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PODCAST 031: Jennifer Miles & Marketing Church Online

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How do you market Church Online? I used to think SEO, SEM, SMM. Gotta love acronyms! All of these are valid, and helpful in ministry, but at the end of the day I could never shake the idea that God’s called us to something other than writing a check to Google or Facebook!

So how do you market Church Online? Or even Church? What are ways to draw attention to this? Let’s dig in with Communications Specialist Jennifer Miles as we discover “how to market Church Online.”


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ON THE SHOW

Guest: Jennifer Miles
FaithLife
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

Host: Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // LinkedIn

SHOW NOTES

HELP ANOTHER CHURCH. LEAVE A REVIEW.

We know these conversations are out there are hard. Even the best of churches haven't figured out... If this podcast is helping you and your church work through what Church Online is, then help us impact other churches! Take a moment and leave us a brief review!
 
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Feedback on the podcast is vital as well. Leave comments on the podcast, or comment on this post! I'd love to know your thoughts and how we can serve your church better.
 
Love you all! Praying for your Churches and your Ministry Online.
 
Jeff Reed
THECHURCH.DIGITAL
 

TRANSCRIPT

Jeff Reed: 00:00 So how are we going to market Church Online? That's the question I wanted to ask in Episode 31 of The Church Digital Podcast and to that end I brought in Communication Specialist, Jennifer Miles, to help us figure out what the answer to that question was. And while the answer she gave us was probably the one we needed, maybe it wasn't the one that we deserved, but ultimately it was definitely necessary to hear, okay, set aside the whole Dark Night DC reference. I'm really much more of a Marvel guy. But at the end of this, Jennifer's answer to that question, how do we market Church Online, cuts to the core of what church online could be and should be to really get to the power, to the heart, to the soul of what church online is and therefore created an interview, a conversation that you listening audience definitely need to hear. So I present for this conversation, Communication Specialists, guru, all knowing, Jennifer Miles to the conversation and myself, Jeff Reed, from The Church.Digital in a conversation that I'm calling the Marketing of Church Online. Everybody, here you go.

Jennifer Miles: 01:06 I'm Jennifer Miles. I work for Faith Life. I'm a Project Manager for their church products organization and I work on upcoming features and supporting the content for those, and then also work on user ed guides and what's the purpose of our products. In addition to that, I am wrapping up my Doctorate at Portland Seminary and that is a, no one ever knows how to say it. I'm doing a doctorate in Semiotics, which is essentially the study of signs and symbols and how things get there meaning. Signs and symbols are not just signs and symbols, they're words, they're images. So a lot of it is like how does the church get its meaning and how do we talk about meaning in the church? Worked at Church Online at Life.Church for about four years, consulted with about 70 church onlines for four years and helping them with their marketing strategy, their social media strategy, and then their discipleship strategy. So that's kind of a little bit of who I am.

Jeff Reed: 02:04 Wow. Yeah, that's a great opening kickoff. Everything from logos, books, logos software to signs and interpretations all the way to Life.Church. Very good. That's an interesting life. So, what's your seminary, what's your degree going to be in, your doctorate?

Jennifer Miles: 02:25 So it's officially Doctorate of Ministry in Semiotics.

Jeff Reed: 02:29 Semiotics. Okay. And so like what, where do you hope to, I'm just curious cause that's who I am. Like where do you hope to go with that? Where does a semiotics degree take you at a doctorate level?

Jennifer Miles: 02:41 Well, it might help to understand why I even started the program to know where I'm going with it. So when I started the program, I was doing consulting with a lot of different churches in their marketing and I wanted to get better at communications and what did that look like in a digital world. And so I went online and literally started looking for communications degrees in the church and they don't exist. I mean they didn't five years ago. You're starting to see more now. But do you know who Leonard Sweet is?

Jeff Reed: 03:11 Of course. Soul Tsunami changed my life straight up. That book 1999, made me, I mean, I'm not discounting the Bible. Next to the Bible, that's number two for me.

Jennifer Miles: 03:23 Okay. So then you'll get this. So I had read a lot of his stuff when I was doing church online and when I was doing my master's degree. And so my thesis for master's was actually about church online. And I used several of his things. His program at Portland seminary was the thing that showed up in my search results for Google. And he's the lead mentor for this doctorate of ministry in semiotics. And its subtitle is the few, it's like a Google, a Google church or Church and Culture and Future studies or something. But I was like, I don't care what the program is cause I didn't know what semiotics was. I don't care what the program is, but this is the person who has influenced me through his books. I'd love to learn from him in person and have conversations like that, that are in his books, but face to face, right?

Jennifer Miles: 04:16 So I ended up signing up for the program thinking, Oh this is going to help my communications world. I'm going to better understand theology in a digital space and really learn from this person who was probably 10-15 years ahead of everybody else and he completely rocked my world. I closed my marketing business. I got to this point where I was struggling morally, ethically on his marketing church online the way that we do it today effective one. Is it a wise use of our resources too? And are there better ways for us to connect? Like if the point of the gospel is to share Jesus and to build disciples is marketing doing that? And I actually ended up closing my business and throughout this course of this program I changed to wanting to really understand what does it look like to disciple people in a digital age. If people are spending more time online or building more relationships through what we're doing right now, right? This digital conversation. And then bringing that face to face sometimes. How do you disciple people, right? If discipleship. So what's your definition of discipleship, Jeff?

Jeff Reed: 05:31 A disciple, me and I know we've had this conversation on the podcast. Discipleship has many meanings and so different people interpret it differently, which causes mass confusion, discipleship how we've interpreted typically on the show and me at a personal level would be, building a relationship with someone and empowering them with the gospel to the level that they can turn around and do the same thing to someone else. A disciple is someone who literally makes another disciple. And so it's, it's that, that relationship between person A and person B to the point that person B can now replicate that with person C.

Jennifer Miles: 06:13 Yeah. So there's a few things there, right? It's the relationship and the replication. Right? And as I was doing all this marketing for church online, I realized what I was really doing was I was bringing in consumers to be consumers. And it then became very difficult to turn consumers into contributors in the church online space because they think very differently. And so my whole mindset shift and I realized that what I really was doing online was I was trying to find a way to build relationship and then through those relationships, replicate what I believed and how I lived or how whatever the churches I was working with were what they believed in, how they transferred the gospel. And what was happening was we were doing all these ads and we were getting people in, but then we didn't have a solid discipleship program for them. And so we were just throwing money at the front end and there wasn't a lot of return at the backend. And so I ended up closing my marketing business and now I'm focusing really on the, what do we do as the next step? And a lot of the churches I talked to that is the thing they struggle with. We have a lot of really good church marketers out there, but we were struggling with what do we do when we get these people in? How do we convert them from consumer to contributor?

Jeff Reed: 07:31 Yeah. And that's arguably, I mean that's a big C church wide issue and we'll get there in a second. But I want to dive into this because I can relate a little bit to this of where I walked away from a church environment of, from a church staff 15 plus years, a full time church staff, 25 if you can count high level volunteers and volunteer board of directors, elders like, just crazy stuff. But yeah. But I really felt the calling to kind of leave that and do something else. And so there was, that made me an emotional wreck and there was, you know, ups and downs, seasons of that. Tell me a little bit about that story of when you realized, Hey, you know what? I want to maybe walk away from the church marketing thing, walk away from this business and instead try to do something that's more driven, more focused towards discipleship. What was God doing in your life?

Jennifer Miles: 08:30 Well, there was a lot going on at the time. From 2014 to 2018, my family and I actually traveled the country in an RV. And so we had a lot more flexibility than a lot of people. Like a lot of people, they have a business and that business pays their bills. They like, they need it. Right. I didn't need it. For me, church marketing was something I enjoyed. And so it came down to this point, what that I sat there and I spent some time talking to my husband and some friends and some other church online pastors that I'd become really close to. I was like, I have a heart issue with this. And just from a moral perspective, if I'm following Jesus, I can't continue to do something that I now think is wrong and so for me it was a really simple decision.

Jennifer Miles: 09:21 It was, I didn't need it for the money. I could find another way to make money. I've always been able to change my businesses and do that or get a job, which is what I did. I went to work for Faithlife. I would say I didn't really struggle much with it. The problem I'm having now is I struggle with the, we have to change the way we do discipleship. And that's the message that people are struggling with. Not the church marketing thing because so many churches are ready who are struggling with church marketing. I kind of joined the mainstream when I said I didn't want to do that anymore. It was the moving to discipleship that was no longer than mainstream. It was a Sunday service isn't the way you disciple people. Expecting them to come to your building isn't the way you disciple people.

Jennifer Miles: 10:07 Right? Like that became the message that now I'm going to get pushed back on. So, and I've really struggled with that part. I have a few friends that I talk to regularly about am I still following the Bible? Am I still following Jesus or am I now something that I have to worry about and I have, I become a heretic and saying, these things aren't what our society says they are. Right? Like how do you handle that part of it? And I still struggle with it. For me too, I'm also a female, right? And so a female in the ministry world is, I'm, as I'm sitting here talking about discipleship, well, I've already got it depending on the denomination, some strikes against me. So that's the stuff I struggle with is, am I doing what God is calling me to do? Where do I fit in the ministry perspective if I go forward with some of the discipleship stuff I'm doing, is that okay? Not the, can I close my business? That's stuff wasn't the hard part at all.

Jeff Reed: 11:03 Hey, this is the thing that I struggle with. Let me say it this way. This is what I struggle with. Okay. I hesitate and then some of the things that I'm doing that I'm talking about because I'm the, I don't want to say I'm the only one saying it, but it's by far the minority.

Jennifer Miles: 11:19 Right? It feels like you're the only one saying it.

Jeff Reed: 11:21 You know? And it's like, I have people, and this is completely off topic, but I have people all the time coming to me and asking me, Hey Jeff, when are you going to plant a church completely online and A - like, I'm not even sure, like that's theological cause the whole abandoning community and enrollments. And so like there's still there's some of that that I'm wrestling with.

Jeff Reed: 11:46 And if I did, it would be planning more towards like a micro model where there would still be physical, but it's like I just have this fear of, I'm okay, being the first. If God tells me go, you know, and, and I read an Acts where, you know, some of the, the early church where they were doing things and the early church would literally say, should we listen to God or should we listen to you Sadducees? Who do you think we're going to listen to? We're going to listen to God. And it's funny, like when I have these conversations, just that at a personal level we don't like, Hey God, where are you? Where are you leading me right now? I don't hear yes, I don't hear no. I, it's funny, I've heard wait and so it's funny, I'm like, wait for what?

Jeff Reed: 12:33 You know, like what are you waiting for? And it's just, it's wait, you know, trying to find that, I guess in God's right time and things. Personally, I'm a little bit like Moses where, Hey, can I have, can I have somebody? Oh, you want to give me Aaron? Cool. Give me an Aaron. Give me somebody to come along this journey with me. That would be awesome. But yeah, but short of that, it's scary when, when you feel God leading you down a road and like it's unpaved, it's untried. Nobody's gone down there before. So man, I just, I can totally relate to this idea of just walking away from the business, trying to do things. You, you've got this established but God's leading you somewhere else. And should you listen to the Sadducees or should you follow God, who do you think we're going to go after.

Jennifer Miles: 13:23 Right. Well, and at this point it's, I'm going to follow God and I have no idea where he's taking me. And that's okay. So it'll work it out over time.

Jeff Reed: 13:32 That's awesome. Well done. So Jennifer, tell me this, help me connect the dots here cause you've got, cause what you're saying is that you know, you want to focus more on discipleship because you no longer one a focus on marketing and you're implying that, you know, discipleship is the solution to marketing. So connect the dots here, tie that in. Help me understand a little bit how a discipleship is really the solution for marketing online.

Jennifer Miles: 14:01 Yeah. So when you do marketing online, there's a few different ways to do it, right? We have Google ads, we have Facebook ads, we can do display ads, we can do YouTube ads. Like there's all these opportunities. One of the things that's happened in the last few years. If you follow kind of the marketing trends at all in the church, a lot of people started with Google ads, with the nonprofit program. And those provided you search ads. You couldn't do retargeting ads with that, and then you could do, but you could do Facebook ads and you could retarget people with Facebook ads. And so that strategy played really well where you started with search ads and people looking for felt needs and then you retargeted them if they showed up on a page using Facebook. Well, over time what has happened is Google now doesn't allow you to retarget at all any website that has Christian content or religious content in general, there's actually a few categories. They don't let you retarget.

Jeff Reed: 14:53 Wait, really? I had no idea. You can't retarget a church website anymore?

Jennifer Miles: 15:00 For Google, correct. And that's been about two and a half years now. So, but you could continue to retarget on Facebook, which has been great, but about a year, year and a half ago with the kind of the fallout from their issues, they changed a lot of their targeting abilities. So you could no longer target, pastors, you could no longer target based on, like self-identification categories. So like they removed 70% of the targeting that was helpful for the church. And so what was happening was you were spending all this money and you were really marketing to other Christians. You weren't marketing to people who weren't Christian.

Jennifer Miles: 15:50 And so it became much more difficult to target the people that were really called to go out too and so that's when I really started thinking about it. And if you think about it, God called us to go and make disciples, right? It's, he called each one of us to go and have relationships. And when you think about how people do invites, I would, I used to do ads for like Easter and Christmas. Of course, every church wants Easter and Christmas ads. One, they're extremely expensive during that season, I would watch my ads go from like 27 cents a click to like $4.50 cents a click. Wow. Because you're now competing. Not only are you competing with every other church in the US who wants to get on the bandwagon, you're also competing with every business who's marketing for black Friday, for Christmas sales, right? So you're, it's just, they flooded the inventory and whoever wins the bid is the one who gets it.

Jennifer Miles: 16:37 So it becomes extremely cost prohibitive. If all you're doing is getting a click and okay, let's say one person clicks, you now need, I dunno, a hundred people to click in order to get one person to attend your service, and so you're spending $40 to get one person to attend the service. Whereas I can say, Hey, my people who are my members, you have a mission to go out and make disciples. What can I do to enable you to do that? Can I help you have conversations with people in your workplace, with people that you meet on a day to day basis? You invite people like changing your cover photo is super easy and it's free and that is actually more effective than an ad. And so when you talk, and the same thing holds true for the physical church, right? When when you say, Hey, we're going to have our Christmas service, do know door knockers? They work.

Jennifer Miles: 17:32 But you can also say, Hey people invite people. And if have you looked at those surveys where they talk about how do people come to church? Is it a Google ad, a Facebook ad, a mailer, right? What is the number one most effective thing? It's a personal invite and it's like a 75% effective rate versus like a 5% effective rate. And so when we talk about what does it look like to shift from a marketing model to a discipleship model, it's instead of me doing all these cold ads, now I'm going to focus on empowering my people to talk to other people and invite people. And when you do it that way, you could now come back and support it with ads. I can do remarketing ads and if someone has invited someone than they show up to the my church slash Christmas page, I can remarket the Christmas page and now someone got a personal invite and they're getting a reminder on their Facebook page.

Jennifer Miles: 18:27 Hey, Joe invited me to Christmas. You don't put a name in there, right? But we'd love to see you. And so now I'm, I'm doing it the opposite direction. Instead of trying to get cold people in the door of, Oh, we should probably talk about cold, warm, hot for your audience. So a cold audience or a cold ad is someone who has no connection with you, who doesn't know you, who you have not established trust with. A warm audience is someone who has heard you, who has seen some of your content, who is beginning to understand who you are and you have a little bit of trust equity with. A hot audience is someone who is sold out for you is they will pretty much do whatever you ask them to do. They are your cheerleader. And so when you start looking at ads, is this cold, warm, hot? Cold ads are expensive. Sometimes it depends. and their, their effectiveness isn't great. But when you start looking at it and say, I want my hot people to invite people and then you target the people they've invited, those people have moved from cold to warm cause they have a personal stake now they have a personal connection and so now you can retarget these warm people. And so it's shifting the paradigm and instead of going cold, warm, hot, it's going hot, warm. And you kind of skip cold.

Jennifer Miles: 19:44 And it sounds weird when you talk about it, cause I'm just, I'm trying to reach people who aren't Christian. I want all these cold people. Well you do, but if you're talking about limited resources, you want to empower your people to reach people and you want to come behind them and support their effort. That's where I've really switched my mentality at this point.

Jeff Reed: 20:05 Yeah, there's a, there's research that actually backs you up, Jennifer on this and we talk about this stat a lot. Lifeway 2016, did a report that, Oh man, I'm blanking on the exact number. I want to say it was 63%, 62 or 63% of people do not want to come to your church building. They are, they're just, they're not interested in, in the same, the way that I'm really not interested in going to a mosque. I've made a decision in my life of how things are going spiritually. And yeah, most people have, but 80% of people will have a conversation about faith with their friends. And so empowering your friends, empowering members and the attenders of your church to go into these discipleship level conversations, these gospel grounded conversations. and if the end game is, Hey, this is important to me, let me invite you to the church building.

Jeff Reed: 21:01 If it's even to the level of, let me share the gospel with you one on one individually. You know, that's the effective way of doing marketing right now. Like, even even to the point where, we had Seth Muse on, I don't know, a couple of weeks ago, it's been awhile and I'm blanking on the name of his church in Dallas where he's at. But yeah, they did a, they did a survey. and where they found that the physical invites that, that people have, that people that the church has, that they hand out. Seth was saying that people weren't picking them up anymore and they were just throwing away the physical invites. And so yeah, the church thought, man, we've got a major issue with an invite culture here. Our people are not inviting into church and this is a problem.

Jeff Reed: 21:51 What they did was they ended up doing a, a survey to see, and one of the questions was how do you invite people? And what they discovered was that the physical invites weren't effective, digital, graphics, you know, as share your point. Changing that, that that profile photo or the timeline photo and Facebook or whatever. Like those were the things that the church was doing eight times out of 10. And so while the church was looking at, okay, we have an invite issue because nobody's picking up the print assets. Yeah. The digital assets where we're blowing out the door and we're getting a far more exposure and the church just wasn't looking in the right way. So like this is great. And this idea of how, we can shift our focus away from, you know, writing a check to like a Google organization or a Facebook, to just cast the, and what's the parable of the cat? You, you're the walking PhD. I'm a lowly undergrad, but you know, the casting the seeds, right? None of them are going to bounce off, you know, thorns and Rocky and a couple hit the soil by going through this discipleship level conversations, right? By going through something here, you're able to fine tune where those seeds are landing, landing in at least making sure that you're throwing in the right direction, staying away from, from the Rocky path.

Jennifer Miles: 23:21 Well. And the other thing that really convicted me when I was talking about, you know, cold ads, warm ads, it's when you look at the Pew research surveys that the recent ones, there's one, is it Pew or Barna? No, it was Barna that more than 70% of the U S associates as Christian. Like they self identify as Christian. Yeah. But only 35% actually do anything roughly 35% actually do anything that the church would consider a Christian behavior. Yeah. And so me doing cold ads, people already know what Christianity is in theory. They're looking for a relationship. They're looking for a community. I don't mean to say come to my church there at cold ad. What I need is someone to say, Hey, I go here. Will you come with me? Right. It's, they already know we're not introducing some new concept to them. They've made a decision not to go. The question is why have they made the decision not to go? And so that's the thing we have to look at and address.

Jeff Reed: 24:24 So how do, how do we do that? How do we have, how do we have that level of a conversation with someone?

Jennifer Miles: 24:32 Right? Well, and that's, that's where the, we have a lot of different things happening today in the church, right? The church is becoming known for what they're against versus what they're for. And so more people are stepping up for that. We have a lot of people who have been hurt by the church and so they're leaving for that. And so honestly, it's again focusing on our people, teaching our people what the gospel says, teaching them how to live and how to act out the gospel on their daily life, right? It's not just the hour you're there on Sunday and the hour you're there on Wednesday, it's 24/7. And then when you equip people with this, this is how you can talk about the gospel comfortably. You start kind of regaining that trust again with people who have left. It's, they need to see people who live out the gospel in a way that not, I don't want to say as comfortable, but as honest and is authentic. And not just, I went on Sunday and I feel better. I mean that's the thing. So when we were, when we were traveling the world or traveling the country, we do what we called campfire church. And so we also had coffee church, but it was every weekend we would be with any number of families. It could be two families, it could be 40 families on the, in the wintertime it was almost 40 families for the whole winter.

Jennifer Miles: 25:49 And we would do Sunday service together as a group. And the people who are not entirely comfortable with their faith wouldn't go to it. Right. Because it was, you have your worship music, you have your sermon. It made them a little uncomfortable. And so my husband and I did a campfire church and what that was, and we didn't call it that, but that's in our mind, that's what it was, right. Is we just invited people to come to the campfire. We were there almost every night. It's like, if you have questions, we'd like to get to know you. And it wasn't about you have to talk about faith with us. They knew we were Christian, they knew where we stood. But we had a lot of these conversations with people where I've left the church and I don't know if I'll ever go back. And so you'd have conversations.

Jennifer Miles: 26:33 Why did you leave? What would bring you back? I mean, do you see yourself ever going back or is your faith stronger or weaker today? And a lot of them actually, their faith was stronger because they left. So like what does that tell us about the church? I mean that we'd also have these conversations and they would say, you know, you're one of the few Christians we've talked to that didn't immediately condemn us. Again. What does that tell you is that we have this perception issue right now. Yeah. So that's much bigger than marketing. That's we have to work on hearts. We have to work on how do you talk about your faith? Even understanding faith, right? When you look at, there's a website called theology on the web and they do, they show the results of the system. I don't want to say systematic theology, that's not really it.

Jennifer Miles: 27:20 But when we talk about statements of faith and like, you know, is there a Trinity? Is there, is Jesus Christ human or God? Like when you go, when you look at this theology on the web and there's, I think there's 60 to 80 questions and it's a survey of where do people stand as far as biblical sound theology. We're not doing so hot. Right? And so you have to teach your people what does the Bible really say? For me personally, I'm at a point where I'm understanding that digital has changed the way we do things, the way we learn, the way we remember things. we don't read anymore like we used to. And when we do read, we're so distracted we don't comprehend. There's an organization, it's a really long name. I think it's NAACP that does the, reading the literacy tests around the world.

Jennifer Miles: 28:19 And they do it about every 10 years. And what they have found is that in the United States, only 49% of people actually have the literacy and comprehension rate to understand what they're reading too, summarize it and to assimilate it into their belief system. Wow. So if you talk about that, I mean 49% of the US is unable to read the Bible and comprehend it and we are expecting that's how people learn. You go on Sunday and then you read your Bible. Well, if only one in two people can do that. We're missing a huge part of our market. Right? And so when we then talk about, well digital enables us to do that, right? It's video, it's story. And so this is where like I've talked a little bit with you about this Bible telling organization that I'm going to in October and Bible telling, there's a few different organizations that do that and essentially most of them do international missions where they have created a story set of the Bible.

Jennifer Miles: 29:21 Crew and Story Runners is the one that I first worked with and they have 48 stories that they literally have put together and it teaches the entire gospel from creation to revelation. Each story is two minutes long and it really helps build a Christian worldview when you are going in to another country that doesn't have a written word and they then teach these stories and then they build, basically it's micro churches, right? It's our model of house church, if you will, where it's, they have these 10 to 12 people once you get to like 14 split and do it again. And it's been extremely effective overseas. We haven't done a lot of that in the U S and where I am right now. I'm like, I would love to know my Bible better. I mean, I've read the Bible, but it's not necessarily, I mean, I think if I'm honest and I think of other people are honest to like you read the Bible, but you don't always know how to bring it into your life.

Jennifer Miles: 30:19 You don't know how to make it relevant for today. You don't know how to share it with people. Right. And oftentimes you'll sit there and I have a horrible memory so I can never remember verse, chapter, book. I was like, well there's this place that it talks about this thing. Right. And one of the things that's really great about Bible storying is that you don't have to remember where it is. You just get to tell the story. It's been really interesting. my husband and I did the story runners class a few years ago and right. You'd think I know the Bible really well. I could recall it on memory. I have all these years of experience. I can't, my husband grew up Catholic and the Catholic church, you typically don't read the Bible really well or frequently you'd rely on someone else to share it with you.

Jennifer Miles: 31:03 And so he doesn't have the background that I have. When we did this story runners class, it was amazing cause he came alive. He was like, this is the first time I've heard the gospel in a way that I connect with that I can relate to like it was living. And then when you start having that conversation, he goes, there are times where I'll be sitting with a coworker and they'll share something with me. And I'll remember from four years ago this one random story where we talked about, you know, like the woman at the well and it applies to the situation. So I can share this story in a really non-confrontational way. And I'm not like, well, you know, in the New Testament Jesus went on this trip and he talks about this thing with this woman. It's just like, Hey, can I tell you a story?

Jennifer Miles: 31:46 Like it's from my Bible, but I just want to share, I think this might apply to you. And it's a very low key way to share what you believe. And the more stories you learn, the more you start to understand how they impact your own life and then how you can share them with others without feeling like you're prostolizing. Like it's a very different mentality that we've experienced in the last few years and campfire churches, the thing that really let us down that path and the feedback we've gotten from people who have felt, condemned by other Christians has been really positive because we've changed the way we frame the scripture. It's now living. It's now story versus this law that I'm sharing with you. Does that make sense?

Jeff Reed: 32:34 Oh, totally. But it takes in, let me ask this, it takes a lot of transparency on your end to do that, right? I mean there's a lot of vulnerability that, that, that's involved in that, right? How does, like, how long does it take to, to learn a story? Is it just memorization? Like what, what does that process look like?

Jennifer Miles: 32:54 Well, so in the Bible storing community, there's actually an, an organization called International Orality Network and they kind of coordinate, or I don't want to say oversee, but they're just an umbrella organization that has a lot of these different Bible stories in groups. And there's just like, there is with denominations, there's multiple views on how you do Bible stories. Some are you need to do it word for word, some are, it's okay to paraphrase. so it just depends on who you learn from, if you will. My mentality because I went through story runners is two minute stories are about the best. You can remember almost anything that's two minutes long. Paraphrasing, as long as it's accurate. And so always making sure that you understand what the scripture truly says as you create your story. I mean it's a big difference.

Jennifer Miles: 33:47 One of the other gentleman I follow, his stories are longer. They're five to seven minutes. I honestly have a hard time following them because I lose interest after a few minutes, but I really respect what he does. He does an amazing job. He's done 265 stories out of the Bible. So it's almost the entire Bible if you think about it, over 70% of the Bible is a narrative. So it's really easy to divide the Bible into story and then to do like a two minute or a three minute story. And for me it's just going through and figuring out, okay, what's the next one? What do I get a lot of questions about? Is it, drinking? Is it just difficult relationships? Is it depression? Right. And so what story in the Bible might answer that? And then I go on, I figure out how can I tell that story in two minutes. And sometimes I can do it more word for word and sometimes it has to be more paraphrase, but I'm always really careful to keep it accurate.

Jeff Reed: 34:47 That's great. So you're sharing, you're having these conversations. Are you coaching at the same time where you're helping the person, okay, so here's what the story means and you're helping them apply to their life? Are you trusting that God's doing that on their own? Like what is landing the plane kind of look like?

Jennifer Miles: 35:08 Oh, so here's the, so when you start doing Bible telling again, there's a wide range of, Oh no, you have to tell them what it means. And they've kind of, it's interesting because I think people who started that way have backed off a little bit. They've realized that what you think is really important in the story, it may not be what they think is really important in the story. And so they go through this model, of like, you know, what do you, what do you learn about God? What do you learn about man? How can you apply this to your life? Like you lead through conversation, but you're not telling them what it means. People are pretty smart and people are pretty intuitive. You don't have to tell them the point of the story. And I think they also get start to think they think about it, right?

Jennifer Miles: 35:49 And so they're having to interact. They're having to internalize what they're hearing versus being told. When you tell someone it stays superficial. They don't really have to interact with the narrative. When you ask them to interact with it and tell them, you ask them what they're getting out of it. They not have to interact. They have to put it into the narrative in their head that already exists, their world view. And then they have to decide this, this meet up. Does this align with what I already believe? Does this change what I already believe? And then they have to figure out how does it change it, right? And so it's, yeah, I don't tell them what it, what it means. It's like, what do you think it means? What's your background? It's going to change based on what that is.

Jeff Reed: 36:30 I mean, it's, well, you're, you're, you're trusting God in those moments, right? Where it's, it's, Hey, let God rule in this and help the person apply how it can and going out on faith with that. That's some powerful stuff.

Jennifer Miles: 36:45 Right? Well, and I mean, I can't do it. That's, that's what the whole experience for. So a lot of the pushback I get when I talk to pastors about this is they do they worry about, well, don't I need to tell them what it means? Like how do I know that they're going to keep it, scripturally accurate and they're not gonna then change the story and do something different with it. And I've gotten to the point where, or my response is like, I'm pretty sure that God can keep a story biblically accurate. If the Bible was passed down for how long orally and the Holy Spirit was able to maintain its integrity, I think it's okay to do one or two stories and allow the Holy Spirit to work in that. He's, he's got this.

Jeff Reed: 37:29 That's a really interesting any angle at that. That's very true. Well, awesome. So how does this, how does this fit? How does this apply to like a the digital, technological world? What does that kind of look like?

Jennifer Miles: 37:44 Yeah, for me, the big thing is we have an amazing platform to share the gospel with people online. And like I follow a lot of churches digitally and some of them have church online, some don't. But my definition of church online is honestly any form of digital ministry at this point is I feel that the church is two or three people, that can happen in a structured church online or that can happen in a very, just a small conversation. Right. And so for me, if you are, if you are trying to figure out how to share the gospel as a church or as an individual starting these stories that you know, your friends are asking questions about and then just posting them like literally, it's like, here's a two minute video that I just threw up on YouTube that Hey, I want to share a story with you today.

Jennifer Miles: 38:29 I'm learning this thing and you can be transparent and say, I'm trying to understand my faith better. And so I'm learning how to these stories. And that by itself is a way to engage online in a way, and I'm going to sound really bad and I'm sorry I'm going to say this, but Hey, which coffee is your favorite? Right? You know, the, the images where it's like pick one through eight, which coffee's your favorite or the, so it's a meaningful way to get people engaged with the scripture versus just doing something for engagement.

Jeff Reed: 38:58 Gotcha. That's a really interesting idea. And by the way, my coffee is always black. but that's not what you wanted to know.

Jennifer Miles: 39:06 I'm Milk. I have some coffee with my milk.

Jeff Reed: 39:09 Yeah. I don't even like milk for milk. Put it in Coke. Why mess up coffee? Anyway, another conversation, but the idea of, of getting engagement out of that, not engagement for engagement's sake, but engagement with intentionality towards that. And it's funny, like you do the, you do the coffee posts cause you're trying to work the algorithm to manipulate the system to get it, do what you need to do. And, and maybe there's times to do that, but then there's also this flip side of the coin of what if we trusted God in this to pull up people's hearts to make it work towards what we need it to. And instead of, manipulating the system to get the agenda that you want and the results that you want. What if we trusted God in this season, to connect this to the people that needed to do the resources that we have available.

Jennifer Miles: 40:01 Right. Sometimes growing slow is more healthy.

Jeff Reed: 40:04 Yeah. Yeah. I've, I've been on, believe me, I've been on both sides of the coin. I've, I've worked in, I've worked in churches that, you know, I felt like I was on a jet rocket flying a hundred miles an hour. and I've worked at churches that were like snails pace. I think we're running faster, than we were. And both of them, you know, both of them, I think God was using both of them. I feel like was, was making it, making a difference. But at the end of the day, being connected with a, with an organization that's following the spirit, that that's an organization that's led by prayer, that's, that's led by devotion, towards discipling and creating, not, a butts in seats mentality. I'm not, you know, coming here so that your number, but, having a relational connection with people that are in turn are relationally connecting with others.

Jeff Reed: 40:56 You know, I believe is key. Someone is wanting to do marketing and you've just thrown out at them, Hey, we should really focus on discipleship instead of marketing. Like, that's okay. So I'm a web guy and I just heard that, I'm a communications director and I just heard that that's a hard, you know, bait and switch, Jesus juke, call it, call it what you want. What are some practical steps? Like how can I go from hearing this to say, okay, you're not wrong. It's something we need to explore. But I got an entire, you know, leadership team above me who's expecting the other thing. How do I proceed?

Jennifer Miles: 41:35 Yeah. Well I think there's probably, let's say three things you should do, right? Well, the first one is understand your cold, warm, hot so you understand who you really are trying to market to. The second is you have the ability to set up your website to do remarketing. If you're going to do ads, focus on that first. And so set up your, set up your pages so you can remarket, build Facebook campaigns around remarketing and be really strategic about it. If someone goes to your nursery page, do remarketing ads about the nursery. Don't just do these broad ads. And so it's okay to do ads, just do them appropriately. Do it only for people who are warm or who are hot. So, and the third thing is, now that we've talked about this, this cold, warm, hot, and who is our audience?

Jennifer Miles: 42:26 And now we're going to start remarketing people who are coming to our pages for certain things. How do we get more people to interact into the community? So now it's that discipleship track, right? Like how do we talk about the events we're having? It's the three steps. How do we talk about the, the events we're having and getting people to invite and making pages. You as the communications director, making pages that share the information appropriately that your congregation will feel comfortable sharing. So here's my invite page for Christmas. Here's all the things you need to know, right? What time are the services? Where do I park? What activities are going to be available? What can I expect when I get there? What service should I go to? Maybe you have a service that's really busy versus a service. It's not like, what do I expect for my kids? It's that kind of thing. It's more than just their ads out there. It's all the work that comes before that that you need to really work on.

Jeff Reed: 43:17 Fine tuning the, the marketing, you know, empowering some people around you to start to carry some of that messages as well and get out there and connect with people, utilizing some of the digital assets, to connect with at a personal level. Do that share but also do a personal follow up, share that digital file but also, you know, message it may be directly to or text them so that there's a, a personal touch as well. All of a sudden you can start to see stickiness to it. You can see some, some of that the marketing that you are doing, is it starting to go towards more of a warmer audience instead one that's so cold. So that's some great stuff. How was it, and this is off topic and maybe this will come back around with something, but how was it been under Leonard Sweet for four years?

Jennifer Miles: 44:12 Amazing.

Jeff Reed: 44:13 Oh my gosh. So I honestly like have done research. I didn't remember it being that school, but I did research and like he was that impactful. I was the same way. I was like, yeah, I want to go, go work studying under him.

Jennifer Miles: 44:29 Yeah. He's at several different seminaries. I think Duke is another one and I think there's another one as well. yeah cause the, the one at Portland Seminary, they only accept 15 students a year into, he keeps his cohort really small. I never knew where he was going to go next. So his breadth of knowledge, his insight into things is just unbelievable. And he doesn't just use, like there were times where we'd be sitting in his, because one of the cohorts ever is his house. And so we were sitting in his house watching music videos from YouTube. I mean that's not something you'd expect from him, but he's like, yeah, let's look at, what's the number one, like Spanish, it's the Despasito. But we're sitting there watching YouTube videos, talking about the semiotics of these YouTube videos and what we can learn for the church.

Jennifer Miles: 45:25 We're watching movies that are, you know, not faith-based at all. And probably in some ways most Christians would be like, well, how would you watch that? And it's like, what can we learn? What are the semiotics of this telling us and how do you apply it to the church? Or we look at these, paintings from, you know, a hundred years ago, do you want two years ago, 300 years ago. Okay, now what is this telling us about what these people believe in their faith? So I ended up having much more respect for like when you go into an old cathedral and all the images on the wall, and if you actually follow them, they tell the story of the church. They tell the story of that particular community. And it's like things you'd never think about until you really stop and are asked to. Let's dig deeper in this.

Jennifer Miles: 46:11 So, his knowledge, like I, as we were, as I was learning under him, one of the things that I really learned to love was like the Jewish culture and the Jewish history and how much that impacts what we read in the Bible. I don't know. I didn't think about that before. I mean, right. I've been a Christian for 20 years, but it wasn't until he was like, okay, let's stop and really think about like, what does it mean to go through the Shepherd's gate? What does it mean to like be a rabbi? What does it mean? Like all these questions you don't even think about until you start looking at the historical perspective of where Jesus grew up and Jesus lived in that faith community. So if you have a chance to do it, I recommend it.

Jeff Reed: 46:55 Wow. I don't, I seriously, I don't think I'm smart enough. I remember like when it, when I, I was, I was at a college and, I was reading, I read it like my senior year and actually like reading his book. Okay. I started a .com 1999 I graduated December 99, so 2000. I literally started a.com to web design just because he made this statement that, there is more, well technology in a Casio arm and risks watched in the entire Apollo 11 space mission. Yet we, the church have not changed how we're using at all since, you know, the seventies or sixties or whatever. And it was, it was like, I want to, I'm doing. And so literally I started a.com doing web design had over a hundred clients that I was building websites for and flash and CD rom development and hosting.

Jeff Reed: 47:43 And like, it was just, it was awesome. but it was all, it was based off of this man's book. But I swear like reading that book, I can only read like one or two pages at a time because it was so thick with references and it was so, well educated, you know, that it just, it, and I saw, he actually, I follow him on Facebook and he posted, it's the 20th anniversary of Soul Tsunami. And they're talking about rereleasing the book. And I'm like, Oh, I got to get that. But like even a Soul Cafe, he did a Starbucks parallel. That was really good. It's like I've probably read four or five of his stuff.

Jennifer Miles: 48:23 Yeah. He just, he has a new one now that said, I can't remember the title of it, but it's about the ring of fire. That might even be the title. But yeah, it's, it's always thought provoking.

Jeff Reed: 48:35 Awesome. And that's good. I love that. Hey man, I want to thank you for the time, and I appreciate that. The conversation. Jennifer, with you jumping on with me today. And maybe any thoughts or anything as we're landing the plane?

Jennifer Miles: 48:49 I think the big thing is like, trust your people, right. Empower your people to do things, give them the assets they need. I mean, you don't have to do everything and be everything. So the more you empower them, the easier it is to do marketing for the church.

Jeff Reed: 49:07 Wow. Trust the people around you. That's some really good advice, especially in some church environments. So, well done. Hey, how can people find you on social media?

Jennifer Miles: 49:17 Yeah, so I'm on a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, pretty much everywhere. @JenAMiles is my handle on all of them.

Jeff Reed: 49:28 Excellent. Well, Jen, again, thanks for the time. Appreciate it. Listening audience, great to have you on. And, we'll see you next time here on The Church Digital Podcast. Thanks everybody.

Six Things Your Church Needs to Know About TikTok
PODCAST 032: CITN & Redefining the Why of Church Online

About Author

Jeff Reed
Jeff Reed

With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about Discipleship as he is Technology, Jeff uses his passion to help Churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves Church Online.

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