Category Archives: blogging

The Dip and Making Changes

A few years ago I read The Dip, by Seth Godin. He’s a bestselling author of marketing and motivational books, and I find his work interesting. For the most part, his ideas are common sense things we already know but periodically need to be reminded of by good writers.

“The Dip” is a “little book that teaches you when to quit and when to stick.” I bring this up not because I’m quitting this blog.

Goodness no.

I’m moving it to a new location. And merging it (mergers can be good, yes?) I’m making it part of my Adunate business blog in order to be more efficient with my time and make best use of a larger readership.

New Location

So check it out at adunate.com/blog/ under the Communicating Christ category. Bookmark the site. Read and comment often! And take time to check out the other categories as well.

God’s blessings!

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Pausing for a Breath

I regularly read Penelope Trunk, a career-advice columnist with the Boston Globe and author of the Brazen Careerist. While her subject matter is sometimes off the wall and her manner of delivery is even more so, I still find her informative, educational and applicable.

PT, as she’s often referred to by her blog followers, recently wrote on the idea of the pause. She wrote in regards to public speaking and how a pause adds impact to the important things a speaker has to say.

Here’s an example:

You’re listening to a speaker fire away, non-stop, on, and on, and on. He doesn’t give you time to replenish oxygen let alone absorb what’s being said. In a more effective delivery, a speaker would briefly pause after specific points during his speech. He would give his audience opportunity to laugh at his jokes, feel the emphasis of what’s important, or collect their thoughts.

The same can be said for our writing
The long, drawn out paragraph is like the rambling, non-stop speaker. There’s a major difference, however. The speaker, at least, gets a start with his message before loosing his audience. The writer, on the other hand, loses his audience before his first words are ever read.

Why?

Because we, the audience, are automatically scared away by big blocks of written text. In today’s world of blogging, twittering and news articles, this is magnified all the more.

“I encourage people to pause in their writing,” wrote an instructor, who commented on PT’s blog. “I suggest that they write paragraphs of two or three sentences. This may not be what you learned in school, but it works. A paragraph break in a written document is like a pause in a conversation.”

Pay attention to the writing style of quality newspapers. Take note of well-written blogs. Learn what people are reading today and keep that form in mind as you write your message of Christ.


Politics from the Pulpit?

I’m a writer, not a preacher, so I can’t authorize what comes from the pulpit. But “Politics from the Church Newsletter” just doesn’t have the ring to it, and as we all know, it’s all in the headline.

No matter. Whether it’s from the pulpit or the newsletter, the same thought applies: Politics are a no-no.

As we approach this autumn’s political firestorm, it’s important to remember the tax-exempt status of churches, religious organizations and ministers. This “favorable treatment,” as the IRS refers to the special tax laws applied to non-profit organizations, does come with restrictions.

What does this mean?
Well, if your organization feels compelled to communicate a political endorsement, think again.

By law, Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations are prohibited in becoming directly or indirectly involved in campaigns of political candidates. Like all laws, this has become subject to interpretation, whether you’re preaching from the pulpit, publishing a newsletter or hosting a speaker.

Interpretations or not, apparently the IRS doesn’t overlook the law.

In Pasadena, CA., an Episcopal church nearly lost its non-profit status because of a stance on the Iraq War. In Minnesota, a suburban church came under scrutiny when it invited a candidate to speak on its premises.

So why take the chance? Why disobey the law? Our nation was founded on the ideals of separation of church and state. That includes us too.

“Render unto Caesar…” Luke 20:25.


No Shop Talk

As a web designer, I frequently peruse online forums to further my knowledge. And as one of the “older set” (meaning IT definitions were not the first words from my mouth), I sometimes have problems understanding the language.

Like, what is this?

CSS is a stylesheet format for HTML, XHTML, and XML, including SVG and XUL, endorsed by the W3C, which facilitates the ability to separate document content from document presentation in a format universal to all browsers.”

Huh?

Why not simply say, “Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a web design language used to format the layout of a web page. It’s endorsed by the World Wide Web Consortium.”

KISS. Keep it simple (sweetie). No shop talk.

So, what about our faith language? Do we mistakenly assume all readers are equally as far in their spiritual journey? Does our faith writing also cause people to say, “huh?”

Assume zero faith knowledge
Much of our writing today is for the web. Our audience potential is endless! We should assume that some, if not many, of our readers know nothing of Christ. They may not even fully understand the English language, let alone our faith language. It must be simple.

Simple language is a must for our church members as well. People today have little time and our styles of reading have changed. Succinct, direct and uncomplicated are key.

Avoid jargon
Theological words such as “sovereign, justification, repentence, witness” and “sin” are shop talk to the believer but tech language to someone else. They carry different meanings to different people. Use them with care.

Avoid clichéd phrases
As Christians, we have a tendency to include the full law and gospel message in a single sentence, no matter what the topic. Or, we refer to Christ with a long string of names, just to be sure we’ve covered all his deities.

“With the certain hope of our Almighty Father’s love and guidance…”

Huh? It’s hard to read and too much to comprehend. It loses it’s meaning.

Why not simply say, “With God’s help…”

To Be or Not To Be: No Passive Voice!

shakespeareThis may be a noble question for Shakespeare but not for newsletters!

The passive voice, often written with a “to be” verb, is great for business, science and other mundane prose. For the quick and informative newsletter, however, it is flat and confusing.

What makes a sentence passive rather than active?

Grammatically speaking, passive voice eliminates the subject and emphasizes the receiver. For example: “The book will be read to the children.”

How boring! How confusing! Who is doing the reading?

Let’s give this sentence some interest and emotion. Let’s give it a subject! Let’s write: “The father will read the book to his children.”

Technically, the passive voice is not incorrect or without purpose—we just use it far too often. Check your newsletter articles. Vary your sentence structure and keep the passive voice to a minimum.

Leave the “to be’s” for Shakespeare!

This posting is taken from the Reaching Readability newsletter by Adunate Word & Design (who, by the way, is me!)


Church Design Matters

Church design matters…at least hundreds at the HOW Design Conference thought so.

In a recent posting in Church Marketing Sucks, guest blogger Michael Buckingham writes of his exciting opportunity to present a church marketing and design topic at the HOW Design Conference. For those of you unfamiliar to the industry, HOW is a leader in graphic design publications and conferences. It’s not exactly the conference you’d expect to host a church-related topic.

Buckingham writes that he anticipated “maybe a half-dozen people” to show up for his portion of the conference. Instead it was standing room only. And not only did people come, they discussed, asked questions and stayed afterward.

How exciting is that?!

This is an awesome affirmation of God’s hand at work. It’s great to see people recognizing the need for quality graphic design in church communications. And it’s fantastic to know we can learn from what normally is an extremely secular industry and apply it to our spiritual mission.

God works in wondrous ways!

Blogging: Cyber-Savvy Outreach

Ah, the world demands so much from churches, eh?

You’ve published a website and are feeling somewhat caught up with modern technology. But wait, a website is now so…well, not quite passé, but let’s just say…expected. As a church, what could you now be doing to reach out with the message of Christ?

Blogging

Blogging is one of the latest social phenomena for connecting people, along with MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and other ever-evolving online communities. Trying to keep up with technology can leave us feeling lost and out of date. But before you scoff blogging off as just another distraction from the one needful thing—God’s Word—take a moment to learn how easily it can spread God’s message faster and farther than ever before.

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