E115 - The Future of Church Websites


Joanna: Last episode we were introduced to The Church Co. And Paul Cox. And this time we're still with Paul Cox here. But we're talking about the future of church website. So Paul thanks for joining us again. And can you give us like go back in memory with this because sometimes we all forget what did church Web sites used to look like? How much did they used to cost? Like I'm talking like ten years ago or the early 2000s where were we at with church Web sites at that time?

Paul: Yeah right. So I mean let's see early 2000s. The Flash player was ruling the day. There was no iPhone. No one had ever seen a Web site that was mobile responsive. Yeah like there was no concept of I can have a site that looks one way on desktop and looks different on a phone because no one was holding a phone and looking at a browser. So you know let's see in the early 2000s it could be quite expensive even up until maybe I would say 2008, 2009, Things could still be pretty pricey as the iPhone was first getting introduced and you know people were like well I will build the site but it will be a couple of thousand dollars more to make it mobile responsive. And you know we're so far beyond that now it's that's the assumption is that most of my traffic will be on a mobile phone. How does it look there and does it load fast there. Because this is probably rare that people are actually looking at my site on a on a desktop. So things have changed a lot in those 20 years.

James: And what would you like the average costs back then would have been for a Web site. I know I did some very basic web design projects. When I was first kind of graduating school I knew a little bit of HTML and CSS and I remember doing like a wedding planners Web site. I think I charged her like five hundred or thousand bucks and that was like at that time dirt cheap and it was really bad too. That's the other thing. So what do what what do you be your guess and what the average price for a wordpress build back then was in the 2000s up even up to like 2008 or 2009.

Paul: Well let's see I think I remember doing my first church Web site I remember doing I believe I charge twenty five hundred dollars for it and it was in Flash and the first WordPress one I did I think was fifteen hundred I think that was a small one but it wasn't that was just me also it was not crazy though to think the minimum value that you would get that you would go in for a Web site back then was going to be around the three thousand dollar mark.

James: OK. And that was just to just set up and build no maintenance or anything like that.

Paul: Exactly. You were paying for your own hosting you're paying for e-mails separate to that and you actually I think back then a lot of it was anytime you needed a change made you needed to email the developer and they could change it for you and you would have to and then they would build you back for that.

Joanna: You'd have to know code to do it right. Like this wasn't user friendly.

Paul: Exactly.

James: And the other issue too I remember when I had a separate company doing video we had someone doing our Web site is the delays right. Like I would email the developer about like simply adding a video to our site and it would be like five days before it actually the change actually happened right. Because just a delay in communication and they're working on other things. And then I remember adding a video to our site cost is like 100 bucks. So just you almost didn't want to fix your Web site or do anything to it because it was just going to constantly cost you money right.

Paul: Right. Yeah exactly.

Paul: These are pretty much gone with the way things have changed. They're absolutely gone.

James: So that that leads us into like you are an expert in this field what do you think Web sites are going to start looking like in the next 5 to 10 years like how are they changing how are they adapting what are kind of like, look ahead into the future and tell us what you think is going to start kind of changing.

Paul: First of all like you should absolutely be able to make changes yourself if you're if you're listening to this now and you're still e-mailing a developer to make changes. Come over and chat us on TheChurchCo.com Because you shouldn't be paying for that. But yeah I think as you know it's common now to grow up like you grow up knowing tech. This is what we do right? We did a survey a while ago. How many people are editing sites on their iPhone and that you know the response was No not really but I think as we continue to progress in the future society and also the church and digital I think it'll become quite common that I can pull up an app on my phone and make a change to my church Web site real quick. I think that's we're going to like a place where all of our systems are connected. So you don't necessarily have to buy a all in one system that does everything but we kind of understand now that there is there's something that's really great at Web sites and there's something that's really great at email. Let's make those things talk and good developers are already doing that with using API's like say like a good example is connect your members database with MailChimp because MailChimp emails look unbelievable like they're beautiful that they are some of the best looking emails around. I think connected systems are the way of the future for church and digital.

James: Because like I mean this is the same in my world the video world too but like if you try to be everything to anyone like an all in one system you're probably not doing any one thing really well. Whereas if you can connect the best of the best in all those different categories then you're you know you've got something really amazing right so if you're using the best web platform with the best e-mail platform with the best membership data platform and they all talk to each other now you're dealing with three all stars as opposed to an all in one system that kind of does things. OK. And each one of those categories does. Is that what you mean?

Paul: That's exactly what I mean it's like to me the tradeoff absolutely isn't worth it. Like cool like you log into one dashboard and you have your e-mail and your Web site and you're texting all there. But if all of those things are only OK it's not worth it. I'd rather have like an amazing web site, an amazing texting service, an amazing e-mail service and all those things share the same data because they're all connected to me that's the future. I mean honestly that's how I, like outside of the church we see it. That's the common pattern. You know there's like there's a database of your users and all of those things sync with every Connected Service. So that this is something that's already happening every day all across the world. And I'm just like ready for it to work its way into the church.

Joanna: So can you break that down a little bit. Like I'm thinking you know a lot of people listening. Some of the stuff you're seeing is you're using acronyms in code.

Paul: Sorry.

Joanna: Things that you know people and that's a space because it's your world you forget that other people don't know all the same wording/lingo when you're saying these things can't like other than like MailChimp so MailChimp is a thing that helps you send beautiful emails to large groups of people you know in a lot of people are probably already using something like MailChimp but what's another thing that might be an integration that in the church context people might be interested in if it was possible in their Web site.

Paul: I mean there is no real reason to think you couldn't send a text message from your Web site to notify people of maybe a new blog post you know or say you have one of those you have like. An announcement and say you have bad weather and you need to cancel church for the day. A connected system would allow you to you know say posting announcement on the Web site which could also trigger a text message to your members that have subscribed but also like I think I mean this isn't necessarily a system but it's also nice to maybe give your members the ability to update those preferences from the Web site so they know that they have an account with your church they should be able to say Actually I don't want to receive sms or text messages and I'll just edit that through my profile. Now behind the scenes a lot of magic is happening and that's you know going off to a service that's going to update those are going off to MailChimp like you described and updating your email preferences. But I'm not making my congregation know like they don't have to know about our texting service and our email service. They just know oh I go to the website and do these things.

Joanna: Yeah like a classic thing I think of in our church you know when I was a communications director there for a long time we would get people who would unsubscribe from MailChimp but it didn't talk to the database so they would be getting different emails from different email lists or some other forms of communication they thought they had unsubscribed from communication from our church but because MailChimp wasn't talking and integrated well with other other places of that like their data was out it was very frustrating. So we were like I've already unsubscribed why am I still getting the phone call or the email or the text or the mailing and you know that's on us like we should. We need to integrate that stuff. But yeah I mean if they can all do the talk. If they can all talk to each other. That could be so helpful. Yeah you can actually go in and do their own updating.

Paul: Absolutely and I think it also like in my mind it gives the congregation member like a sense of security. Right? Like this like if I go and I'm about to make a donation on a Web site and all of a sudden I click give and I'm on another website that's on a different page that doesn't look anything like the site I was just on. Has a different U.R.L.. I'm like wait a second am I giving to the right church? Is this. But an integrated system which you know a lot of the giving systems have an API I can just give directly on the Web site and then to me it gives me as the user a sense that I know that I don't ever have that question like I know that my donation is going to the church. Same with user preferences like I know that I'm updating my preferences for my email on the church Web site. I know that that's updating my church preferences. So makes sense.

James: And it makes your church look like it's it's got to more together and like a lot more professional and even as church communicators you still need to be professional. Like it doesn't and what you're saying is it doesn't look as professional. Every time you go to your church's Web site it sends you to some other company. You want it to happen is happen seamlessly on the site and just know that your church is solve that problem figured it out for you. Exactly. I need. I'm going to tithe. This week I put it on my church website. You don't need to know what third party ad went through and then receive ads from that company like you want your church Web site to just work seamlessly especially for your congregation right. Like you just don't need to be jumping site to site and things like this. And those things are really important. And what that really leads me into is then what are some of those things that you're seeing people either request like what kind of plugins or like integrations should people be considering if someone is just about to redo their sites and they're thinking well what kind of things should I be integrating into the site right now. What are some of those things that people should really consider doing like putting at the top of their list.

Paul: I think a good place to start obviously is like I think churches in addition to their Web site need to have a CRM a CRM in the non church world stands for a customer relationship management and the church where we kind of call them CHMS's but essentially they're kind of the same thing you want when someone fills out a form on your Web site you want a database to know oh hey Paul's filled out this form. He's interested in this. He has a child and that child needs to be checked in for kids on Sunday. Like all of these things you should be building this profile about your customers sorry "customers" about your congregation so that you know more about them and that's going to help you serve the right message to them. It's going to help them have a seamless experience every time that they interact with you. So I think that as a good start your Web site should talk to your CRM.

James: and it's also going to make your job easier to right? Like if you're still doing the old you know pen and paper let's write it down and then file it in a filing cabinet. That just doesn't work in today's day and age like people are expecting to get notifications from you by email or on the phone. So if you're still dealing with an old system but trying to talk to someone who's well past that day and age now then there's going to be lots of miscommunication right. If you're trying to say Oh I'll do it manually or they sent to an e mail to me and then you forget about it and gets put on the backburner and that person never gets followed up with. Right. So like I mean this is this is the important thing about a management system like this is to get people logged in so that when an email does happen it also can get sent to the right person if someone's reaching out asking for care help it goes to the care person. Right.

Paul: Exactly. And also think of how much time this saves you the staff member or the volunteer who's working on these things in your church right. If if before you had a form that sent an email and then you need to copy that information out of the email and make sure it gets back into this other place like this is so much time and like you're saying things are get dropped where a connected system that all just happens just into the form it goes into the right place and everything just runs smoothly.

Joanna: Yeah. And I think some of what we're talking about too is underneath that I'm thinking about how you know as a communications director of a church I think people had the same expectations of what we could produce. I don't mean that my bosses did but but the general congregation expected it to feel like they were talking to their mobile phone company or something.

Paul: Oh absolutely.

Joanna: It's like that level of service was sort of expected and I don't think if you really got down and ask someone Do you really expect your local church to be equipped for customer service at the same level of a multi billion dollar company. I think they would say no. But in the actual experience and frustration of it not working well or them not being able to get to the right person or not being able to update their own information or all this integration stuff not working. They do actually expect that you operate at that level.

James: This deftly speaks to what's going on. In general I say this about Visual Media Church as well as like people whether they know it or not are getting bombarded with media. And if it's what a church website they are on Web sites all the time and so you build up this kind of this library in your head of what is normal and what is common practice. So Visual Media Church like people will look at a background going on the churches say that's cheesy and they don't know why but the reality is they've gone to movies they've been on Netflix all week long. They are used to high quality production. That's it. Their eye is now trained to see good quality and then it can pick up when it isn't so. As a church media creator myself I'm always making sure that I'm keeping our quality rising higher and higher so that I can. My you know my best possible way without the budget of what those guys are doing make content that matches what's going on in culture. And like you were just hitting on right there Jo is people are gonna be on you know 10-20 other sites every single day and they're going to be used to a good experience. And then if they go to your church site and you haven't taken the time to put these systems in place then. Something's gonna feel off right. And they may not even they might not be able to express that and vocalize what it is but they'll know it when they see it. And so I think that's what we're hitting home on here is you need to be aware of what's going on even with the sites that are big big big budget and be starting to emulate these kind of systems that they're using to kind of create the same kind of user experience that works well.

Paul: Yeah I think it's exactly what you just said. I think a lot of times and even even in the conversations I've had with a lot of our customers as we're in the process of building their Web site it's like we sometimes forget that. Like our congregation doesn't contextualize the digital things we do as oh they're a church like our congregation shops. They they go online they purchase things they are very used to putting their credit card and online. But in regards to like giving we think of it like oh it's different it's a church but really our users are are very familiar with this process. So we need to make sure as the church that we're providing them the same level of experience that they would get if they say just went online to buy shoes and I don't think it's on the church itself right it's on the companies that are providing these services like like you said like you provide the best possible motion graphics and we at The Church Co. we do the same thing for the Web site. We're like. To be honest we're not looking at other churches for Web site inspiration. We're looking at. Common web sites that people use all the time that we know that your congregation will be very familiar with. And we're drawing inspiration from that and saying how can we tweak these things to give it the right message so that it works for the church. But it's something that they are already familiar with and they're going to have a pleasurable experience interacting with.

Joanna: Yeah. Thanks Paul so much for this. Just this continued conversation about Web sites it's really interesting to get from an expert just insight into where Web is going. So on the next episode we're gonna be talking about what's the difference between like the really popular build it yourself Web sites where you use a template and build it yourself or having someone else build your website for you and helping churches understand which direction they want to go. So that's next episode.  


E114 - Paul Cox from The Church Co.


James: All right so today we have Paul Cox from The Church Co. And they make websites but we're going to let him introduce himself a little bit more and yeah. Why don't you just say hi and say like a quick like the 30 second version of who you are.

Paul: Yes. So I'm Paul Cox. I run The Church Co. It's a it's a company that helps churches get affordable websites that are extremely high quality at a really ridiculously low price because we believe that better Web sites means more people finding your church more people getting excited about your church more people coming into your church and ultimately more people finding Jesus.

James: And when you say we're going to this pricing a little bit later down the line. But when you say ridiculously cheap What do you mean?

Paul: Our lowest price is 20 dollars a month.

James: Which is insane. Yeah that's that's almost free.

Paul: Well we wanted to you know there's a lot of options out there that are very affordable and we just think that there should be a solid one for churches that's also affordable.

James: All right.

Joanna: I'm curious with this. Like going back further behind that it's more that when you tell us about yourself. Like where does this come from you're already kind of revealing some of it. You care about churches and you want to do something for them. But why did you even start this how did you get into building Web sites.

Paul: All right. So this maybe the longer than 30 second version. Yes you see I used to. So in 2009 I moved to Sydney Australia to go to Hillsong international leadership college. I ended up I said I was going to go out there for two years come back here and become a creative arts pastor at a church and you know I was there for almost ten years after that. So I did three years of college there and then I actually came on staff as part of the Web team there and I was there during the time where we rebuilt all of Hillsong.com and kind of moved all the different brands into a single site and I learned so much during that process because you know I had to make a single Web site that would work for a large church that has been around for 30 years. But also that would work for all the church plants that we would launch all over the world different cultures different context. Just had to work for everyone. And during that time.

James: That's Huge too. Like that's that's a massive build right.

Paul: Yeah I mean I think it's I mean a couple of years ago I think it was listed as the most trafficked church Web site in the world potentially. So during that time I mean a lot of churches would email Hillsong and they would say they would forward it to me. Like who built your website. Can they help us build a Web site. That was always just kind of in the back of my mind. And then I from Hillsong when that project kind of ended I went on to work at a non-profit creative studio. So we worked with a lot of charities, a lot of different organizations that always were social minded had good causes, helped people. And you know a couple couple years into that I kind of came back to this idea of like couldn't there be an option for churches to build really effective web sites that they didn't have to pay thousands of dollars for. And that's kind of where The Church Co. Started.

Joanna: Awesome Wow. And so you were solving problems that like other churches dream of having really like you're talking about like multiple languages you're talking about being intuitive for older people and younger people you're talking about the complexity of multi site and not just multi site multiple nations. So like how long did that build take your team. I feel like that could be like a two year project.

Paul: Yes so I came into it halfway through and you had to be very clear I mean it definitely was a team and I came in kind of as the PHP developer during that time we actually built the site on Wordpress. And so I think the total length of that project from concept to launching was about three years. It's as a long one.

James: That's a long time frame because so much can change in even three years right.

Paul: Right. There was an extensive design kind of phase and obviously a lot of stakeholders in a project like that. Definitely not saying that your church Web site if you're listening to this I should take three years to build.

James: But yeah going into that project how much experience in web developer did you have like what was kind of the lead into that.

Paul: Yeah. So I before I went to Hillsong college actually got a degree in the Internet and interactive systems. So I had been working as a web developer for about five years before I decided to go to Hillsong college. So I worked for a company called A.M.D. they do processors for computers I was kind of working on their internal team building internal Web sites and web applications for the staff. So I've always had that background in programming. And then I got the opportunity to outwork that in a church and it's kind of like one of those what's in your hand things right like it's some people you know its ministry it's just very different to what you see every day like someone's behind the scenes writing code. And what's really cool about that is you know this code. You know you write actually has you know millions of people actually see it like they don't visually see it but they use it. And like a lot of people actually end up finding Jesus through that which is pretty cool to me.

James: So as you were going to set up The Church Co. let's start kind of when this idea first kind of hits you like what was your approach when setting it up. Like I mean did you always have this price point? Was it something that you kind of just looked around and said there is an issue here like kind of, speak about kind of how you set up like as a business and your pricing and where that kind of ties in with business / like your heart for the church hmm.

Paul: Well yes. I mean at the time there was yeah I think there's a lot of design trends that kind of go in phases right? Like a major church will launch a site and then a lot of other churches will kind of try to imitate that site you know things like that and so there was a lot of websites that I saw that were kind of Hillsong esc. And I was like. I feel like we could provide something that is built with quality that's affordable because a lot of people were making them on some of the free platforms that are out out there and we can talk about those platforms later. But the price was just like. This should be affordable like this shouldn't cost three thousand dollars. And then at the end I have a site that I can't edit like this should like churches.

Joanna: Or cost more like ten thousand, fifteen thousand dollars for a small, midsized church.

Paul: Absolutely. So the price point was always. I mean honestly as much as I would say I put a lot of thought into it. I just was like How much do I think a church should pay for a Web site. Twenty bucks. OK. Twenty dollars. That's how the price came about. And then I've you know I've never raised the prices I've I've kept it there the entire time and because I just I really think that I mean we get purpose of websites later but it's the first interaction you have with someone coming to your church like aside maybe from Facebook or Instagram like that's your touch point. So better websites mean more people coming to your church. And we've actually had that feedback from a lot of our customers.

James: And I love that like I mean even with my business VMC like it's the exact same it's like, I love the heart that you have for it because I mean we can all look at the big churches and see what they do. And they also have big budgets. But the reality is 95% of Christians even just within the US and Canada don't have those kinds of budgets right. So yeah building something that a lot of Christians can use as opposed to the wealthier ones is I think an honorable goal and it also makes business sense to right? Like you could try to build a product that is you know a really high price point but ultimately you're not serving as many people as you probably could with what you know the gifts that God has given you really right?

Paul: Right. And I think like if you look at church websites like if you go and pull 20 church web sites up the designs are going to be so similar. And I just realized. We can actually cut this entire design process like if you hire someone to come in and get a custom design your Web site. The chances are at the end of it it's going to look very very similar to a lot of the other church sites out there. And so that's one of the ways that we keep it cheap is you know we have templates and they're all like very solid designs. They look great. They are responsive. They work on mobile. They load very quickly and by not having to design that custom site every single time you're able to get the same quality code of when I say like you know build Hillsong or any of the other sites that I've worked on but I'm able to discount that down to you know extremely affordable amount.

James: Yeah I mean you don't need to have a conversation about hey do you want a big header image of the top and a menu to click through all things like.

Paul: right. It was going to be that going to be there.

James: So we don't need to waste time discussing about whether or not it should be. let's give you here's the you know the 5 10 popular ways it's done. Pick one of those because that's 99% of all the Web sites that you're going to want to pick anyways. Right? Why waste my time. Which which makes total sense right. I remember a little bit of my old days when I was learning to HTML code and CSS code it was just it was complicated and I personally waste a lot of time trying to figure out all these unique things when at the end of the day the Web sites that we always landed on were about the same anyways.

Paul: Right. Yeah that's exactly what I found. I mean we have done custom designs for people that really wanted them but it's just that, our focus is on the masses like we want as many people to have great Web sites as possible.

Joanna: So in some ways Paul you're answering the question indirectly but more directly, What would you say are some of the core beliefs behind how you're doing this business.

Paul: Yeah. So I mean end of the day. Good Web sites and effective web sites bring people to your church. And when people are in your church they find Jesus so everything that we do has to come back to that. And why would I not want the most people in churches possible. Right? So that's why I want to make it as affordable as possible. I mean that's why the price is low. It's one of our kind of core beliefs that you know what is in our hand. We write good code and we have a ton of experience with web. So we offer to build your Web site for free because we think if we can set you up in a way that we know will work for your church that ultimately meets those goals that we have which is more people in your church which means more salvation.

Joanna: Yeah. And you're talking about doing doing Web sites at a price that's doing Web sites at a price it's accessible with ministry in mind. But but you're doing it in a way that's as excellent as some of the You know the top brands in the world would would expect their Web site to be done.

Paul: Yeah absolutely. I mean I like full disclosure I've worked with a lot of those top brands like outside of church I have quite a resumé of working with kind of names that everyone would be familiar with and the same level of coding standards that go into those projects are the same thing that's going into The Church Co. And so I mean if.

Joanna: Without the price tag.

Paul: Yeah exactly. I mean if I was to if one of those people came and said Can you build us a site I would be building it the exact way that I'm building The Church Co. It's just that the price tag would be far more expensive for someone outside of the church because we just want churches to have this same level of excellence. Right? Like everyone wants to have really great worship and everyone wants to have really great preaching and really great connect groups and great contact with their congregation and we want that through your Web site.

Joanna: Thanks for listening to this week's episode. Tune in next time when we're to talk about the future of church websites what they used to look like and what they're going to look like. With Paul Cox from The Church Co.


E113 - Engaging Your Audience Through Instagram Stories


 Joanna: There's some amazing new stuff on Instagram Stories right now that is going to help you connect with people, drive engagement and get to know your audience in a meaningful way. We're going to talk about it.

Joanna: James, you've had some success recently or you've learned some interesting stuff as you've been using some new tools and Instagram Stories with your audience. I want to talk more about that want to get in your head today.

James: Well I definitely noticed that people are engaging more and more with Instagram Stories and I think they're just way better because because it's the interactive part that's built in now. So like with Visually Media Church in general we'll get anywhere from 60 to 150 likes on a post which is really great. That's awesome. Out of, that's actually a low percentage based on the amount of followers we have. But recently I've done a few like camera related things or asking questions in the stories about what we're shooting or what we should be doing. And I mean one of the most recent ones we had over 200 responses. Now that's double the amount of just clicking like people were actually typing in and responding.

James: and that takes more time than just tapping like.

James: And it's way more time. And so what I've learned from that is one people are watching those a lot. We have usually a couple thousand people watching our Instagram Stories and then to get like 150 to 200 responses to something on a quiz is really good. It means that people are stopping and really soaking in the information that you're trying to give. And I think there's a lesson to be learned even for churches if you want to get your community engaged with what's going on. You can ask them you know questions about events coming up or things that happened on Sunday or make a little bit of a game of it. Like what happened in the sermon or what was the third song we sang this morning. And you list four different options like you do the quiz option for worship songs and then one like why not write like right.

Joanna: What the heck did the preacher talk about.

James: Because that's a challenge sometimes I you know I ever forget like OK what was the third song or you know what did are our preacher talk about this morning. My wife will say you know what you think of the sermon this morning and I have to pause for a second and say Okay I know I listened. Let me go back. Oh yeah we're in the book of Daniel. Okay. Yeah but that's good because now you're having to recall the information and you're making sure it's not just slipping out of your mind.

Joanna: Even beyond the pop quiz. I mean that's maybe a bit of a funny way to do it. It would you could try it out. But I think the opposite end of like for a pastor or a communicator who's trying to get a sense of maybe you're adding a service time and or you're adding in event time when you want to know what would be a preferred time for people. You can do that as a survey now write an Instagram story and get some meaningful engagement on that. Or you could maybe you have a question about like what are your top fears and you could list a few examples of people who could choose from the multiple choice answers of what thing they're most afraid of. And you could add that as flavor into a sermon. And that's a way for you as a communications and media person to help and come alongside and partner with your preaching and communications people. I mean you're upfront communications people you're preachers and stuff to help them engage with the audience and to make their content more relevant and interesting by getting like real questions answered the week before they talk about it like on a Sunday morning for example.

James: And I think churches that also think about their Instagram account like I mean I generally don't like this word but "influencer" like people are going to tag the church in things in their photos. And I think you can curate that and then share some of those pictures to your Instagram story because people are gonna be tagging your church in things and I think it's OK to engage with people like people will get excited that the church shared their photo on the church social account and it's so fun so and so why not. Like that's what lots of people do outside of church. And the reason why it works is people get excited that someone else has noticed what they're doing. And I think you as the church communicator can really drive engagement and get people more engaged with the church brand and thus all the other information you're trying to get out to them by tagging people in it are resharing their photo. and doing all kind of things like that.

Joanna: There's all these engagement tools now like on the store like we're talking about the countdown to a big event. Yeah you can set that up as a thing that will help you people can say they want that timer on their own Instagram. So you do like five days till the conference or even just two days till Sunday when we all get together again or you know it's till summer camp or whatever it is that you're working on. You can have some fun with that.

James: And we've talked about before but I think one of the keys is to make sure. Like for engagement it's to not make everything and ad. And I think even as churches you can get into the habit of always posting an ad for something like you're not it's not a typical product where you're trying to sell something but you're always just here's what's going on there like it's always an ad for to come into this come out of this this this this. And people. I tend to tune out ads very like we're all programmed to when and ad comes on.

Joanna: Well there are more ads than ever already.

James: Absolutely, Instagram is already pushing paid ads to you don't make everything an ad make it more of a community type response. But that's why the quiz is great. It's asking the person to be engaged with what you're asking as opposed to here's a nice Photoshop designed ad for you about the upcoming worship service. People tune it out like we we are programmed to somewhat ignore as soon as we read, in our brains we read what we think is an ad and we'll all program it out right.

Joanna: And so on that note like it's, as an important part of engagement is to actually reply to people. So I see this so often I'm surprised like when people write a comment below your picture or especially on it we're talking today more about the Instagram Stories if people reply to your story. Reply back even if it doesn't warrant a huge response. Even I love that you can do a double tap in the in the private message and give them give them a little heart. It acknowledges that you saw and that you appreciated their interaction.

James: Yeah acknowledge the engagement. Absolutely yeah.

Joanna: But even you know even if you go a step further and take the 20 minutes to to just like answer a ton of messages all at once I say 20 minutes assuming you have tons and tons but it doesn't take more than a few seconds to write to one person like oh what did you like best about that thing. Hey thanks so much for your feedback. Or yeah we love that thing too. You know whatever it may be whatever an appropriate and simple, it can be fairly generic response but it is important to engage and the more you engage back with people and make it like a conversation back and forth and back and forth, the more people will engage and the more people engage the more they're likely to come back the more likely you are to be up in the algorithms for more people to find what you're talking about in the first place and it makes it not just a megaphone for your announcements it makes it a meaningful part of building social community.


E112 - Live Announcements vs Video Announcements


 James: A number of years ago our church switched from doing live stage announcements to the video announcements. And I think this is becoming more and more popular. And there's a reason for it. And Joanna you're gonna share a little bit behind the scenes of why that decision was ultimately made at our church.

Joanna: Right. So like many churches we were doing live stage announcements and that had various levels of success in various renditions of how that happened even figuring out where in the service the liturgy the order of the service is the best place to put announcements because it always feels like our core no matter where you put them if you start with them before you get into worship. A lot of people haven't even shown up yet. So they miss them and if you wait till the end. People are kind of itching to leave and if you do it in the middle it feels like it kind of interrupts the feeling of the worshipfulness of, you know were singing songs and giving and studying scripture and then there's these announcements in the middle. So it's always a weird thing. I'm just gonna name that off the top. But we've done it with different levels of success I think over time. But ultimately we made the switch from purely live in front of people standing on the stage a person talking announcements to predominantly doing that through video for a few reasons. Number one we could time it. It meant that someone wouldn't ramble on and on. Number two. We could say it exactly how we wanted to say it by if we made a mistake or didn't say it clearly enough or wanted to do teleprompter or things like that we could have it exactly how we meant to say it with all the correct details. And another thing was as we were moving to a multi site reality there was information that we wanted to have consistent across all our sites. And so it was easy to do that through video rather than trying to make sure that each local campus pastor or site pastor as we called them was able to translate that exact information about something they may or may not even know much about because it's maybe not their area of expertise in the church. And yeah. And beyond that the other thing was acknowledging that people don't come all the time. So if people only come one out of three, one out of two, one out of four Sunday's the stats seem to say people are coming physically less and less but they're still engaging with their church online. And so doing video announcements is a way to get those announcements in front of people on social media or in an email. Even if they haven't shown up that Sunday at church they're still able to get the news.

James: I mean I remember some of the live announcements. I had a buddy who used to do it. And I would get excited for it because you know as a younger person I would sit in the back and we would laugh because it was always a train wreck.

Joanna: Are you talking at our church or you.

James: I am talking about our church. You probably know no person I'm thinking of.

Joanna: Im wondering are we thinking of the same person?

James: But we used to call it the person's name experience because it was always very rough and that person was generally very confident. But as soon as I got on stage they got they stumbled over their words they forgot things they had to reach in their pocket to grab their notes to read what had happened. They said things that I think I know jokes that I believe weren't appropriate cause they were so nervous and it was it was always a train wreck but it was always a good reminder that when we switch to video like how much more professional and smooth it was because as much as I and my friends found it entertaining that this announcement was always such a train wreck. That's only because we knew the person and we could see the humor in it and giving them a hard time afterwards about it. But if you're a new person actually I would be a huge negative to walk in and have this awkward five minute rambling and being like well what is going on here what was that what did I just I don't really know what just happened this is really uncomfortable. And if the person feels real uncomfortable and you're new there you're already feeling uncomfortable yourself. So it's remembering that you're still always trying to be inviting to guests and having smooth presence or having people that are comfortable on stage can be hard. Not everyone is meant to be onstage. Only a small percentage of people have the ability to stand in front of a crowd and be comfortable and speak fluently. And that whole risk is avoided when you do record because you can. I mean we've had times Joe where we've recorded news and it hasn't worked out and we've had to go back and rerecord because either A information was wrong which now we're able to fix or b the person who we thought might be really good at it wasn't able to pull it off and we were able to find that out. And without having to have it be done in front of the entire congregation and it saved that person embarrassment it also allowed us to just. All right we're going to record a new one with someone else and now no one you know no one knows that that was an issue and you just you look way more professional in your job and as a church in general to visitors.

Joanna: Yeah. And it doesn't have to take away from the personal side of it. I think sometimes as you're saying it can lead not just personal but awkward when people are maybe using weird inside jokes or referencing people from the stage they know personally or just generally acting a little bit uncomfortable and then people who are new or unfamiliar with that person don't understand the joke or don't understand what's going on. And so they have less grace for those mistakes. But the other thing I think also is I think there's this weird thing psychologically that things that are by video, people seem to pay attention to more than than a person standing right in front of them or things that are on video seem to hold more credibility. I don't know what that is but said he seemed to seem to prove that over and over that things on video seemed to have more than credibility.

James: I also think even at our church I think you know that it's going to be succinct like we never do when that's longer than two minutes. Yeah. So I think there's an expectation like I need to listen I'm going to get the information but I'm not I'm not committing to something really long winded right now. It's gonna be really quick I'm going to get the bullet points and then it's going to point me towards more information. Yeah. And the other good thing is we also we try to we have we have a rotating cast of six or seven different people who are all different levels of staff members. Yeah. And they always introduce themselves and we put their name in their title on the screen so that if someone is new can least put an you know a face to a name. And then ideally they they will recognize that person when they're leaving that Sunday.

Joanna: That's it. It's this idea of you know there's lots of people like for example if they're running a kids or youth program during the service they're never maybe gonna be the person who's up in front on the stage. By the nature of the kind of role that they have on Sundays but putting them in a news video allows them to be introduced as a familiar face to the congregation. And you know I've I always had the dream actually that it just never happened at our church that we'd have like two interns for the whole year. They were the announcement people and they would work and run with the announcements for the whole year. But in the end it never happened. My dream never came to fruition at C4. But beyond that. I think it was really good that we've been able to feature a ton of different staff from a ton of different departments and get people familiar with them in a way that protected them from themselves even of their own rambling. And for me I say I'll be the first to say that in person even as a polished communicator I speak in front of people almost every week of my life. But I find that it's easier to stick to the script. I mean to literally to stick to what I've intended to say. In my own head or on that little piece of paper when it's on video as opposed to you get in front of people. The adrenaline starts going and then you lose track of how long you're even speaking for so video analysis. We've talked on another. Another episode of this podcast about how to do it it doesn't have to be super fancy. And there are some ways that you can do it simply and affordably. Check out another episode for that information.


E111 - Does Your Church Need An App?


 Joanna: Today's episode we're talking about does your church need an app. And at the end of the episode we're gonna give some news, updates, and announcements on this podcast for moving forward, so stay tuned to the very end of the episode.

James: Jo one of the most popular discussions going on in some of the Facebook groups right now and really for the past couple of years has just been all about church apps and there's very strong opinions on both sides. People really argue that your church needs to have an app to be relevant and millenials will only find you if you have an app and there's other people saying well why do you need an app. If you've got a Web site and I know I fall pretty strongly into one camp but where do you fall in this whole debate.

Joanna: Oh you're strong. I. I'd say generally no. I do not think churches need apps unless you're a really big church. I'm not sure what the value add is of an app. We can talk about that a little bit more today I have sort of a philosophy about a lot of things to do with communication that the app conversation falls under the umbrella of. But tell me you you say you have a strong opinion. So what's your opinion?

James: I'm strongly in the belief that you don't need an app. Yeah I think I think there's enough apps on phones and I think the way that mobile websites, like their ability to be mobile friendly has grown so much that there's ninety nine percent of the things that you would want to display on someone's phone can already be done through the Web site as is. Like an app is really kind of just usually now just a shortcut or a simplified version of what's on your Web site. That just is a little bit faster and a little bit quicker but I mean I just don't need to download another app. I mean our church has an app and I use it usually only for connect group to kind of see what the questions are.

Joanna: And admittedly I never use the app. I only go on our church app when I've been editing something for the church app. I never actually use it and I'm the one who has to maintain it.

James: And the end the argument for me is OK. Well I mean apps still can be very expensive and so is what you're paying for really a value. I mean the things I'm trying to think of the things that I engage with with our church the most. And one would be probably Instagram's Number one I see our church's Instagram almost daily. And secondly I would say just Apple podcasts. If I miss a sermon it's summer right now I've missed a few Sundays I go into Apple podcasts to listen to the sermon so that's what I'm engaging with the most. And I think the last time I went on our church's app was maybe four months ago.

Joanna: It was for your connect group discussion questions?

James: Just discussion questions. Our that group ended in April or May. Yeah. And I was just looking the discussion question like I wasn't on there very long. I didn't really engage with any of the things that are basically costing the Church money to make and run. Now I'm not engaging with it at all.

Joanna: I think the big question is ultimately who are you making an app for. Like what's the point of the app and can can the things you're doing on the app be done just as well or almost as well through another thing i.e. through social media or through the website. Because as you've said there's so many ways now we can access great mobile experiences on our phones. But on the Web sites or on Instagram whatever is now even functionality being built in to you know pay for things they're shopping now that's coming into in-store and there's lots of things even to do with giving that you can probably soon pretty soon integrate into social media. You can do it on Facebook already but it kind of falls for me under this philosophical approach that I have is like don't ask people to start a new behavior meet people where they already have the habits of going every day. And so another example of that for me is to do with we used to use a third party company that kind of had like a market place where you could share needs and abilities so it wasn't so much buying and selling like on Craigslist. It was you know Mrs. Smith broke her leg. Could someone come help mow her lawn or so and so is finished with their you know their lawn furniture does anybody want to take just anyone to pick it up and take it for free. That kind of a thing. And so we had this separate third party program Web site that people to log into to use. I'm not going to mention by name I actually don't even know if it exists anymore. But what we found is that it was we had to train people's behavior to go to that Web site and people weren't using it very much you had to log in yet to remember it even existed you had to remember to think to use it. But when we started doing these groups on Facebook where it was like whether private or public these groups where people could post the exact same kinds of stuff but in a place that people already are in the habit of going every day i.e. Facebook then it suddenly became a hugely impactful ministry tool for our church.

James: And what you're really saying is. The more you divide people's attention and send them to multiple spots for information the less likely you are to continue to engage with them. So if you're selling them to ten different things in order to gather information you're less likely to even get your information out rather than just saying focus. Let's focus on one or two and do those really well. So even back to my sermon notes thing instead of having to go to the app to read his sermon notes why couldn't it just be throughout the week. The church posted on Instagram Stories and all I have to do is go to Instagram Stories and I'm now engaging with the church in one certain place and you can get more information there rather than go to the Instagram page then the Facebook page on the website. Then the app there and the bulletin like there's now six different things.

Joanna: And probably a lot of them are the same content the.

James: Same thing over and over.

Joanna: And that's where I said where I saw it with my opinion on this from the beginning is if you're a church of I don't know less than like let's say 5000 people which is almost every single church. 98 percent of churches less than 5000 people then I think you're spending money probably on something that isn't super value add at this point.

James: And what people can argue as well a lot of that stuff is free but at the end of the day it's taking someone's time to schedule and post all those things.

Joanna: And to communicate it is adding confusion.

James: There's adding confusion but there's there's always a cost that's the financial side of my brain coming out and this is that if you have six different things it's now taking that person who's doing it six times as long to do to get one bit of information out. So there is cost associated rather than saying we're gonna just stick with one or two platforms as opposed to having to update six or seven constantly, you're basically you are spending money even if all those things are free platforms and they're not like a church app isn't free you're going to spend something on it and it's gonna take someone's time and effort. And I just don't I don't think what you get for it is really truly a value add. Now there's always gonna be an example of one big church doing it really well it has an awesome app but that is far outside the norm.

Joanna: Because they've leaned like for like full force into the strategy of using an app. But I think for a lot of churches it's just like an add on and not sort of used in a robust way and it's just as you said its the cost to carry

James: And yeah you can't, It's like the Michael Jordan example you can't say you can't always compare every basketball player to Michael Jordan. You can't say well here's the best that's what you should be. Not everyone is Michael Jordan. So not every church is going to be the big church with tons of budget and tons of creative people behind making it. The awesome thing it is. And so maybe it's best to just not try to play in that sandbox like maybe if your church is only 500 people a Web site and an Instagram page are enough. Right. Or maybe it's just a Facebook page like would focus on one thing.

Joanna: I think we're trying to like, you know we're ramping or being up on our passion about you know we know people you know in this community that build apps. So we're not saying that they're like total garbage or these these apps are total garbage and a waste of time. We're just saying think more thoughtfully about it. We're trying to free you up from the pressure that like you see you know it's a keeping up with the Joneses kind of thing. But just because you see some big church that you admire doing it doesn't mean that you have to do it.

James: There's the F.O.M.O. associatedt right? There's fear of missing out in that you see other people doing it and that's up there and that's where some of my passion comes from as I see people talking about on Facebook and say you know another church down the road got it. That means we should probably have an app right? Well that's the wrong way to approach whether or not you should have an app. It should come from within not from a comparison. And just because someone else is doing it doesn't mean that you should and it might be maybe actually a the right scenario for them and it might be but it might be wrong for you and I think the smaller the churches the less likely that you're going to need it. Is really, thats the scale.

Joanna: And if only a certain percentage if only 15 percent of the church is ever going to download and engage with it in a meaningful way then the smaller the church the less people that literally is.

James: So if you're talking about a million people then you're talking about a massive number, but if you're talking about a church of 500 that isn't worth it to do it for 30 people.

Joanna: So think about where people are naturally engaging with you and just you know double down on those places. If you're a smaller church, hey if you're a bigger church and you have capacity to experiment with some stuff then go do the thing so the rest of the small guys can learn how to do it. But hey we we wanted to let you guys know before we end this episode that we're we're kind of moving into what we're calling our summer mode. I think we're gonna take a a page out of what I lived in France for a while and the French do this every August. They slow down most people go on vacation a lot of businesses close. We're not closing down but we're slowing down how frequently we do give you episodes so we're going to be going to once a week for a summer schedule for the rest of the summer. As we look towards the fall we were. James you and I were all over the place.

James: Let's talk about that quickly actually. Like where are you going to be Joanna?

Joanna: Yeah I'm going to the global, Ah I'd love to know as anybody else that the Global Leadership Summit in Chicago. I'm doing much of social media stuff there. And so. I will be in Chicago.

James: What the dates for that?

Joanna: It's the, I dont know, you're putting me on the spot. When is it?

James: She's looking it up, giving the play by play.

Joanna: This is real time. I'm there August 7th to 10th.

James: There you go, August 7th 10th. Come find Joanna

Joanna: But event is I think eighth and ninth anyway so I'm there for a few days. And I'd love to meet people if people from this community are going to be at the event or connect to the event at a satellite sight. It'll be great to see you there and yeah I'm going to Bethel heaven come conference in the end of August. A friend of mine is you know the creative director of Bethel live events. So going to go hang out and learn from her team how they do it. So going to hang out backstage basically with their creative people so if you have questions for them then message me and I'll see if I can get the answer for you.

James: Awesome.

Joanna: What are you up to this summer.

James: I will be in New Zealand so if anyone's in New Zealand from August 24th to the beginning of September then you know you can come find me and editor michael out in Mount Cook area/Christ Church.

Joanna: You got to do a meet up in New Zealand

James: So yeah if you're in New Zealand.

James: That's too bad, If your in New Zealand why aren't you bringing me James? What I want to know why why can't I come with your team?

James: So yeah we're gonna be out there filming so again I'm going to be gone for about 13 or 14 days and you're gone overlapping some of those dates as well so we're not gonna be able to do the podcast daily but we are going to be able to do it weekly during this busy August.

Joanna: Yeah and we're trying to get a sense too from you you know we've been doing this podcast since the winter time and we want to learn from you our listeners and learn from what we're getting in our stats around how often do you want this content? Is every day valuable to you? Do you do you think that once a week is enough? We're going to experiment a little bit with the format of that to find out give the people what they want to find out what you want and need and how best to serve you with this content. And so we're going to be doing that as we look at this sort of how we're doing this once a week stuff the rest of the summer and then we'll be on sort of a new rhythm then going back into the fall.


E110 - Handling Money


 Joanna: When it comes to side hustles or building your own business. Something that I'm learning right now. I'm on a steep learning curve about is the money side of it. I mean the accounting the taxes the finances of managing all of that. So James I'm looking to you today to give us some tips on that.

James: Alright Jo. It's also a journey that I've been on and in the past year I went from trying to do it all myself and doing a very poor job to hiring someone to do it for me. And that is the biggest thing when you're gonna start doing a side hustle if you're going to do any kind of work where you make money outside of a full time job. It might be time to start considering someone who knows what they're doing to help you out.

Joanna: An accountant.

James: An accountant because basically what happened for me is I got to the point where I just had this feeling like I wasn't doing everything that I should be doing and I didn't want. In Canada we had the CRA but in the States it's the IRS. My my biggest fear was years down the line them coming to me and saying you owe this chunk of money.

Joanna: You know, Fifty thousand dollars.

James: And you've heard we've all heard those stories of people who owe money in back taxes and they didn't know it and they didn't realize for years and years that they weren't doing things correctly or making mistakes. And it was all just piling up on them. And so that's the biggest thing especially for contractors or doing a side hustle is you're going to get taxed differently and so it's important to know when you don't know enough right. So there's all there's some great apps out there there's an app called Wave apps which is great for financing doing your own finance stuff on the side. There's also fresh books there's quick books there's lots of different software that help you out along the way but when you get into the world of doing side hustle which is often a lot of Internet based stuff there's lots of different rules based on what country you live in and what state you live in and whether or not we're selling within the state and outside of states.

Joanna: Where the customer is.

James: There's all these different things and that's where it might be important to get a professional on your side to help out with. And even for you Jo like you're starting to enter this world like you need to know like how much money should I be saving every time I do a contract for someone for taxes at the end of the year. Because yeah it would be nice to just every time you charge X amount of dollars to be able to use X amount of dollars.

Joanna: That's all my money.

James: But you actually have to you know set aside things so a good rule that I learned is the rule of thirds right as you said a third aside for taxes. You use a third to pay yourself and you use a third to put on your expenses for the business. So if you need space if you need software if you need things like that. So the rule of thirds is one that I learn and it's not as your business grows it changes a little bit. But in general in Canada you need to save a third for taxes so it's all important things to know and if you're not already doing it then I would advise you to at least ask someone. Absolutely.

Joanna: I mean it is true. Like I it's something I'm not strong. The irony is I have my undergrad I did all these accounting courses because I did this business degree but my focus was more on the marketing side. So I had to do basic accounting to get my degree and as soon as those courses were done I basically wiped almost all of that content from my brain. That's just the truth. I don't know a lot about it. And so you know to be the expert at everything that's where like even earlier when we're talking about a couple of days ago collaboration maybe that's something if you feel like you maybe don't have a way to afford all the financial help you need but you'd love to sit down with someone maybe you can do a swap with them. Maybe there's some skill that you have and they're an accountant who is an expert at this and you're going to help them make great looking business cards and in exchange they're going to give you an hour and a half or a couple hours of their time to advise you on the accounting for your business. There are some probably some creative solutions to finding answers. But the important thing is we're trying to get across today as to not neglect it. We want to and as we always say like even as Christians that integrity piece is huge. We want to be honest. We want to do business right. I think God really honors that when we do it with integrity and paying taxes. Jesus said Give to Caesar what Caesar so pay. Pay your taxes and keep good accounts. Keep all those receipts. All that kind of stuff. And so many tools these days now even for that kind of stuff as James you've mentioned in ways to keep your receipts and all that kind of stuff digitally so there's no excuse. We just need to commit to doing it so that we don't get caught up in it later.

James: All right. So Joe I mentioned some apps but what we would really like to know is what you're using out there. Tell us some ways that you're managing your finances and hopefully we don't get many I just write them on a piece of paper and stick them in a drawer kind of thing. Yeah. Give us what you're using and if there's something that we've never heard of we would love to know about it and we might actually put it in the show notes or we talk about the next time we get around to talking about money for the side hustle again.


E109 - Side Hustles


 Joanna: Today we're going to talk about side hustles. It's something that a lot of people are talking about but we're going to talk about how to find them, how to build them, and how to do that well while honouring the work you do full time.

Joanna: These days it seems like a lot of people are talking about side hustles. So maybe when you hear that term you kind of roll your eyes. I think people might be getting sick of it but the idea of working on the side of your full time work is becoming more and more common. You know most of not most of us but a ton of us are doing it and there's lots of reasons why some of it is because I think the digital world has made it easier to make money on the side. And I think the other thing is certainly if the key audience of this podcast is people who work in church and for church their ministry connected people. It means that the salary is less and so it sometimes means that a side hustle a side income can supplement our church salary. And that's certainly where I began doing side work was to supplement my church salary so that I could sustain ministry in the longer term. What do you think about that James. What are you seeing right now. What are you excited about in this digital world with side hustles.

James: Well I mean I'm someone that kind of lived it and has gone through the process and loved it. I mean building a side hustle is where I got to put my, all the things I wanted to do and wanted to learn and wanted to try wearing my side hustle and I had a day job but I had a day job working for a university which wasn't terribly exciting and I didn't love it but my side hustle where I got excited and it grew into what visual media church is today. But yeah like I'm noticing a lot more people getting involved and being willing to step out and try it. Which is a great thing to be in. It's exactly what you said it's become a lot easier to do. It's easier to build a website yourself rather than have to hire someone. There's lots of ways to try out an idea. And I think again especially in the church world I've noticed in the church groups a lot more people trying to share their skills by if they're a graphic designer like starting to make graphic design packs and share them on different marketplaces and and making a little bit of siding and whether it's selling stock video and I think it's it's really it is a good thing especially in the church world where salaries in general are far lower than the secular like the exact same position at a secular business. And so it is great to supplement your income that way. And I think it's something that everyone should explore. Doesn't mean that you will be good at it but there's lots of little marketplaces where if you're a great graphic designer you don't necessarily want to run a business but you do great hand lettering. Like I know Jo you've gone to five or before for things like that. Yeah. So if you're one of those people that I don't really want to run a business like I like my job but it wouldn't it would be nice to make a few extra 100 bucks here and there. Then like to have your services offered on a fiver or building your own Web site to do hand lettering something like that because that's what you're good at. Then the world has become smaller and you'll be amazed at the people you'll become connected to when you start doing that. And that's one of the things that really drove me is seeing you know someone buy something from us from the United Arab Emirates. I was like wow like how does this person even find it and the world is just much smaller these days and it's much easier to do. And I mean you're also going on that journey yourself right now where your side hustle is becoming your full time.

Joanna: So where I come into the conversation on this is someone who has developed side hustles or supplementary income while working in church is to be respectful and thoughtful and really have a lot of integrity with your employer while you're doing it. So for me building stuff on the side for me was never like a chess move like if I move this year do this I can quit this job that I hate. It was never about that it was more about doing some projects that interested me. And the bonus of making some money to supplement my income and what it's has turned into is that I have left my full time work in the church in order to pursue this stuff full time. But that wasn't actually the plan and was certainly not where I thought it would go for me. So I think just in general we need to have integrity with that stuff that we do on the side whether you're working in the church or not. Like don't steal time from your employer like if you're at work do your job and when you're after work do the side thing. I think I've seen some people do some really weird sketchy gray area stuff with that and I think in order for you to have trust continually with whoever your boss is and for you to have integrity personally you want to make sure that those lines are really clear and have good communication with your boss as appropriate about what you're doing on the side and where that you know within appropriate boundaries of your work life where of like I don't know how you talk to your own boss but where that fits into your work life and how you're doing that on evenings and weekends.

James: Absolutely it's a slippery slope. You wouldn't want anyone doing that to you if you around the business all of a sudden you know taking work time to work on their own thing. You wouldn't be very happy if you were paying for them. Absolutely. And so I mean even even for me I wasn't working for a church I was working for a university at the time but I didn't have holiday hours so I went to my boss and said I would like a week off and here's why and I explained to her what I was doing and she was more than willing to support that because she knew I needed the time off and I came to her and I at least was upfront and I mean the last thing that I wanted was for her to discover that I was working on a side business outside of work hours but then to have that awkward conversation of just so you know you probably should never do this while you're at work I didn't want to have this conversation where she had to give me a warning. I wanted to just at least have that conversation upfront so that there just never was this hint of if I was ever doing anything that she ever would think like Oh he's working on his own project over actually would go check on what he's doing or check his internet history or do anything like that right. Like you don't want to get into a situation where it feels really bad at work and you want people to trust you. And again it's a slippery slope. So if you start by making little concessions with your own integrity you'll end up going further and further with it regardless. It's just I think a. There's plenty of stories in the bible of that like you make one mistake and it snowballs into another mistake so start off the right way and especially if you're working for a church just be really upfront about. Hey here's what I'm doing. Just so you know because you might see me post about it on Facebook or Instagram and I want you to know that this is something that I'm doing with my own time outside and my job is my number one priority and this is something that I do in lieu of playing video games or playing sports or sitting on the couch and watching TV like I'm doing this instead of that.

Joanna: Yeah, and ultimately you have to work that out with your own employer. You you need to decide you know which way you want your career to go. That's up to you and up to really the Lords leading in your life. As he opens and closes doors and gives you skills and gifts and so we want to have without fear we just want to have great integrity and be proactive as we build side hustles as we develop supplementary income as we're going towards creative outlets. Let's do so with integrity.


E108 - Collaboration


Joanna: When you begin working for yourself whether that's full time or side hustle you want to build a team and you want to start collaborating. So James would love to get some perspective from you day on collaboration.

James: Yeah Jo today where I talk a little bit about collaboration it's more just me encouraging people. You and I are both people that have done work for churches and then started side hustles and doing extra work on the side to like supplement your income like you use some of your spare time to do the things that you're good at and you love to do to make a little extra money. And my encouragement is to collaborate. This is not something new but something that I think people forget to do which is if you see someone doing something awesome that you could really use in your business. Reach out to them and offer your abilities back to them. There's a lot of video people that do this like I know I've reached out to audio people in the past say "hey can you help me out with this. And hey I'm asking for free but I'm also willing to do something for you". And it's amazing how often that really works out when there's always people that can use. So in my case there's always a business or another creator that could use video help with shooting or making a video and especially if I'm looking at them saying I could really use help with website stuff or marketing stuff. You have expertise beyond what I'm able to do for myself but I can also have, I also have abilities that can really help you out in your business or your site also. And Jo you and I have even done this together where have helped me out with writing stuff and I've helped you out with some video stuff. So this has been something that always helps and it doesn't always have to be a pay for this or hire someone to do this on certain projects so I mean I just think it's really important to make sure you're collaborating with people and reaching out to people and not be afraid to just send a message like the worst that can happen is someone says "no".

Joanna: Or they just don't reply.

James: Or they just don't apply and in which case you wasted 10 seconds sending a message. And it's amazing even people that have asked me for collaboration stuff like I even just appreciate it if someone asks even if it's not the right fit because then it actually builds a connection with that person and you never know what can come from it down the line. And I just I want to encourage you because I think people are afraid to ask sometimes they get stuck being worried about what if they respond negatively and the truth is 99 percent of the time doesn't respond negatively. They're just going to say "sorry it doesn't work for me" or "I'm too busy" or "I'm not interested" or "maybe it is a good fit" right. So it really is important to try to reach out to people and build relationships in that way by collaborating.

Joanna: I think you get stronger when you start building. No one can be good at everything. So when you start collaborating you're getting the advantage of multiple skill sets but also it just makes the work, I'd say this on a personal level makes the work less lonely. There's a lot of this stuff that's just one guy one girl sitting at their computer doing something by themselves. But to know that there are other people that you're building collaborative relationship ministry partnerships and working relationships with I think it just makes the work more enjoyable. And I think it sustains us in the long term when we're feeling discouraged. Those are the kinds of people are gonna come alongside and cheer us on.


E107 - Looking Ahead


 James: Joanna yesterday we were talking a little bit about what you've been working on but today you're going to go into a little bit more depth on some of the projects you have coming up.

Joanna: One of the big things that I'm excited to be working on is helping more churches. Ultimately as many churches as I can with communications and figuring out how to do church communications in this digital age that we live in is a huge obviously a passion for me. You hear that probably every episode. And so learned so much over many many years of doing that in one or two a couple of churches and now wanting to help as many as I can. And that meant that I had to leave working day to day fulltime in that church. I still go to the church, James and I are at the same church but not on the staff there. And so in brief I'm hearing over and over everywhere I go and people that I'm already working with. There's a lot of churches out there that would love my help with communications and that's awesome it's an honor to be able to help but I'm trying to understand what is it that you want. What kind of help do you want me to offer you. I want to give the people what they want. So I'm obviously some of it looks like me going into a church physically getting to a church and helping to do consulting and work with a team or work with a pastor to help develop strategy and communications or whether that's social media and websites or that print stuff is rethinking maybe a whole strategy or development of something, a new project in the church. And that's great I love to do that but the reality is I can only be in one place at a time so one of the big things that I want to be building in the next number of months. So we won't see it out in public for a while but as Gary Vanderchuk always talks about show your work. Tell me what you're working on while you're working on it. I'm gonna be developing some content and courses online and so I want to know ultimately what do you need help with. How can I, literally help me help you. How can I help you? I want to serve as many churches as I can with really valuable meaningful content at an affordable price. And so I want to know what you want to know. You can reach out to me on Instagram @Joannalafleur or just even if you want to email me Hello@JoannaLaFleur.com. I'd just love to if anybody want to reach out and say these are the problems or these are the things we can't get over or these are the things I'd love to bring you in for if I had a chance and my boss would think I was so smart because I learned all this stuff from you instead of having to figure it out for three years by myself. All this stuff I'd love to know how I can help you and any feedback you give me means that the content is going to be better. And ultimately if the content better it's going to help more people meet Jesus and grow in Jesus.


E106 - What We've Been Up To


 Joanna: It's been a few weeks but a lot of changes since we last gave you some personal updates about what we're doing in our work so we thought we'd take some time today to let you guys know what we've been up to.

James: All right Jo two weeks ago the visual media church studio moved. It didn't move far. It literally moved to the office right next door. So we just went we didn't grab the stuff and we hold it 10 to 15 feet down the hallway and in through the next door but we've two and a half times our space. We were getting really cramped in there because we also added a new person. We added Caleb to the team so we're now four full time people kind of into the office space. And so we in a small like. I think I was six seven hundred square feet.

Joanna: It started just with you. Really. Was your personal office.

James: It was just me.

Joanna: You bought it. You rented for yourself and now the team is four full time guys. So that was getting cozy in there.

James: That was just a year ago. That was yeah. There's gonna be space because I wasn't fitting in the home office anymore. And then now it's four full time people. And so yeah we've got a little bit more space now like we're sitting in a bigger office whereas just a couple weeks ago when we were recording we were kind of crammed in and.

Joanna: And it got toasty in there with all the gear.

James: We have a server running and we have all these computers running and you know just warm bodies but now we've got some more space. It's freshly painted the space and so we've got a little bit more room to breathe which is great. And then for you a couple weeks ago you left your full time job and I know.

Joanna: Yeah. Three weeks ago.

James: Doing a bunch of fun things over the past couple weeks. Yeah. Zipping up north and back lots.

Joanna: Yeah. So a few things. I've been speaking a bunch which I love to do which speaking what I mean by that specifically is I've been preaching so Bible, talking about Jesus. Most of it has been not all but most of it has been at camps. And so this is a time of year in Canada where summer School's Out People are going to summer camps and so speaking to their leadership teams is really just a privilege. This camp was huge impact on my own spiritual upbringing. So it's a privilege to do that. Tons and tons of camps lots of that but beyond that I've been working on. I helped an organization launch their podcast a women's group. The podcast shows you've got to check it out is called her influence. I'm I'm not on the podcast but I was behind the scenes helping them get that going figuring out the marketing positioning of that. Like literally just teaching them like this is how you plug the microphone into your laptop all that kind of stuff that they just didn't know. And so it's fun to see them get off the ground and running in the last couple weeks working on another project that's a religious sports thing. I don't know how much I'm allowed to say about that one but I'm working on some videos about how faith and sport can interact together that the things that are values of faith can also be values of sport integrity and teamwork and hard work and honesty and I don't all of those kinds of things. And so it's been a kind of a fun video project. A few other things on the go Maybe we'll talk about that in tomorrow's episode of some stuff I'm building I'd love to actually get some of our listeners feedback as I build some of these new things. It'd be great to get their insight into giving them things that they want, give the people what they want. That's my goal. And yeah. So I've been busy over here but we're sitting in this new office of yours James. I'm pumped for you. Yeah. This is a great space.

James: People can see pictures of it If they go to Visual Media Church on Instagram in the storage section the highlights you can click on. New office 2019. You can see some pictures. Yeah yeah. Look I'm happy with it. I mean it's it's great. We're still in the same small town east of Toronto which means rent is really cheap out here. Yeah.

Joanna: I'm in the downtown. So if I had to I was looking at what it would take to go to like one of those you know collaborative office space or like we work kind of thing. And you know it's a lot of money and.

James: 500 bucks basically just for a membership to be able to go in.

Joanna: 500 bucks just to like feel like you're sitting at Starbucks.

James: And so often you space down where you are is about five to eight times the price it is out here which is just blows my mind how much this would cost downtown. So yeah we're out here and it's great and it's wonderful it's really close to where I live. So yeah I really love it. And yeah. Go on to the visionary church Instagram page and you can kind of you can see some pictures and some video I took of as we were moving in and kind of.

Joanna: And meet some of the guys on your team.

James: And meet some of the guys on the team. We're going to be updating those as we finish putting pictures up and you know hanging some lights in here. We've only been here a couple of days because we just had the long weekend. But yeah it's great.


E105 - Summer Reading List


 Joanna: There's a couple of books that I give to my summer interns every year and I want you to know about them because maybe you want to add them to your summer reading list.

James: Right you gonna give us your summer reading list. I was gonna say something to the effect of I don't read much. Then I realized that people would be confused that I don't know how to read. It's not that I don't know how to read but with two small kids at home.

Joanna: Yeah, you're a dad.

James: It is hard to find time to just sit and read. I am an audiobook listener so I know some of the books you're going to mention. I'll have some opinions on because I've listened to them on audiobook.

Joanna: Oh right on.

James: Which just works into my lifestyle as far as driving to lots of different places throughout the week. It's way easier for me to be able throw on something during that driving time and consume it just in a different way. Why don't you start sharing some of this.

Joanna: And later this summer we'll do the the summer viewing list. We're gonna give some creative ideas later on the summer of some things to watch if you're not a big reader. That's OK or audio listener. That's all right. There's lots of other resources we can learn in so many ways. But here's the two books that I have typically there's so many others. Maybe we'll dive into a fall reading list if you want more book recommends. But the book that I always give to my interns is called Creativity Inc. By Ed Catmull and that's book about the start of Pixar. This guy was the creative lead for many many years and founder co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. He's won Academy Awards in all this kind of stuff. But it's this amazing story of tracing the ups and downs of the creative process of building from the ground up. This amazing creative industry basically that I think a lot of us have been personally connected to and impacted by the work of Pixar and so I think it helps us to read books that aren't just Christian books to read books about creativity and the process of building media that get us to think larger than our own organizations. Obviously Pixar is a huge huge brand and it gets us to think bigger, farther and outside of the church box.

James: Absolutely and it's a fashion that's what I have listened to an audible. It is it's really long it's like 15 or 16 hours I think so it's really long. It is a big book and it is great because the stuff he was working on way back in the 60s and 70s I mean computers were the size of a room and yeah look at what Pixar has become now and it's just amazing like the quality but it was it was all about kind of navigating different team members and pulling people in and out and thinking outside of the box and and.

Joanna: And going back to the book it wasn't working. How can we fix this let's throw this away and start again. It's stuff that applies to all of us.

James: Yeah and he was with the company for four decades really and so it's definitely an inspirational story. And it's good you can pull lots of good nuggets as a creative person,

Joanna: It's common sense.

James: On how to stick with it and there's lots of great principles in there and it's really fastening because I think everyone kind of knows what Pixar is in a scene at least one Pixar movie.

Joanna: Yeah there's the second book I wanted to bring to people that I always give to my interns was a book that actually one of my mentors originally recommended to me. My mentor Jenny Catrin if you know Jenny Catrin she does leadership training all over U.S. in a bit of Canada and so the book is called Strengthening the soul of your leadership by Ruth Haley Barton. And in brief this is the Christian side of things this is where I'm trying to develop my interns their professional skills but also their spiritual emotional mental health. And it's a book that if practiced I think helps us to not burn out in our work helps us to remember keeping the main thing the main thing which is Jesus and really just about some of the spiritual practices of Christian life that I think can be foundational to any work that we do as Christian media and communications people. So it's a book that I would recommend to anyone who is a Christian but particularly if you're working in this kind of work. I think it's something we can neglect. And so we want to strengthen the soul of how we lead.


E104 - Be The Expert


 Joanna: When you're hired to do a job you're the expert on that job. So we want you to be the expert and we're going to talk a little bit about how to do that.

James: Many times as a video person, Jo I've had the request for shoots and it's been to, "Hey we'd love to do it outside but the only time that works is between noon and 2 p.m." and as video and photography person you know that that is one of the worst times to be outside shooting any kind of imagery. Why? The sun is high. You get really bad you know shadows across the face and people are squinting because it's glarey. It's a really bad time to shoot most of the time like anywhere in the world really between 12 and 2 is bad but people have this expectation well you'll just make it work and the reality is.

Joanna: Or they think it's the opposite that it's really a great time.

Jamnes: "It's really great. the sun's right up, it's awesome."

Joanna: "It's so sunny out!"

james: And that's that is that is the time as an expert for you to basically say "no like we should avoid that at all costs. And if we must must shoot you in that time I'm sorry. It needs to be inside where we can control the lighting and make sure that the person on camera looks good because if I go ahead and just back down from that and do as you want you're going to probably be upset with me in the end because you're going to look at the final things like why do I look so bad." Yeah. Or "why does that person they're squinting the whole time it doesn't look great." And so that's where you need with experience. And if you've especially been hired as an expert in any kind of field to always use the knowledge you have and not be afraid to kind of stand your ground that's actually what you've been hired for. And sometimes that's giving an answer or a response that the person you're dealing with isn't actually going to like but you're probably actually saving them from themselves.

Joanna: Yeah. That's it. I mean even in a church staff if you're in a position that's you are the one in charge of whether it's your official title or not if you're the one in charge of communications and media. That doesn't mean you're a know it all. But you have been given the job of being the expert. And so own it and advise people with great advice based on your expertise. And sometimes that means I find this all the time people think an edit will take one hour and it'll take actually a full day to do that little quote unquote little change or yes someone wants to shoot outdoors and you know that it's going to be way too hot or the location they have this oh this beautiful location they want to shoot you know that you won't get any good audio there because it's crazy windy on that I don't know that cliff overlooking the waterfront or it's there's too many sirens going by it's crowded or it's illegal to fly a drone there I don't know whatever it is.

James: All those things you just said are all things I've had happen, Absolutely yeah.

Joanna: Yeah. And the same with I don't know things with like a postcard and someone says oh I saw this picture that I really want to use and you know that that picture is terrible for whatever reason because you're the expert and there are ways that you can kindly not defend yourself. That's not the word I'm looking for. You can advocate for the expertise that you bring because that's why they've hired you. And you know what. At the end of the day trust is built over time. So sometimes that person is not going to go with the expertise that you offered and then it's not an "I told you so" obviously we want to be gracious with people but over time as we as we see the results of that we begin if they took our advice or they didn't. They begin to see the value of our advice and the more we do it the more they trust us.


E103 - Importance Of Writing Things Down


Joanna: As we get more professional as communicators and media people it's great to write things down when we're working on a team. So everybody has agreed expectations. We're gonna talk about that and James and I have some examples of that today.

James: So when you say write things down. Joanna what I hear is get something in contract form and I mean sometimes getting really legal with it kind of gets people scared a little bit but especially as a contractor it's it's often just a way to 1: protect yourself but then also let the client know or the person you're working for in this case the church you're working for that you're also doing things in a very professional manner as well as you're giving them the ability to call you out on something if you're not going to live up to what you promised. And as a contract yours you need to be aware that like I've also heard a million stories of people having just nightmare scenarios with contractors who promise a whole bunch take the cheque and then are never heard from again or deliver mediocre work or bad work so it is both sides of the conversation are probably a little nervous. And I think it's it's good to write it down because it keeps you in check and it keeps the person you're working with in check. And I mean I've never had a project go really bad, that's actually not true. I've had one project and I've mentioned it before when I was in college I did a website for someone who was like it was my wedding planner Website. It went really bad. And what at the end of months and months of back and forth back and forth I end up just having to give the five hundred dollars back and I just wasted a bunch of time. But I also gained I learned a really important lesson which is there should have been a contractor. And from that point onward whenever I did contract work there was a contract involved in it can sometimes be just a few lines on a piece of paper you don't need to have a lawyer draft up something long but it just it mentions the important things to have are some key expectations some key dates and the deliverables and then you know the money involved with it is also important to put in there. But from your standpoint maybe you're talking about like just co-workers working within the same office structure.

Joanna: Things as simple as you know when when someone needs something from communications asking them to fill out a form. That's not just to slow them down it's actually so that everybody on all sides has a record of it. So we've we've done it with Google Forms which is free you can fill it out but there's other companies that build communication request forms. I think you could just use Google Forms it's free. But the idea of having an agreed upon documented expectation on both sides that includes things like we talked about yesterday about the stakeholders versus decision makers you can write their names there who are the stakeholders who's the decision makers what's the due date. And then even then when criticism and feedback comes as it's been a bit of a theme this week on our episodes it's this idea of looking back and saying ha I see I didn't meet expectations on A and B but what they're saying about C actually we did do that. So if they're asking for it to be added like I see it here or there asking for it to be removed. The reason it was there in the first place is because they asked for it and now they're changing their mind which it can happen that people change their mind. But if we don't have anything recorded written down in some documented way and documentation can even be just emails it doesn't have to be super fancy it just you know if you're flying pretty quickly between people on something just so that everybody's clear upfront. The more you write down the less there can be space for confusion or disagreement later and certainly if you're in an environment where you're trying to build trust writing things down makes you look more professional and less scattered. So it can only help.

James: And it gets more and more valuable the bigger and bigger the teams that you're involved with are right? the more it's like the telephone game right the more there are people the more chances there are for confusion and errors to happen as far as expectations or even just times and dates and things like that. So absolutely it's really important and I mean I do that even now just with other stuff that we do here it's always getting a clear answer. I ask a question and I have this with contractors I work with "Hey I like approval for this". They're waiting for a clear like yes that is ok for me before they do anything and that's just so that's in writing. So a month down the line if I've forgotten that I approve that they say well like you wrote back saying it's OK.

Joanna: And that's the classic "As per my previous emails" as in "look I already told you this!"

James: there's a lot of times where we just it's easy sometimes to be like "I'll do that for next week" and you just go and do it and there's just a lot of chances for problems to arise from that kind of operating.

Joanna: Write stuff down. It protects you it helps others. Everyone's on the same page quicker. It's more professional. Try it.


E102 - Stakeholders vs. Decision Makers


Joanna: Yesterday we talked about handling criticism and feedback on projects and I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks in those conversations in a team setting is understanding who are the stakeholders, but who is the decision maker on any changes or feedback that comes in. So let's talk about that a little more today.

Joanna: I think we've all been in rooms where this has happened where you're presenting a video or a magazine piece or whatever it is that you're working on, a new bulletin style and whatever it is some new thing and you're showing it to maybe your whole staff team or showing it to a bunch of key leaders and everyone because you kind of asked for it. Everyone gives criticism and feedback but then it can be very confusing at times when we aren't sure whose feedback is just feedback and whose is actually the weight of. We have to do this we have to change this. Sometimes feedback is helpful and useful sometimes you have three people with three different opinions they all conflict. So how do you know which way to go. And that's where the language that we started using around our church. And it wasn't always perfect that's for sure but try to understand who's a stakeholder Like who is welcomed to, who is invited to give an opinion and a perspective because maybe they have some stake in the project's success but ultimately who the decision maker is. And in our church sometimes that was me as a communications director. And sometimes that was or is the pastor or the leader over that Minister area that we're building the piece for. But it gets really fuzzy right if people have different opinions and criticisms and you don't know which is which is that just an opinion or that's a "I have to now change this in this direction. "

James: Yeah. Classic. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Could be a problem right. Coming at it from purely the contractors perspective where you're always the person submitting the work. I've had it many times on projects where there's four people that are asked to be, Your supposed to submit the work who's I've done a few freelance jobs where it was "Can you submit it to these four people within the company and they're going to decide" and right away. That's red flag and a smarter wiser James should have said who is the final decision maker. I should have asked that in that moment right to know okay who is ultimately the person I should listen to. Because when there's multiple people given that authority sometimes they even feel obligated to have a critique or what's the point of them being there right. So if you're asked hey can you be a decision maker on this video and you just say oh it's fine it's good. Maybe you're like there's probably some fear like maybe I won't be asked to be involved again if I don't at least have some sort of constructive feedback or something like that so they almost give remarks or edits for the sake of getting remarks or edits on something and it's actually not helpful because now you have four people here and they're not all synced up together. They're all conflicting. So you don't know which way a project is going. And so yeah it's really important to define like who are the stakeholders who is the person ultimately that gets to make the final call. If there is you know differing opinions on something.

Joanna: And the best time to do that is before the project gets going.

James: Before you even start, absolutely.

Joanna: We're going to even talk about that tomorrow we talk about writing things down having some agreed expectations amongst a group of people that you work with on a project but ideally that happens before but even if you forgot to talk about it before even when you enter a room and you're presenting something as a draft or a final and maybe it's not final I guess it's had draft mode for feedback and criticism then you can just say in the room let's state right off the top, these people in the room are the stakeholders as in they're invited to give voice and opinion and this person though is going to be the final decision maker on which feedback gets implemented and changed.

James: And if you're in a church that might be if you're a small church especially that might be the same person all the time for everything that's but as a team grows it might change based on which ministry area which project you're working on. So it is important to constantly define and redefine on each project what that's going to be if you're doing something for worship and you're doing something for kids. That whole approval process might change so it's important for you to really get a grasp of "okay. Who is the person that gets to make the call on this?" because it's just important for you to be able do one knock at super frustrated and be able to meet that person's expectations but also just to wrap projects up in a timely manner. You don't want them dragging on.

Joanna: Yeah. Well and it's also a place where you don't have to be if we're not afraid of feedback that maybe it's something you want to integrate like if I don't know if it's if it's a major, not an every tiny thing but if it's like a major new ministry that you're opening up for families then it could make sense to have a few key stakeholders not final decision makers but stakeholders giving voice and feedback. Who are the families who you're trying to reach with this communication piece, this media piece you don't need 100 voices maybe just one or two who you would trust and respect to give some feedback. They're not going to finally make a decision that's probably you or the pastor, the boss but you get the idea of what we're saying we hope that helps you giving some language to how you do your work in teams who you're less frustrated and you know which way to go stakeholders vs. decision makers.


E101 - Handling Feedback and Criticism


Joanna: Have you ever been criticized? Today we're gonna talk about how to handle criticism and feedback on projects.

James: All right Jo as you know I had a job a few years ago and I'm not going to mention it by name but essentially I had this job creating video for someone who was almost a billionaire. A person like to qualify themselves as a billionaire but they were they were close but they're doing all right. Anyways whenever I would submit video projects it would be hours and hours of extreme criticism. Now I can't mentioned the words that were used most often.

Joanna: Bad words.

James: And I'm not and I'm not I'm also not exaggerating when I say hours of criticism of just being told the work is this and this and this and like going frame by frame like clicking the arrow button in quick time going frame by frame reviewing whether or not I should have cut out someone's awkward to look off in the distance there and there. So when it comes to criticism I feel like I got desensitized very early on and I learned that sometimes it's okay to listen to it and even if you don't agree. So I would I would be often very proud of the work that I submitted that would get kind of shredded. But I learned that I was really happy with it. But at the end of the day I just had to meet this person's expectation rather than my own. And I built up a little bit of a thick skin too. If someone criticized the work or the art that I made that I had to kind of receive it and understand the lens that it was coming from and not just through my own lens and that's that's initially kind of what I learned is that different people will look at work differently and I know that you've gone through in the past some projects where you've worked really hard on something and it hasn't been received well and you kind of have to go take two steps back. So why don't you talk about them.

Joanna: Yeah I mean I there's this quote from Carl Lentz whatever whatever we all love or don't love that, I really like Carlin's and something that he said is you know we at Hillsong New York we welcome criticism because if they're right we can change and if we still disagree after hearing it, it just affirms who we are and that we're going in the direction we really wanted to go. And so when it comes to projects it obviously depends who's in charge, who's got the final say we're gonna talk more about that tomorrow about defining roles within a project. If all the voices and opinions and how to figure out who's gonna make the final say. We'll talk about that tomorrow. But this idea of criticism of feedback it doesn't have to be bad. I think that's where we have to be careful as creative professionals to not take it personally. And there's a maturity that comes with that. I think in some ways like you've got that beaten out of you. But I also think so in some ways it's just a maturing that comes from experience where you begin to separate yourself a little more from your work. And it does not define your value and identity and that. So therefore like we can welcome criticism because sometimes things do need to change and sometimes maybe we still disagree but that's where it comes down to who's going to make the final call on the final edit of that video or the final way that that wording goes on the poster or whatever it.

James: And you have to understand what criticism is to is a criticism that you're not talented at what you do or is a criticism that the the style that you created doesn't match what someone is looking for. Right. Because there is there's very different types of criticism someone can say that a poster you designed or you know something that you wrote wasn't very good. Know it might be just more that it's the style rather than hey you're actually not good at writing it's more that that just doesn't match you know what we're looking for for this project right.

Joanna: Yeah. It's that every criticism I think is an opportunity. I certainly as Christians to be humble and receive feedback. But also it's a chance to learn and to grow and that learning and growing might be an understanding of oh wow like we have such different tastes. Perhaps this working with this person in the long term maybe isn't going to be the right direction for either of us like we're not a good fit for one another. And that's part of you know receiving criticism and feedback and having less emotion and attached, stepping back a little and saying you know if they want to go in this direction and they're the decision maker and I want to go in this section you know ultimately if they're the one in charge it's going to be their way. But you know it allows us to receive and consider if we want to in the long term continue working on projects with that person but that doesn't in it of itself have to be that like we need critique on our work that is how we get better and that's what we want to look at it.

James: And it's also like understanding like the outlet to write about. Let me speak from the video side of things. I often see a lot of people doing video work for churches and they get frustrated because what they are trying to do is either very edgy or very forward thinking or very current and modern. As you know whether it's graphics or you know everything involved with it it just might be too much. And churches can tend to be a little more conservative so they're getting fresher. They want to push for themselves the envelope with the church that they're working for isn't quite there yet. And so it's understanding that maybe you need to dial back kind of your own expectations and find another outlet even if it's just personal projects like I see a lot of people doing that kind of stuff on their you know their vacation video that they made or just personal films that they've made or their small side projects where they can really push the envelope and then dial it back for their church client or their church Job.

Joanna: Well it makes me think of a guy I interviewed on my other podcast which is called Word Made Digital and on that podcast I interviewed a guy named his his name online is Jesse driftwood. He's an Instagram are primarily and basically he's made these over-the-top Instagram Stories he's gorgeous beautiful videos that after 24 hours disappear and it was the point of where he started that from is because he wanted a creative outlet for his own style outside of his client work. And so there's a recognition that when you're working for a client or a boss or a church there is feedback and criticism that's going to come that's going to help us fit within the culture that we're working in. But then on the side and your own stuff you can get the chance to kind of do your own creative thing and for him that's now grown into his fulltime job. So that stuff he did on the side as a creative outlet has become his full time work because of course as will probably happen when you're working on projects for your own self and for your own passions. It will often grow and so criticism can lead us to new outlets. Criticism can lead us to a better skill level and they can affirm who we are where we're going and why we want to get there.  


E100 - What's Ahead


James: All right Joe. Today is episode 100.

Joanna: Woah!

James: That means we've been doing this for 20 weeks.

Joanna: It's a long time.

James: Straight.

Joanna: Yeah it's been great.

James: I mean we weren't sure when we were going to start if we were able to do it every single day for 20 weeks straight it was kind of a challenge right. Like can we pull this off Can we record every single day for 20 weeks straight. And I mean we've done it so far. I mean we're still planning on doing it more hours.

Joanna: And there's still more and more topics. The amazing thing is to 100 episodes in and there's so many more things to talk about to learn together. That's the fun thing about church communications there's always more to learn.

James: And that definitely just speaks to that it's such a complicated vast field right?

Joanna: Yes.

James: It's a job it's a career that isn't narrow focused it's very broad. Like there's anything digital anything communications related all fallen to the church these days. And I think that just speaks to how much we need to continue to talk about it as church communicators because it's very easy for people to feel like they're lost or feel like they're overwhelmed because they're not necessarily versed in one specific area. And the reality is they're now required to. But I mean we've we've gone through some great stuff over the past 20 weeks like we've talked about video we've talked about digital media. We've talked about print. We've talked about Mac vs. P.C. vs. Chromebook.

Joanna: We've gone about all the gear stuff.

James: A lot of different things. Absolutely. Talked about gear stuff and what we want to start to ask is What do you want to hear more from us. I mean we've started tossing around idea.

Joanna: Give the people what they want James.

James: Absolutely. Absolutely. The people they want and I mean we are going to definitely react to what people send to us. So if you're sitting there saying well I really would love to hear more about topic "A" then send us a message right now through the Web site or through our Instagram thefuture.church on Instagram. Send us a message right now and and tell us what you want to hear more of. We've been tossing out ideas about being more interactive and maybe do we want to record some videos or do we want it or do we want to talk about specific stories or should we start interviewing some people as well like bring on a guest for an entire week. So we're going to talk about church Web sites. Let's bring on an expert and then just hammer them with questions for an entire week and someone who is really knee deep in it every single day.

Joanna: And someone who does different stuff than you and I do.

James: Absolutely. We want to know what people want. We have a core group of listeners that are listening to us so we need to know what you're feeling and what you need to hear more of and what you would really find valuable. And we'll do it like we have a lot of contacts in the church world. And for me I know it's just more about okay. What direction do we need to go next. I'd rather know what people want rather than I'm going to decide what to bring in.

Joanna: Yeah. Ultimately it's all about we want to help you. And so is there something that we've talked about the like Oh you didn't say enough about that like we need more or I have three follow up questions from that episode because or you know you talk you talk about churches that are not the same size as my church. I wish you'd talk more about big churches or I'd wish you'd talk more about smaller churches or whatever. Or what do we do more in traditional churches what do we do more in a modern. I don't know whatever. What about church plants like all that kind of stuff. There's so many things we could talk about we'd love to get a sense from you and I'd love to know too. What's your habit of listening? We can see some of it in the stats and the data we have on you, we are watching you. But are you kind of a binge or like you want to you want to like go through just 10 episodes as you drive to work in the morning maybe a 30 minute drive so you're listening to a bunch episodes in a row. Are you catching it every morning as part of a routine to try to get encouragement and inspiration for the day. Are you picking and choosing like you're just you're going to listen to it based on what the title says the topic is about that day. We'd love to know how you're interacting with the podcast so that we can continue to bring content to you in a way that's helpful to you.

James: And I have one more request and that is right episode 100 now. And what we'd like people to do is start letting other people know about us like, if you're in a Facebook group. We are we're still so new. But we've noticed we've started to notice some people say especially when there's questions about where do I find more information on a topic. Well we would love for you to do a start you know linking to our podcast in some of these Facebook groups like let other people know especially if it's a topic we've already covered. Let other people know about it that's really going to help us out. And I mean we've tried not to be that way like you know go on and give us a five star review on tunes. You can always do that we would love it. But yeah, start letting other people know

Joanna: It helps other people find it. The reviews are not just so we feel good about ourselves it actually helps people find the show. So if you think this is helpful and change something, like I had someone reach out to me who said that in their denomination they'd sat in a day or two of meetings about communications with some sort of person expert they didn't say who it was. I don't want to know who it was but. They said listening to our podcast, a few of our episodes was more helpful than a few days in that content. So that was on one level. Unfortunate that they didn't get great content out of whatever that conference had been but also really encouraging to us that we are providing real added value to you. So if it's adding value to you we want you to tell other people.

James: Yeah we'd really appreciate it. Especially, Yeah I'm a big believer in the Facebook groups. So some of them have a rather large and so when people are looking for advice. That's what we're trying to do here is we're trying to give out basically just free advice and just learnings from Joanna's nine years in the church and me doing media for churches for almost a decade now. And so yeah, and also huge thanks to people that are already doing it.

Joanna: Thank you so much

James: We have a bunch of people that I've been willing to share already.

Joanna: Loyal from day one.

James: Loyal from Day 1.

Joanna: Episode 1.

James: Absolutely so huge shout out to those people and so you know here's to the next 100.

Joanna: Let's do it.


E099 - New Work


James: All right Jo. Today we're gonna be talking about some exciting new news going on in your life and in your career. So let's chitchat about it. I'm gonna ask you some questions and I think it's gonna be some good insight for other people doing church communications and some of the other things that you can get involved in outside of it.

James: All right Jo why don't you share a little bit of what's going on with you.

Joanna: Yeah. Well I have officially resigned from the church that I work at the church that we go to.

James: After how long?

Joanna: I've served at this church on staff for nine years. I was at another church two years previous to that. And then as a high school student I was also at this church that I am now resigned from so overall it's kind of been like a 20 year journey.

James: But nine years in the same, basically the same position.

Joanna: A few different roles

James: The position has changed. But nine years at any job I think I was thinking about just this morning as we were talking beforehand and I think the longest I've been at any one job is two and a half years. So you've got that basically times four. Which is impressive to have done to been through all those ups and downs and those weaving and winding of the church growing.

Joanna: Yeah we've seen so much I mean that's that when you stay for nine years in one church and certainly a church like ours it's grown exponentially in nine years. We were one location in one service and now we're four locations and I don't know how many sorta six seven eight services whatever it is. So much has happened so much change. And to be part of that change and to be part of building a culture it's really been a huge privilege. But ultimately after nine years I just feel that it's time for me to try some new things.

James: Absolutely and change isn't bad right?

Joanna: no.

James: To do something different and try new things is what keeps us refreshed and excited and I mean that that's good and that's healthy right.

Joanna: And it's bittersweet of course I love this place and the great thing is for me is that I don't actually have to leave the church. I'm not going to go take another full time church job somewhere else that wasn't the point of my resignation. I actually want to grow some of my own work. Ultimately my heart is actually I want to help more churches. And so that's one of the reasons why we do this podcast. We're trying to help as many churches as we can and just recognizing that with a lot of the work that I've been doing kind of on the side it became more and more that I had to really choose like was I able to continue with this 40 or 50 hours a week in my local church while also doing all these other things that have begun to grow. And so I'm hoping that I can continue to serve my church and many other churches through all the things that I've learned the things we're working on together and a bunch of other projects.

James: So like one you're still doing this podcast. Which is great. You also have another podcast maybe share a little bit about that.

Joanna: Yeah. So there are the other podcasts it is called Word made digital to play off of Word made flesh like the Word became flesh and moved in among us so what do we do in the digital age when the word becomes digital so that is long form podcast. It's once a week it's interviews with creatives and communicators and it's some kind of fun and interesting people on there from people who are like YouTube or you know vlogger types to people who are upfront communicators you may know the name of who preach all over the world.

James: And me.

Joanna: And you James Adam.

James: In the first season.

Joanna: That's it. Yeah.

James: Before we were even doing this podcast.

Joanna: Yeah right. That was last last year sort of that.

James: A year ago you interviewed Yeah. About what VMC what it was and Stokhub and things like that

YeahH. So I do that. I'm on a TV show in Canada. I'm on a women's talk show on that show It's some of it's kind of like the view a Christian views so women sitting around on a couch doing interviews and conversation and then on that show I do a Bible teaching segment which is a real privilege. I'm growing my speaking ministry so. So I talk in two directions one, I do like traditional preaching Bible teaching and the other side would be more like what we're talking about on future church you know it's communications and helping people understand how to communicate the best news in the world.

James: And doing some consulting type stuff that I know you're starting to do that more. There's lots of people who I've reached out to you. Hey we really need help or some guidance can you come in and speak to us.

Joanna: Yeah well one of the projects I'm really excited about is if you know Danielle Strickland if you've heard of her if not she's a a world speaker. She you know she's on one day she might be speaking in front of you know 30000 people in a stadium and then the next week she might be found in a refugee camp in the Middle East you know working with women and helping to develop them there. So she's really kind of diverse and interesting career but I'm coming alongside her and her world of ministry, to work on some projects to do with discipleship and digital tools for discipleship. So excited about that.

James: Well awesome like I mean I'm definitely happy for you and I know you're excited about just being able to change up what your daily routine is and I think that's that is great. And I mean it's exciting to see you working on these other projects and just getting really excited about them. Yeah. You know starting to dive into those. with every single day.

Joanna: Yeah that's it. Here we go!

James: Rather than just all your weekends and all your evenings.

Joanna: I know I'm losing my health benefits but I. I hope I will be healthy for a long time for that. But no it's been the right. It's been the right decision on easy decision. I do love our church so much but it's just time to try something new and serve more churches.

James: So if people don't already follow you which they should where can they find you on Instagram.

Joanna: Instagram is Joanna LaFleur and Joannalafleur.com.

James: Spell LaFleur because I've said it wrong before French name LaFleur means the flower.

Joanna: So my name is J O A N NA L A F L E U R.

James: There we go. Thanks Jo.


E098 - Featuring Smaller Ministries


Joanna: In one of our earliest episodes we talked about what I call scope. That's the idea of how to prioritize what the scope of something is and how to communicate that at different levels of importance in the church. And so today we're going to talk about how to feature smaller ministries that maybe don't get as much upfront exposure.

James: All right Jo you just intro'd the idea of scope. And so what I want you to do is just dive in and explain those different levels and kind of you know go through their meaning and their importance to us, for us.

Joanna: Yeah. We've talked about this before which is one of the key strategies that we developed in our church that really changed the game for us a bunch of years ago basically scope "A" scale "B" scope "C" it's not about importance it's about scope or how many people in the church it affects what is the scope of that project that ministry that event so scope "A" is something that 80 percent or more of the community could or would be a part of. Obviously something like Christmas and Easter a major sermon series a major annual carnival event in the community want everyone to be involved in scope "B" it would be something like maybe 50 percent or so of people could or would or should be involved. Great example of that would be maybe something to celebrate volunteers or could be something that is just for men or just for women, yeah, literally 50 percent. Yeah scope "C" is a smaller things that because of the nature of an age and stage of ministry like you can only come to this thing if you're a high school student.

James: Only for young adults.

Joanna: Or maybe it's something for for privacy reasons it's a group for grief. And so you can only come to this group if you're going through a grieving situation. And so those are scope "C" again. That doesn't mean that they're less valuable, of course high school ministry is a huge and significant value to to a church ministry and caring for people in grief is very important. But by nature of it the scope is Level "C" because not everyone can participate. So that affects where and how we communicate things. You know that that would either be on, you know everybody wants their thing talked about from the front from the pastor preaching the announcements but that isn't the place for a lot of that scope "B" and "C" stuff to happen. There's lots of other great ways to communicate. So a question that I had coming out of a conference I was just at was "OK so we we think we're beginning to understand stand scope". I feel like I'll continue to talk about that on this podcast over and over because it's just a kind of a core thing about how I have a philosophy of communications. But what about those smaller ministries?Like what about the thing about the grief group or what about a program for junior high students like how do we talk about that? And so the question in the room at the conference that I was doing they asked and was a great question what about how do we feature those and I think there's a number of ways you can do it. One of them is just simply for fairness quote unquote. You can actually just have a schedule that rotates. So we're going to always feature a scope "C" ministry or event every week in how we communicate and that is just going to be a list that rotate. So if there's 20 of those ministries in your church you just like every 20 weeks they get talked about and then it allows some level of exposure for a grief group at the church wide level even though most people aren't able or wanting to participate in it. It just kind of keeps that in front of people. Again I think there's ways that you can do that even in prayer for example whether maybe you pray if congregational through different minister areas are and it's another thing to consider in terms of stories and illustrations that come from the front of in the preaching maybe there's a story that comes out of those ministries that there's something going on in the high school ministry that's an inspiring story of course not everyone can come to high school ministry but it's a way to connect the community and keep it up and in front of people's minds. And of course the last thing I would say is just social media tell the stories of these smaller ministries through the testimonies of impact and you can do that through a picture and a paragraph of text on social media.


E097 - Print to Digital


James: All right Jo there's still a lot of churches out there talking about how do I move from traditional to digital and today we're going to talk about it.

James: All right so Jo I've noticed in some Facebook groups recently some people really asking you know my church has is very traditional we've been doing a lot of printed bulletins we've just got a projector and basically asking for help like how do I convince people and how do I personally start moving my communications and media strategy away from the traditional side of things and more into the digital world. And that is a big leap. And I can understand the the hesitation the nervousness maybe even the fear about it because it's a whole new world. And it's also transitioning not only yourself but also your pastor and your congregation. All have to kind of get used to this big change but it is a change that is happening everywhere in the world. Yeah. And that's going to happen in your church if it hasn't happened already.

Joanna: Well that's it. I think that the greater risk is in not changing the greater risk is actually if you say we're not going to respond in a meaningful way to the digital culture that we live in. That everyone is checking out a restaurant on their phone before they go to that restaurant. Everyone is checking Instagram for the latest news on. You know just even in our town where we just we just won the national championship or the I guess the world's stuff for NBA Raptors is a big party around Toronto. And people were checking social media for the news on what was going on is like two million people flooded the city. The NBA never seen anything like it. How many people came out in Toronto to celebrate this win. And so but people were checking on the news and where to go and where to check it out on social media. They weren't going to traditional news sources of radio and television and so all to say that change has happened so the risk is if we don't go with it. But I think the big thing that I've learned in all of my years of doing stuff like this and the things I've learned from my own mistakes too is around shepherding people. It's about people right. We care about people and we're not trying to push changes through that hurt and frustrate needlessly. We want to lead people in the way that they need to go in the right way forward. And so the simplest thing that I would recommend with that to do with the transition from print to digital is that for a while you have to do both for everything. So for a while there's going to be the printed bulletin that you do and the exact same content you're going to have on your Web site or on your social media platforms. And I think of that with with lots of other things around the church that are transitioning. Like for example signing up for an event for a while it makes sense to have not just a printed form where people fill out maybe a permission slip for their kids or other ways that you have to fill out and register for an activity in the church in a paper form and at the same time offer a digital way to do the exact same thing and then over time as people get used to and see how the digital way is easier it's more convenient they can do it from their house they don't even need to come into the church with it. As that transition happens as they realize that they can find all the information that used to be in print on digital platforms they begin to be to be less reliant it's literally like a weaning process.

James: Yeah. And I think it's important to not just flip a switch one day I think it's also a signal and and talk about it. So if you let's let's use the example of a bulletin or something like that I think it's important to one announce it but then to put in for several months in the bulletin like as of a certain day we're going to be moving towards digital. You have any questions. Here's how to contact. So I think it's important to get that message slowly out so it's not just one day it's gone and where what happened it's more. Everyone knows it's coming. Like if you give people a heads up on change it allows it to sink in and for people to get used to it before it's even happened. And then it can happen without any any sort of like it. You don't want to be a jarring experience or all of a sudden you just one day it's gone and yes there's a lot of questions.

Joanna: Yeah you better just shut up and like it.

James: Exactly and that's and that's a harsh way to deal with it as opposed to letting people know and even giving people reasons why like it's going to help us. And I think people can get on board with what's happening people get on board with change if they feel like they're being a part of it not dragged into it.

Joanna: Yeah. And helping people understand the digital world we live in. You know as I'm saying I'm using silly examples from the NBA because it's just fresh in my mind because it's just been like a big deal in our city right now with all this stuff going on with the Raptors. But on top of that like we're seeing that transition can happen when people understand the new reality and talk about how much money it's going to save and talk about that the world lives online. You know whatever it is whatever needs to be in your own church but have some real reasons behind what you're doing and then it will help people move along with you. And of course no matter what there will be people who don't like change. Well the thing about changes it makes everybody feel like a beginner makes people feel we don't like being beginners we want to be experts at things. So we used to know where to find information. And now we feel like we don't know where to find information anymore which is why if we do do the the traditional print and the digital at the same time for a while and then slowly fade away the printed content it helps people to make that transition and not feel lost. You guys have any questions about this kind of stuff. What's going on in your own church. We'd love to know how we can help you make that transition to digital.