“What is the biggest change you’ve seen in digital ministry and leadership?” asked a colleague recently.


Perhaps the greatest challenge facing you as a leader is the volume and noise. We are inundated with information; how can we stand out as a definitive voice? When it comes to leadership in digital maturity and technology, what I’ve discovered is there are so many specializations in these fields – marketing, branding, UX/UI, CX, tech stack, back end, front end, social media, analytics – to name a few.* To be good, you have to be able to pull all those things together to deliver something people will delight in using. Leaders used to be able to extend their influence by having some good insight, creating good content, getting a good blog going, paying attention to a few good feeds. It’s much harder to add value now.

In order to survive, people have erected filters. A four-inch screen is a crowded space to get someone’s attention. My best friend is a megachurch pastor and I can rarely get him to respond to a text from me. Think about a group of people you want to reach out to with digital media – a Facebook post, a video, a questionnaire, an invitation to a Bible study, or a blog that discusses meaningful issues of the day. To try to get into their world, their filters are really high.

Part of it is that people are overwhelmed. Like we all do, they turn off notifications, they ignore certain things, they unsubscribe. Earning a spot for attention is really difficult.

To be able to do that, we need to be addressing an issue that’s important with compelling content, have a tone of voice that’s current with the culture group you’re trying to talk to, in language that makes sense to them.

Graphically and visually, it has to be attractive, has to load on their device in a short amount of time, optimized for a mobile screen. If you’re a writer, to cultivate an audience you have to be mindful of those things.

Let’s say the pastor of a church communicates well. The church uses WordPress as a platform, but the three associate pastors blog on three other platforms. That will get them to a certain level of effectiveness. No one will come to them and say, “You need to be on the same platform,” because there are too many other more pressing issues, but it needs to happen if they want to make a collective impact.

To lead well in the digital space, you have to have someone thinking above the day-to-day tasks, pulling your digital assets together. When your team or institution does this you are becoming digitally mature. When people do it right, it’s a work of art. The user experience seems simple. People think, “This website is so easy; I can find what I want.” The easier it is to find what you want, there’s a disproportional amount of work behind those decisions. That’s what it takes to be noticed. That’s what it takes to be heard.

What helps you cut through the noise?

*UX/UI is User Experience/User Interface. CX stands for Customer Experience.

This post first appeared on Indigitous.org as part of an interview series on Digital Leadership.

The hardest thing about leadership is actually doing it.

It’s easy to talk about leadership. It’s easy to observe how and when others aren’t leading. Your inbox and social media feeds prove that it is much easier to blog about it, tweet (and retweet) about it, preach about it, publish books about it, convene a conference about it, or judge it.

But to lead well over time in ways that build the people and the institution in the process – that is an art. The creation of art requires courage, patience, inspiration, and diligence. Ultimately each true work of art must be released to the public where it will be experienced, evaluated, and critiqued.

How will the artist in you lead well today?

Larger Scope, Fewer Words

February 23, 2016 — 6 Comments

“I really appreciate having a clear framework for our digital ministry,” Doni told me over lunch today. “My dad was in the Indonesian military. He trained me well in the need for clear focus. It can be a matter of life and death.”

Doni gives leadership to 14 nations’ digital efforts in southeast Asia. The scope and complexity of his leadership challenges are huge. But he and his growing team are making great progress. This is due in large part to his love for people and his ability to clearly state a few objectives.

Here are two lessons I’ve learned in mobilizing large groups of people:

1. The more clearly we sound the deepest spiritual note, the higher level of personal commitment the right people will choose to offer.

2. Less is more with vision. The number of words, goals, or ideas a group can digest is inversely proportional to the size of the group. If we want to mobilize 10 developers on a project, we may be able to get away with a few pages of ideas. If we want to scale to 10K or 100K people who are actively involved, we may need to be in the range of 3-10 words.

Jesus launched a worldwide movement with a few simple ideas: Love God. Love people. Follow me. Make disciples.

Once people have the big idea clearly in mind, they can run at their own pace.