people have conversations to accomplish some combination of two major goals: information exchange (learning) and impression management (liking). Recent research shows that asking questions achieves both.

… Not all questions are created equal. Alison’s research, using human coding and machine learning, revealed four types of questions: introductory questions (“How are you?”), mirror questions (“I’m fine. How are you?”), full-switch questions (ones that change the topic entirely), and follow-up questions (ones that solicit more information). Although each type is abundant in natural conversation, follow-up questions seem to have special power. They signal to your conversation partner that you are listening, care, and want to know more. People interacting with a partner who asks lots of follow-up questions tend to feel respected and heard.

An unexpected benefit of follow-up questions is that they don’t require much thought or preparation—indeed, they seem to come naturally to interlocutors. In Alison’s studies, the people who were told to ask more questions used more follow-up questions than any other type without being instructed to do so.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/05/the-surprising-power-of-questions

PREACHING & Why a story well-told should elicit in a listener the response, “Oh, tell it again!” #ChristinePartonBurkett

“Some stories need to be told again and again. So it is with the story of Easter, a story that reminds us that we belong to God and that Jesus is out ahead of us, calling us to God’s future…” by Nathan Kirkpatrick, Faith & Leadership, Duke Divinity School, 3/26/18.

My colleague Christine Parton Burkett reminds preachers that children, after hearing a well-told story, never respond, “What does it mean?” Instead, with glee and abandon, they exclaim, “Oh, tell it again!” She reminds preachers that, as human beings, we never really outgrow our love of a story well-told; there is a part of each of us that wants to cheer, “Oh, tell it again!”

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/nathan-kirkpatrick-tell-it-again?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

 

COMMUNICATION & Why/when you should publish church budgets in the bulletin.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. 3/I4/18.

I received the question (below) from a former student. It is followed by my answer.

Pastor: “In seminary I seem to remember hearing that it was a desperate move to publish weekly giving/need financial info in the bulletin. If a church is on mission and helping congregation members buy in to that then the finances will come in from the people. Rather, by putting them in it seems we’re advertising to new visitors we care more for their money than their hearts. I can’t find anything other than blog posts (research data or book quotes elude me) in support of this idea. I’m at (church name), and this idea came up at board meeting last night with fairly wide support. We already make the monthly budget summary available in print and digital, so this feels desperate since our giving is way down. The treasure can also nearly directly correlate the drop in giving with unfulfilled mission promises from church leader (namely raising money for a building that hasn’t been built/spent in over 5 years).”

I responded:

I don’t recall any research that has been conducted on this. But, usually when a church board makes this suggestion it’s because they feel it will increase giving if people know the church is in need. And that is true, it will do so among the people who are already committed to the church. And it will do so if these committed people have forgotten to give their offerings recently or have not given it because they thought the church is not in need.

But, most people (if they are moderately attached to a church) will know a church is in need when the church is encountering financial difficulties.  There may be uncompleted maintenance issues or paid staff being let go. Usually financial difficulties are easy to spot for regular, committed congregants. Therefore there is a rationale for this approach and it might help, But I believe only slightly so.

If the board members are aware of congregants who have not been giving because of the above reasons, then rather than an impersonal announcement in the bulletin which might be missed, a personal visit by a board member would be more productive.

Let the board know this reasoning and they will see that publishing the budget in the bulletin will probably create little increased giving. But it might be a little … and that could be helpful.

The downside, to which the student is alluding, is that people who are not yet strongly attached to the church may feel that the church is a “sinking ship.” And it appears that it might be the case here. Therefore, the logical thinking is that publishing the budget might scare them away.  And this might scare away some people, but mainly those who may be coming for the wrong reasons.

It is better in my mind to be forthright. In my consulting practice I have seen over the years that is best to be honest and forthright. Therefore publishing the budget may be helpful and even more so if it is prefaced with a short introductory sentence. Perhaps something that says: “We want to make our church family aware of our financial challenges and that we appreciate your prayers and input.”

Finally I’ve seen that putting a budget in the church bulletin can help newcomers understand where the money goes. Even a simple pie chart that shows the percentage of money that goes to staff, upkeep of facilities, outreach, etc. can help people see that an extraordinary amount of money is not going for personal or congregational purposes. However if it is, then that’s another problem you need to address.

 

 

FEEDBACK & Harvard research shows “negative feedback” only works – when the recipient truly feels valued by the giver: 4 things to do.

Surprising Harvard Research Says Giving Negative Feedback to Peers Won’t Work (Unless You Do 1 Simple Thing)

by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 1/16/18.

“Harvard researchers say we’ve got it all wrong on giving negative feedback to peers. It’s useless if you don’t do this too.”

Giving negative feedback to peers can be as stressful and confounding as figuring out how to give feedback to your boss or how to give feedback to a difficult employee.

And now new research from Harvard says you might be wasting your time in doing so anyway.

The Harvard study indicates that giving or receiving peer-to-peer negative feedback rarely leads to improvement. In the study, coworkers that received negative feedback simply chose to avoid the corrective co-workers and sought to be around and strike up new relationships with more self-affirming co-workers. This is a process the researchers call “shopping for confirmation” (which sounds like the album title of a reunited boy-band).

As the study noted:

“There’s an assumption that what motivates people to improve is the realization that they’re not as good as they think they are. But in fact, it just makes them go find people who will not shine that light on them. It may not be having the intended effect at all.”

So this is terrific news for all of us that don’t exactly love doling out criticism, right? We’re off the hook because what’s the point, right?

Nope. There’s a catch.

Peer to peer negative feedback can work–when the recipient truly feels valued by the giver.

Again as the researchers noted:

“We put employees in a position to deal with dueling motivations: I need to feel I’m valuable, and I need to improve. And we don’t do a good job reconciling them with our feedback mechanisms.”

… Here are simple things you can start doing today:

1. Compliment them on who they are, what they do, or how they do it.

And be specific within this specificity. Being precise implies you care enough to notice and to take the time/brain power to thoughtfully articulate your appreciation…

2. Invest in their career.

Imagine how it would feel if all your co-workers felt truly invested in you and wanted to help you succeed in your career. Now give that energy to a co-worker.

Take the time to share balanced, thoughtful feedback (remember, corrective feedback will be more likely to work because you’re showing you value them by executing this very list). Find out what’s important for advancement in their career and gear your feedback towards that. And tell their boss when they’re over-delivering on a criteria/attribute important for their function.

3. Make them look good.

Give them credit (genuinely deserved) in public whenever you can–if they’re cool with that. It speaks to your genuine interest in seeing them succeed, as will your tougher feedback when the time comes.

4. Seek out their advice, listen, and act on it.

Some of the most satisfying moments in my career weren’t always when my boss agreed and took action on something I suggested, but when a peer did. It’s about relationships, not reporting lines.

Read more at …
https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/surprising-harvard-research-says-giving-negative-feedback-to-peers-wont-work-unless-you-do-1-simple-thing.html

INTERNET & A Mature and Biblical Response to Trolls & Cyberbullies #HaleyBodine #ChristianityToday

“We Are the Light of the (Cyber) World: Let’s Act Like It” by Haley Bodine, Christianity Today, 1/10/18.

… internet troll is a person who intentionally posts inflammatory, divisive, or otherwise upsetting messages and comments online with the goal of inciting quarrels and provoking emotional response. A cyberbully is an individual who attacks another person or people group directly, using shame, threats, and intimidation.

According to a recent study conducted by YouGov, 28% of Americans admitted to online “trolling” activity. The same survey showed that 23% of American adults have maliciously argued an opinion with a stranger, and 12% admitted to making deliberately controversial statements.

Most of us have witnessed this type of behavior. A new Pew Research Center survey found that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and even more (66%) have witnessed these behaviors directed at others. Nearly one in five Americans (18%) have been subjected to particularly severe forms of harassment online, such as physical threats, sexual harassment, or stalking.

This is a major behavioral problem, especially when 70% of Americans still claim to be Christian. If we profess Christ as King, we have a high calling to demonstrate character fitting for children of the Living God. We are to live as a sent people everywhere we are, including the cyber realm. Antagonistic, divisive, abusive, attacking, or otherwise harmful and destructive words have no place in the online lives of anyone who says they are a follower of Jesus…

Here are four things to ask yourself before posting anything online:

Will my words be useful for building others up (Eph. 4:29)? The power of life and death are contained in the tongue (Prov. 18:21)…

Is my post truthful?

Will my words reflect the character of Jesus? Before posting anything, we should run our words through the filter of the fruits of the spirit. Do our words come from a place of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? We will never regret choosing to withhold words that do not pass this litmus test.

Do my words honor the image of God imprinted on the people who will read them?Contentious online arguments and dissension will probably never cause someone to change their view on a hot topic issue. When we post our thoughts online, we must keep people as the priority, not our positions…

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/january/we-are-light-of-cyber-world-lets-act-like-it.html

CONFLICT & How to communicate with difficult people: online trolls & bullies #IncMagazine

People Can’t Stop Talking About How Sarah Silverman Handled a Twitter Troll. (It’s a Master Class in Emotional Intelligence)

The right thing to do was the much harder one. But she did it.

By Bill Murphy Jr., Inc. Magazine, 1/8/18.

…Here are five key things to take away from Silverman’s response, that will help you to communicate with difficult people in any context.

1. She took a few minutes before replying.

Without having the self-control to pause before reacting, none of the rest of this would have been possible.

2. She took the time to learn the context.

Tim Ferriss says in his book, Tools of Titans: “Everyone is fighting a battle [and has fought battles] you know nothing about.”

Silverman seemed to realize this, which is why she took the time to look through Jamrozy’s feed. Besides learning about his physical pain, she also would have seen that he’s apparently using his real name on Twitter, and that he’d actually tweeted a very nice supportive message at her weeks earlier.

3. She decided to take a chance.

Of course, the safest thing to do might have been simply to ignore Jamrozy’s caustic … comment. It’s the internet; people might be crazy.

But deciding to reply is fully in line with the across-the-spectrum outreach Silverman has been doing recently. She deserves a lot of credit for it.

4. She offered love and understanding, and spoke his language.

Silverman’s tweet is something to be proud of. It’s authentic, empathetic, and personal. It’s the kind of thing you might write to a friend who needed some tough love, more than a total stranger. That’s perhaps why it worked.

5. She didn’t just drive-by.

One of the nicest things about this story is that it’s ongoing. As noted, Silverman didn’t just get into a short Twitter conversation and leave; she’s stayed involved, as Jamrozy has tried to get a handle on at least one of the underlying things that’s bothering him: his back issues. And it’s had an effect…

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/sarah-silverman-twitter-troll-emotional-intelligence.html

COMMUNICATION & Words to turn a conversation around (and those to avoid)

by Rosie Ifould, The UK Guardian Newspaper, 12/4/17.

Elizabeth Stokoe, professor of social interaction at Loughborough University. Stokoe and her colleagues have analysed thousands of hours of recorded conversations… They discovered that certain words or phrases have the power to change the course of a conversation…

Do use: willing

…Stokoe found that people who had already responded negatively when asked if they would like to attend mediation seemed to change their minds when the mediator used the phrase, “Would you be willing to come for a meeting?” “As soon as the word ‘willing’ was uttered, people would say: ‘Oh, yes, definitely’…

What to say Deploy it when you’ve already been met with some resistance: “I know it’s not your first choice, but would you be willing to meet on Friday?”

Don’t use: just

In 2015, Ellen Leanse, a former Google executive, wrote a LinkedIn blog about the way men and women use the word “just”’. In the blog, which went viral, she claimed that women use it far more often than men. “

She claimed the difference in how confident people felt was noticeable after a few weeks. Her evidence wasn’t scientific, but, even so, “just” is one of those words that has a habit of creeping into our emails and spoken conversations…

What to say Try your own experiment over the next week. Read your emails back before you send them and count the number of times that “I just wanted to” or “Could I just” appear. Edit them out and see the difference in tone.

Do use: speak (instead of talk)

The word “talk” seems to make a lot of people resistant to conversation. “We observed this when looking at interactions between police negotiators and suicidal persons in crisis,” Stokoe says. Negotiators who used phrases such as, “I’m here to talk” met with more resistance. “Persons in crisis would often respond with something like: ‘I don’t want to talk, what’s the point in talking?’”

When the verb was “speak”, however, persons in crisis were more likely to open up the conversation or offer new information…

There was a similar difference in the effectiveness of the word “sort”, as opposed to “help”. “Let’s sort it” feels much more direct and active. “There’s no point in trying to fake a softly-softly relationship with someone in crisis. Better to be practical and direct.”

What to say If you really want someone to engage with you, use, “Can I speak to you about this?..”

Don’t use: How are you?

It’s not so much that the “How are you?” is rude, but rather that it’s false. In real life, no one asks “How are you today?” in that cold-call way, if they know the person and genuinely want an answer to the question. We would rather they got to the point.

What to say The next time you have to speak to someone you don’t know, don’t be overly friendly. Stick to being polite.

Do use: some (instead of any)

“Anything else I can do for you?” Sounds like a perfectly reasonable question, doesn’t it? But John Heritage and Jeffrey Robinson, conversation analysts at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at how doctors use the words “any” and “some” in their final interactions with patients. They found that “Is there something else I can do for you today?” elicited a better response than “Is there anything else?”

“Any” tends to meet with negative responses. Think about meetings you’ve been in – what’s the usual response to “Any questions?” A barrage of engaging ideas or awkward silence? It’s too open-ended; too many possibilities abound. Of course, if you don’t want people to ask you anything, then stick to “Any questions?”

What to say Try not to use “any” if you genuinely want feedback or to open up debate. “What do you think about X?” might be a more specific way of encouraging someone to talk.

Don’t use: Yes, but

“…We all know the phrase ‘Yes, but’ really means ‘No, and here’s why you’re wrong’,” says Rob Kendall, author of Workstorming. A conversation expert, Kendall sits in on other people’s meetings as an observer. The phrase “Yes, but” is one of the classic warning signs that you’re in an unwinnable conversation, he says. “If you hear it three or more times in one discussion, it’s a sign that you’re going nowhere.”

What to say Kendall advises shifting the conversation by asking the other person “What’s needed here?” or, even better, “What do you need?” “It takes you from what I call ‘blamestorming’ to a solution-focused outcome.”

Do use: It seems like

…As former FBI negotiator Chris Voss writes in Never Split The Difference, his manual of persuasive techniques, there are five stages in what’s known as the “behavioural change stairway model” that take anyone from “listening to influencing behaviour”. The first stage is active listening…

Rather than focusing on what you want to say, listen to what the other person is telling you, then try to repeat it back to them. Start with, “It seems like what you’re saying is” or “Can I just check, it sounds like what you’re saying is”. If that feels too contrived, it often works simply to repeat the last sentence or thought someone has expressed (known in counselling practice as “reflecting”).

What to say Try,“It seems like you’re feeling frustrated with this situation – is that right?” Always give the other person the opportunity to comment on or correct your assessment.

Do use: Hello

“‘Hello’ is a really important word that can change the course of a conversation,” Stokoe says. “It’s about how you respond to people who are what we call ‘first movers’ – people who say something really critical, apropos of nothing.” It might be the work colleague who steams up to your desk with a complaint or the neighbour who launches into a rant about parking as you’re putting out the bins. “What do you do with that person? Rather than respond in the same manner, saying something nice, such as a very bright ‘Hello!’, derails and socialises that other person a little bit.”

What to say …Stokoe says, “but just one friendly word in a bright tone can delete the challenge of the conversation.”

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/dec/04/would-you-be-willing-words-turn-conversation-around

COMMUNICATION & From Gutenberg to Google – analysis by Elmer Towns

Commentary by Prof. B: Elmer Towns, founding professor of Liberty University School of Theology and elder statesman of the Church Growth Movement, shared his meta-perspectives on communication, by contrasting Gutenberg and Google.

Address by Elmer Towns D.Min., Ph.D., 10/19/17 to the annual meeting of The Great Commission Research Network at Asbury Theological Seminary, Oct. 19, 2017.

Gutenberg controlled the printing process by utilizing lightly trained individuals and an expert who oversaw the process. This created a top-down approach, which is not a rational approach but a power-based approach.

Google has democratized information.  It is bottom up and individualized. The next generations will probably attain their knowledge in this manner.

Speaking Hashtag #GCRN