I recently responded to a group blog challenge to write a 250-word elevator pitch for the Christian denomination in which I serve. I found the experience challenging but incredibly liberating. How we describe our churches and the way they help form faith and change lives in our communities will only become more important as religious affiliation wanes. We all need to keep working on the knack for it. Here’s a bit about what I learned in the process.
Keep it short – The framing of the exercise as an elevator pitch was essential to its value. It won’t do for us to go on and on about our faith when we’re still in the stage of getting people interested—especially people who don’t currently go to church. There is a time for deep sharing. There is a time for detailed spiritual autobiography. But they come later. When we introduce someone to the act of faith formation, we have to do it concisely.
Stay focused – Being concise also forces us to identify what really matters. When nothing but the essential makes the cut, it can help us see what we’ve forgotten about why we do what we do. So besides communicating our mission to others, these short statements can help us better discern how to allocate our time on a day-to-day basis.
Keep it simple – An introduction to a church or program also needs to be as simple as possible. The tendency for church people to throw around language that means almost nothing to outsiders has been well documented. Here’s an excerpt from a book that really gets it:
If your conversation about what your church has to offer is sprinkled with words like ‘kenotic’ and ‘perichoresis,’ if you declare a commitment to ‘living into’ an ‘incarnational evangelism’ through which you will enter into other contexts with ‘Christ-likeness,’ then start again—quickly—and mandate the use of nothing more sophisticated than eighth-grade vocabulary.
Be flexible – It’s one thing to write your elevator pitch down; it’s another to actually share it with someone. Speaking requires give and take and reading the cues we’re getting from the other person. One of my colleagues who also responded to the challenge did a very smart thing: she explained how her pitch would change depending on whom she was talking to. We need to do likewise.
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