Category Archives: Employment

10 Years of Church Marketing Sucks

Ten years ago today, on July 22, 2004, a little website called Church Marketing Sucks went live. Our very first blog post went up and we’ve been challenging the church to communicate better ever since.

We’re still going strong today, and we’ve been throwing a month-long anniversary celebration for the month of July. After all, you only get to celebrate a 10-year anniversary once. We’ve got giveaways (T-shirts!), discounts and lots of posts exploring whether or not church marketing still sucks. We’re also doing a hangout next week and more is still coming.

It’s kind of incredible to be involved in something like this for so long. I’ve been the editor of Church Marketing Sucks for 10 years. In this day and age few people get to do anything for 10 years, never mind work on a website.

Church Marketing Sucks has out-lasted the fads, lived beyond the hype and been around long enough to become one of the dinosaurs of the Internet age. And hopefully we’ll be around for a while longer. We’ve been debating the question, but I’m convinced that church marketing does still suck. We’ve got work to do to help churches share the greatest story ever told.

Everything we’ve accomplished so far is really thanks to the vision and dedication of Brad Abare and the team of directors, board members and volunteers that make what we do happen. Brad not only had the vision to start this up 10 years ago, but the commitment to see it through and the trust to let someone like me run it.

Any number of things could have derailed us over the years. But I’m incredibly grateful for the dedication that made us a long-standing voice. I’m still humbled and thankful to be doing this, and I hope to be at it for a while longer.

Here’s to more frustration, education and motivation.

5 Minutes a Day

I recently read Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination by Hugh MacLeod. I mean, why wouldn’t you read a book called Evil Plans?

It’s another book about creativity and striking out on your own, written by a guy who made a name for himself by drawing cartoons on the backs of business cards. That’s all well and good, but sometimes I think these kind of screeds are a little too niche. Some people like having a 9-to-5 job and working for an employer and that doesn’t make them brainless schlubs. Maybe more people can and do have their Evil Plan side projects today than ever before, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody.

But that’s my own rant on rants like this. What I really wanted to talk about was one of the brilliant thoughts that stuck with me from the book:

“Like a very talented pianist once told me when I was a boy, it’s better to practice a musical instrument for five minutes a day than to practice for two hours once a week. It’s something I never forgot.” (page 39)

Five minutes a day is better than two hours once a week. If you’re serious about anything, if you want to get good at anything, if you want to tackle a tough project, you need this advice (read: I need this advice).

It’s the consistency that wins over time, not the herculean effort.

And really, if you love it, you’ll find those five minutes are never enough and you’ll start to make more time. But at least take those five minutes.

(My problem is I can never stick to just five minutes and it turns into two hours and the next day I can’t afford to dive in so deeply, so I don’t. I need to learn some self-control. Or I need an egg timer. Or maybe a real egg timer.)

And yes, this is just a gimmick. It’s like all the other ideas, techniques and tricks out there to get you to do something: National Novel Writing Month, inbox zero, pick your favorite Lifehacker gem. But let’s call them what they are: gimmicks. Designed to get us to accomplish a task we can’t otherwise seem to do. Another comment MacLeod makes is that we’re just primates, and like primates we need to be tricked into accomplishing something.

January Sucks: Admitting Failure & Struggle

The other day I tweeted about how much January sucks:

I think this month is trying to crush me. And then kick me while I’m down. Not nice, January. Not nice.

I was sick for two weeks and it feels like I’ve spent the whole month coughing.

But the bigger issue is the struggle. I haven’t blogged much lately, in part because life seems like such a struggle lately. It’s hard. I feel like I’m flirting with failure and that’s not a popular topic to talk about. It’s not a topic that pulls me to the computer to craft a blog post.

But I think it’s time to fess up and move on.

Life is hard right now. Work has been slow for a while. Bills are stacking up and it’s depleting whatever safety net we had. I’m not saying this for pity. It’s just the way things are. It’s too easy to think everyone else is doing just fine and we’re the ones who are struggling, but I’m sure that’s not the case.

So between work and bills and daddy daycare and a preteen who doesn’t want to be here, it’s hard. I’m struggling.

I keep reminding myself that these are the times that show us what we’re made of. And what am I made of? Do I have what it takes to make it work? Or is this juggling act going to come crashing down? Some days I don’t know.

But we keep on.

My saving grace lately has been a client with a nearly unlimited capacity for low-paying freelance articles. Last week they offered me a section editor position and are putting me on retainer. It’s more work for less money, but it’s steady. It’s not the solution to all my problems (is there such a thing?), but it’s a nice step forward.

I’m also thankful for friends we can lean on. My color-coded Google calendar could trigger a migraine it’s so full. Lots of entries involve friends stepping in to watch kids or loan cars or give us some measure of sanity. We couldn’t do this alone.

I’m also thankful for a smart and strong wife. These are hard times and we need a lot of strength to get through. I’m proud that Abby has both good ideas and insights, but also the strength to buckle down and get through this. Especially since financial stress has to be about the worst kind of stress (otherwise you can throw money at the stress and that at least helps a little bit).

One of the books I’ve been reading lately (Not For Sale) reminds me that no matter how tough life gets, I have it easy. The book tells stories of children ripped from their homes, forced to murder and butcher their friends as they’re turned into child soldiers in Uganda. Or women enslaved in brothels in Southeast Asia and each glimmer of freedom turns out to be more of the same rejection and pain. My struggle would be their cakewalk.

I’m also thankful for babies. A few just born and a few still on the way, lighting up their parents’ lives like electricity. Can’t help but smile at that.

A little perspective always helps. And so we struggle on.

Putting College Kids to Work

Here’s a less than encouraging statistic: Only 20% of college graduates are finding jobs this year. By way of comparison, in 2007 it was 50% (which doesn’t seem much better). Business Week echoes the statistics and explores the best job markets for college grads.

I remember trying to find a job as a college graduate being pretty nerve wracking. Aside from the stress of needing a job, you’ve likely never done this full time employment thing before for more than a short term or part time basis. And few college graduates understand the importance of networking (I certainly didn’t).

For the other 80% of college grads looking for jobs who don’t find them, this might be an amazing opportunity. You’ll likely need to tighten the belt straps, continue your college frugality, maybe even move back home. But not having a full time, 9-5, thrilling but honestly brain-sucking job can free you up to do so many things. This might be the time to start your business. Or volunteer on another continent. Or explore some things you really love. Maybe you’ll pitch in and finally put your church online. Maybe you’ll tackle an overwhelming social issue in your own backyard. Maybe you’ll help someone out in an entirely unglamorous and non-resume-worthy way (like the high school grad currently volunteering to do some babysitting for me).

When the job market improves you’ll be ready for it. Heck, you’ll be better for it. And the people you invested your time and effort in will be eager to see you succeed.

You Can Change the World: Help People Find a Job

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The economy’s in the crapper. The list of people I know who are unemployed (or under-employed, like me) continues to grow. But what can we do about it? Help each other out, for starters. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul Social Media Breakfast event on Friday, local recruiter Paul DeBettignies said it best: “For the love of God help somebody else.”

So let’s try doing that. I’ve come across a number of resources to help job seekers lately, so let’s share.

The Online Job Hunt
First up, is the presentation Paul DeBettignies gave at the Social Media Breakfast. You can actually check out three of his recent presentations on using social media in the job search, getting the most out of Linked In and what to do after you have a “killer” resume. I’ve only seen the social media presentation, but I gleaned some good stuff:

  • “It’s not the size of your network that matters, but how you use it.”
  • Using Google to find people on Linked In you can’t find with Linked In’s search.
  • What to do once you get a job (thank people, tell people, ask if your company has other job openings, keep up with your network, look for your next job).
  • Ask why you didn’t get the job. Nine times out of ten they won’t tell you, but when they do it can be huge.

You miss out on a lot by not seeing the presentation live, but hopefully you can find a few nuggets.

Continue reading You Can Change the World: Help People Find a Job

Work is Slow but I’m Upbeat

I don’t talk about it much publicly, but work has been slow lately. Terribly slow. Income dropped in 2008, for the first time since I started working on my own (though honestly, the drop wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be). And 2009 looks to be worse.

But against all that, I’m upbeat about it. Certainly I have my moments of doubt when things get kind of scary, but I also know that God provides. He’s done it before and I know he’ll do it again. I’m not sitting back and waiting for cash to fall from heaven, but part of my faith involves relying on God. In reality I’m always reliant on God, but it’s times like this when it becomes so much more obvious. In the mean time I’ll tighten my belt, perhaps wean myself from Cherry Pepsi, and struggle through.

Maybe I’m a bit naive, but I think times like this can be an opportunity. A time of unemployment launched me on this freelance journey in the first place. And while work has been slow I’ve been working on other projects, such as the Billy Graham blog, Start Seeing Art, and my 2006 novel Turn Left at the Blacktop, among others (By the way, I printed off a 158-page copy of the novel today so my wife could read it and give me her assessment).

I’m confident that hard times like this can refocus us, can present new opportunities, can be good for us. Sometimes, frankly, it does suck. But recession or economic depression are not the end of the world.

How to Apply for a Job

My friend and frequent client Brad Abare has a great blog post offering advice for job seekers. In a nutshell he says to forget about the resume and find a way to show your passion. It’s nearly impossible for a resume to communicate everything it needs to, so you need to find a way to make yourself stand out.

My wife did that with her current teaching job when she turned a pack of crayons into her resume. When school started the other teachers were still talking about it. I remember applying for jobs straight out of college and I neglected to do anything creative. I just sent out resume after resume (and it was a sharp looking resume). It’s no wonder I had only a single interview.

When I was looking for a job four years ago I remember having a hard time finding positions I could get excited about. I worked hard on creative cover letters to go with my sharp looking resume, but I didn’t do much more. And I didn’t get very many interviews either. (Sometimes I think it’s a miracle I’m able to make do.) I think you have to go outside the box to find and get a job that’s more than a paycheck. You can’t settle for the posted jobs (I ultimately didn’t; I started my own company), and you can’t rely on a typical resume (being typical won’t get you noticed).

Finding a job is never easy, especially in an economy like this one, but you have to stand out. I think Brad offers some good advice, and it comes from someone who has seen lots of resumes, interviewed lots of candidates and hired quite a few good folks.

Squirrel Causes Power Outage

I have a few projects due this week so I was working furiously today–had five billable hours racked up before lunch–when I heard a loud bang. My monitor flashed and went dead and the lights went off. I looked over my shoulder in the direction of the bang and saw the smoke coming from the utility pole in the alley. Something blew up and killed the power for the block.

Crap. I had work to do.

I gathered up the laptop and headed out, thankful that I’d just replaced the Geo’s battery and restored it to starting condition. I paused at the utility pole where I’d seen the smoke and noticed a squirrel, frozen in a grimace, lying on its side in the alley just a few feet from the pole. I think I found the culprit.

Thanks to that squirrel I spent my afternoon using the St. Clair Broiler’s wifi. Since coming under new ownership they’ve raised the prices and shrunk the menu (why does every restaurant drop my favorite items?), but you gotta love the free wireless Internet.

Waiting Around After Vandalism

You know, I was really starting to miss these late night trips to the King CDC everytime the security alarm goes off. Good to be back. In blog form.

My wife is a teacher at the King CDC, a daycare center operated by Bethel University in a building owned by the Union Gospel Mission in Frogtown, a low income neighborhood of St. Paul. About a year ago there were break-ins and vandalism all the time. A rock thrown through a window, people carting off really crappy boomboxes, people trying to steal sub-standard printers. Fun stuff.

After a while they installed a security system, which helped. Of course it hardly stops someone from breaking a window for fun. It happened again tonight, and the security company started calling people on the list. The call finally came to us and we came down to check it out. Talked to the cop, called the right people, and now we’re waiting for someone to come board up the window. And I’m blogging.

Continue reading Waiting Around After Vandalism