Every church planter would love a magic book with secret potions for how to plant a church. But that doesn’t exist.
How about this though, wouldn’t it be great to be heard? After all, who can plant a church if you can’t get people to listen.
If you’re the kind of leader who is NOT interested in being tuned out, read on. There is practical help on the way to help you get heard like 3 great leaders. (Spoiler Alert: No magic potions below.)
First, let’s start with you. You’re a gifted, called, compelled leader in the throws of your church plant. You have some great ideas for how to plant a church and a growing group of people following your lead, excited to be discipled and make disciples. But there’s only one of you at the moment. When you preach the foundational sermon series, when you share the exciting news, when you cast vision for the public launch of your gathering, you can never get all of your people in the same room at the same time. Some are out of town, have a family commitment, are serving the kids, etc.
The first leadership principle today’s three leaders share in common: You must do some of your leadership/discipleship through your writing.
But many leaders, church planters, and pastors feel inadequate when it comes to writing. We don’t consider ourselves writers. Plus, we receive little training in this regard. The average church planting residency offers zero help for this area. Zilch. (We’re going to change that today.)
The second leadership principle today’s three leaders share in common: If we ignore this area of our leadership—namely, writing—we risk losing the ear of our people over time.
I know this from experience. (Ouch!) As I mentioned in last week’s article, I have failed enough to help you.
Where did I go wrong and what were the results? Simple. A history of poor writing—particularly saying too much and being confusing—conditioned our folks to ignore written communication coming from church leadership. To “survive” being a normal, committed church member, spouse, and parent, many tuned us out.
The third leadership principle today’s three leaders share in common: Edit or be edited. Do the work on the front end, or pay the price on the back end. Tune into your writing, or get tuned out by your audience.
Welcome to church planting (and communication) in the real world. It’s a ‘good-communication-eats-bad-communication’ world out there. Writing matters. Poor communication guarantees poor leadership and discipleship.
A 3-Step Plan for Getting Heard Like These 3 Leaders
Here’s a simple plan to significantly improve your writing and get heard like these 3 leaders—Michael Hyatt, Donald Miller, and Ray Edwards. You can start today.
Step 1: Say it better by using a tried-and-true formula from one of these three leaders.
There are great writers we can all learn from. Even better, there are great teachers who make us better writers. Rather than feel like you must start literature training all over again, pick a trusted writing mentor and follow his/her proven approach to writing.
Here are three excellent leaders who influence others through their writing. Thankfully, each of these three writers shares his approach and invites you to emulate his success. (Note, I do not personally know any of these three writers, but I have seen them profess and demonstrate their love for Jesus through their successful businesses.)
- Michael Hyatt: Michael Hyatt is a respected leader who launched his current online career out of his history of leadership in Christian Publishing—namely the once Chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In a matter of minutes, you can read this blog post from Michael, Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post, and get his winning formula for writing wildly popular (and effective) blog posts. Use his clear plan in your writing and watch your effectiveness improve each time you communicate.
- Donald Miller: Donald Miller is a noted author, communicator, and business leader. He is a lover of story and has a genius plan you can follow every time you write. His fool-proof plan outlined in this free PDF How To Tell A Story can turn your writing into a powerful story your audience will love to hear. In fact, it is the approach underpinning this article.
- Ray Edwards: Although you may not have heard of Ray, he’s a terrific copywriter. He’s got a great, free, 3-part online series called How to Write the Words That Sell Your Products, Services, and Ideas aimed at helping you write better. His intended audience in the series is those writing marketing or sales copy, but his suggested formula in the first video is solid gold. As a church planter or pastor, you always write with the intent of ‘selling your idea.’ Follow his suggestions. Your writing will immediately improve and your people will more readily hear and buy your discipleship ideas.
Step 2: Proofread your writing by reading it through at least twice.
No one feels the squeeze on their time like church planters. I get it. And many do not have a natural affinity for writing. You’d rather say it than write it. I know what you mean. But you cannot possibly make disciples by verbal communication only. It’s just not an option. So when you write anything important (training for your leaders, support emails, discipleship material, church-wide announcements, sermon series descriptions, etc.), make time to read your own writing twice before you hit “print” or “send.” For any ‘huge’ announcements, I recommend proofreading it over a period of two days. The space in between proofing lets your head clear. The fresh perspective will enable you to see things you don’t otherwise see when you rush straight from writing to printing/sending. Just try it, and you will see where you could have said things more clearly, more carefully, and more lovingly to your people. The corrections you make will build trust, influence and the continued ear of your audience. Your mistakes—the ones you don’t catch because you’re in too big of a hurry—will erode trust over time. And every great leader knows trust is hard to gain and easy to lose.
Step 3: Ensure your content passes the brutally honest and helpful ‘wife test.’
You think you’re busy. Try swapping places with your wife for one day. This is also why she is the perfect candidate to test the effectiveness of your writing. For any important communication you’re writing and planning on giving to others, let her read it. Prepare to be humbled and reminded of your need for Jesus to build your church…and your family…and your marriage. Have her read it one time over, preferably in the midst of the normal chaos of her life (like your audience). Then ask her these three questions without getting mad at her answers, or lack thereof.
- What was it about?
- Why should she care?
- What should she do about it?
If your own wife cannot answer those three questions, your audience definitely will not be able to. Head back to the drawing board and try again. It’s worth it. What you have to say in order to lead your people should merit the effort.
If you don’t take the simple steps above, you’ll likely take the other approach and fail to get heard. The alternative looks like this: “I didn’t get heard last time, so in the future…”
- I need to say more (as in, use more words and over-explain)
- I need to say it more often (as in, ‘I’ll send three emails about it instead of just one’)
Follow the 3-step plan the next time you write to your people as part of your discipleship of your church. Pick a winning formula and emulate it. Proofread your writing before going public. And get your wife’s input on the three critical questions: what’s it about, why should she care, what should she do about it. Do so, and you’ll put yourself in the best possible position to be heard.
Better Leadership for Better Discipleship
It’s true better readers make better leaders. It’s equally true better writers make better leaders because we cannot lead without some critical writing. No, you do not have to be ‘Bill Shakespeare.’ But if you cherish your calling to make disciples, you would be wise to take every opportunity to influence your people towards maturity in Jesus…including your writing. The 3-step plan is easy to execute and will bear fruit over time. Reaffirming, reminding, rejoicing, reproving, revisioning…these are all opportunities for you to make disciples in and through your writing.
The words you and I write will get ignored, not heard, brushed aside, lost in the shuffle, and forgotten at times. When this does happen, the sting of disappointment can turn personal. And then sin takes root. We blame. We get angry. We resolve to ‘write louder’ next time…so those even ‘without ears to hear’ have no choice but to listen. No, we don’t set out to be this way, but the circumstances flush out what is already in our hearts. We want, nay, demand to be heard.
In the gospel story, we are counted among his disciples. We sit a stone’s throw from Jesus in the garden moments before his betrayal. Agonizing in prayer, he walks over to warn us to pray that we may not enter temptation. We hit the snooze button instead. We choose not to listen to his voice and listen to our own voice instead. A few hours later, Jesus’ words are ignored by the Father as he absorbs the blow we deserve for all of the times we choose not to listen to his words of love, life, wisdom, and warning. Because of Jesus’ act of love, the Father will never ignore our words as sons and daughters.
There is only One who deserves to be heard. We herald his name, even in our writing, and need not take offense when we may not get heard. We already have the ear of the One who matters. And he has proven, in saving us, that he is capable of handling any of our folks who do not listen to us as closely as we’d like.