The digital age has brought many benefits to interpersonal communication. But I think most of us would agree that much has been lost as well. There’s some general consensus that social media has changed our relationships with others, and not necessarily for the better.
One of the casualties of digital communication is the traditional thank-you note. It’s largely become a relic of past sincerity and etiquette. But should it? Unlike other forms of communication that have gone reasonably by the wayside, I think the traditional thank-you note is one that needs a revival. This is particularly true in church life where you need to be sure to acknowledge the generosity of your volunteers and leaders who serve and give faithfully on a consistent basis.
I’ll argue that a hand-written note, sent by snail mail, is far superior to saying thank you in an email. First, not many people send hand-written notes these days. When one is received, it demonstrates a level of thoughtfulness and intentionality that’s not conveyed in an email. Second, it’s more personal. When you’ve handwritten a note, the recipient knows you didn’t just cut and paste copy from a thank-you template you’ve saved in a file. Third, it’s special. Since not many people receive hand-written notes these days, yours will likely be appreciated and remembered more than all of the digital communication they received that week combined.
You may not have thought much about legal protection for your church logo or other “brands” you’ve developed as part of your church’s ministry initiatives. But understanding the implications of copyright and trademark protection so that you can make an informed decision is an important part of church communication management.
Given a few of our church’s more externally-focused initiatives, we’ve taken the extra step of registering some of our trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A quick disclaimer: the information in this post is certainly not meant to be taken as legal advice but rather to share what I’ve learned through this process. Please consult an attorney for thorough legal counsel on this subject.
First, it’s important to understand the difference between the terms “copyright” and “trademark.” Copyright refers to works of authorship, such as literary, dramatic, and musical works, as well as artistic works such as poetry, novels, songs, computer software, and architecture. In order to be copyrighted, these works have to be “tangibly expressed,” or “published.” A trademark, on the other hand, is a brand name. It may be expressed in a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes it from another source that may provide similar goods or services.
My experience using image magnification (IMAG) in worship began way back in 1994. I started serving that year at one of the largest churches in America, First Baptist Church of Orlando. Two years earlier, the church had purchased a new in-house television system, complete with a rear screen video projector, in its 5,000-seat worship center. The brightest video projector available at the time, a GE “Talaria” was installed.
As I recall, it produced a whopping 2,500 lumens, less than a quarter of the brightness that size room calls for today; and a skilled technician was required to “tweak it” about once a month for it to maintain a decent image. But, despite the primitive nature of the new technology, I was fortunate to have been one of the early adopters of the use of IMAG in worship. There wasn’t a lot of precedent at that time, so we were breaking new ground.
With today’s much brighter and much cheaper video projectors, IMAG has become common in many, if not most, houses of worship. Of course, a minority of churches use projection for the live “re-imaging” of the worship leaders and the preacher with a video camera, the practice for which “image magnification” got its name. But the projection of song lyrics, Scripture, photos, videos, and other supporting graphics is now a staple in the realm of worship technology.
Whether your church is using video projection from a single source for graphics and video, or from multiple sources, including live camera re-imaging, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years about effective use of IMAG in worship.
Like any organization, the church must be effective at communicating its message. The most important message, of course, is the message of the gospel. Ultimately, everything that’s formally communicated by the church should point to Christ. The gospel is the common message of every single Bible-believing church.
But it’s naïve not to acknowledge that every active and healthy church has ministry programs, initiatives, activities, service projects, and events that support the goal of reaching people for Christ and helping them grow toward Christ-likeness. Our church offers more opportunities than any one member could ever participate in. Communicating all of these opportunities in a consistent and effective way can be overwhelming.
Effectively connecting the right message to the right people at the right time is the ultimate goal of communication. In an extremely active church culture, this can only be done with a good communication strategy.
Part of my role in church communications has been to manage media relations. My “baptism by fire” learning experience came in October of 1999. I was serving in Orlando, Florida at the time, and pro golfer, Payne Stewart and his family were regular attenders of our church. You may remember the story. . .a lone Learjet was flying north with no response to air traffic controllers’ attempts to contact the pilots. A fighter jet was sent to intercept and made visual contact, only to find the windows fogged over with no signs of movement inside. Soon the chartered jet would run out of fuel and crash in a field in South Dakota, a thousand miles from its Dallas destination.
When I first got the call that Payne Stewart’s plane had crashed, I was ironically at the Portofino Bay hotel at Universal Orlando shooting a follow-up video package for a fundraiser our church’s crisis pregnancy center had recently held there. Payne Stewart was the honoree for that event, and I had been the emcee just ten days earlier. I had not yet gotten back to the church before the media calls began coming in.
It seems that often churches don’t have a well-defined process for hiring staff. Maybe that’s because many church leaders just haven’t experienced what a healthy process for personnel selection looks like, or they assume their network of church staff is broad enough to already know the “perfect person” for the job.
I’ve seen a number of cases where a new pastor comes to a church, and he insists on hiring staff from his former church. While this might seem to make sense in terms of building a team that already has proven working chemistry, I think this approach has more risks than rewards. It makes an erroneous assumption that the same team, working in the same roles, will be as effective at a the new church as they were in the previous one. There are just too many other variables to make this a reality. It might make the pastor more comfortable, but in my experience, it can be detrimental to the rest of the staff and even the congregation.
Whatever the reason, I believe we’d do well in the church to elevate the sophistication for how we identify, assess, and ultimately select our church staff.
I had the opportunity this past week to be trained as a “Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.” You might ask, why would a church communications minister want to be trained as a court mediator? The short answer: the church needs conflict mediation.
I’ve recently considered the need for more specific attention and a strategic approach to conflict management in the church, so I began investigating what’s out there. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker is certainly a popular and thorough approach to conflict resolution in the church, and I intend to do more follow up with the resources available through Peacemaker Ministries. But I came across the option for a 40-hour training course in mediation offered locally that I thought would be a good entree to the discipline.
Membership has been a hot topic of discussion in the church over the past decade or so. Some more recently-established churches are dispensing with “membership” and developing the concept of a “partnership” that’s renewed each year. There’s some merit to this approach because the benefits of membership in the church can be quite unclear. We regularly encounter those in our congregation who are surprised to find they’re not actually members of the church, even though they’ve been attending, serving, and even giving their tithes and offerings for many years. By contrast, others play the member card even when they haven’t crossed the threshold in years.
So what does being a member really mean, and what’s the importance of “signing on the dotted line,” if you’re already “plugged in?” I believe there are at least three reasons church membership is still important.
What does it mean to be ordained? It seems to mean different things in different churches and denominations. A colleague at another church recently asked me about it. He’s sensed a call to ministry and presented himself for ordination. However, due to his specific role, his “qualification” became a matter of deliberation among his church leaders. I shared with him my thoughts:
We Baptists, and I think most Evangelicals, look at ordination a bit differently than most mainline denominations. There’s less emphasis on the individual’s formal education than there is on his calling. The large number of bi-vocational pastors among our ranks is evidence of this.
Before I answer this question, I might first point out why I’ve not started a blog before now. As a church communications professional, I’ve struggled with the fact that it’s taken me this long to start. I attribute that to several causes, not the least of which is simply self-discipline. But I’ve also questioned whether I have enough to say that others would be interested in reading.
Sure, the conferences I’ve attended, the seminars I’ve led, and the multitude of emails and phone calls I’ve responded to over the years always come with the questions: “how do you do this or that?” This has reinforced to some degree the idea that I have something worth sharing. But being reactive in this regard and proactively sharing my thoughts in a blog are two different things.
I’ve also been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon when it seems there’s so much opinion already being shared out there, even among church bloggers. Does the world really need one more voice on church culture? I can’t judge the motives of others, but to the extent that many people enter the blogosphere simply to build a platform or make a name for themselves, I’m not interested in joining the ranks.