Welcome back Martin Davis, a well-known congregational consultant. He’s good at answering the nuts-and-bolts questions people are asking nationwide, especially about communication. Please, click on a blue-”f” Facebook button to suggest that friends read this column along with you. Want Martin to help you? See the note at the end of this column. Here’s Martin …
Of Kites and Communication
By MARTIN DAVIS
Our week at the beach in North Carolina was a family vacation—but I came home with more than a tan and fond memories. I came home with a fresh insight—and it all began with a promise I made like so many fathers:
“Kids, while we’re on the beach, we should fly a kite!”
With the exception of Charlie Brown, there are few people who don’t enjoy kite flying. I learned the activity in the Boy Scouts—we won’t discuss what year; just know it was before the ’80s—where I learned to make and fly these wingless birds. A simple, relaxing activity. Place it on a string, get it airborne, and watch it soar.
To the local kite store we went. The kites of my youth—one string, one tail, and some plastic wrapped around two crossed sticks—were nowhere to be found. Instead, we were greeted with an array of shapes, colors and sizes.
We picked one out, carried it to the beach house, unwrapped it …
… and spent the next hour figuring out how to get it together.
Then it took another 20 minutes to unlock the mystery of connecting two separate lines to the kite—standard on today’s “stunt kites.”
It was a humbling experience. My youngest used to believe I was all-knowing, invincible. Alas, no more! At least, I consoled myself: It happens to all parents sooner or later. After all, my colleague Benjamin Pratt just admitted to the whole world: “I’m only a father!”
In those first hours with this new kite—I repeated that line! Putting the kite together was easy, as it turned out, compared with learning to fly it. Initially, the kite spent more time knotted and doing nose dives in the sand dunes than sailing gracefully beside the ocean.
FROM NOSE DIVES TO SOARING WITH THE BIRDS
But by mid-week, our experience was quite different! I began to get the hang of controlling two sets of strings instead of one. Of learning to read wind directions and currents based on the feel of the lines, and compensating by pulling the appropriate string.
Before any of us thought possible, we were not only flying the kite, but we were making it dip and dive, weave side-to-side, and complete 360-degree turns. We learned to read wind currents, and to marvel at how we could watch the birds’ paths and learn from them by mimicking their flight paths with our kite.
How similar kite flying is to how many congregations must feel about communications today.
Before electronic media (email, e-newsletters and the like) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, among many others), congregational communications were like an old-school, one-line kite. Attach your information to the end of a string—the traditional print newsletter—and wait for the wind to take it where it would. Sometimes it would catch an updraft, sometimes not. Either way, there was little you could do to control it. All you could do was build it, let go, hold onto the string for dear life, and hope the kite flew.
Today, the range and variety of electronic communications are more akin to the world of multi-line stunt kites. Each electronic platform has not one, but two strings that allow you not only to send information out, but to read how well that information floats on the currents of your congregation and adjust your message accordingly.
It takes a little time. Generally speaking, we’re good at pushing information out, but we’re must less equipped to read how well that information is playing with our audience and to adjust to that information.
Once you learn it, however, you’ll never go back. After all, better to learn to dodge the kite-eating tree with the new communication tools than to continue crashing into such barriers over, and over, and over again.
Want Martin to help you?
That’s easy! Visit the website for his courses and consulting: Sacred Language Communications. As this column is published, an online class is starting soon—and an in-person conference is scheduled in Virginia. Visit the Sacred Language Communications Events & Registration page to learn more.
You can contact Martin Davis via this page within his website. Martin plans to regularly publish helpful columns in Read The Spirit through the autumn and winter. Please, share his columns with friends by clicking on the blue-“f” Facebook icon or the envelope-shaped email icon. You also can email us at [email protected] with questions.