2 Communication Keys that Doubled a Church

Years ago, after selling a small business, I took some time off, painted our house, and volunteered time at our church.

In three months, by the surprising grace of God, I was the executive pastor, serving 350 people and about 75 volunteers!

Two years later, the church attendance doubled to 700. Volunteer involvement doubled as well, despite being a “mobile” church (with three different venues in those two years) in a city with lots of churches. There were plenty of other challenges as well.

For the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on the two keys to this growth (and not talk about all the mistakes I made!)

By the way, these apply to business, social media, and ministry!

#1: Tell people WHY the church exists

It might sound elementary, but I challenge you to really examine this point for yourself.

Assuming you’re not the only church in a fifty mile radius, why should people commit to your church? What does the leadership believe is most important for this community? Communicate this—clearly and often.

One way of looking at this is to be clear on what your church is NOT about.

In other words, have the courage to be lovingly unapologetic…

“We hope you love our church, but here’s what we’re focusing on, and here’s what we’re OK with not being so great at.”

Once you start trying to please everyone, you’ll please no one. As an added bonus, your joy will decrease, and your stress will increase!

Intentional branding and positioning is important here, and we can help! (because outside perspective is so crucial!)

For example, if you don’t think small groups are super-cool, don’t have them. If a big music team isn’t on your dream list, keep it simple. Help people understand where you ARE laser-focused.

Just make sure you communicate the “why”!   (over and over and over)

#2: Make daily difficult choices based on your “why”

Lack of follow-through is why many savvy churchgoers roll their eyes at “Vision Sundays” and “Mission Statements.” Face it, these globs of words get stale on a forgotten web page, or new-members PDF, and rarely are used in daily meetings.

Every week you’ll be asked about some new ministry idea “the church should do.” Most of these suggestions will be terrific –  BUT that’s also why most churches cave in and try to be all things to all people.

People can sense when a church is rudderless. How? They look at actions.

People respect a church that is clear about their purpose, and sticks to their focus. Communities are hungry for dependability and stability.

The best communications are not words, anyway – the best communication is action.

We were almost derailed by a well-intentioned foray into… small groups. Every other church on the planet was doing house groups, and that’s why we started them—or tried to.  The amount of effort we put into it and the amount of pressure we exerted on people was huge.

And you know what? Nobody really wanted them in the first place, least of all the senior pastor. The (predictable) result was a few frustrated small group leaders, treading water and hoping for more church support.

Say no thanks.

People respect a church that is clear about their purpose and sticks to their focus. Communities are hungry for dependability and stability. You can’t have that when you’re chasing lots of good ideas at the expense of your great idea.

The best communication isn’t words anyway, the best communication is action. Tell and show – and show and tell.

People in your city will appreciate a focused church, where words and actions paint a clear picture, even if they choose not to attend!

Are you OK with that?



Photo Via Creative Commons:


Giving Thanks… To People!

Categories:Street Stories Blog

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on some goodness in my life. (Yeah, “reflect.” Sounds deeper than “think.”)

I started tracing back how this goodness came about—the prized introductions, the unique opportunities, the genuine kindness shown, and the abundance of slack I’ve been granted…all by people around me.

People who had a choice!

I get to write books, blogs, business plans, and branding strategies because someone gave me an (undeserved) opportunity to try. I work with amazing people, because some other amazing people introduced me. They didn’t have to.

Trace back any slice of goodness in your life…

  • Enjoy your job? Who took a risk to refer you?
  • Have a skill? Who gave you a chance to develop it?
  • Enjoy laughing with your good friend? Who introduced you?

Yep – Every good thing in our lives comes from God. And very often, this goodness is flowing through other people.

Sometimes it’s easier for me to say “thank you” to God than take time to thank the person who made an impact on my life.

Recently, when I’m celebrating a success, or a rescue from a blunder, I’ve been trying to trace the trail of goodness back to a person’s generosity, or forgiveness.

And let’s face it, I’d rather call a friend to share a success, than humble myself and call the person who, years ago, made the success possible. (Yes, Mike, you’re super-brilliant…but if Jim-Bob hadn’t invited you to that meeting, where would you be?)

Pick one area in your life you’re thankful for. Trace back through the dark forest of your own awesomeness, follow the crumbs you were given, and you’ll rediscover the many people who played a role in your journey.

Since we don’t have God’s mailing address, write a note to those people. Since the Almighty doesn’t drink coffee (hard to imagine, I know), buy someone a cup. Look them in the eye and thank them.

Then, let’s start asking ourselves if we’re being “that” person for someone else.

Take a moment. Thank God. And thank a person!




Photo via Creative Commons: 

What’s Your Name Worth?

I just watched interview with multi-bazillion-selling music producer, David Foster.

(If you think his music is “schmaltzy”, I agree. But read on anyway…)

David tells the story of completing production on one of his first records, and giving a copy to his mentor, Quincy Jones. (triple-multi-bazillion selling music producer)

Handing him the record, David says,

“By the way, track 1 is not one of my favorite songs. On track 3, don’t listen to vocals in the bridge because they’re out of tune. Track 6 is not good but they made me use the song…”

Quincy grabs the record from him and points,

“What does it say right here?”

David answers, “It says ‘produced by David Foster‘”.

Quincy replies

“Right. You’re an idiot… It says ‘produced by David Foster’. That’s your name. And if it can’t be absolutely your very best effort, you better not put your name on it.“


I’m a producer, and so are you. To paraphrase Foster:”Where the artist is weak, we do everything. Where the artist is strong we fight to make them as great as they can be.”

Imagine purchasing a book or multimedia app from your favorite author, and finding a handwritten note inside that reads:

”Please note, our budget was tight and the project was behind schedule, so we apologize for not having all the content and features that we wanted. But please buy our next release, since we’re planning on doing a much better job!”

Ridiculous, right?

Does this mean every initiative needs a million dollar budget? Of course not. Creating resources that truly impact people takes time, planning, and teamwork.

But most of all, it takes a firm resolve to give people your best.

What’s your name worth?


Photo via Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/50507112@N05/8692332798/in/photolist-ef7tGS-918brG-5Ygdgd-59dh8K

More Than Words :: Interview with Mindi Jo Furby

Note from Mike: I’m honored to post this interview with author Mindi Jo Furby, author of More Than Words, Toz Knows, and More than Words for Kids. We had the opportunity to work together last year on some branding and book development projects and I’m so impressed with her initiative, and success!  http://www.mindijofurby.com/

More than Words for Kids is a children’s book that releases TODAY!

What was different about writing a children’s book, as opposed to a book for grown-ups? (More than Words)

Um…everything! I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life. I tapped into the minds of several child development experts, children’s ministry directors, parents, teachers, etc. and still felt profoundly clueless with this genre. The major difference between writing for grown-ups and writing for children is the method of communication. With adults, we can reasonably assume that they grasp abstract concepts like time. Not so with children.

Since their minds have yet to fully develop, I had to use word pictures and stories to illustrate the truths I was trying to communicate. When you’re dealing with concepts like infallibility and inerrancy, this proved quite challenging! But once the writing was complete, my illustrator and I had a grand time putting pictures with each story.

What’s the big goal of the book?

The big goal of this book is to help kids learn, love, and live by the Bible. We do this by teaching them what the Bible is, how it was put together, and how to read, interpret, and apply it in ways they understand and can emulate.

Tell us a little about the book…

This book is so much fun! Short and to the point, children are invited along on a journey into the Bible that they’ve never experienced before. Each chapter begins with a story that illustrates the main concept. This allows children to grasp abstract concepts—bringing them down to a level they can understand and relate with.

It is not a dry, boring text book! Rather, it’s written in a conversational tone with an abundance of illustrations and textual variations that engage children and keep them entertained while they read. In short, this is a fun, exciting way for children to learn about the Bible and how they can use to launch their faith in Jesus.

What did you learn about self publishing with your first book that helped you with this book?

Patience. If there’s one aspect of publishing that’s crucial, it’s taking your time and maintaining a standard of excellence. Nothing should compromise the quality of the work being published. Thankfully, I learned the process of publishing – writing, editing, illustrating, formatting, and printing – with my first book and was able to apply it with relative ease with this book.

Having a timeline and communicating with your team is extraordinarily helpful too. I laid out a timeline for the entire production of this book, communicating with my team members every step of the way. The result was a steady rhythm of work that turned into a wonderful project (without undue stress!).

What are you hoping this book will accomplish?

My prayer is that this book will serve as a catalyst in the fight against biblical illiteracy among the children in our nation and world.

We live in a biblically illiterate culture, and it’s crippling the faith of our kids. With this book I’m hoping to ignite a movement in the hearts of the next generation (perhaps awakening some hearts in their parents’ generation) to move toward God and secure a strong foundation of faith based on His Word.

Where can we find out more information on this and other books?

On our website! www.mjfpublishing.com


From Idea to Published Author in 16 Months?

Which is worse – having no book written, or having a garage full?

Some would say it’s worse to not “ship” your book, or “Better to have written and lost than never have written at all.” I disagree. There’s another option.

Instead of being a lone endurance racer with your book, consider a more strategic approach. Yeah, “strategic” sounds less cathartic and more scary. But a garage full of books (and 3 Kindle sales) sounds worse, right?

This approach isn’t for everyone, but I believe there are steps we can take to reduce our level of insecurity, be more attractive to publishers, and become better communicators!

Success stories are not always a template, but there are principles which apply to everyone’s writing aspirations. I truly believe every person has unique insights and stories – and therefore is a candidate to somehow create a book or blog that reaches beyond a circle of existing relationships. But it takes more than writing!

Recently, in the span of sixteen months, I helped a hopeful nonfiction/non-author go from an idea (a cautious hunch, really), to a solid two-book publishing contract with a major New York publishing house.

On Day One, this writer didn’t have a blog, or even a twitter account. Although it’s tempting to take credit for this success, some pretty basic disciplines deserve the attention.

The road we walked

1. Establish a brand – Who is this author? Why should I care?

Notice this has nothing to do with your book idea! Books come and go, so focus on your author brand. Many writers don’t invest in this area, but nonfiction publishers don’t just pick books, they pick people! This also holds true for the buying public.

But let’s face it – intensive focus on self (photo shoots, about-me text, logo, graphics) is unappealing, and brings out even more insecurities.

For authors this can be as “simple” as having a web site which is up to the standard of the career you want to have. With this foundation, instead of going on a book tour – you can send your book out on an AUTHOR tour!

2. Develop one other book idea – different than your pet project!

When you think about what you’d love to be known for, (per above) what other unique insights are you driven to share? If it helps, play out this future scenario to spur brainstorming:

My book just flopped… what’s next?

Create a formal book proposal for both books. This is a “business plan” for your book, and what a publisher wants to see. The idealistic artist in you is squirming, huh? Focus by wrestling with these questions…

Why does this book exist? Amazon carries some pretty good ones already.

    What’s the reader-outcome we’re looking for? “I loved this book because…”

    The Market and their motivation – Who will buy this, and why?

    Who are “Competitors”? (And why is your book different?)

    How will this strengthen your brand and business model?

Another benefit of this process is framing a self-publishing strategy. Publishers can be like banks – only eager to lend money to people who don’t need it. If you don’t think you can get a return on your self-publishing investment, why would a publisher?

3. Write the book – a little

Insecurity is something we writers all share. A natural tendency is to hide and write, only to unveil our massive works to an audience that… will probably feel too sorry for us to give honest feedback.

Instead, create simple “focus groups” in your target audience and send them a sample chapter. (Yes – one chapter, even ideas in your book proposal) Brace yourself. Listen for ideas to help you improve your voice, not compromise. Let this pull better writing out of you.

Repeat above until you’re both humbled and ecstatic about your book. It may take months. Sorry.

These steps are insecurity-busters because you’ll experience the satisfaction of both affirmation AND constructive feedback!

4. Self-publish the book.

Get a GREAT title, subtitle and cover. (Does this mean more pride-killing feedback? Uh huh. Professional help, too.) You might be a great writer, but you probably are not a great designer. (Don’t mortgage the house, and never purchase “pay to play” book packages)

The confidence you gained in the steps above will ooze into your marketing and sales!

5. Sell 10,000 copies in seven months.

OK, that’s a stretch, but it happened in this case, with less than 500 total social media connections. These sales would not have happened without the above steps.

Publisher conversations are much different with this fun fact on the table, and removing the scent of desperation from the dialogue is a game changer.

6. Get a nice TWO-book deal

When a publisher is reviewing one book, why not have a worthy second book for them to consider? If you were a publisher, you’d want to see this depth from an author.

Results not typical

Most aspiring authors don’t succeed because they write first and ask questions later. Heck – if you do all this above and don’t find a publisher, you’ll be a better writer, and be in a much better position for your book to spread on its own!

We’d love to hear your reactions, questions, and ideas – what did I miss?

(Photo Credit: CeeKay via Creative Commons.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceekay/)

Grammy nominated Ian Eskelin chosen by The Eastco Group’s Vaughn Street brand, as Producer for adoption ministry recording project.

Categories:Projects & News

Orchard Park, NY

Holt Vaughn, President of The Eastco Group, announced the selection of Ian Eskelin as Producer for a recording project that will raise awareness and resources for forgotten children to be adopted into loving Christian homes. The new album by Laura-Valentine of Laura-Valentine Ministries, will feature new songs by top songwriters whose hits have been recorded by artists Kellie Pickler, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Natalie Grant and Michael W. Smith among others.


Rick Cua, Leslie Satcher (Leslie has written songs for Kellie Pickler, Martina McBride, , Gretchen Wilson, Patty Loveless, Lee Ann Womack, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and many more), Laura-Valentine, Holt Vaughn

As Executive Producer on the project, Vaughn worked with friend and former music executive Rick Cua to select the right producer as part of the Vaughn Street project. Cua hails from Nashville, TN and was a member of the southern rock band The Outlaws with 2 Gold Records, and later a dozen albums and six #1 singles of his own as a CCM artist. “I asked Rick to help me choose a producer who could not only make a great record, but could also write and help find great songs” said Vaughn. “We all know the song is the thing, but our producer also needed to love our cause, our artist’s unique story, and be a team player. All that is not so easy to find, but Ian was among our top choices and it came together.”


Some of Ian’s “Wall of Fame” of hits and Gold Records.

Eskelin is founding member and lead singer of the Grammy-nominated Christian Rock band All Star United. He won the Dove Award for ‘Producer of the Year’ in 2011 and 2008 and has received multiple Dove nominations for his songwriting and production work with artists such as Francesca Battistelli. As an artist and writer Eskelin has had more than thirty Top 10 singles in the United States, including 12 #1 charting songs. He has additionally had international #1 songs in various countries including Japan, Singapore, and Australia. His songs have been licensed for use on ABC, Spike TV, Style Network, movies such as Soul Surfer and Saved!, NBC promos for the show Heroes, and CBS network imaging campaigns to name a few.


In “the fishbowl” working on the project in Nashville. Holt, Laura-Valentime and her mom n’dad Susan and Ken Lock.

Vaughn’s team headed to Music-City Nashville in September to begin working on songwriting with Laura-Valentine on the brand new album scheduled for release February 2014. Seventeen year old Laura-Valentine has already been through performance training as part of Tom Jackson Productions, a world renowned Live Music Producer, who has worked with Taylor Swift and The Band Perry. Vaughn is enthusiastic: “Laura-Valentine is a young performer with a unique story. Left abandoned by her birth mother in China, she was adopted twice: first into a loving Christian home in Chicago and secondly into God’s family. Now we are all excited to work together for a great cause, helping our world’s most forgotten children to experience the same joy. Some of the songwriters and musicians have family members who are adopted too, so this resonates. We’ve created a great website and blog, twitter, Instagram, youtube and facebook, and we’re shooting videos, creating an iPad documentary for the Apple store and working closely on all this with Fresh Impact Public Relations Group. We’re going to make some great music for a great cause and hopefully see people spread it around!”

– See more at: http://laura-valentine.com/music/producer-year-ian-eskelin-appointed-laura-valentines-new-album/


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