The Feast of Passover is still the highlight of the Jewish year, even some 3500 years after the Exodus account. Passover is effectively hard-wired into every religious Jew almost from birth, a part of their spiritual DNA, because the story is retold and relived annually in a family context. Traditionally, the youngest child present at the seder meal asks four questions, as a deliberate expression of Exodus 13:14.
In post-Christendom Europe and the West, very little religious story is hard-wired into most people. The third-largest religious grouping in the world is, surprisingly, the unaffiliated. And the Czech Republic is apparently the least Christian European country, according to a recent Operation World tweet.
As well as the Messianic resonances of the Exodus story, there are two different parallels I’d like to highlight – things we also need in our wiring, our DNA, for effective communication.
Because we are hard-wired for story, storytelling must be an integral part of almost all types of communication. Whether it’s evangelism, discipleship, mentoring, leadership, advocacy of a cause, we need to use stories.
Here are storytelling resources to help you:
- Interview with Eugene Peterson (30-min video).
- 9 storytelling tips from Sean Bulova, oral communications trainer (short video).
- Watch Daniel Taylor discuss the themes of his book Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of our Stories.
- Free iPad ebook for Christian writers and journalists – how to tell a story effectively.
- Storytelling advocate Wilton Blake has drawn together a great list of best storytelling resources.
- More blog posts about storytelling.
If we wish to communicate well online, we’ll also need social networking in our very DNA. Whether as a church, non-profit ministry, mission or publisher, we cannot – must not – view social networking as an optional extra, something to do occasionally if there is a bit of spare time. (Because, of course, there never is.)
Erik Qualman has chillingly observed in the latest incarnation of his social networking video that the ROI (return on investment) of social media is that your organization will still exist in five years time. And this HooteSuite video, though it is primarily for businesses, clearly explains the importance of connectedness at every level in any organization, and emphasises that in the end, it is just people and relationships.
Particularly highlighted in this video: social media needs to permeate through the entire organisation, and is not something that is just ‘done’ by the marketing department. Richard Branson is cited as an example of a CEO who is constantly tweeting.
There are still relatively few non-profits and ministries that are really using social media effectively. Often, it is individual Christians who seem best at carrying a social networking conversation forward.
Non-profits, publishers, and ministries urgently need to discover how to use social media well. They could well learn from SimplyLED, a small (secular) company here in UK using social media particularly well. (I have no connection with them, other than buying from their products.) The following factors in their integration of email and social media are well worth emulating by any non-profit or ministry:
- They sell a commodity (LED lamp bulbs) that they believe in, knowing it to be beneficial to individuals and the planet (LEDs offer a dramatic reduction in electric power requirement).
- They request email addresses on their site, or when you order, and send out short email updates at appropriate intervals.
- They post regularly on Facebook and Twitter, and a blog.
- Not all their posts are about themselves – many are wider links to resources of interest. Note this one, and burn it into your brain. We respect what SimplyLED say precisely because they are not self-promoting, and actually have a heart to resource you at a wider level.
- They frequently use social media to offer a limited-period 10%+ promotion off all their products (which are incidentally postage-free – adding delivery charges is a real downer and disincentive to buy). Such offers often get retweeted or shared, and are a good inducement to purchase.
- They sometimes share news about their own staff – the faces behind the company title. (They could do more of this, I feel.) When we believe we are connecting with real people we know somewhat, not a faceless organization, we are far more likely to support them.
- They encourage feedback and engagement, and learn from it. They recently sent out a SurveyMonkey questionnaire asking for comments on their site usability, service, and much more (which they rewarded with a 10% discount code).
Check their site, blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed, and sense how this group ‘gets’ social media. I do not doubt that a big percentage of their sales result from this, rather than by merely having a static website.
There are maybe things they could do even better – photos of one or two team members on the homepage header would be one – but this is a group who are using social media effectively. Look on their team page and note that two out of 13 of their team are responsible for online marketing. Follow their activities for a time – they are effectively offering you a free masterclass!
A Facebook page won’t run itself
You’ll often find a ministry or non-profit Facebook page which was set up with all good intentions. But it has, say, only 70 likes, and the last entry is two months old.
There are no magic instant bullets. It takes time (but even 10 minutes a day can achieve a lot) to build up a social media presence. I’ve faced this only recently. With my Internet Evangelism Day hat on, I’ve been blessed over some years to be able to leverage static web, blog, email Web Evangelism Bulletin, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn and thereby encourage the worldwide church to consider and use various aspects of digital outreach.
But it was only this year that our SOON Ministries team (we produce free outreach literature for Africa and Asia) chose to launch a social media presence with Facebook and Twitter pages, in part to highlight our urgent staffing needs. It will probably take at least a year before we can assess whether we have built up a significant conversation and community.