Ministry thrives on story to communicate our mission, vision and impact, so we need to share our stories with the world. There’s just one not-so-tiny problem: you can’t talk to everyone at once. Hold on, you say, “Of course I can! The Internet and social media give me access to almost anyone.” All I have to do is blast my story out into the world for everyone to hear. Practically speaking, this is true. But truthfully, this doesn’t work.
Your story has to be for someone specific in order to be understood. The Apostle Paul gives us a good example of this in his ministry. He was called to share the Good News with everyone and fulfill the Great Commission Jesus left us. The Gospel is for the whole world and intended for every person to hear. But how did Paul go about spreading this message?
He writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” Paul chose to become a lot of specific things to a lot of specific people in order that they might hear and understand his message. Even though the Gospel is for everyone, he did not take a one-size-fits-all approach. He took time to think about the cultures and people he was trying to reach and looked for entry points to share the truth. He humbled himself so that people would not see him but Christ preached through him.
We are also ministers of the Gospel, and we should learn from Paul’s example. Technology gives us access to more people than ever before but that actually means we need to customize our message more than we ever have. People are flooded with information and resources competing for their attention. Every day, they see advertisements targeted specifically at them by businesses hoping to capitalize on what they care about and search for online. To cut through the noise, we have to show how our story is something our audience should care about deeply. We also have to start by finding the right people who will care about our why.
To think about who to reach with your story first, imagine the process of starting a fire. This is a helpful analogy that Greg Stielstra shares in his book Pyromarketing. To build a fire, you don’t hold a small match to a great big log. It takes far more heat than the match can provide to light a big log on fire. Instead, you start with something smaller. Dry grass and tiny twigs catch fire easily and then you can slowly add larger sticks and small pieces of wood to build the blaze. You feed the fire until eventually it is strong enough to burn the large log.
Building a fire is a great picture for reaching people with our message. Stielstra says to look for your driest tinder. These are the people who perfectly align with your mission and who will love your product or program. These people will become your evangelists who convince others to believe in what you do. They will become your passionate champions who bring people in who might not have been interested otherwise. Those people in turn will point you to others and as momentum builds, eventually no log will be too large to withstand your fire. Your message will reach even people who were previously not interested in what you had to offer.
Stielstra offers us a valuable lesson in this example of building a fire. We don’t need to reach everyone with our message, we just need to focus on reaching the right people first. This is great news because as ministries, we don’t have unlimited resources for marketing and promotion. We can be efficient and strategic by looking for our driest tinder—the people we have the best chance of winning over to our side. If we’ve done the work to make our story clear and powerful, it will be easy for those people to share our story with others and spread that fire far and wide.
Content for this blog post is excerpted from Liam’s book, which is in progress, on ministry innovation.
Liam Savage and his wife Patti, live in Fort Lauderdale, FL where they both work at OneHope, whose mission is to reach the next generation with God’s Word. Liam serves as the director of innovation, and has built a team focused on helping the organization thrive in the midst of change. He is also on the leadership team of Indigitous, a great commission accelerator that seeks to empower Christians with powerful digital solutions to confidently tell others about Jesus.