“Resonate”: StoryMapping Revisited

This is the seventh post (with one to go) in a series of posts I’ve been writing to engage Nancy Duarte's book, Resonate (see Communicate for Change, What I Like About the Book, The Presentation Form, Stories Transform Lives, The Big Idea, and S.T.A.R. Moments).

A few years ago, I wrote a post on using mind-mapping for sermon preparation. That post on StoryMapping is the third most visited post ever on the blog and the fourth most visited in the last three months. While I no longer create the mindmaps/StoryMaps like the one I showed in that post, the concept is still part of what I do.

IMG_4117Since reading Resonate, I’ve been using sticky notes to do essentially the same thing I was doing with a sheet of paper before. The advantage of sticky notes is that you can move them around as the talk comes together.

Chapter 5 deals with creating “meaningful content” (97). Duarte discusses generating as many ideas as possible through “idea collection” and “idea creation” (98). Duarte’s advice:

Grab a sheet of paper or a stack of sticky notes and jot down everything you can imagine that supports your idea. The goal is to create a vast amount of ideas. (98)

Duarte talks about two types of thinking: “Divergent thinking generates ideas, while convergent thinking sorts and analyzes ideas toward the best outcome” (118).

Convergent thinking involves making choices to narrow down the topic. Duarte states, “It’s a violent creative process to construct ideas, destroy them, regroup them, select them, reject them, rethink them, and modify them” (119).

I’ve always said that the editing process is crucial (though I do it better at times than others). Duarte suggests …

Make edits on behalf of the audience; they don’t want everything. It’s your job to be severe in your cuts. Let go of ideas even if you love them, for the sake of making the presentation better. (119)

Two of the most valuable pages in the book are 142-143 where Duarte presents a visual “process recap.” Here are the basic steps …

  1. Generate ideas
  2. Filter down
  3. Cluster ideas
  4. Create messages
  5. Arrange messages
  6. Add supporting points
  7. Strengthen the turning points
  8. Verify contrast
  9. Visualize message

Thinking in terms of my current process, described in The 4 Ss of Sermon Preparation, I try to read through a printout of my Scripture text and highlight words/phrases and jot notes on it (Soak), read study resources (Study), then begin shape the message (Shape). It’s usually during the Shape phase that I start using sticky notes.

Resonate will improve this process. My tendency is to converge on a single point too early in the process. In the future, I will try to do more divergent thinking on the front end before converging on a single big idea.

How might this be helpful for you in your communication?

Developing the Discipline of Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. For followers of Jesus, giving thanks is an essential discipline!

A couple passages of Scripture come to mind: 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 and Philippians 4.4-6.

This is our first post in the current Common English Bible Tour, so here are the verses in the Common English Bible

Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18)

Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. (Philippians 4.4-6)

Great advice. Great words to live by. Sounds simple. But a challenging discipline to develop. There are no shortcuts to developing this discipline, just lotoffend lots of practice!

Building a Church Website With WordPress

WordPress is a great option for church websites. It’s an especially good option if your church doesn’t have a web designer or the resources to hire someone to build a site. But even if you have the personnel and the resources, WordPress is still a great option!

Several years ago, WordPress began as a blogging platform, but has developed into a CMS (Content Management System), which means it can be used for all kinds of websites, not just blogs (see WordPress’ showcase for sites built on WordPress).

This blog is built on WordPress. Centre Grove UMC’s website is also built on WordPress. Here, I’ll simply lay out the process I followed to build the church site. While some technical ability is required, you don’t have to be an expert (I’m not!). This probably won’t be detailed enough to walk you through building a site, but it will at least, describe the general process.

1. Signup for web hosting.
It’s easier if you choose a host that offers an auto install of WordPress (see WordPress’ recommended hosts here). If you choose a web host that doesn’t offer to install of WordPress for you, you would have to install it yourself.

I’ve been using DreamHost since 2006, which has been a positive experience for me, so far. DreamHost also offers free hosting for non-profits (find details on this page).

2. Choose a theme.
Unless you are a web designer, or hire one, you will need to choose one of the many, many themes that are available from WordPress or elsewhere. There are many free themes, but you can also purchase a theme (from various sources).

I looked at many, many (free and paid) themes over the years, but decided I wanted more control over the design. Last February, I purchased the Headway Theme, and used it to build this site. In the past month, I replaced the previous church site with a new one, which is now also built on Headway.

Many themes offer a complete design, out of the box. But, as I said, I wanted something that offered more control. According to Headway, the theme framework gives you the ability to take full control of your website’s design with an “intuitive visual editor.” That’s what caught my attention. You can build a site using their layout editor.

I am looking forward to the new Headway 3.0 version, due out this week. As much as I’ve enjoyed Headway 2.0, the new version looks like a major development!

3. Plan the layout.
Plan the site layout and content on paper, then build the site. In Headway, I used the built-in visual editor.

4. Configure theme/site.
You will need to tweak the Settings in WordPress to your need/liking.

5. Add content.
Create pages with different kinds of content. The church site has About, Events, and Calendar pages, at the moment. I also incorporated a Google map for the church location in the footer. This page shows you how to add a Google map to your site (and this site describes how to remove the white pop-up bubble from Google’s map).

7. Work on the design.
Again, in Headway, you can do this through the visual editor. Otherwise, you’d need to get into the CSS code (you still can in Headway, if you want). Both this blog and the church site would look a lot better if they were designed by pros, but I prefer a minimalist look, anyway.

From what I can tell, Headway 3.0 will give even more capabilities to design the look of the site. Headway 3.0 will also allow for the use of “child themes.” Child themes allow you to use designs built by web designers for use with Headway.

8. Add plugins.
There are many plugins that provide extra functionality. For the church site, we’re using Akisment, Google XML Sitemaps, Jetpack, and WP-DB-Manager. This blog currently has 24 active plugins installed.

Well, as I said, this post isn’t intended to walk you through the process of building a church website in step-by-step detail, but just enough to show that it can be done.

WordPress is a great option for church sites. WordPress is free. You will need web-hosting (free hosting for non-profits is available through DreamHost). You will need a domain name (approximately $10/year); some hosts, including DreamHost, throw in one free domain name. And you will need to install a (free or paid) theme. So, WordPress is a great option, especially if resources are limited.

Hope this helps. If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!

Kindle vs. Nook on the iPad

Earlier this year, Kindle ebook sales at Amazon.com reportedly surpassed sales of both hardcovers and paperback print editions, combined. That development happened without any help from me—mainly because I have so many printed book on my reading pile!

I bought my first ebook a couple months ago (the new Bible translation, Common English Bible). Besides the Bible, I downloaded my first ebook a few days ago. So, I’m still pretty new to reader apps.

There are multiple apps available for reading books on the iPad—Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Kobobook’s Kobo, and Apple’s own iBooks. The Kobo app has strong social networking/sharing options, if you’re interested in that. In the last few months, I’ve had some experience with iBooks (mostly a few PDFs, including Psalms from the Common English Bible).

Last week, when I went to purchase Church Unique (which I mentioned recently), I decided to compare apps.

First, any of these readers are fine. While both iBooks and Kobo have some nice features (such as animated page turns, which I don’t really need or want), the Kindle and Nook apps are my favorites. At first glance, Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook) have a greater selection and are less expensive (at least in the spot checking I did).

Between the Kindle and Nook apps, I prefer Nook, mainly because it has more viewing options. The Nook app has multiple options for line spacing and margins; the Kindle app doesn’t, as far as I can tell. Both have multiple options for color schemes—Kindle has three, Nook has five. Kindle only provides one font, Nook has six.

Both apps allow highlighting and adding notes; I like the Nook’s handling of highlighting better (i.e., searching highlighted passages). The Kindle app offers the capability of sharing highlights on Facebook and Twitter; I don’t know that Nook app does. The one thing I don’t know that either app does is allow copy-and-paste, which would be helpful for blog book reviews!

In my spot checks, ebook prices at Amazon and Barnes & Noble were comparable. Sometimes Barnes & Noble was a little higher. However, because I shop Barnes & Noble through Discover Card’s site, which offers 10% cash back on purchases at Barnes & Noble (right now, there’s a 15% holiday bonus), I still save money.

So, the Nook app is my first choice, but the Kindle app is okay, too. I suspect that most of the ebooks I read will be either Nook or Kindle versions, but Nook will be my first choice when there’s a Nook book available and when it’s less expensive.

If you have a favorite reading app, share your opinion in the comments below!

“Resonate”: S.T.A.R. Moments

I’m nearing the end of my series on Nancy Duarte's book, Resonate (see Communicate for Change, What I Like About the Book, The Presentation Form, Stories Transform Lives, and The Big Idea).

One of Duarte’s chapters is on S.T.A.R. moments, which stands for Something They’ll Always Remember.

The S.T.A.R. moment should be a significant, sincere, and enlightening moment during the presentation that helps magnify your big idea—not distract from it. … S.T.A.R. moments create a hook in the audience’s minds and hearts. (148)

The chapter concludes with this rule …

Memorable moments are repeated and retransmitted so they cover longer distances. (167)

Duarte offers a number of examples of S.T.A.R. moments, including Steve Jobs removing a MacBook Air from “one of those envelopes you see floating around the office” (149). I also like the one by Bill Gates, who was delivering a TED Talk in 2009 about the problem of malaria, which effects the poor, primarily. After raising awareness of the problem, Gates released a jar of mosquitoes into room saying, “There’s no reason only poor people should have the experience.” (View here; release occurs at 5:13.)

Duarte’s talk of S.T.A.R. moments reminds me of Andy Stanley’s challenge (in Communicating for a Change) to make it memorable. Using the metaphor of truck driving, Stanley urges, “Add something unexpected to the trip” (162).

Stanley writes …

The unexpected is always engaging. Always. … When something unusual happens, everybody is interested. So why not leverage this maxim to your advantage? Plan something unusual. (162-163)

Stanley suggests, “Use visuals every chance you get” (163). In addition to visuals, also consider “interviews, banter with an audience member, bringing people up on the stage, letting someone draw or paint while you speak” (163). The bottom line is, “look for opportunities to introduce the unexpected” (164). Sounds a lot like S.T.A.R. moments.

This is an area I’ve tried to develop ever since I started using one-point preaching (it’s also an area I want to improve). While I’ve a few images, I prefer physical objects/props. Some of the things I’ve used to make it memorable include …

  • Igloo
  • Pot and spoon
  • Big stuffed toy aligator
  • Tools
  • Toys
  • Bubbles
  • Lifesavers
  • Sign language
  • Walking stick

Once for a community Lenten service, I asked the host pastor to have some people from the church each bring a piece of luggage and line the platform with them. My message made the point that “God-followers are mobile followers!” My bag included a Bible, a compass, hiking boots, climbing rope, trail mix and water bottle, a mobile phone, and even Dramamine.

After one sermon a few years ago (in which I used an Igloo), I received a letter from someone in the congregation, which said, in part …

You touched a lot of people with your words … That includes my 6-year-old granddaughter who told her mother about it in detail down to ‘engage and disengage’ and what she needed to do to ‘fill her tank.’

Well, I think I’ve had a few memorable moments over the years, but probably not nearly enough; certainly not every week. So, it’s helpful to learn from others. At the Global Leadership Summit in August, Bill Hybels smashed a large clay pot on stage, reenacting a S.T.A.R. moment the prophet Jeremiah used many, many years ago. John Ortberg’s sermon on “An Ordinary Day With Jesus” utilized several memorable props, as well (by the way, John Ortberg is one of the case studies in Duarte’s chapter on S.T.A.R. moments).

So, what are the best S.T.A.R. moments that you’ve seen (or made)?

“Resonate”: The Big Idea

I have a few posts to go in my series on Nancy Duarte's book, Resonate (see Communicate for Change, What I Like About the Book, The Presentation Form, and Stories Transform Lives).

As one who practices One-Point Preaching (see also 5 Years of One-Point Preaching), I was especially interested in what Duarte had to say about “the big idea.”

Duarte states …

A big idea is that one key message you want to communicate. … Screenwriters call this the ‘controlling idea.’ It has also been called the gist, the take-away, the thesis statement, or the single unifying message. (78)

I like the term “big idea.” It’s the term that preaching professor, Haddon Robinson, uses. Andy Stanley, author of Communicating for a Change, calls it the main point. Stanley advises the use of a “sticky statement,” a brief statement that clearly conveys the main point or the big idea.

Duarte says there are three components of a big idea:

  1. A big idea must articulate your unique point of view.
  2. A big idea must convey what’s at stake.
  3. A big idea must be a complete sentence. (78)

Duarte offers some examples of big ideas. She notes that “Lunar Mission” is not a big idea. The big idea, as communicated by President John F. Kennedy, is, “The United States should lead in space achievement because it holds the key to our future on Earth” (79).

Stanley describes the main point as “the glue to hold the other parts together.” If done well, it presents the point in a memorable way. It’s a step that many communicators skip, but one that Stanley is convinced “makes all the difference.”

Pastors have the advantage of speaking to the same audience every week. But with the advantage also comes the challenge of preparing new content every week. I normally don’t have too much trouble narrowing my focus to a single big idea (although some weeks are more clear than others), but crafting a clear, concise, memorable statement every week can be a challenge!

That’s one of the reasons I appreciate Resonate. I believe it will help me write better sticky statements!

Passengers, Crew Members, Stowaways, & Pirates

One of the books I want to read next is Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement by Will Mancini. The book is intended to be “a field manual” based on Mancini’s “vision work and missional coaching with church leaders.”

Awhile back, I downloaded a free visual summary of the book (see churchunique.com). There’s a lot of good stuff there, but the part that’s stuck with me—the part I’ve quoted a few times here and there—is this …

There are four kinds of people in your church when it comes to vision.
Passengers to nurture and challenge
Crew members to equip and empower
Stowaways to find and convert
Pirates to confront and eliminate

It reminds me of Aubrey Malphurs’s early adopters, middle adopters, late adopters and never adopters. Mancini’s terms are more fun and descriptive, and certainly more provocative, especially “pirates.” Pirates are never adopters, but they’re more than that—they work against the vision!

Most churches (especially small churches, or larger churches with a small church mentality) never reach their potential because they are unwilling to confront the pirates. Until they confront the pirates they will always be held hostage by them and the vision will not be realized!

Good stuff. Help the Passengers, Crew Members, and Stowaways embrace the vision. Don’t let the Pirates keep you and your church from pursuing the vision God has given you!

“The Speed of Trust”

I am nearing the end of the one-year peer group component of the Matthew 28 Initiative. Each month, pastors whose churches are currently in the process, get together and discuss a book. The latest book was The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey (son of Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

The premise of the book is that trust can be developed. Covey writes …

Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create—much faster than you probably think possible. (2)

So, what is trust?

Simply put, trust means confidence. The opposite of trust—distrust—is suspicion. (5)

Trust is extremely important. Covey asserts, “Relationships of all kinds are built on and sustained by trust” (12). Covey also defines trust as “a function of two things: character and competence” (30). Character is shaped by integrity and intent, and competence is determined by capability and results. Covey calls these four components the “4 cores of credibility.”

We have integrity when what we say and what we do match. Our intent reveals our motives. Capability describes our skills and abilities. And results point to effectiveness, or fruit. Covey discusses each area and suggests steps to strengthen them.

In our group discussion, we realized that every experience involving lack of trust can be traced to one or more of these areas. Knowing this, it becomes a very helpful tool in pinpointing lack of trust in situations.

A significant portion of the book is devoted to the 13 behaviors that help build trust.

  1. Talk straight
  2. Demonstrate respect
  3. Create transparency
  4. Right wrongs
  5. Show loyalty
  6. Deliver results
  7. Get better
  8. Confront reality
  9. Clarify expectations
  10. Practice accountability
  11. Listen first
  12. Keep commitments
  13. Extend trust

I enjoyed The Speed of Trust. It’s worth a read for every leader, especially those who lead volunteer organizations (like churches)!

“Resonate”: Stories Transform Lives

After cleaning up this site from being hacked (and ramping up security), I’m ready to continue my series on Nancy Duarte's book, Resonate (see Communicate for Change, What I Like About the Book, and The Presentation Form).

Telling stories is a vital component of Duarte’s book. Duarte writes …

Stories are the most powerful delivery tool for information, more powerful and enduring than any other art form. People love stories because life is full of adventure and we’re hardwired to learn lessons from observing change in others. Life is messy, so we empathize with characters who have real-life challenges similar to the ones we face. (16)

Stories have heros. But Duarte is clear in stating that communicators “are not the hero” (18). She states, “You are not the hero who will save your audience; the audience is the hero” (20).

Duarte asserts that the communicator is the mentor. “You’re simply the voice helping them get unstuck in their journey” (20). To be a good mentor, “place the audience at the center of the action, and make them feel that the presentation is addressing them personally” (20).

As mentor, your role is to give the hero guidance, confidence, insight, training, or magical gifts so he can overcome his initial fears and enter the new journey with you. (20)

Duarte also discusses the pattern of stories. She writes, “The most simplistic way to describe the structure of a story is situation, complication, and resolution” (29).

This reminds me of what Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, refers to as orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. Brueggemann notes that this process is seen throughout the Hebrew Bible, including the Psalms (some of which he calls “psalms of disorientation”).

Well, there’s so much more about story in the book. I enjoyed learning about stories from the world of movies. We’ve blogged about a number of movies in the past, as well as listing Movies for Leaders, and a discussion of Success vs. Significance in the Movies. After reading Resonate, I’ve been paying greater attention to the hero’s situation, the inciting incident (complication), and the resolution and transformation throughout the movie.

In recent years, I’ve particularly come to value the importance of story in the context of leadership. In fact, when I was working on a doctor of ministry degree at Asbury, one of my first ideas for a dissertation topic was related to storytelling in the context of leadership communication.

It’s easy to see the importance of storytelling in the context of preaching. The Bible is full of great stories. And the Bible as a whole, is a great story. In recent years, I’ve thought of sermon preparation in terms of movie making.

In my own preaching over the last five years of one-point preaching, I’ve tended to focus on actual stories in the Bible. My challenge is in preaching on biblical texts that aren’t specifically stories. Resonate will help me find a way to tell a story even with texts where story is not as evident. The sermon itself needs to be a story. Stanley and Jones, in Communicating for a Change, write, “Until you can stand up and tell a story, you’re not ready to preach” (53).

Well, I think the ability to “stand up and tell a story” is an important skill to develop because, I agree, stories transform lives!