Why Digital Matters For Your Church | Joanna La Fleur

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Why does digital matter for your church? Joanna La Fleur of Word Made Digital discusses with Jason and Bart her insights into that question.

Podcast Transcription


Bart Blair: [00:00:06] Joanna, thanks so much for joining us. All the way from the 6, the T., the GTA, the tip of the Golden Horseshoe. I’m saying all these things that you have, maybe, I hope I said all those things right. I lived there for a while, but you are joining us from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:00:25] There it is.

Bart Blair: [00:00:25] Thanks so much for being on the show today. All my young hip friends will be proud that I referred to it as the 6. It used to be the T., right?

Joanna La Fleur: [00:00:33] Well, and as I say, if this is a video podcast, I live high up in the sky, and out the window there. People see there’s some of Toronto. It’s the biggest city in Canada, it’s bigger than Chicago, so I think it’s something like New York, L.A, then Toronto, then Chicago in terms of size. Just to give my American friends some context, it’s a huge city, and I live right in the middle of it.

Bart Blair: [00:01:01] Right in the dead center. And I want to go on a limb and say probably the most multicultural city in North America. Probably.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:01:10] So they say, yeah.

Bart Blair: [00:01:11] Yeah, yeah.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:01:12] Language, culture, religion, and I think the best part is the food, we get to eat our way around the world here in Toronto, which is fun.

Jason Hamrock: [00:01:20] Oh, that’s cool.

Bart Blair: [00:01:21] That is true. But if you’re in Toronto, you got to have poutine. I mean, it’s just kind of a given. If you haven’t been to Toronto, find some poutine, I guess.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:01:31] Just as a random side note of that, if people don’t know what it is, when the war Ukraine, Russian war, and they’re hearing about Putin, the leader, President Putin, they were thinking Putin and poutine were the same. So people were boycotting poutine because they thought it was named after Putin. It’s not, it’s a French thing, fries, cheese, gravy, it’s good.

Bart Blair: [00:01:55] Not good for you, but very, very good.

Jason Hamrock: [00:01:58] It sounds good, right? Yeah, fries, cheese, and gravy, I’m in.

Bart Blair: [00:02:01] Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a point to this podcast today, and we’re going to get to it. Joanna, for our audience, for our listeners, for our viewers, why don’t you take a few minutes to just share your story? Tell us a little bit about your background, how you ended up in ministry, and how it led to you doing what you’re doing today.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:02:18] Yeah, there’s always a long and short version, so feel free to if you want more, I can say more, but I come from a ministry-minded, missions-minded family. I have lived abroad as a kid growing up, ministry and missions. My parents weren’t, my dad was a nuclear engineer, which led to being able to travel and work all over the world, but the heart was always ministry in the family I grew up in, so wherever we went, ministry and discipleship were in the home I grew up in. So, faith was a part of my life, and of course, everybody goes to young adulthood and has to wrestle it through for themselves. I went into a business and marketing direction because I honestly didn’t see, one of the main things was I didn’t really have any models of women doing leadership and ministry in the churches I come from. So I started there, and I ended up in the high-tech world. I lived in Waterloo, Ontario, which is Silicon Valley North. This is relative, it was BlackBerry’s heyday when I was coming up through my university years into graduation, and so everybody was working in tech where I lived.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:03:29] Then I felt like a really strong pull from the Lord, which is a whole story of its own, to use the skills I was using in tech for the church, communications, marketing, PR, digital, and technology, and so that meandered me part-time and then full-time into church work. I ended up at a church that became a megachurch while I was there, so my job changed a few times, but I was on the pastoral, you know, the ministry team there, lots of different job titles over the years, but ultimately I was overseeing creative and communications on the side, started my master’s in theology, and then hosting The Word Made Digital podcast, and co-hosting a women’s TV talk show on the Canadian National, you know, the Christian Channel, and on and on.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:04:16] And all this stuff was kind of happening on the side, and I had to choose. So after nine years working in the megachurch land, just before COVID, really before the pandemic changed a lot of our lives, I jumped out and began doing this stuff on my own, which is now grown into a team Word Made Digital. On one hand, it’s this content creation, and sort of podcasting, TV, speaking at events, and doing tutorial videos, and the other half is helping others do that with their content. So churches and charities who need communication strategy help, and are trying to figure out what to do in the digital world, or if they should be on TikTok, or how they need to rebrand and all that kind of stuff. That’s not the longest version, but a longer version than I thought I’d tell you.

Jason Hamrock: [00:05:04] In the middle. Hey, let’s camp out there. You said something that caught my attention, and part of those who are listening to this podcast are typically church communication directors or executive pastors, or lead pastors, we have a little bit of everybody. These days, it seems like we’re talking a lot about strategy. Because it’s like a lot of churches coming out of COVID are having to figure out their new strategy. In your opinion, because you’re in the thick of it, how are you leading churches when it comes to a communication strategy? What does that look like? Give some advice to some people that are listening, going, yeah, we’re starting those conversations and we’re not even sure what to even do.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:05:50] Yeah, well, the best way to say it is if I might be, or my small team, we might be the experts on communications, the church or the Christian organization, they’re the expert on their organization. And so it’s really more of like a working together idea of, if you’re the expert at this and I’m the expert at that, if we come together, we can really make a strategy that makes sense for you. Now, that said, there are probably some handles, some touchpoints that are true everywhere. A common one that I say, that is not unique to me, but we talk about digital-first, not digital-only. The first way, the best information, the most accurate content, you know, the way we engage with people is online, and we hope that that will lead to in-person engagements and connections with people. But even after it has moved to in-person, of course, you’re going to have lots of ongoing connections through digital content, just through digital conversations, and so that would be probably overall a philosophy.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:06:54] We talk about, one of the other things I talk about is, we tell the truth, which is, I find a lot of churches want to exaggerate how great everything is, or they want to make it look like there are 1000 people in the room when there are only 100. And it’s fine that there are 100 people in the room, but when you make it look like there’s 1000 because of your unique camera angle, then when people show up, they see that it was the hundred, not the thousand, and you’ve just immediately broken trust with people from the first moment they walk in the door. Because it was fine that it was 100, but if they were expecting something else, they feel kind of like, intuitively, like they’ve been a bit deceived or tricked or something. And so you’re kind of losing people from the moment they come, so we want to tell the truth, digital-first. And from there, we can get into more granular things.

Jason Hamrock: [00:07:47] You just said a couple of things, I want to recap that. So, strategy is important in understanding that leadership has a strategy, and then as com’s people, we have a strategy, but we take our cues from the leadership of where are you wanting to go, what’s the message, and now we’ll package that up and make sure it’s delivered and articulated the way you want it done. And I think sometimes we get that disconnect, I think it’s an unintentional disconnect, it’s that we’re not asking the leadership, what’s our strategy, where are we going, what’s God communicating to you that we need to now communicate to our people and our community? I think that was the first thing you said. And the second one is, I always camp out in the first one, but the second one is important, building trust among people that are in the community looking at you and not bait, I call it the bait and switch, don’t be deceiving people. Now, you may think it’s not happening, but you’ve got to take a hard look at that, huh? Maybe in your social media post or things of that nature, is that what you’re kind of…

Joanna La Fleur: [00:08:47] You know, even when you say, it’s a certain culture, maybe this is just another example, where people will say this was the best sermon ever, and if you missed Sunday, you know, it was so awesome. And it’s like every week can’t be your best week ever, like, it’s weird that we’re saying that. And I think it also sets up the minister, the pastor, or the preacher, or whoever with a lot of unnecessary pressure, as if we expect some home run every week, that’s just not life. And so people know that, and this feels disingenuous.

Bart Blair: [00:09:21] You’re reading my mail, it is one of my pet peeves. I’ve been in the church planting space for most of my 20 years of ministry, and so I spend a lot of time around church planters. I love church planters, without church planters, we wouldn’t have churches being planted, I want to say that. But they are often the worst about every Sunday, on their own social media feed, you don’t want to miss this weekend, the best sermon ever, it’s going to be the best and you don’t want to miss it. And that hyperbole, I mean, I understand their enthusiasm. I’ve been there. I’ve been that pastor who thought, wow, I really do have a great message this week. And then the next week, wow, I have a really good message this week, and you don’t ever want people to miss it. You don’t ever want people to skip out on what you think God has given you to deliver that could be life-changing for them. But you’re right, not every Sunday can be the best Sunday, some are going to be better than others. And in some are just, we do a thing in our staff meeting at Missional Marketing every Friday, we do kind of highlights of the week. And I think last week I went, this week was vanilla, there was no chocolate, there were no sprinkles, it wasn’t a bad week, it was just kind of a vanilla week, and it’s okay that we do vanilla.

Bart Blair: [00:10:37] I love that, I’m going to double click on that as well. You know, Jason said, that building trust, and I think authenticity, is one of the key ways that we do that. And, you know, I’m not saying, like I mean, I had a church recently that kind of pushed back on…Actually their senior pastor, the communications team had given us some photos to use in an ad campaign we were running, and the senior leadership team pushed back on it because one of the photos showed a bunch of empty seats in the sanctuary in their auditorium. And they’re like, no, no, no, we don’t want pictures shown with empty seats. I mean, I kind of get that, and we can crop the photos so that it doesn’t highlight or accentuate the fact that there are empty seats, but, you know, maybe you can capitalize on the fact that there’s an empty seat here for you, the person who’s actually seeing this ad, the person that we’re trying to communicate to, and just use who you are and what you have to build that authentic trust. In the business world, pros will say, Kenny Jahng would say, people will do business with you when they know you, like you, and trust you. And I think the same is true in the church world, they get to know us, they come to like us, they’ll engage with us and stick with our community when they come to trust us, and I think that’s a really important thing for us to consider.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:11:47] Yeah, well, that is the same for churches, that’s the whole point is, they will come to your church if they know you, like you, and trust you. They will come to know Christ if they know him, like him, and trust him. Yes. So I’m not saying we should self-depreciate, like, oh, our service, nobody’s here, wah, wah. I’m like, don’t post a terrible photo. But I think it’s just, that we’re not often honest, and people are smart, savvy consumers and they know. And if they don’t know from looking, as soon as they show up, they’re going to know.

Jason Hamrock: [00:12:27] Have you taken a lot of those tactics that you learned in the corporate world when it comes to marketing and communications, which is typically around selling something, that buyers journey? Have you taken a lot of those same principles and applied them to the church world?

Joanna La Fleur: [00:12:42] I suppose I have, but I don’t know if I’ve done it very intentionally. You know, I think some of the stuff that that seems to be in the waters these days that church people are talking about is how for the last 40, 50 years, business approaches, entrepreneurial approaches to church, has been like a major emphasis in a lot of churches. And even then, some of the leaders and advocates of that that we’ve admired have had significant moral failures in the last number of years. And so not that it’s all on their shoulders, but we can be honest to say the church is shrinking, not growing. So there’s something to learn from business, and of course, as a communication professional and marketing professional, there are skills and techniques that we can use to serve the church. But we have to be honest about how they only go so far, that is, we need to take an honest look in the mirror and just say, have we left the Holy Spirit at the door? And I don’t mean that in a hyper charismatic kind of sense, I mean literally, are we relying on our own strength instead of the work of God in our churches to do what He can only do?

Jason Hamrock: [00:13:59] Yeah, well, that’s that secret ingredient that we have that the corporate doesn’t have is the Holy Spirit. And I think it’s interesting where I try and, you know when I talk to churches, I try and communicate that people are…If you’re looking for a church these days, you literally can shop around online and you can look at photos and read reviews and watch a sermon and do that, and you need to make sure you have your, you know, not like we were saying before, not misinformation or leading people down the wrong path, but you really want to have a positive experience with that. And I think it’s important sometimes if, you know, you think about the corporate world where they do a lot of, they’re trying to gain, they’re trying to sell you something with a credit card transfer, information, or an email, or you downloaded something, there’s a gift for you. I think in the church world, we can learn from that, where you can have gated content. Bart says us all the time, have gated content for somebody that gives value to their life and to what they’re looking for, and that’s branding a local church in a sense, and that really goes a long way. Churches, we never really did that in the past, I see I see more churches doing that these days.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:15:15] Yeah, I think, of course, it’s always the balance of like, what can we learn from the best. You know, if we go back to the beginning, Jesus, the Apostle Paul, you know, they’re quoting and referencing context in philosophy and thinking of the day. So, yes, of course, there’s lots we can learn, but it’s where we rely, you know, can we do this entire thing and Jesus doesn’t need to be involved? That’s when I get concerned.

Jason Hamrock: [00:15:44] Yeah, for sure. No.

Bart Blair: [00:15:46] Joanna, you said something earlier that I want to kind of backtrack to and get you to drill down on a little bit, and that is, you said you focus on digital-first, not digital-only. And I’d like you to kind of expound on that a little bit, and maybe explain a little bit why you think churches should care about digital as it is, pre-COVID, pan-COVID, post-COVID, new world that we’re in, why is digital important for churches? And what is the difference between digital-first rather than digital-only or digital as a primary?

Joanna La Fleur: [00:16:20] Yeah. The metaphor I love to use is dating apps, which, if you rewind 20 years ago were like, frankly, like creepy desperate people went to dating apps. And today that’s that is not the case, it is the primary way people who are looking for a romantic partner are, and like a long-term serious relationship, that’s where they’re going to find someone. It’s weird to go up to a stranger, you know, at a public place and talk to them, that’s creepy now. The not creepy thing is to meet someone on the Internet. And so, you know, in the same way, so a dating app the point is to meet people who you never would have had an opportunity to cross paths with before. But once you meet and get to know each other a little bit online, the intention of it, if you’re looking for a relationship, is to meet in person, that’s the point, you’re going to meet in person. And then if it does continue, you’re going to have digital interactions, I’m sure. All of us do with our family and loved ones and friends every single day, we’re texting please grab milk on your way home, or you’re away and your facetiming your kids, there are digital interactions throughout the relationship. So you met online, you never would have met any other way, the intention is to come and meet in person, but then even then throughout that, in between those in-person interactions, you’re connecting online.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:17:55] It’s the same for the church, there are people who would never know about your church, or maybe even say there would be people who the only way they could be introduced to Christ and the good news of Jesus would be on the Internet, it’s the only place they’re going to get access. You know, I can think of a guy I know in Ottawa, Canada, I just met him recently at a wedding, and it wasn’t a quote-unquote Christian wedding, so it surprised me when this groomsman was quoting C.S. Lewis in his speech. So I had to go up to him and find out his story, and, yeah, he had just become a Christian recently through YouTube. And from there, you don’t stay on YouTube, you go and you want to find a local church, he’s part of a community, he’s brought his family with him and his kids and his wife, and they’re all trying to figure it out now. And what’s this guy that she married, and what has become of him, that he’s changed into being a Christian all of a sudden? And so they’re working that all out in the context of a real physical community in a local church, but he’s continuing to go to the Internet to get more information, to ask his big philosophical questions. He has big questions about life because he was a staunch atheist. And so, of course, these are the analogies from the dating, right, that you’re going to meet Jesus or meet a church, that you never would have had exposure to, online, that’s the introduction, the intention is to get in person. But then even after you come to church in person, or you come to the event or the Bible study or the alpha group or whatever it is that you do, you’re going to keep interacting with them online, just like we all do. And so that’s what I mean by digital-first, but not digital-only. It’s the first way, it’s a primary way.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:19:38] I mean, we can get into some nitty-gritty about if you have a promo card for an upcoming event, your summer camp for kids, or something. Like those parents are going to expect that they’re going to register their child for the event digitally, they’re going to go online. That’s the expectation now of any parent of young children, they’re going to go online to register their child for the summer camp or whatever Christmas party or whatever the heck it is. But you could give them a print card, like a physical interaction, but the best information, the most accurate, the primary way that they’re going to ask a question, sign up, etc., is going to be online. That’s that is the expectation of people even if they’re coming to a physical in-person event, most people don’t want to go and write their name with a pen on paper in the lobby, they want a digital experience of that.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:20:29] And, of course, we need to accommodate for seniors and other people who we can have an alternative way for them to do some things by calling the church office or whatever that is and they can be walked…The person at the front desk of the church can walk, on the phone, walk that senior through signing up on the online registry like they can do it for the person over the phone or whatever. There are ways we can accommodate people, but overall digital-first. And I’ll say from the com’s perspective being the local church communicator, nothing was more upsetting than when either there was a print mistake, it was misspelled, or the times, dates, or details changed after you already printed and spent all the money. So if you just have on your print card vague information that directs them to the website, it costs $0 to update or edit change, correct? And then add more details on the website.

Bart Blair: [00:21:28] Jason, did ever tell you about the time when I was serving at the church in Ontario and printed, I think, 15 or 20,000 postcards to go out to our community, and I put my home phone number on the card and I didn’t notice it until my wife was looking at it and she’s like, why is your home phone number on here? That is a problem, that is a problem.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:21:49] So don’t do that by just…

Bart Blair: [00:21:51] Don’t do that.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:21:51] You know, just say like, I don’t know, what did you say the event was? You know, it’s Christmas or whatever, Christmas at the church, you can maybe have the days or something, but then all the details of times and how to sign up and what’s going on and whatever the details are that they need, put them online so they can change. Often the things need to go in the church world, things need to go to print before the leader knows the answer to that information. So send them to the website, you can print the card before you even know all the details.

Jason Hamrock: [00:22:23] Yeah, that’s really convenient. And I think you’re absolutely right, I think digital-first. I’ll give you an example, this weekend in our church, we had a baptism weekend and they shared a video where I think it was five ladies that do not live in the area, they’re from out of state, they met at our church online and they all became friends, and they have a small group that meets regularly. Well, they all wanted to get baptized, they’d never been baptized before, so they all decided to fly to Phoenix, come to church, and get baptized at the same time. And so here’s a group of ladies who met digitally, and it was facilitated by our church, developed that relationship, answered a lot of questions. So then they eventually came together, hug each other, get baptized, and have that special moment together. They are lifelong friends from here on out, right, they can continue to do life together even though they’re in different states, and I just think that’s a really cool picture.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:23:21] And they can be real relationships, there are some statistics too. I’m curious about how they’ve changed, maybe my data’s out of date, but this idea of like something like if you’re under the…sorry, this is my dog yelling…

Jason Hamrock: [00:23:33] That’s okay.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:23:33] If you’re under the age of 40, online relationships, you would view as no different than in person. Whether you’ve met in person or not, they’re real relationships, and people over 40 have a harder time reconciling that they’re the same or as real. But people who’ve grown up with it, which is now kind of the under 40-year-olds, they view it as the same.

Jason Hamrock: [00:23:56] These, half were older and half were younger, I think it’s the lifestyle where you are in life. You know, I don’t know the stories of these gals, all I know is they were online, they came together to celebrate this moment together, and I’m sure in the future they’re going to do trips together and whatnot. And that’s that is a real community, in a digital world. And you know, I think ideally you want to have more in person, but that doesn’t mean it has to be that way. And I think as church communication directors, and people that are in church communications, we have to understand and facilitate that. We are creating the platform, let God do what God’s going to do best and the Holy Spirit work through these people, we just have to bring them together and have a platform to do that. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s pretty important. I think we often over overlook that.

Bart Blair: [00:24:48] Yeah. I like the way our friend Nathan Art puts it, he’s like, use digital as a step towards the in-person right, using digital as a step towards incarnational. Ultimately, I think we all know, or at the very least, we value at a very high level, the kind of discipleship that can take place when life is being experienced together, more so than what it’s being experienced online. And again, not to devalue the impact that an online relationship and online connections can have. But, you know, the level of depth of a relationship and the impact that those relationships have in your life are going to be much more accentuated in the context of in-person, you know, the authentic, in-person, incarnational relationships. So, thanks for kind of diving into that, I just wanted a little more clarity. In the roles that we get to play, we have a lot of conversations with a lot of churches about digital and what we’re really doing. And we have 350, 400 different churches that we get to work with, and we get to see all kinds of different things that a lot of churches are doing. Everybody’s trying to find that silver bullet, the magic thing, that’s going to make digital church and digital connections work. And some are seeing some fruit from the work and the efforts that they’re doing, but I can’t help but champion those that are using their online connections as a way of deliberately moving people along a pathway to eventually make an in-person connection. And let’s just face it, you know, most pastors, I was a pastor for 17 years, and most pastors in the end of the day, we’re really interested in people coming through the doors so that we can get to know, that we can actually invest in, and experience life with. Even though online views are great, Youtube analytics can puff you up and make you feel really good, at the end of the day, we really want to meet people in person. But I love the way that you highlighted that, and yeah, that was pretty cool.

Bart Blair: [00:26:54] Joanna, who are some of the people that you’re looking to as you continue to try to grow in your skills and get better at what you do, you and your team? Who are you looking to, learning from, leaning into? You know, anybody we might have heard of, or anybody that we might not be familiar with, who we can highlight.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:27:18] There aren’t too many that I, I mean when I’m thinking about the church space, I mean, broadly, you know, there are lots of leaders I listen to. But I think when we’re talking about marketing and communications, I’m really looking more to just people on the Internet like Chris Do, who runs The Futur, that’s futur without an E on the end. His endeavor is to help a million creatives do their work, so he has a lot of great thinking on communication and websites and design and branding and all this kind of stuff. I think of a guy named JT Barnett, who’s just this young, 20-something, swagger-filled TikTok guy, but he’s talking about TikTok as a business, he’s talking to organizations. He helps organizations find someone to be like the face and voice of their TikTok channel, and he has just very interesting ideas and thinking about this new wave of media, how do we engage people with things like TikTok, where people are spending increasingly more time of all ages, people are spending more time. I don’t know, who else am I listening to these days? I don’t know, it’s hard, it’s sometimes hard, until I literally go through, what are those podcasts I’m doing right now? And recently I’ve listened to Donald Miller’s content or story. I mean, I’ve always known about it, but I’ve been binging on a few of his podcasts lately. So it changes, I go through phases. I would say I don’t, there isn’t one that I follow most closely.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:28:53] But I’m trying to be aware, even in like, you know, when I was in church, like working in the local church, one of the things that would inspire me was, because I live in a downtown, was the shop windows of like the flagship stores of big brands. I wanted to see how they decorated their signage, and the look and feel of their branding, was always inspiring to me in what we were doing for Christmas or Easter or something at church. So inspiration is everywhere.

Bart Blair: [00:29:20] That’s cool. Hey, back up, detour a little bit, TikTok. We can’t spend a ton of time on this, because it can be a black hole, just like spending time on TikTok can be a black hole. But are you coaching many churches in the space of TikTok? Do you see any churches utilizing TikTok in a way that is moving the needle for them?

Joanna La Fleur: [00:29:40] Yeah, that’s a good question. In general, the trick about video is the perception is it can cost a lot more than just doing photography, and so it takes a lot longer for churches to turn the ship to do the new thing. So people are just feeling like they’re getting the handle on how to do nice photos on Instagram, and now everyone’s saying that doesn’t really matter anymore, try video. So I think at some level, just to be honest, I’m trying most recently on my own Instagram to play around with reels. So they’re on TikTok as well, but trying to figure out consistently regular quick little clips. And what I’m trying to do is like, and I keep asking my team, how can we do this as sustainably as possible? It’s only going to work if it’s easy, light, and fun to do. And so I’m literally just picking up my phone, talking to the phone, trying to keep it as basic as possible. I would say really, as just a direction for churches, I would lean away if I was a church from following trends of doing TikTok dances, and the common like, whatever the sound clip of the week is that everyone’s doing, it’s hard to keep up with that stuff, it is hard to be sustainable. If you have the capacity, you know, have fun and try it. I’m not saying don’t have fun, but I think it’s really hard to feel the pressure to keep up with that. Where I think there are other things that churches do really well, so like cutting a clip from your sermon that you’re producing every week anyways, or having the pastor jump on, on a Sunday afternoon or the Monday morning, and give an extra thought out of what they couldn’t…Just film yourself saying the thing you didn’t have time to say on Sunday. And doing things that feel like the path of least resistance is how I would say churches should approach TikTok because I think there’s a lot of pressure to do all these other things that you can do with TikTok, but a lot of people, they think, I don’t have the capacity for that, so then they don’t do anything at all. And I would say if that’s where the attention is, that means that’s where the people are, that’s the marketplace of the day to reach, especially under 30-year-olds. So if you’re trying to reach those people, what is the yoke easy and the burden light way to do it.

Jason Hamrock: [00:32:11] Yeah, and don’t feel like you have to be an expert at it right out of the chute, nobody is, you know? And so just start, like to your point, just try to start.

Bart Blair: [00:32:20] Oh, but churches, as you know, so often we have this perfectionist mentality, and we feel like we have to do things at this high, high-quality level, and if we can’t do them at the highest quality level, then we’re not going to do them at all. And, you know, I think it was Rich Birch that recently was talking about that on our show, was that once upon a time he said he prescribed to this idea that the quality of the weekend service and the engagement was the most important thing, and he has pivoted and realized that consistency is far more important than the quality, do the best that you can, do it consistently. And in anything that I coach church is on, in terms of a new initiative, you know, we talk to church leaders all the time about repurposing sermon content and doing new things. I say I can give you ten different things today that you probably should be doing with your sermon content, but if you’ll just pick one, one that you think is sustainable, that you can do consistently over a long period of time, just start there. Don’t try to do all ten, at least do one. And so I think even looking at that TikTok, I’m an incredible novice and I’m ignorant when it comes to TikTok. I mean, other than when my son shoves a video in front of my face and says, hey, here, watch this. this is a great TikTok. Like, I’m not really…I’ll scroll through reels every once in a while, but, you know, I don’t really spend any time on it, but I’m just kind of curious because one of these days I’m going to have that conversation with the church and they’re going to say, hey, help me with TikTok. And I’m like, call, Joanna, I’m not really sure. So you better get it figured out, Joanna, because the call is coming.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:34:03] I’m working on it.

Bart Blair: [00:34:04] You’re working on it.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:34:04] But maybe it’s the same theme as back to the earlier part of the conversation where we had this, my philosophy of telling the truth. What I was trying, my heart behind that is not to say, you don’t have to make your church deliberately look bad, but just like tell the truth and be honest about how it really is. In the same way with TikTok, we’re not saying like do a bad job, but just use what you can sustainably. And I think sustainability is a big question. You know, who’s going to be doing it, really practically, who on your team is going to be the one to do it? How often can they do it? Can they batch that content to film a bunch of things all at once? You know, what’s the process of uploads, or the whole thinking through that whole thing, and then what’s the most sustainable, easy way to do it? And from there, you can get fancier as you get to know the platform. But I think the important thing is to just get started. Not to be bad at it, but you can’t…I just posted a reel today that so whenever people are listening to this, they can go find it on my page. It’s basically, it’s from the Artist’s Way, it’s a book called The Artist’s Way where it says you can’t be learning something and looking good at the same time, you have to choose. Do you want to look good or do you want to learn? Do you want to grow? And the only way to grow and learn a new platform is you’re not going to love the first 20 TikToks that you post as much as the next 20, that’s just part of it.

Jason Hamrock: [00:35:33] I always say that when it comes to stuff, half the battle is, creating the content, and the other half is posting it and doing that kind of a thing. Well, if you think about what your pastor just did, he probably spent 15 or 20 hours creating a message, right, start there. I really like your idea.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:35:52] Do something else with it besides Sunday.

Jason Hamrock: [00:35:55] Exactly. Yeah. You put it on your website and then you think that’s good. I really like your idea of maybe a Monday morning, you know how pastors always land with four takeaways, right? Maybe you have that fifth takeaway, but that’s going to be shared on Monday because you’re sharing that, you’re bringing more people back into some engagement, and something that can be used to share with others. So I like that idea, it’s smart.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:36:20] And he can record it, he or she, they can record it on Sunday when they are thinking about it. Like, oh, there was this thing, we just didn’t have time, but there’s this little nugget that I learned about the original Hebrew word, but we didn’t get a chance to talk about it. He can record that right away when he’s excited, and I would say if he records it on a Sunday, maybe the other piece is he probably like has his hair and his shirt looking okay and like he’s not scrubby and whatever if he’s been in front of people, so it’s probably a good day for him to film something. And he could just talk to his phone for a minute then he or someone else can post it.

Jason Hamrock: [00:36:56] And if they build their sermon, like with that intentionality that on Sunday afternoon I also record this, then you’ve got a weekly rhythm. It’s not like, oh, gosh, we forgot to ask him. No, he builds it into his thing, right?

Joanna La Fleur: [00:37:12] Or the drive home, right, he hops in his car at the end of the Sunday, he sits in it and just gives like one-minute thought about…

Jason Hamrock: [00:37:20] What’s the spirit saying to you?

Joanna La Fleur: [00:37:21] …about the day, and something that he didn’t have time to get into or something he wants to reemphasize or whatever

Jason Hamrock: [00:37:30] Whatever it might be.

Bart Blair: [00:37:30] As a pastor who’s preached hundreds of sermons in my life, I will tell you the hardest thing in the world is looking at the content that you have and deciding what needs to be cut from Sunday so that you don’t preach into people’s lunch reservations, and what you’re sharing here is actually the antidote.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:37:50] It’s a Western church problem.

Bart Blair: [00:37:52] Yeah, it’s the antidote to that is, if I know I need to cut. I was half-joking, part of it, though, is attention span, right? I mean, you’ve got a window and you need to respect your children’s ministry workers that when the curriculum is done and they’re left freewheeling, they don’t appreciate that. A couple of minutes, okay, 20 minutes, probably not so much. But as you Look at the content that you have, not everything can fit into every sermon, when you’re doing your study and you’re doing your exegesis of text, and you’ve got all your illustrations. And I actually used to do that, it was pre-TikTok, pre-Instagram reels, but I would post a video on my church’s Facebook channel before the Sunday. I would always come up with an illustration or an idea that I knew fit really well with the message, but I wasn’t going to be able to fit it into the sermon on Sunday, so I would actually record myself giving that illustration or that story or that little thing as a teaser for the sermon that was going to come on Sunday, and I would post that online on like a Thursday. But you can do it the same way, right, is you can use that as TikTok or reels content or social content, you know, take those things off the cutting room floor and find another way to repurpose those so that that hard work that you have is not in vain. I wrote a great story, or I came up with a great idea, but it’s just not going to fit this Sunday.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:39:18] And of course, some of the gift of preparing a sermon, as someone who does that as well, I think some of it is just for the preacher. Some of it is this sort of gift that God gives them of doing an intensive study, and some of it isn’t to share, some of it is just for them and it’s a gift to them from God. As they learn and study, they found something that’s a nugget for their week that maybe they don’t have time to offer to anyone else. But, yeah, any time we can add those bonuses. It’s like on the old DVDs we all used to have where you got the bonus content, we loved it, bring on the bonus content.

Jason Hamrock: [00:39:53] Oh, yeah.

Bart Blair: [00:39:54] Yeah, absolutely. Why do people sit through those Marvel movies for three and a half hours and then they sit through the credits to see what happens after the credits? Right, there’s always something that extra thing there. Hey, this has been a really interesting, very diverse conversation, we’ve talked about a lot of different things. It’s been fun. It’s been fun, and I’ve appreciated your time today with us. Joanna. As we wrap up, do you have any parting shots, any things that you want to leave with our audience? Anything that we didn’t ask you that you thought would have been worth asking you to have the conversation?

Jason Hamrock: [00:40:27] And how do people get a hold of you?

Joanna La Fleur: [00:40:29] Yeah, I mean, just as a means of encouragement, the last few years have been really hard, everyone’s doing the best they can with what they have. But then also, I think whether it’s these fine gentlemen here hosting the podcast, or people like me, or others, if you’re tired, if you’re burnt out, the fastest way to do that thing that you feel discouraged about might very well be hiring these guys. And I don’t mean that as anything other than just, I think sometimes we can sit so long in discouragement about things we’re not good at when there are people right in front of us who would love to help us point us in the right direction. So it’s just in general, you know, if you need an accountant, hire an accountant. If you need help with this kind of thing, there are people who can help you. And, through things like these podcasts and things on my own channels of tutorials, there are lots of free great expertize that you can get. I hear and feel the discouragement and exhaustion of so many, and also there’s like a ton of people out there who just want to help you and want to give you free resources. and they don’t even want your money. they just want to help, so I hope that’s an encouragement to people.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:41:45] You know, Word Made Digital, like John chapter one, that’s the podcast I host and the company that I lead. Word Mad Digital is a play off of John chapter one, when the word, as Eugene Peterson said in the message, the Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. So what do we do when the Word becomes digital, that is when the Word goes into the palm of our hands, into our phones. How do we think in this new way? And I say that as a question because we’re all figuring it out together. So people listening, they know things we don’t know, we know things they don’t know, let’s help each other. There are lots of resources, as we all try and learn this whole new world.

Bart Blair: [00:42:28] Thanks, Joanna. We really appreciate you being on the show today.

Joanna La Fleur: [00:42:30] Thank you.

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