Communications, Church, and Culture (Summit Recap Day 3)

It’s always sad when good things end, but Summit went out with a bang, not a whimper! Our lineup of keynote speakers are from many walks of life: Some lead churches, others lead social networking companies; some offer practical steps, others set inspiring visions; some wear tight pants (….leggings?), others laugh about it.

Each keynote drew from their considerable experience to address some aspect of church communications, and aren’t we grateful! The church’s message of hope is facing many obstacles in the modern world. But, as became evident, the church also faces many opportunities.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz: Redeeming Social Media

Claire Diaz-Ortiz, the social media guru who got the Pope on Twitter, spoke to the anxieties and worries in the audience over recent reports on the damaging effects of social media. It seems anytime we go online, we see another study about how Snapchat hinders a child’s development, or how Facebook makes us depressed, or how Twitter erodes our attentions spans. And honestly, what did we expect? Social media was barely born before our society was saturated with it. We are witnessing a human experiment. Current users are the test group for a technologically-centered way to communicate and connect that civilization has never experienced. We can expect some unexpected outcomes.

Claire didn’t pull any punches. She admits social media is making us dumber and more depressed. “We are in the worst year of social media’s life,” she says. “Today, our challenge is how to figure out how to reclaim social media for good.” These are sobering words, especially those of us working in churches who are aiming to faithfully engage our communities with a message of hope.

So, what now? Well, first, we pay attention and think critically. Social media is often, well, not social. That’s a problem. So how can we re-engage in the good social media can do? For starters, says Claire, “Social media is a cocktail party you have to go to. To stand out, you can wear a red dress, but the effective way to stand out in social media is to have a powerful, clear story.”

But it’s not just our story we’re telling, because “Social media isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. It’s about the people who are following you.” And we know from Twitter’s infancy, “a revolution can be tweeted” and “Facebook live is a great example of creating connection when connection wasn’t there before.” This is the social media we know and love. A redeemed social media that is about conversation, connection, and affecting positive change in the world.

She issues a challenge: The church, rather than aggravating the damaging effects of social media on the world, needs to be part of the process to redeem it and make it a force for good.

Chad Veach: How to Reach a Distracted Audience

Chad Veach brought impeccable, unstoppable optimism to his keynote address as he focused his attention on one of the most nagging questions the church faces today: How do you cut through the noise and reach a distracted audience? After nearly 20 years of engaging distracted people, it’s a topic in which he has a wealth of experience. His five simple ways to cut through the noise included:

1. You have to tell stories

Of course, Jesus was the perfect example of this. “Jesus was so good at telling great stories that notorious sinners and tax collectors would listen to him,” Chad said. Telling stories gives people a glimpse into how the church is using the money donated by the congregation.

2. Your church must push creative

Zoe Church, the church Chad started, wants to be the most creative church in the world. You can’t reach distracted people by doing what everyone else is doing; you reach distracted people by being different. “Make sure you’re doing everything you can not to box in the creatives in your community,” Chad said.

3. You have to be you….kinda

Creative church leaders aren’t afraid of borrowing from other churches and from the surrounding culture. Don’t mindlessly copy others, but let others inspire your creativity. “We are all a sum of our influences,” Chad said. “There are no originals.”

4. Ask yourself, “Would I watch this?”

Excellence in communications and creativity means you strive to create content people want to consume. “If you don’t like to watch your church’s videos, don’t make other people watch them,” Chad said.

5. Don’t just get their attention—keep their attention

We have to think long-term. It’s not enough to get people into our building. We have to get people to come back.

Erwin Raphael McManus: Church and Culture

Erwin closed the conference, not with a period, but with an exclamation mark! He was the only keynote speaker to forgo the use of slides, which he used to great effect: Now all eyes were on him. And what a figure he cut! Pacing the stage with mismatched Nike sneakers, he exuded eccentricity. In that, he modeled what he preached.

Erwin’s presentation was half-keynote, half-sermon. The only Summit speaker to receive a standing ovation, his plea for the church is simple. He offers no how-to, but instead casts a vision: “Instead of reacting to the world around us, we need the world to react to us.”

Erwin wants to shake the church out of its stupor: “In some ways, the thing that shocks me the most is that the things that were heresy 30 years ago are normal today….There are so many things we put into the box of heresy that are really just shaking the status quo.”

Erwin set a new tone for Summit. Instead of discussing processes, he emphasizes humanity. “More important than learning marketing, ask yourself, who are you talking to? Who needs to desperately hear what you need to say?” asks Erwin. Churches are not abstractions. Though they are not of the world, they are in it. They’re flesh and blood. That means the life of a church is inextricably linked to the life of its city: “If there is any prosperity gospel,” says Erwin, “it’s this: If the city where you’re planted prospers, you prosper.”

He compares this to his own experience with cancer. As a Christian facing the prospect of death, he learned: “I was not afraid to die, but I wanted to live.” He applies this lesson to church’s view of itself:

“Stop waiting for your next home. God is saying: Build and plant yourself. You gotta want to be here. I’m convinced that the reason the church is here is because we are God’s instrument to bring the future that he desires.”

When we do this, we stop fighting the culture, which is a fruitless endeavor, anyhow. (“You can’t control culture,” reminds Erwin. “You can only create culture.”) Instead, history stops being something that just “happens to us.” God’s people become active in history, and “church becomes known as the epicenter of creativity in the world.”

Standout Technology Breakout Session Quotes

Chris Ames

“People are making significant life discoveries and life decisions in digital environments.”
“We expect prospects who may come to our church to stalk our website before they flirt with our facility.”
“If your church website is the new porch, you better have great curb appeal.”


Standout Technology Breakout Session Quotes

Earl McClellan

“Nothing great is built on minimums.”  
“You don’t have to inspire everyone, but you have to inspire someone.”
“Ask people to go beyond what they think they can do.”  


Standout Communications Breakout Session Quotes

Ryan Wakefield

“If you’re going to succeed, you need to learn to love failing. But there’s good news: Failing is easy to do.”
“Don’t be a Me Monster on social media. Before you post anything, ask yourself: What is really in it for them, and why should they care?”

Amy Cottle

“Until we stop seeing social media as a piece of technology and start seeing it as a place, the church will not be able to use it effectively.”


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