By Karl Vaters on May 10, 2017
When your message is off-center, the quality matters even more.
What do you do when you have a message that doesn’t quite fit within the norm?
How do you get anyone to take you seriously? Especially in this interconnected world with so many voices yelling at us?
I’ve been asked those questions a few times lately about this blog, my book and my ministry to small church leaders. Specifically, “How did you get through all the bigger is better noise and start getting traction with a small has value message?”
The first time I was asked the question, I shrugged my shoulders and said “I really don’t know. I just keep doing it, God keeps blessing it, and it keeps working.”
But I knew there was more to it than that. So I reverse-engineered it. After all, if I want it to continue, I need to know the why.
Here’s what I discovered:
1. Create A Track Record
There are no shortcuts. You have to do the work first.
No one wants to hear offbeat ideas from someone with passion, but no real-world experience. But if you can show how you’ve made it work, that’s something different. And valuable.
Whatever credibility I might have with small church leaders starts and ends with the fact that I’m one of you. I’ve pastored small churches for over three decades, including overseeing the church I now pastor through several transitions to become a long-term, healthy, vibrant, outward-looking church with an impact far bigger than our size.
The idea that small churches can be healthy churches may still be new to a lot of people, but no one can tell me it can’t happen, because we’re doing it.
2. Have A Plan
• Encourage small churches and their leadership. Let them know you can pastor a small church well without settling for less.
• Equip and connect small churches and their leaders with the best resources I can find or create.
• Mainstream these ideas to the broader church leadership world, so we aren’t just creating another division in the church.
To my continual shock and delight, those three steps are happening to a much greater degree than I ever thought possible. Why? Because knowing where I was heading has helped me make better choices. I know what to say yes to and, more importantly, what to say no to.
It also gives everything I do an internal logic that people can sense, even if they don’t know what that internal logic is.
3. Do Quality Work
I don’t pretend I’m the best writer or speaker. But every post I write and every talk I give is always done with all the excellence I can muster.
Especially when your message is off-center, the quality matters even more. Poor writing, bad design and sloppy communication will stop your great idea from being heard.
4. Be Consistent
From Day One I knew that if this vital message about the value of small churches was going to be taken seriously, I had to do more than write well. I had to write regularly and reliably.
People often assume that small churches must be doing shoddy, inconsistent ministry. Those preconceptions cannot be overcome with a shoddy, inconsistent blog.
I had to do consistent, quality work to overcome those prejudices.
Any off-center message requires the same.
5. Be Positive
You don’t have to put others down to elevate your ideas.
Without question, the comment I hear most often from people who compliment my writing and speaking is “I appreciate that you don’t put big churches down to lift small churches up.”
That’s what every quirky idea needs to do. Don’t just elevate your ideas. Elevate the entire conversation.
6. Connect Your Ideas To Universal Principles
Weird for the sake of weird never works.
No matter how quirky and off-center your ideas may be, they have to make the agreed-upon universal principles work better.
The idea that small churches have value may be a hard sell to some people, but there’s nothing faddish about them. They’ve been around for 2,000 years and will keep blessing people until Jesus comes.
The only thing that’s off-center about them is the lack of attention we’ve paid to them.
So that’s what I point out. Small churches have always been a vital element in God’s plan to save the world. It’s time we paid more attention to this overlooked, under-utilized tool.
7. Be Relentless
Never give up.
If you know you’re right, don’t let anyone, anything or any setbacks derail you.
New ideas take time to be heard. They will meet resistance. You will grow discouraged.
But nothing worth doing ever happened without pushing through all of that and coming out the other side.
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