Welcome back to Monday morning Church. Today, we have a very special guest Brady Shearer is on the line here. Brady is the founder of Pro Church Tools, he’s a great videographer, great creative person that’s out there and the guy, you kind of want to be friends with because he had so much cool media going on around him, Brady, how are you today?
I’m very well Neil, thanks for taking me on the show.
Absolutely happy to have you, you have a lot of things to share with us, but why don’t you give us little bit of background about yourself and the journey to create Pro Church Tools?
Yeah, well, I was hired on as the media director at my church in the second year of Bible college, my pastor must have seen something in me that I did not because I had no skills in video, graphic web or design, but he hired me on. And that began the journey towards learning all of these skills that became super valuable to my church. So much so that other churches in the city that I was living at the time began to reach out to me like big churches and they’re like, “Hey, can you help us with video? Can you help us with design and stuff?” And so I started thinking to myself, you know what? If I could learn this just by piecing together different internet tutorials and YouTube videos, I think that others could learn this as well. And it’s just going to be so valuable as we move forward in this huge communication shift that were living through, and millennials, and Gen Z, and social and internet, all of this that has just been what I like to say. The biggest communication shifts we’ve seen in the last five hundred years and churches we need to figure this out. And if I can learn it, so can you, I’m no one special? And so I just started teaching everything that I knew on this platform I created called Pro Church Tools, prochurchtools.com being the home base. And so I just started teaching everything I knew, videos, articles, podcasts, teaching through those mediums and allowing people to ideally pick up these skills themselves. And that was the beginning of Pro Church Tools as a platform and as a company.
And when did you start it?
It is about four years ago. Third year of Bible college for me. So I was about twenty-one-ish.
So a very seasoned veteran by that time?
Oh yeah, yeah. And that was the point of the platform, which was like, look, I’m just learning this as I go, and I just picked it up myself and so can you. And that’s kind of what we’re living with the internet and with social it’s like, this is one of the reasons why we see YouTube comments, Facebook comment, social comments, the way they are. We still haven’t even developed manners on the internet. If you go to someone’s house or if you meet someone in person, we have certain niceties and things that we do to have nice manners, like how are you, you wouldn’t just go up to someone and be like, “Man, your face is ugly.” But we see stuff like that on social all the time, we’re living through this communication shift that is just massive. It’s infecting every single industry, churches are not immune to that, and we’re just kind of trying to figure it out as we go.
And so that’s very much the approach that we take, which is like we’re all just practitioners, and the second that we get something figured out, it changes. I put together this full course of podcasts and three-thousand-word article on snapchat about a year ago, the day that I released this course article and podcast, which had taken forty hours of work, we flew to Denver from Niagara Falls to film the course for goodness sakes, that same day Instagram sent an email to say, “Hey, we’re launching this new feature called Instagram stories.” And I was like, well, darn, that is unfortunate. Things are changing so fast, we’re all just practitioners figuring it out as we go, we like to say that we’re pioneers in this new land, and it’s like when the pioneers came over to North America and the winters were cold in Canada, we didn’t know what to do and how do you grow food and this crazy climate? We can throw buffalo in some of the Northern states in there as well. And we figured it out, and that’s what we’re doing right now with social, with the internet, how do we share this amazing story of Jesus through this new place? But we’re all pioneers figuring it out as we go in.
Alright so Brady, walk us through from a xp perspective, we have these executive pastors, they’re in their forties/fifties/sixties, they’ve seen church how it was done twenty/thirty years ago, they’ve built up maybe a larger congregation, and they want to involve a lot of these tools in there, but there’s some hesitancy, they feel like, “Okay, yeah, it’s easy for a twenty-one, twenty-four-year-old to start up something like this. But for me, as I have so many things I’m trying to look over,” what is some advice you can give to them?
Well, I think it comes down to that word that I just used, which is practitioner and the willingness to be able to actually dive into these platforms. If you’re someone who’s forty/fifty/sixty, and this is, just for the record, entirely common. The average lead pastor is fifty-four years old right now in the protestant world, and that’s in 2016, the year after, I was born in 1992, the average age of a lead pastor was forty-four. So we’re trending older while our communities and demographics are trending younger with millennials being the largest living generation now, Gen Z right behind us, we’ve grown up on the internet, there’s this big dichotomy and this gap between the people leading our churches and who our churches are trying to reach. And so I think the first thing is being aware and mindful of that when it comes to actually learning these platforms, I fully believe that if you’re someone who’s a little bit older that you can do this. One of the people that I think is excelling the most on Instagram stories as a guy named Carey Nieuwhof, and he’s a fellow Canadian pastor, and he is absolutely spectacular on Instagram, the dude’s like fifty-five years old, fifty years old, and we’re doing a podcast coming up in the next couple of weeks where he’s talking about why it’s his most favorite platform right now. So we’ve got tons of examples of people that are older using these. And if you think about it in your own personal life, let’s say you are fifty years old, forty-five years old and your first born is going off to college and you wanna connect with them and they’re like, “Hey mom, hey dad, let’s connect on FaceTime.” Even if you’ve never used FaceTime before, you’re going to figure out FaceTime because you wanna talk to your kid and see them face to face.
What technology is allowing us, is the ability to reach people in ways that was never possible. Let’s say early ’90’s. We did stuff like big tent revival meetings, and this is one of the best ways to get as many people as possible in our community, in our region together in one place. Well, we now have that at a much higher pace every single day on Facebook, seven out of ten, seven out of every ten American adults is on Facebook. Seven out of ten, it’s like having a revival meeting every single day where seventy percent of the people in your community are there. And to be fair, the tent revival meeting now is not specifically for that, they are there for a different reason, but this audience and platform is now being built where you have access to more people than ever before, at a price that’s way more affordable than traditional media and traditional advertising.
And Facebook’s like, “Yes, set up shop here man we’re cool with that, we’ll give you a free page and if you wanna spend some money to reach people, that’s great, if not, hey, if you do organic social right, you can reach people as well.” The things that we’re being afforded the opportunities that we are being afforded are just incomprehensible to someone that lived a century ago, a decade ago even. And so for us to kind of say this would be my challenge to older people and I know this comes from an easy place, like it’s easy for you to say, “Brady, you’re young, you grew up on this.” But my challenge would be like, if you are neglecting these platforms, neglecting these opportunities simply because it feels unfamiliar and uncomfortable, which for every single human is a reason not to do something, right, we do it all the time. “I am unfamiliar with this, I do not like it, I will not do it. I am uncomfortable with this, I do not like it, I will not do it.”
To have that approach, just means that you have to be okay with sacrificing the tremendous opportunity that we have to reach people. If you think about millennials for as an example, the largest living generation, the largest portion of the workforce. We like to think of millennials as this up and coming generation. Now, there are more millennials in the workforce than any other generation. So this is now the biggest group in your city that you can try to reach, just population wise, there are more of them than anyone else. We grew up on the internet in high school, I made the switch and great nine from Myspace to Facebook, and it was this cool new thing and the generation behind me even more so, like my younger cousins, they had the internet their entire lives basically. And so we are tremendously native when it comes to social and for you to neglect something like that basically means if you’re going to do that, just because it’s unfamiliar to you, you have to be okay with saying, “Well, we’ve got a write off this huge opportunity of reaching younger people.” There’s no either or… and I don’t even want to say that one is worse and what is better if you’re an older church and that’s who you’re dialed in to then go for it. But you can’t have both is what I’m trying to say.
Yeah, so let’s take the role of an XP that’s out there that’s trying to, either they wanna get started or they doubt their current strategy. What would you recommend as step one? To kind either reevaluate what you’re doing now or getting started?
When it comes to social in particular?
Yeah, in particular.
Yeah, so I have this thing called “The three social media grading system” that I like to teach pastors and churches to use. And what’s great about this is that it works specifically for your church and your audience rather than being this broad advice that could be maybe not applied in your unique situation. And so what you need to do is you need to go into, let’s say your most popular social channel – for most churches, this is going to be Facebook. So go to Facebook and look at everything that you’ve posted over the last thirty/sixty or ninety days, depending on how often you post, you wanna have at least ten to fifteen, ideally twenty-five posts. So if you’re posting every day, you probably only need to do this for thirty days but the more data that you, kind of, amalgamate, the better it’s going to give you more insightful metrics. And so what you wanna do is you wanna take each post over, let’s say the last ninety days, and you wanna look at two specific metrics. You wanna look at engagement, and reach. Facebook will give you these numbers right on the post. So engagement is the combination of likes, comments and shares… so let’s say you had a post that had ten likes, one comment and one share that would be twelve engagement points. So going to take that number twelve, and then you’re going to divide it by the number of people that post reached. And Facebook will also give you this number it’s just point blank right there. Reach would be, let’s say a thousand people saw this post. So then you’re going to take that number twelve divided by a thousand, and it’s going to give you a number. In this case, it would be point one, two, if my math is right.
There’s no number here that would be a good number or a bad number. What matters is how it compares to your other numbers. So if you get a hundred to get zero, if you get zero point, zero, one, two, whatever it is, what you wanna do it then is then compare it to all the other grades that your posts are getting. So let’s say you do this for thirty different posts, then what you wanna do is rank them based on score. So you’re going to rank them best at the top, worst at the bottom. And then once you’ve done that is you wanna look at the top three, five, ten performing posts and try to find commonalities between these posts. What made them succeed the best? Was it the time of day they were posted, was it the medium we were using – video graphics, text – was it the subject matter? Oh, it was talking about our churches’ people, we were sharing stories rather than promoting events, was it the actual subject within the individual medium? So it was a sermon quotes, or look for any type of commonality that you can find and then double down on what works and just neglect and leave behind what doesn’t. And we’ve done this again and again with our social, and it’s just a great way to use empirical data that will show you, this is what your audience likes. A lot of the times we make self-serving decisions on social, and this is a rookie mistake. If you’ve not been using social for very long, you use it in self-serving ways where “I want to promote this event. I want to let people know about this next sermon series.” But what you need to do, is really create great content that your audience will value and the best way to figure out what they value is by looking at what they’re already interacting with, engaging with and enjoying based on empirical data with the great metrics, that Facebook will give you, and then double down on that, and then just keep repeating that every quarter. You do that for a year and now you’re going to be creating content that is so valuable because it’s proven based on what your audience is telling you.
Right, so let’s zoom back in for more of a high level type view here. So I got somebody who’s leading the church from the administrative standpoint. They wanna bring in somebody like this. How do you respond to the typical idea that says, “Hey, let’s just hire some young guy, some young girl, that can handle all of our social stuff, all of our marketing stuff and take it over from that, give it everything over to them?” How does that work out, what’s your response to that?
Just the general sentiment that we should hire someone young, or the idea of hiring an outside person rather than learning it yourself?
Mostly young, but you can touch on the other one too.
Yeah, I think it would be tremendously foolish to think that just because someone is young, they understand social, we might understand the easiest way to reset our password, whereas if you’re not familiar with it doing something like that might be difficult. We understand the ins and outs of the internet, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to know too much about social media. And so I would be very hesitant about hiring someone just based on their age, that does not necessarily mean they use social well at all. Like I said, one of the people I look up to the most on Instagram is a fifty-year-old lead pastor. And he uses it way better than a lot of the young pastors that I know, young church leaders that are in their twenties, that I know.
And then also talk about the outsourcing angle, how much of a church communication pattern can be given to an outside agency and how much should be done internally?
From a social standpoint, outsourcing social can be very difficult because the way that you win on social is with visual content, primarily video right now. If you post on video, we’re seeing upwards of fourteen times more engagement posting video content then when you post with the identical content, via image or text only. And it’s very difficult for an agency to create content video wise, it’s going to be unique to you, unless they live next door and have their operations run just down the street so they can come and capture video of your church. Video of your ministry’s, video of your people, because these are the things that are going to perform best. And so outsourcing it is usually difficult because you need someone that’s very involved in the creative and to have an agency do that, it’s going to be very expensive because they need to be on the ground actually doing it. And the cost to make that happen is usually prohibitive for most churches. And so doing it internally is usually the best option.
So you would recommend definitely having some kind of videographer, either on call or on staff for pretty much every major church that wants to reach people right now, right?
I wouldn’t say that because one of the nice things that Snapchat did for the world of social, even though Snapchat didn’t reach the mainstream appeal that we’ve thought that it looked like it might, what Snapshot did do, because it was copied by Instagram and Facebook, is that it made it okay to have vertical video shot on a mobile device. What I mean by that is that if you scroll through your Facebook feed, some of the best performing videos aren’t the ones that are professionally shot, they are the ones that a pastor just set up on Facebook live, New Spring Church has been doing a great job of this as well as a ton of small churches that we’ve been working with and I’ve been saying, look, this is the best social media strategy for your church in 2017 is to take your mobile device with your pastor and set up a simple Facebook live with them where they’re just holding the phone and talking into it. Facebook’s going to give you the most organic reach with this type of post and because it doesn’t have this polished look, right now anyway, it makes it look so much more authentic and real. So people are engaging with it more and it’s in real time. So your pastor can do live prayer requests. They can talk with people back and forth during that live call and they can make it so transparent and show, “look, this is what it means to live the life of Jesus beyond the one hour Sunday that you see me on stage. These are the other hundred and sixty-seven hours that I’m living out the Jesus life and I’m showing it in real life right now in the moment live on Facebook Live.” That requires zero gear, zero skill, once you’ve shown them how to do it, it’s like two buttons that need to be pressed, and it leverages the existing skill of the people that work on your church, especially the ones that speak, which is their communication skills. And the thing is, Snapchat made that, okay, it used to be that we needed professional videos, but now we’re so used to seeing stories that are shot directly on a mobile device, it’s seeing them in other areas of social and the internet is fine too, so thanks Snapchat, because that’s super helpful for churches, no gear needed, no skills needed, leveraging the existing skills that your pastor actually has. And so it doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating because all they’re doing is taking what they normally do and translating it to holding out their phone, which most people are familiar to doing, even if you’re not doing Instagram stories or Snapchat stories, you’ve probably done FaceTime with a relative, and it’s very similar to that.
So Brady, tell us a little bit about Pro Church Academy, if somebody is interested in that, what are they going to get from that?
Well, our main platform prochurchtools.com is where we publish all of our content, ninety-five percent of what we do is free. We have this weekly podcast, if you’re into podcasts, that’s probably the best place to connect with us prochurchpodcast.com, we publish three new sessions every single week, we do an interview session on Tuesdays similar to this, we do a coaching call every Thursday where I coach and consult a church in real time for an hour, and you get to listen in on that conversation. And then we do a new episode of what we call the “Ask Brady Show” every Saturday, where we answer four questions that are sent in. So if you enjoy podcasts, that’s the best place to connect with me and the team: prochurchpodcast.com.
Well that’s incredibly generous of you to give away so much good stuff to churches that are out there, I’m sure they’re all very interested in it. What else could you say to someone who’s at that XP level at the top to close us out here? What’s some encouragement you can give to them?
Well, I know that it can be difficult. A lot of times the people, within pro church nation are executive pastors, associate pastors that have their hand in so many different things. They’re kind of like the catch all, we have a couple of people like that on our team here, where it’s like, there’s just the rover, they’re doing anything and everything. And I know that can be very, very difficult because it feels like you’re the master of none, and it’s like every time you get traction on something, you’re pulled away by something else. And the encouragement is just to recognize that you’re not alone and that so many other churches are dealing with this exact same thing. That’s one of the great things that we see with the Pro Church Podcast, coaching edition, that Thursday episode where we coach and consult with the church real time for an hour, it’s like, every single church we did coaching calls with churches of tens of thousands, like fifty plus staff on the call, and we do them with churches that haven’t been launched yet. We’re going to be eighteen team people when we launch in that’s six months away, and we’re all dealing with some of the exact same things. And so knowing that is helpful, but doesn’t really make it any less difficult necessarily when you have your hands in so many different things, and so as much as you can, I like to try to encourage churches to streamline what you’re doing. We have so many different things that we have our hands in that aren’t necessary. Does your church really need a bulletin, a website and an app? Probably not. You can remove a couple of those things and the more that we’re able to remove and focus in on what’s really important, similar to that social media grading system, rather than trying to post this, this, this, and this, when it turns that just one of those things is what works best, dial in on that, and when you have that more of a narrow focus, I think that you’re able to see more success long term than when you’re on trying to do too much at all at once, if possible.
That’s great. I think I just heard of relief from all the XPs out there, listening in when you said they don’t need everything, the website, the bulletin, the ad, everything like that, because I’m sure it just feels like you have to add so many things on just to keep up with everything, but to really focus in is good advice.
And in social, we always encourage you go deep on one platform before expanding. So don’t feel like you need to manage YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snap and Instagram, just start with Facebook. Figure that out for a year, and then move forward after that, it’s always better to do one thing well, than do five things mediocre.
Brady, it’s been great to talk with you. Thanks a lot for being on the show and thanks for being our guest.
Thanks for having me Neil.