Monday, November 12, 2012

    What Story Do You Have to Tell?

    With many young people now claiming the identity "spiritual but not religious," how do we help them find themselves within the Christian story?
    Here is a small mystery for you to solve:
    Dunn, North Carolina is a small town south of Raleigh. It has  14,000 residents, mostly blue collar workers.  The town’s latest pride and joy is the fact that it recently got its first Wal-mart.  Just a typical small American town – with one exception.  Almost everyone in town reads the local paper, the Daily Record. To be more accurate, “more than everyone in Dunn reads the paper.”[1] The Daily Record boasts a circulation of 112% -- the highest per capita circulation in the whole country.  For this to be happen, one of two things has to be true: 1) People from outside the town are buying the paper or 2) People in the town are buying more than one copy per household. But what could be so great about this small town paper that people would actually purchase multiple copies?

    The story of Dunn, North Carolina’s “Daily Record” is recounted in the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath.  The sibling co-authors were inspired by Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, which analyzes what it takes for a simple idea to “tip” and become a social or cultural phenomena. (Think about what had to happen to make pet rocks a fad in the 70’s or fanny packs the rage in the 90’s or why vampires and zombies are suddenly now so popular in today’s fiction and movies and you’ll have some notion of those ideas that have “tipped” over into the mainstream.)
    One item that the Heath brothers particularly latched onto in The Tipping Point was Gladwell’s assertion that new innovations are most likely to “tip” if they are sticky – in other words: Unforgettable, compelling – the kind of ideas that latch onto you.  So what does it take to make an idea “sticky?”

    Well, let’s go back to our little town of Dunn, North Carolina and its newspaper “The Daily Record.”  Any thoughts on why this little paper is such a huge success? It’s really pretty simple. 

    The key to the mystery is Hoover Adams, the founder and publisher of the paper.  Over his 55 year tenure with the paper, he had one clear and overriding editorial policy for The Daily Record, which could be summed up as “Local. Local. Local.” and “Names. Names. Names.”

    Adams knows that in a hometown paper what people most want to read about is local stories, and they are particularly interested if the story mentions their own name or somebody they know.  He understood that just mentioning a person’s name grabs their attention.  Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But what makes it work is Adam’s relentless persistence that his entire staff live out this mantra of “local, local, local, names, names, names.”  In short, the Daily Record is such a success because:

    1) It is absolutely clear and focused on the story it has to tell and
    2) It is determined to help people find themselves within that story! 
    So my question to those of us who guide the spritiual formation of youth in the Church:  What if this was the guiding principle behind how we share our faith?  What would it take to make our faith “sticky” to others? In other words, to borrow the advice of the publisher of “The Daily Record:” what is the "story" we have to tell to teens and how are we helping them name or find their own place within that story?

    [1] Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.


    JAK said...

    Nothing specific really but I am reading "Sticky Faith" so far they are emphasizing similar notions about faith. It's gotta be stick in order for youth group members to stay active in faith post high school. Just a little God sighting - I start reading "Sticky Faith" and then read this blog...coincidence? I don't think so!

    Brian Kirk said...

    Perhaps not a coincidence! And the "Sticky Faith" books are of course also based on the work of the authors mentioned in this post.

    Chris said...

    Great article. I went to Campbell University which is about ten minutes down the road and I read the Daily Record pretty often. This certainly took me home.

    Aaron Helman said...

    I'm a sucker for any post that mentions Gladwell and the Heath Bros.

    This is a really practical idea - using illustrations and stories about our students (with their permission) instead of someone who lives a 1000 miles away that we read about in a book once.

    We're getting ready for our Christmas series, and I'm going to make sure I include the story of someone in our group each week.