Six Things I’ve Changed About The Way I Preach

Six Things I’ve Changed About The Way I Preach

The last couple of years have been an interesting time for us all. Many churches closed in-person gatherings and just as many leaders had to learn the awkward art of preaching to the cold face of a machine.

(YouTubers, we’re learning from you!)

There was much to learn all round but for me the most valuable lesson was found in the opportunity to take some time and space to truly reflect.

In that time, I made some substantial yet subtle changes to the way I communicate as a preacher.

Here are six things I’ve changed about the way I preach.

1. Choosing the right topic (even if it sounds boring)

I’ve spent less time thinking about how to attract interest (although that’s still helpful to do) and more time thinking about what people specifically need in the season.

E.g. I preached on living a quiet life recently (lol who wants that…and yet it turns out everyone does deep down).

2. Letting the word speak for itself

I’ve felt less need to dart about to pull intricate (and sometimes disjointed) thoughts together. Instead I’ve let the actual scripture speak more from the context it was written – often in greater chunks.

3. Resisting the urge to add more

One of a preacher’s greatest fears is running out of things to say but this has literally never happened and never will happen lol.

We must be content knowing that each preach accomplishes something specific. We don’t have to nail everything in a single 30 minute slot. Go deep and narrow instead of wide and shallow.

4. Adding more ministry and less wow

How awesome I feel is rarely an indicator of how God is touching a human heart. More space to breathe and let the Holy spirit minister is worth a thousand of my wonderful quips (although they are very wonderful).

5. Searching for obedience instead of response

Being obedient to delivering the word God has for the people is what matters. How people respond doesn’t.

Focus on faith over affirmation. Online was an amazing reset in that there is zero response. And let’s face it we were all getting tired of the chat.

6. Feeling ok about what the Bible actually says

Much of God’s word is deeply contrary to the culture we live in today. It’s challenging and in its very nature deeply offensive to many.

Let’s preach it anyways.

We’ve done recent series on big topics like hell, judgment and even sex. We need more than just grace messages and Christian success culture.

Interested in developing and discovering your voice as a preacher or communicator? Find out more about preaching workshops here.

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Stop Trying To Include Everyone

Stop Trying To Include Everyone

One of the interesting things that happens in today’s age is that many people have enough cultural knowledge of Christianity to think they know what Jesus actually taught.

And frequently that leads to a common opinion about what Christians should do and how they should treat others. Even from other Christians.

Here’s some examples:

Christianity should always be inclusive

God is love so he wouldn’t tell people how they should live

You need to be more accepting like Jesus was

Unless of course that’s not what Jesus actually taught...

One of my favourite Bible stories is this one time where Jesus is preaching as he often did. He said something challenging and pretty much most of the people there got up and left. (Read John 6:60-69).

Let’s look at what Jesus didn’t do.

1. Change his message.
2. Call them up the next day.
3. Chase them down and apologise.

Nah he legit turns to the guys who are still there and says this:

Are you going to leave too?

We Can Always Keep An Open Door

Of course we should always keep an open door so people who are genuinely seeking can experience Jesus.

But remember that the focus of Jesus was going deep with a few (not going shallow with many).

So stop trying to please everyone and start discipling those who are there.

In business, don’t worry about getting more clients – instead start serving the ones you have.

In life, don’t itch for more influence when you could be utilising the light you already have.

Spending too much time trying to include or reach those who don’t necessarily want to be in the picture often means we miss out on the very thing we’re supposed to be doing.

And that is our actual purpose – discipleship.

Blanket Inclusivity Is Overrated

Because although everyone is welcome but not everyone wants to be there.

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How To Get £100,000 Free Advertising Every Year For Your Church

How To Get £100,000 Free Advertising Every Year For Your Church

You read it right. I can guarantee there is no click bait happening here.

At some point in history, Google decided that they wanted to help nonprofits by giving them free advertising. They do this by giving charities a whole load of spend (approx £100,000 in sterling) each year with their Google Adwords programme.

Did someone just say one hundred grand worth of free advertising? For some reason this fact is remarkably unknown in the church space.

A few caveats before we start:

1. This is only for registered charities (which most churches are or at least should be)
2. I’m not familiar with all of the rules outside of the UK but it seems that the requirements are very similar

So what is Google Adwords?

Google Adwords basically provides adverts to people who are using Google search. What’s so cool about online advertising in general is that you have the ability to target people who are already looking for you.

When you give out 10,000 flyers around a neighbourhood, a whole bunch of people don’t actually want your flyer. Not only do you potentially irritate some but you definitely waste a lot of time in the process.

With Google Adwords, you can make sure that every single person you connect with is at least vaguely interested in finding out more.

Google of course is the largest search engine with over 70% of the market share. Second is YouTube which is of course owned by Google too.

How churches can use Google Adwords

Most simply, you can start by advertising to people who are looking for a church in your area. If someone types into Google “church near me” or any other plethora of options then you can hit them up with an advert which will appear right at the top of their page. Not too shabby.

Running successful paid advertising campaigns requires a good knowledge of keywords and SEO to maximise your results. Think about how brands engage the community with campaigns. “Come to church” is an ok start but there are plenty more opportunities to take a hold of.

(You might like this campaign I helped design which captured 500 email addresses of first year students: The Hidden Gems of York)

Google does have some rules about minimum engagement on your ads to stop spam so it’s worth doing properly.

So wait… how much are they giving us again?

You get $10,000 USD per month to use on Google Adwords. This works out (depending on when you check the exchange rates) as £100,000/year.

How do we sign up?

Google offers this free advertising in the form of a grant. All you have to do is head to https://www.google.com/grants/ and apply.

Expect to be taken through a fairly bitty process full of forms, verification, back and forth and the like. Or reach out if you’d like some help accelerating up the process.

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How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Actually Click On

Hopefully someone already told you that YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world after Google. And if they didn’t… well at least you know now 😉

What do people do when they have a problem? They search the internet. This is of course a fantastic opportunity for business owners, content creators and church leaders.

If people are actively looking for answers then they are already looking for you. They just don’t know it yet.

All we have to do is figure out three golden questions:

1. What problems do people have?
2. What language are they using to describe said problems?
3. How do we attract their attention?

In all honesty, some of this is trial and error and not every video we create is going to hit the mark in all of these categories.

But don’t worry, the wonder of the algorithm means no one will see it if it doesn’t. Keep on putting yourself out there and experimenting.

As we work on figuring this out, our aim is to do the following:

1. Create good content that helps people solve their problems
2. Use the right keywords that reflect what they’re searching for
3. Have engaging thumbnails that grab people’s attention

Today we’re focusing on the third aspect. Because even if you have great SEO, people may be reluctant to click on your video if it looks rubbish. This is where we come to understand that design is not just about art but achieving a specific purpose. In this case, getting someone to click.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

One of the most common errors with YouTube thumbnails is simply to use them to repeat what the title says. Instead as much as possible you want to expand on the concept of the video.

Let’s search on YouTube for “places to visit in London”. Here’s what comes up.

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 1

Whilst this thumbnail includes a lot of the same information there are some crucial additions:

1. Big Ben in the background is a strong association for London.
2. The colour of the text is tuned to the Union Jack.
3. Heart eyes emoji & the smiling girl paint a picture of tourist wonder, joy & happiness.

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 2

Here’s why this thumbnail isn’t as good in my opinion:

1. It’s not immediately obvious what the background image is.
2. Is that a child? Lol – I wasn’t sure at first glance.
3. Orange text colour isn’t very London.

Use Your Thumbnail To Tell A Story

Here’s an example from YouTube legend Mr Beast.

(By the way, one of the best ways you can learn about thumbnails is to go and look at successful YouTubers and how they do it).

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 3

I know what you’re thinking – if you were making a video about giving away $100,000 then it wouldn’t matter too much what the thumbnail looked like. But consider how the thumbnail expands the story:

1. Working at McDonalds is seen as the ultimate low paid job.
2. The size of the money compared to the person shows how much this could transform a person’s life
3. The expression on the person’s face is a mixture of sadness (from working at McDonalds) as well as shock, wonder and joy at the prospect of $100,000

Create Intrigue By Challenging Assumptions

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 4

Many of us have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. In this example, the text on the thumbnail challenges this belief and creates intrigue.

Don't Go Bonkers Though

If you’re thinking that YouTube thumbnails need to be fun, loud, controversial and surprising then you’re absolutely right. But be careful to make sure that they are always relevant and connected to the content you are creating.

If you create crazy looking thumbnails but your actual video is very different then users will be frustrated with you. Of course it’s not fair to trick people. This will also undoubtedly affect the algorithm which will show your videos to less people.

What About Thumbnails For Churches

Here’s one final example from our church YouTube channel (C3 Reflect):

How To Design YouTube Thumbnails That People Click On 5

This was a snippet of a preach which was repackaged to try and reach more people.

1. The background image looks trippy (like your mind)
2. Shot of the person actually talking in the video (yes that’s me ha – we take separate images just for thumbnails)
3. The text “THIS IS WEIRD” adds to this specific story about the subconscious.
Bright and clashing colours help grab your attention

Creating YouTube thumbnails is definitely an art not a science. And experimentation is the key so go test some things out. Pay attention to the results and then adjust as you go.

For more training on levelling up in design, you might also find a Design Workshop helpful.

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