If you are in ministry and you don’t know what Mashable is, you need to learn. If we want to reach the culture around us with the message of Jesus, we need to understand that culture. Today, as millennials are continuing to take on more prominent roles in society, and Generation Z is forming their own identity, culture is changing constantly. Mashable is one of your best friends to stay updated on that change. To give you an idea of what Mashable is like, think Buzzfeed, but instead of reading about the 18 cutest cat forts you can read about the 15 Mobile Trends to Watch for in 2015 or read up on current Facebook trends. On this website you can read about the latest developments in social media, technology, business, and entertainment. This is the first place I go every Monday morning in order to be aware of all the new developments in the culture my students live in daily.
In December, Mashable held a media summit. This included some of the world’s most innovative TV Producers, authors, media moguls, news anchors and more. All of them were there to talk about what direction the future of the media industry is taking and how to best interact with our current culture. This summit can and should be extremely beneficial to us in how we work to communicate the Gospel to the current culture most effectively. Here are 8 things that stood out to me.
- The Importance of Storytelling
Best Quote: “Storytelling is the bedrock of all great media companies and all great brands.”
Storytelling is the essence of media and it’s what our current culture cares about. It’s why we love to binge watch tv shows on Netflix; we are captivated by innovative and well-crafted storytelling. At their core, all successful media and branding have a story. We have the greatest story ever, but how good are we at storytelling? Are you using the art of storytelling in your teaching? More importantly, are you telling stories through media. People don’t want to hear stories, people want to SEE stories. People don’t just want to hear your vision, people want to see stories of it being achieved. People want to see stories of changed lives. Stories are the things that get people fired up. Look at how well organizations like Toms or Invisible Children have done with this. They have become a successful and well established brand because of the story at the heart of what they do, and the creative ways they share it. How are you incorporating storytelling (especially through media) in your ministry?
- The Power of Simplicity
The Summit showed that the most successful media campaigns have a message that relies on simplicity. The best example of this displayed at the summit is the new campaign President Obama has helped to launch to combat sexual assault. The campaign is simply 8 characters, and just 3 words, “It’s on us”. The message is that it’s on us to stop sexual assault. This campaign has quickly gone viral. You can check out the video here
There is power in simplicity and it helps the content go viral. These were the words spoken by Jason Harris, one of the campaign’s founders. How often are we making sure we rely on simplicity when we communicate our messages, our visions, and what we are about as the Church? Simplicity makes our content more memorable and more effective.
- Reacting vs. Predicting
Best Quote: “Media: It’s not about reacting. It’s about predicting”.
If you want your approach or your content to take off, you have to be the first to the game. The most successful media predicts what will happen or where things will go instead of reacting to them. As a Church, are you being innovative in your approach? Are you predicting issues that will arise before they happen or are you constantly reacting to them? What are some ways to predict instead of react? The Summit answered that question too.
- Collecting Data: Mashable has hired full time data collectors just to predict the future of sharing online. This will help them stay ahead of the game. What type of data have you collected on where your church and community are headed?
- The second can be summed up perfectly by the following quote from the summit. “The young people are telling you the future if you are willing to listen to them.”
- The Importance of Content
Best Quote: “Focus on great content. Don’t focus on a mechanism that makes your content go viral.”
Everything that has been said so far means nothing if you neglect to produce good content. It doesn’t matter how brilliantly or creatively you tell a story if the story has no content. The media that is the most successful and goes viral has the best content. However, many ignore their content and instead focus on gimmicks and distribution methods to go viral. If your media has great content, people will watch/read it. What is our focus in the church? You can have the coolest stage, the best building, the prime location, a great live streaming platform, produce high quality videos, but if your content sucks it won’t matter. Focus on making your content great before you focus on how you can make it be heard by the most people.
- Shorten Your Material
Best Quote: If it’s more than 90 seconds, it better be really (expletive removed) good.
With the amount of media consumed by our culture, you have to learn to get your message across in a short form before the viewer/listener moves on to something else. Our culture has short attention spans. It’s why instagram videos limit to 15 seconds. As they said at the Summit, short form gets the viewer in that second. This is truly the new wave of communication. ABC news is taking this head on by introducing Facecast. This is a video posted of your entire news update IN ONE MINUTE. Check it out here. As the Church, maybe we need to consider shortening our material in order to be heard. Maybe the 30-40 minute sermon isn’t going to work anymore. (Is that blasphemy?). Maybe we need cut sermons into multiple shorter sections broken up by short media pieces and music. I don’t know what the answer is, but a lot of our material is really long and not anywhere near as good as the stuff being produced under 90 seconds.
- What to do with the Women?
Best Quote: “We’ve not yet seen the Golden Age of women in leadership”
Why is this in here? Well, this is a summit on media and culture trends. Many media leaders are women and culture is trending toward increased roles of leadership for women. Some prominent and rapidly growing churches like Willowcreek Community Church and Eastside Christian Church have already added women as elders. I’m not saying that is right and I’m not saying that is wrong. I’m not trying to stir the pot on the issue. What I am saying is that culture is elevating more and more women into high levels of leadership and if you are a church leader, you are going to have to decide how you will respond to that. Is this an issue the church needs to embrace culture on or one it needs to push against?
- Use Your Platforms
What platforms are you using to communicate your content? Is it from the stage only? Is it from Facebook only? Research is showing that people (especially young people) are on a larger variety of social media apps than ever before. Facebook has the most users, but Instagram has the most engagement, but Youtube has the most widespread usage. Only super hip people use Twitter, but it’s still out there. You never know which platform is going to get you the most traffic because the usage is constantly fluctuating. The Summit recommends that media campaigns get launched on all platforms and then you narrow the focus to the one that seems to be working best.
Another stat that should floor you: “In the evenings, the average person checks their phone EVERY 6 SECONDS!” If you have not found a way to make the content of your ministry mobile (an app, mobile giving, texting service, etc…) you are behind the game. If you didn’t read the linked article on mobile trends for 2015 at the beginning of the post, DO IT! Mobile is about to get even bigger and the Church needs to learn how to communicate through that platform.
- Know Your Audience
There were so many good quotes from this section I am just going to mostly let them speak for themselves
“Narrow down your audience and figure out what’s important to them. Remember, it’s not always about what YOU want to say.”
“The people who are drawn to your content are the people who are going to gain something from it”
Things to consider
- Do you know your ministry/congregation well enough to know what is going on in their lives and what they really need hear in that season? Are you only teaching on what YOU want to teach?
- Are you satisfied with the answer you give when you ask yourself “what are people gaining from this?”
“Emotion is what drives people to take action”
“We are in an era where EVERYONE has the power to have their voice heard”
Things to consider
- When you know your audience and present content and an experience people will be drawn to, their emotions will be affected and it will drive them to action. Isn’t that what we ultimately hope for? That people will be moved by Jesus to the point that they act on it?
- If we can inspire people to act, it can change the world. In the current culture of media, everyone has the ability to be heard. Imagine if the entire Church was utilizing that power.
Do you agree or disagree? Even if you didn’t watch the Summit, what other cultural and media trends do you see that need to affect how we do ministry?