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Boiling It Down

Keep it simple (stupid) 

 Reduce your ministry’s over-arching message to a single short statement? 

It’s understandable that some ministry leaders feel uncomfortable about reducing their mission to a single message. It can be unnerving to think that anybody could express your work — to which you’re giving your entire life — in just one breath.  

  • But look at Jesus, who willingly rose to the challenge in Matthew 22:35-40 when a lawyer asked Him to narrow it all down for him. He hung “all the Law and the Prophets” on just two commandments.  
  • (Was Moses watching from heaven? He may have been fidgeting, having taken 10 whole commandments to express the law. 
  • Paul boils it down even further, in Romans 13:10: “… Love is the fulfillment of the law.” 

A single mission message does not have to imply simplicity or a lack of value.  

  • The Westminster Confession states that the purpose of life is simply to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” That’s clear, concise, bold, and profound — yet we struggle a lifetime to answer much smaller questions than the purpose of life! 

Regardless of our natural discomfort with the idea, the boiling-down of a ministry into a single message is essential — and more so each year, as our culture whirls into more and more frenzied chaos. 

Let’s work together to frame your single message 

This was the concept perfectly understood, and executed, by James Carville — the bald, foul-mouthed Cajun-French good ol’ boy who ran the “War Room” that brought Bill Clinton to the presidency in the early 1990s. 

The over-arching strategy of that first Clinton campaign was expressed in the hand-drawn sign that Carville tacked up in Clinton’s campaign headquarters: 

“It’s the economy, stupid.”  

Carville insisted that the message of the campaign was nothing more or less than “The economy is broken, and Bill Clinton can fix it.” 

Of course, the economy may or may not have been broken. And no President has even the legal power, let alone the intelligence, to actually fix a whole economy! 

But as far as James Carville was concerned, truth wasn’t necessarily the point. The point was to persuade the voters.  

And the most effective technique for accomplishing that persuasion was, as Carville realized: 

  • not to tell them everything about every subject; 
  • not to fritter the days away answering charges about old girlfriends and draftdodging hijinks,  
  • but rather to narrow the message to a single thought, something people care about, and then repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it 
    and repeat it. 

Were the American people idiots in 1992? No. But they were busy. They were distracted. They were living under the tyranny of the urgent. Many would say today people are even more so 

Right now, people are doing what seems to be important — changing the baby’s diaper or checking their bank account or calling the cops about the neighbor’s noisy dog or watching TikTok videos —  

So if a message is going to get through to their brain, it’s going to have to come at them an enormous number of times, with extreme consistency and clarity. And it’s going to have to be something that matters to them. 

Clinton’s opponent, George Bush, Sr., pouted after that campaign that he just “didn’t connect with the voters.” That assessment was exactly, perfectly correct. But that connection could not happen solely through campaign techniques — spots on TV, rallies in stadiums, full-color mailings, whatever.  

Connection is a human thing, not a mechanical thing. It relies more on the message than the mechanics of the communication. 

Now, with Christ’s own example (and Carville’s strategy) as background, what about you and the mission of your organization? 

When it comes to asking your donors for help, you must “stay on message.” 

Let us help you!  

You certainly want to tell the truth. But you also want to persuade your “voters.”  

Yours may be a superb ministry, with great programs and creative fundraising and social media strategies. But if you’re not getting enough response from your target audience, it may be because your messages to them are all over the map.  

In today’s frenzied marketplace, with a zillion messages zinging through every donor’s life every day, the organizations communicating Carville-style are the ones getting response.