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The attention and power of the creative moment


By Matt Rawle

You only have a moment — a quick glance at the bookstore shelf, an instant view as fingers scroll through a newsfeed or, if you’re fortunate, a beat or two as a reader flips the pages of a catalog. In today's busy world, people are constantly bombarded with messages. You only have a brief time to grab someone's attention and encourage them to learn more about what you have to offer. You have a great story to share, but you need to be mindful in how you present it.

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Christians, by definition, are storytellers (evangelists). Thankfully the story we’ve been given is the best of all, but sharing a story is different than the story itself. We aren’t called to be creative, witty or clever in crafting the narrative itself because it’s already written.

Our creativity must be invested in pointing to it, designing a strong pull that attracts attention to what we proclaim. The gravity-like pull must be especially strong when you only have a moment.

I’m really excited about The Gift of the Nutcracker (Abingdon Press) — my new book and study for churches and members this Advent season. But this work means little if we don’t capture the audience’s attention to it.

Similarly, there’s nothing worse than investing your time and energy in a community outreach event, only to have your regulars be the only audience.

You may imagine that the first thing we think about when crafting a study guide is the outline, structure or length of the work. But most of our creative energy is spent initially designing the cover art. Once the theme of a work is established, we try to communicate that theme into an easily recognizable visual.

How much time do you invest in how you’re going to share your upcoming worship series? Is the topic or theme easy to recognize to those outside of your faith community? Do your graphics create a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?

All of these things are of great concern whether I'm wearing my author hat or that of a lead pastor in Louisiana.

Be sure to add the alt. text


All of my authored works have a simple, one‑color cover with a single unique image in silhouette. This latest book features a blue cover with the silhouette of a nutcracker. This iconic image already carries a story. You don’t have to say "This is a Christmas work" or describe who the main character is. Instead, we have full advantage of the blink-of-an‑eye recognition and (we hope) attention. (Many thanks to designer Angie Cason.)

The less you need to explain the work means the more time the audience has to explore the work.

Having a clear, unique and simple image gives you great freedom when you promote your story across different mediums. For example, when you’re promoting a sermon series, small group gathering or special event, chances are you’ll have to use multiple mediums — print, online teaser videos, digital screens, blogs and emails.

Each medium works with a particular audience. A single image on social media works well with folks outside of your congregation. A teaser video explaining your worship series is attractive to folks nominally connected with your congregation. A printed letter works wonders for your regular (and invested) attenders.

Think of it this way. To a stranger on the street, you may smile and keep walking. You may trade texts or emails with a coworker. You may have dinner with a good friend. You may talk for hours with a spouse or partner. The same is true with the different audiences you’re trying to reach.

A great rule of thumb is the less familiar someone is with your church, the less time you have to gain her or his attention.   

Always remember, you only have a moment to grab someone’s attention to get your message across. Take advantage of that moment by making sure that it carries a story. A story that presents your message clearly, accurately and in an enticing way that will appeal to your target audience.

The Bible shares that "we will all be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Although you may only have a moment, it can have great impact. If you’ve told your story well to the right people, in the next moment, you may find that they share your story for you.

Matt Rawle

 — Matt Rawle is Lead Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana, and a graduate from the LSU School of Music and Duke Divinity School. He’s an international speaker who loves to tell an old story in a new way, especially at the intersection of pop culture and the church. I’m also the author of What Makes a Hero?The Faith of a MockingbirdHollywood JesusThe Salvation of Doctor Who and The Redemption of Scrooge