How Your Church Can Benefit From a StoryBrand Framework

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Kenny co-runs church communications as well as being a certified StoryBrand teller. Kenny shares the benefit of both, hope you enjoy!

Podcast Transcription

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Jason Hamrock: Welcome to the podcast, my name is Jason Hamrock, your host. And on today’s episode, I’m talking with Kenny. Now, Kenny is a phenomenal guy. He is a leader in the church world. He has done a ton of things in the business world. He’s brought all those principles over to the church world. He works for Church Communications, many of you know who Church Communications are. But if you don’t, you want to go to churchcommunications.com, and certainly go to Facebook. And then Google the Church Communications group and become a member, they have twenty eight thousand members in their group, it’s a phenomenal group. Well, Kenny helps run that, and we talk today a little bit about what he does. And we’re going to go a little bit deeper into Story Brand, because Kenny is actually a certified Story Brand teller. And if you don’t know much about that, you’re in for a treat. But I’m excited for you to hear from Kenny. Here he is.

Jason Hamrock: Well, hey, Kenny, how are you today?

Kenny Jahng: Fantastic, it’s a new year, and I’m really glad to be with you here today.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, welcome to the podcast. So glad to have you, excited about all that’s going on with church comms and everything that’s going on in your world, so I’m ready to dig in. But I think for a lot of our viewers, they may not know who you are and know about Church Communications. So share a little bit about yourself and some of your ministry background.

Kenny Jahng: Absolutely. So I’ve got a, I guess, varied past where I’ve worked in the marketplace in all aspects of advertising, direct mail, PR, marketing, Fortune 500 brands. And I’ve also got a ministry background, where I went back to seminary and got an MDiv, and actually was a practitioner in the church working for some large churches in the New York, New Jersey metro area, and have served in the roles of a media pastor, as well as a church online pastor. And it’s been really interesting to mesh the two, the marketplace and the ministry best practices, and trying to just further becoming a herald for the gospel.

Kenny Jahng: And so that’s been part of the reasons why we’ve connected with your organization, and just the things that you guys are doing is amazing. And just that’s common love for how do we take what we know of communications, and messaging, and articulation, of what we’re trying to get people to do in terms of calls to action, and how do we apply that to faith and the church? And so, you know, that’s been a lot of the things that I’ve done in terms of building a consultancy, an agency. I’ve got a team of nine people that we help non-profits, mission driven organizations, and churches.

Kenny Jahng: And then I’ve got another organization I’m part of, it’s called Church Communications. It starts with our Facebook group, if you’re not part of the Church Communications Facebook group, you’ve got to come and join the party. We’ve got almost twenty eight thousand people in the group. Katie Allred is my partner, she founded the group. She’s got the secret sauce for how to engage communities, and grow them, and have affinity, et cetera, and so we’ve all nerded out on that topic of church communications there. And through that, we’ve proliferated, we’ve got a podcast like this, we just published a book on Instagram, we’ve got courses, and content, we just launched our Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon TV apps, and so we’re just having fun doing what we do.

Jason Hamrock: Well, you know, you speak about Church Communications, and it seems like that thing has just gone viral. And if you’ve not, hey, audience, if you’ve not tuned in to it. Go, it’s a group, so you have to request to get into the group. But it is amazing to see anybody in the church will post a question, or they’ll throw up a graphic, and they get instant feedback by all these thousands of people that work in the church, and it’s really fun to see. You can get a lot of help in there, can’t you?

Kenny Jahng: That the part where I’m like this is where, Seth Godin says it, where the power of the magic of the Internet is aggregating like minded people to come together around certain things. And we’re all here peer to peer, trying to help each other grow. If you meet a church communicator that says, I know exactly how it has to be done, and this is the solution, then you’ve got to run, right? Like we’re all learning together, technology, social, everything is changing so quickly. I think we need each other, and that’s what this community has embraced.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Yeah. So how, so give us a glimpse into how you actually got connected with Katie, and how did that all start?

Kenny Jahng: For me, I was just part of the group. So she started the group, I think about six years ago at this point, or seven years ago, and it just organically grew. It’s one of those things where us old timers of groups say, I used to be in the group when there was only a thousand people. You know, it was a small party, it was like a dorm room party, right? Now, with twenty eight thousand people, it’s a completely different animal. But the essence is the same, where you had an invitation to come in and share what’s working, what’s not, and share what’s learning, what you’re learning about. And just literally raising your hand and pitching in with somebody else that might have some obstacle, decision, or something that they have in front of them.

Kenny Jahng: And so I just I became part of the group, I was a contributing member. And over the time and the years my, you know, my interest of helping others, I guess, just became larger and larger. And I finally found the time to team up with Katie formally, and so here I am, we’re co leaders of the thing. I like to say, she’s the CEO, Chief Engagement Officer. I’m the CIO, the Chief Innovation Officer, because I’m off creating crazy new ideas all the time. Katie’s trying to throttle me back all the time, saying how crazy it is, but we have fun together.

Jason Hamrock: That’s awesome. Yes, you do, you guys are awesome. And so some people are going to know you because of your work with church comms. But as you mentioned, you do a lot of other work with with non-profits, and with churches, and their church ministries. So let’s talk a little bit about well, first of all, I want to learn more about your Story Brand certification, explain what that is. Because I think that’s really important for churches to understand, when you’re talking about your website, or really anything you’re trying to communicate, you’ve got to have some purpose behind that message. Would you speak into that?

Kenny Jahng: Absolutely. So two years ago, Katie and I decided to go to Nashville, the Mecca for Don Miller and his Story Brand team and organization. Don Miller, if you haven’t…I actually have it on my desk, we use it all the time. So Don Miller wrote this book called Building a Story Brand, you should go out to Amazon and click it and buy it today. And it basically is a step by step framework for communications and messaging, to provide clarity to your audience for what you have to offer to them. And it weaves in something he calls the SB seven, it’s a seven part framework that he borrows from movies, and novels, and just basically the elements of story, which resonates with the human condition. And so using that to tell your story for your organization, is what, it’s a powerful framework. It provides clarity instantly, and provides that connection that you want with your audience.

Kenny Jahng: Now, churches, more times than not, we will nerd out on church messaging, and you’ll see that church messaging is confusing. People are not doing the best that they can sometimes with what the church has to offer to a community member, to a stranger, right? To, we call them first time visitors, but I call them strangers, we’re strangers to them. We treat them as guests, but the person who is driving by your church doesn’t think they’re your guests right now. And so how do you actually reach out to them and provide that clarity that you have something that is relevant to them, that shows that you’re somebody that you can trust in the community, and that you have something of value to offer to them. And so that’s what the Story Brand messaging does, we’re certified, and we’ve been working with organizations and websites and all that kind of stuff. And so it’s great, it’s a great framework that everyone should try.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. I’m a big advocate for it, I think it’s…And when you start to see what Story Brand can do for your messaging, you know, too many, like you said, too many churches, I think these days, you go a to church website, and sometimes the first thing you see is our mission statement. Well, you know, if you don’t go to your church and you don’t really, you know, you’re like, I don’t really care about your mission statement, what’s in it for me and my family? Why should I come to your church? And I think, you know, when we start to have this conversation with churches, they’re like, oh, you know, you’re probably right. We sort of make it all about us, and we can’t do that, we’ve got to make it about the benefits for the user, for them, and Story Brand does such a great job of helping explain that. And so when you, what does it look like for you to serve a church in that capacity? How how does that happen when churches hire you? What does that look like?

Kenny Jahng: Yeah, it’s very similar to your organization in helping organizations. It’s basically, well, there’s a couple different models. One is, it might be specific tactical things that they’re trying to solve. Whether it be, we need to build our mission statement and come in and do a strategy session, or it might be we’re trying to overhaul our websites, and part of that is that’s the opportunity to clarify your messaging, or it might be a complete Brands overhaul across the board. Right? Because the brand is not just a website, brand is not just your logo, so what does it mean across the board? Or might be ministry specific, we’ve talked to actually, you know, we don’t like them to be silos, but many times ministry fronts within the church are almost their mini organization by themselves, and they want to accomplish something. And so sometimes it’s coaching, sometimes it’s consultations, sometimes it’s actual execution, that we actually produce a website, or produce a brand guidelines book, or something like that. But at the end of the day, the the common theme is, walking them through the process that less is more, clarity wins, you want to make everything caveman simple. And that you the church, and I think this is the most important takeaway, the sermon, you, the church are not the hero. And this is confusing sometimes because we’ve been taught as practitioners of the church that who’s the hero? Jesus is the hero, Jesus is the answer all the time. But this is just one of those few times where for the mechanics of messaging, you want to put the audience, that person who you’re talking to, the stranger in your community, you want to make them the hero, and that you’re the guide helping them to achieve what they want. And at the end of the day, it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ that fulfills them and gives them meaning, and we actually serve Him. But for that mechanism, that is, that’s something that many senior leaders don’t understand, and that we come in and help unravel that, make sense of it, and then bring it back together.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Yeah. And everybody has a story, right, and everybody’s on their journey at some point. I always try and paint that picture that, you know, if this is your life, you know, there’s a point where you have to intersect the cross. Right? You have to understand, and you have to acknowledge, who Jesus is and kind of hurdle that cross, if you will, and then follow Him. And then, of course, that’s always an ongoing journey of doing that. So everybody has a journey, their on their journey at some point, and I think that’s important for churches to realize. That’s what you want to communicate, that we’re here for you, you’re the hero, be the hero of your family, of your kids, of your spouse, or just your your life. Right. And so I think that’s important, and churches do get that messed up. Do you, is there a, I mean, every church really needs to deal with this, but is there a certain type of church that you find you really work well with, or that you guys have served really well? Or is there church’s out there that are doing this really well?

Kenny Jahng: Well, I think the ones that, so it’s kind of like when you want to mentor someone or coach someone, you can only mentor or coach someone to the degree that they want to be led.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah.

Kenny Jahng: And so the ones that have a posture that lean forward and say, yes, I understand that we don’t want to be in a holy huddle, where we’re just serving the insiders only, we want to be external facing, and we actually want to be approachable. That is actually the key indicator of potential success, versus size of church, denomination, theology, et cetera, but that one key posture is one of those things diagnostically that we look for when we’re initially talking to churches. Because that, again, seems so intuitive, and it seems so plain and easy, almost stupid to talk about, right, like what kind of church doesn’t want to want to talk to outsiders? What kind of church doesn’t want to attract new people and friends? Right? But that posture in, it’s a little bit of like the wisdom that a father of a daughter that says. Judge a man not by what he says, but what he does. Right? And so it’s the same thing like, are you actually living that out? Are you trying that in your ministry? Is that actually a reflection of what you guys are doing? Or is everything in your budget, and your activities, and your calendar, is all for insiders? Do you have anything truly that are stranger friendly? And so if there’s any evidence of that latter, stranger friendly, external focus stuff, then I feel like that’s where we’re like, yes, we could do some good work together.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, I often find when I’m talking to churches, and we’re helping them with a website, that you end up finding out what those sacred cows are.

Kenny Jahng: Yes.

Jason Hamrock: And going, that thing is like 20 years old, it’s time to put it out to pasture. That’s harder, it’s harder to implement that, easier said than done, if you will. But, you know, the churches that have that kind of posture, as you said, of, hey, we want to get better. We submit that it doesn’t matter what size they are, you know, they recognize where they need to go, and that’s really exciting when that happens, for sure.

Kenny Jahng: Churches without the posture, it’s not a full judgment on them. I literally talked to a leader recently that said we don’t want to advertise, or put out any messaging that we want to help you with any of your felt needs. Like that’s not something we actively want to put out there, that’s not the type of church that we want. And yet, they’re still thriving, growing church. Now, that’s, I just don’t think that is the same philosophy or alignment with Story Brands, and that you might need to use some other mechanisms. But we choose to focus on the ministries that align with Story Brand, in that it is fully not about us and it’s about you.

Kenny Jahng: It’s almost like, I don’t know if you, Jason, have heard of the ABC church model? Where the old model used to be ABC. It’s A, Attraction, it’s all about me, the church, the church, the church. It’s B it’s all about the building, everything happens in the building, if it doesn’t happen in the building, it’s not church. And C, it’s all about cashola, I need your cashola to fund my church. And so that ABC church model just doesn’t fit with what we’re trying to do here with Story Brands, where we’re putting the audience first.

Jason Hamrock: And not where trends are going, and just with more people leaving the church not coming back. So we just, you know, we just ended 2020. Yes, we’re on 2021. So what have you seen in terms of churches wanting to go more digital, and what kind of conversations are you in these days about what that looks like? And you mentioned that you were an online pastor in the past, like what’s that looking like? And what advice can you give churches out there that are wanting to do that?

Kenny Jahng: It’s pushing that envelope, it’s truly trying to innovate on what are you doing in your ministry that is completely, radically, generous for the audience first. Put yourself in the shoes of the audience and what serves them. I was just in a vibrant conversation on Clubhouse, which is like the new kid on the block for social media, which is an audio only platform. It’s like those old live chat lines, group chat lines you had when we had these devices, it was called a phone and it had a little cord that actually, like, attaches to the wall, you couldn’t walk more than like five feet away from the wall. Back in those days, they used to have these things called chat lines, and we’d call and you would have all these rooms open up based on topics. It’s the same thing, so Clubhouse is this latest iteration of that, and it’s been thriving recently, I think you’ll hear more of Clubhouse in 2021.

Kenny Jahng: But anyway, last night we had a great conversation about tactics that are completely focused on the actual audience. So for instance, one example was, new mover’s. People who move into a new community don’t necessarily have established friends, and networks, and resources. What can you do to help them? So I’m working with a church locally, that is going to do a quarterly new residents event, that they’re going to bring in people from like the library, where they’ll be able to issue a library card on the spot. They bring in the police department, which is going to do those little engraving of serial numbers on your kid’s bike or personal devices, so if it gets stolen, they can get it back. They’re bringing in like the principals, so that kindergarten and school enrollment questions, right, parents really care about how do I get my kids enrolled into the class and school. The local gym, and all the food vendors, etc., bring that together, has nothing to do with the church. Now you can insert yourself into the events, but that’s radically helping the actual community. If you get to be known for holding that annual, or quarterly, events. Eventually, hopefully, everyone in town will just refer you, if you’re new in town, you need to go to that churches newcomer’s events. And it’s something that actually [inaudible] that allows you to create a relationship, relationship allows you to have conversations, and the invitation.

Kenny Jahng: So those are the types of things that we’re trying to innovate on, that, again, seems very innocuous and easy to do. The church that I was talking about getting, we’re in COVID, no one’s going out to dinner anymore. And what will you do, everyone is thinking about takeout or delivery. And so instead of hunting and pecking on Ubereats, or Doordash, or whatever, they’re asking every single restaurant for a copy of their menu, they’re going to scan and PDF every single menu in like a five to 10 mile radius, put it all to one offering, and give it out for free. Now, what’s going to be inserted? Front cover, back cover insert, ads for the church. Right? And so, but you’re not doing this spammy way, you’re actually delivering radical value first, and then you’re part of the conversation. So those are the types of things that we’re looking at in 2021. How do you actually up your game in becoming more radically relevant to the audience you’re trying to reach? How do you become friends? How do you actually become friends with them?

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, yeah. I just had a conversation with my friend Mark McDonald, and he wrote a book, Be Known For Something. Right? And that’s, what you’re talking about right there, is it’s kind of the brand you want to create. That you are a friendly church, you’re inviting, you’re welcome to come here, we have great news for you, and we have hope for you that we want to offer. But sometimes you don’t go straight there, you have to just develop a relationship. And there’s so many different ways that we could be doing church, we don’t want to be put inside of a box, if you will. And you’ve got to think about like, what are felt needs of people these days, which are constantly changing. And that’s so cool for a church to embrace that and go, let’s be creative, let’s think outside this box that we’re in, and really connect with people. I love that.

Kenny Jahng: It’s literally about relationships, right Jason, just think about it. One of the things that everyone wants to reach millennials, who are older now, they’re not just the people under 30. But millennials is a generation that churches want to reach out to. How do you become radically useful? You need to speak to them in ways and languages that they really appreciate. There’s a great tool on your website that is a millennial language scoring tool, or something like that, right? And so those are the types of things that, can we take what we’re doing today, and look at from a different lens that actually serves and prioritizes the audience first? It’s like hospitality to the nth degree. How do we up that? And those are the tools, like that tool on your website. I don’t know exactly how to get there, you can tell people how to get there, put in the show notes. But that’s a great tool, because that is saying get rid of my wonkiness of my church language, my insider language, all this kind of stuff. And let me throw that away, and let me talk in the language of the person that I want to reach, the millennial, and do it in a way that’s wholesome, do it in a way that’s accurate, that has clarity. Those are the things that, in 2021, I think we’re going to see more and more of that happening.

Jason Hamrock: So, yeah, I agree, Kenny, and I’ll explain how you do that on our website? So you just mentioned a phenomenal idea, of bringing value to your new neighbors. And I love the new neighbor, move in, let’s get them together, give them some some love and attention, and I love the church being the hub for that activity. How can people get connected to other great ideas that you guys are coming up with? Do you put that on a website, or tune into your podcast, what’s that look like? How do people get connected?

Kenny Jahng: So the first thing is go to our group, or a website, that’s at churchcommunications.com. And if you want to actually get into the group, we have a redirect at churchcommunications.com/group. But on the website you’ll discover our podcast, you’ll discover all the other resources that we have. Inside our group, we’ve got weekly live shows that are happening. We just launched a pro membership, at pro.churchcommunications.com. And then the pro membership is, it’s a little bit of a quieter, more intimate community, where you actually can have your questions answered in a fuller way. Deeper discussions that you might have outside of a group that has twenty thousand of your friends at once. So it’s a little bit like that party atmosphere is great, and there’s a lot of people you can meet and you can be connected instantly with who you need to, but sometimes you need a little bit more intentionality, and a little bit more sequence, and that’s what the Pro membership is, so that’s another great place. So those are those are the main places that we would say, and then we’re starting to publish books and stuff like that. If you want to nerd out on Instagram, we just published a book called Instagram Posts that worked. And so we’ve crowdsourced about 90 case studies of Instagram content from churches, real life examples, and we have some questions that tear them apart for each single one. So look at all the publishing that we have, it starts at our website, churchcommunications.com, and we invite everyone into the group.

Kenny Jahng: So you guys are active in the group, you guys have been contributing to the group, you guys are contributing to our website, et cetera. And so, you know, this is this is a great way, this is an efficient way to meet not just peers, but also professionals who are helping, like you guys.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, we love to be a part of it, such a fantastic group. So there’s two books you guys got to go buy, Building The Story Brand, and then The Instagram, the book that you and Katie just deployed. So go check that out, Instagram Posts That Worked. I think that’s the title, I’m pretty sure that’s the title.

Kenny Jahng: Instagram Posts That Worked, there’s a longer subtext subtitle, but yeah, that’s the book. And so, and again, it’s a crowdsourced book, we cannot do this without you. And that’s the whole message, is that we want this to be a place by practitioners for practitioners, and we just want you to be part of the conversation.

Jason Hamrock: Ok, last question. So as we get into this new year, what are some other things that you might be really excited about, that you see trending or coming down the pipe?

Kenny Jahng: We’ve got a couple of things. One is, and this is oddly enough, it looks like a red herring, but I don’t think it is, mental health. I think is an issue that we are going to see, and I think it needs to be tackled on multiple levels. One for the self, for the actual leader, for the staff and volunteers, and then for the community. So I think on multiple levels, mental health is something, we’re going to be actually having a mental health summit for free that everyone can join, I think is coming in May. May 21st as Mental Health Day, and so we’re going to actually tackle that from a, we’re going to nerd out on communication side of it, but also the actual practical side, the care side of it for for people. We just put out a devotional recently on YouVersion, that is encouragement for the church communicator. So we’re going to start to do a little bit more for that. Again, that’s the community aspect that we are, it’s like if you talk to Katie, all twenty eight thousand people are her family. If she could have everyone over for Thanksgiving, she would, and there wouldn’t be any fights. So this is family, and so that’s one of the big things.

Kenny Jahng: The other thing I think is data, and how we are actually segmenting and actually personalizing experiences. Everything from text messaging, to emails, to content, I think segmentation, data centered, church management systems, I think are going to be more and more important in this next year ahead.

Jason Hamrock: I totally agree with you, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think that mental health thing you mentioned that it’s not just the people in your church, or in your community, but it’s actually the people working in the church, the staff, and the key volunteers, and leaders. We’re seeing that, you know, that there are just some issues, and it’s natural, and so I’m really glad to hear you guys are pouring into that. And we have some relationships with others that are there trying to tackle that problem as well, because it’s real. But, you know, when you work in a church, you don’t want to admit that you’ve got a problem. You’re like, well, I’m all good, but really pull back the layer a little bit, and you’re not so good sometimes. And I think we have to understand that, and appreciate it, and really go after it to help people. And I’m excited that you’re doing that.

Kenny Jahng: We have to be at our best, in order to serve our best.

Jason Hamrock: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. Kenny, you are amazing. Man, thank you for your ministry, and just helping churches get better. The end goal, as you said earlier, it’s all about Jesus, it’s connecting people with Him, a life saving message of grace, and truth, and salvation. So thanks for your heart in all that.

Kenny Jahng: Awesome. Always glad to hang out with you, it’s always great to partner with you, and to work together in the group and beyond, and look forward to talking to you more.

Jason Hamrock: Amen. Thanks, buddy.

Jason Hamrock: Well, thank you, Kenny, I so appreciate your heart, your passion, and your wisdom, that you are pouring into churches around the country. And I know I speak on behalf of the churches, when we say thank you.

Jason Hamrock: I’ve got to tell you, church, if you are not connected to the ecosystem of the Church Communications, get connected. Right now go to Facebook, Facebook their name, Church Communications, and then join that group, they’ll let you in. So many valuable resources in terms of just people, what they’re communicating, what they’re talking about. You can post a question, you’re going to get instant feedback from people all over the country, it’s a great platform. I’d also go to churchcommunications.com. Right? And go see all the different resources that that Kenny and Katie offer on churchcommunications.com.

Jason Hamrock: I’ve got to tell you, we love our partnership with these guys. And it’s pretty valuable, because the work that they’re doing is helping churches reach more people, and our goal is simply to introduce more people to Jesus. And they’re doing that, and they’re doing it through local churches, and so their heart is in the right place. Well, thank you so much. Until next time, God bless you. Stay safe.

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