Archives for category: communication

As Eugene Cho commented recently, it’s altogether too easy to act like a jerk in the name of “contending” for the Gospel.

I think Rob Bell’s characterization of broader American culture is unfortunately true of the church many times as well: “There is this low-grade boiling rage that many people carry around with them everywhere they go.”

[Ironic edit: The aforementioned Rob Bell has become a trending topic on Twitter because of a group of people who are adamantly opposed to him, filled with the typical name-calling, gnashing of teeth, and end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it hysterics typical to such trending topics.]

Apologies for sounding like a stereotypical, institution-suspicious Xer when I say this (but totally not apologizing for still nerding out over The Breakfast Club, as seen in the photo above!), but I am growing weary of the infighting in my denomination. I think we could play a pretty mean game of church insider-bingo with the vocab being thrown around: tall steeple churches, white papers, open letters, angry responses, clarification letters… BINGO!

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Yesterday, our family made a trip out to Walmart.

We don’t usually shop there, but my wife needed to pick up some supplies that we were pretty sure we could only get there.

While we were leaving the fabric section, an employee engaged me in a game of “cross-race blindness.” Our conversation went something like this:

Employee: Hey, Jackie Chan!

Me: (Blank stare)

Employee: Oh… didn’t I see you last week?  Remember when I told you that you looked just like Jackie Chan?

Me: No, that was someone else. I wasn’t here last week.

Employee: Oh… but you look just like Jackie Chan, too! Right?!

Me: No, I don’t. Not at all.

As we left the area, I could see the employee give another employee an astonished look, as if she couldn’t believe that I could not see my own striking resemblance to Jackie Chan.

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Toward the end of 2010, a couple of high profile corporate logo redesigns made the social media rounds.

The Gap unveiled a strange new logo to pretty much universal jeers. See for yourself below (the original on the left, the updated on the right):

While one can make the argument that any publicity (even when extremely negative or hostile in tone) is good publicity, I’m not sure what they were trying to communicate with their new logo.  Maybe something like, “We know what Web 2.0 is“?

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Race, Politics, Family

Back in October, we went to see Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company’s production of Yellow Face, by David Henry Hwang — the Tony-award winning playwright behind M. Butterfly.

I’m a bit of a cultural Philistine, so I don’t make any claims to understand much about theater, but I really enjoyed this performance. Yellow Face is a semi-autobiographical, postmodern take on race, identity, family and artistic integrity. You can read a bit more from Mo’olelo here.

I appreciated David Henry Hwang’s use of humor throughout the play, given the intensely personal nature of the ground he was covering. Discussions about race, politics, family, art, etc. can quickly become glum affairs. The quick pace of the dialogue, the multimedia backdrop (see a few photos here), and the interweaving of fact and fiction held my attention throughout.

Yellow Face raises many important questions: How much of our identity (our “face”) do we choose? How do we understand race and identity in our ever-changing culture? Do our parents’ dreams eventually become ours?

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After about a year, I finally finished reading Love is a Mixtape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield.

[An aside: Have I told you how much I love our local library? Seriously, rediscovering the library last year has been such a source of joy for me. Being able to renew Love is a Mixtape many, many times online, discovering obscure music — Derek Bailey, anyone? — and choosing new books with my daughter… the list goes on and on. My friend Richard inspires me through his work as a librarian to dream of better ways of being a church: giving ourselves away for the sake of the community, becoming a trusted resource, finding ways to engage people of all ages…]

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The Idea Camp, which has just launched a new site today!

On September 27-28, 2010, The Idea Camp will be hosting an important conversation about sex, the church, the world, and ideas for good.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m uncomfortable talking about this topic. However, it is simply too important for us, as the church, to look the other way.

I love the heart behind #ICSEX (the Twitter hashtag for this Idea Camp):

The issues related to human sexuality are too often misunderstood, ignored, or avoided in far too many churches. The Idea Camp will facilitate a safe and transparent environment of learning, sharing of insights from the respective fields of focus, and practical insights and examples of holistic care. As a faith-based conference, there will be an on-going focus on the importance of living as God’s loving expressions of grace and hope to the world through tangible acts of care in this area.

During the weeks leading up to #ICSEX, different bloggers will be hosting conversations around a topic each week.  The first week has already wrapped up, and there have been many honest, challenging reflections already.  Upcoming topics will include sexual abuse, gender, and slavery.  I’m looking forward to hosting one of these discussions here at headsparks* in September.

Being part of The Idea Camp tribe has been so life-giving to me: nowhere else have I found the friendship, collaboration, and inspiration I have found from this diverse group of like-minded people.  This time, what happens in Vegas could transform the church and change the world!

One of the threads I saw running throughout The Ideation Conference (you can find other reflections here) was the importance of good storytelling.

Many (most?) nonprofits struggle to raise awareness for their work, find donors and raise support.  From organizations such as Invisible ChildrenOne Day’s Wagescharity: water, and Nuru International, it is clear that communications is not a nice touch to throw on at the end if your organization has time, but a crucial part of the work itself.

Stories that grip people’s hearts will naturally lead to participation and contribution.  And telling those stories requires a willingness to invest.

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Telling Effective Stories

charity: water consistently produces high-quality videos to communicate not only what they do, but why they do it.  Here is a recent example:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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This brilliant motiongraphic video from Nuru International was produced in-house and explains simply some of the complexities of their work:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Tell Your Story

Now, most of our organizations are not well-connected enough to have the director of Hotel Rwanda direct and Jennifer Connelly star in a promotional video pro bono for us, but similar principles can guide even the smallest teams. If you were to sit down with a friend, how would you answer the following questions in a compelling way:

Why do you believe in your work? Why should your friends & family?

One of the speakers at The Ideation mentioned that, if you can’t get your immediate family behind your idea, then maybe you need to re-think things a bit.

Via marketing maven and all-around social networking guru @decart, here are some useful tips on creating a hook for your story and engaging your members.

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Invest In Your Creatives

Among both charity: water and Invisible Children’s first hires were their creative teams (or, at the beginning, creative person).  As charity: saw the need for telling their story through videos, their creative took on the task of learning how to edit video, and they grew from that point.

At The Ideation, I met and/or connected via Twitter with many talented videographers, graphic designers and organizational consultants (as well as in-house creatives) who passionately care about people and finding ways to create a better world.  If your organization does not have the capability to produce creative content on your own, there are many who can help you out (at a reasonable cost).

In any case, organizations must be willing not only to invest financially in communicating their stories, but also in time, imagination and hard work.