“Just as a museum director chooses the best of the collection to display, ministry leaders can choose and ‘display’ the best ways for people to grow in faith.”
What Is Curation?
At Building Faith we believe in building people up and inspiring one another for ministry. Church leaders especially share a common goal: drawing people closer to God in Christ.
At Building Faith we’re also serious about curation. What does that mean? It means that ministry leaders can recommend and share resources (articles, prayer practices, videos, books, activities, podcasts, Bible studies, & more) to the people in their churches. That’s curation, and it’s something that clergy, laity, educators, and communicators can all do.
Here’s a longer definition: “curation” is the intentional, thoughtful, and organized process of recommending the best resources, for people to easily access and benefit from them. Just as a museum director chooses the best of the collection to display, ministry leaders can choose and share the best ways for people to grow in faith.
A Curation Example
Picture this: you’re in a hotel and you ask the front desk clerk about a good restaurant for dinner. The clerk replies, “Oh you should check out Lincoln Street, there are lot’s of great places to eat in that neighborhood.”
Now imagine that instead the clerk replies: “My top three restaurant’s are Jamie’s Pub (amazing burgers); Market Table (casual, with local dishes and vegetarian options), and Bistro 76 (upscale, with live piano on most evenings.)
Which response is more helpful – the second one, right? It allows you to make an informed choice. This is good curation.
Curating Faith Resources for Church
Many people say they don’t have time to read (or do) one more thing… busy-ness abounds; inboxes are full. But two thoughts on this:
- Not everyone is so busy – there are people in our churches who because of their age or life situation do have time, and may be seeking ways to grow in faith.
- Even the busiest people have open pockets of time in the day. For example, commuting time or driving kids to school.
But people do not have the time (or energy) to sort through articles, ideas, books, podcasts, etc looking for the best ones. So much stuff is average, and not worth their time. That’s why they need you! When you show people something that’s good, comes highly recommended, and makes an impact, people are deeply appreciative. And they often find time for it.
8 Truths About Curating for Your Church Flock
1. They will trust a resource because it’s coming from you
Church leaders (clergy, lay, educators, and communicators) have a special position of trust with their people. Folks might never pull a certain book off a shelf, but if you tell them that this book changed your life, they will want to read it. That’s the relational touch, and it’s a key part of curation.
2. Quality over quantity
It’s so much better to give someone 2-3 GREAT things, rather than 10 mediocre things. Even ONE good suggestion is worth is weight in gold. Consider an analogy from your closet: you have dozens of shirts, but on a special occasion you always reach for that one favorite.
3. Content, NOT just announcements
Curating resources is about promoting spiritual growth, not promoting church events. (Although many church events do of course promote spiritual growth). Here’s the point: when you lead people in with the promise of nourishing content, they will want to read or listen to that content. Provide a sentence or two about why you chose it, and include a direct link. When you do include announcements, be clear that these events are curated for your specific audience.
4. Email is still a great way to deliver
Yes people get a lot of email. And yes people delete a lot of emails. But if you continually send out good stuff, you will gain trust, and people will come to appreciate and read your emails.
Need a sample? Pastor Keith Anderson publishes an excellent monthly email for church families. This is a perfect example of well-chosen, helpful, content in a concise and well-designed format. Note, Keith sends this out once per month, so he has the time to make it really good. And yes, these emails do sneak in some announcements, but they are specifically about church programming that helps people grow in faith.
General email tips: Use the subject line to broadcast what is inside the email. In the body of the email, use pictures, employ good spacing, and don’t put into too much text. Remember, this is for the people you are sending it to. Give them resources that will enhance their Christian lives where they are.
5. Include descriptions for all recommendations
Let’s make a pact for 2018: no more lists of links with no descriptions of what they are or why someone would be interested. A description can be just one sentence, but it makes a world of difference. For example, if you’re recommending podcasts for youth, write a quick line about the type of person who would like each one. “You’ll love this faith podcast if you’re into humor, and enjoy friendly banter between the hosts.”
6. Is it worth recommending? Use the “friend test.”
When looking at a resource, here’s a simple test to decide if it’s worth recommending. Picture your friend at church who is nominally involved – they come sometimes, but you know they yearn for deeper growth. Would this friend use the resource (article, book, prayer, etc) that you are recommending? Would they? If your answer to this question is “Well… maybe not my friend,” then don’t recommend the resource.
7. Where to find content?
Where can you find good things to share with your people? Well, here’s a short list. (See, we’ve curated it for you…)
- Building Faith. That’s us! This site is great because there is something for all ages, and the writers are real ministry leaders who have done the things they suggest.
- Fuller Youth Institute. Fuller’s goal is to translate research into practical resources for youth ministers in a variety of contexts. Here you’ll find posts that dig into research as well as those that help you talk to youth and families about current events. Fuller sends out its own carefully curated email once or twice a week, which is a great way to know what they’re working on.
- Grow Christians is for families who want to practice their faith daily. Short essays are written by parents (mostly Episcopalians) on practical subjects. With topics that range from creating prayer space at home to celebrating saints’ days, the content is evergreen and easily searchable.
- Busted Halo is a Catholic site that “utilizes a relevant and accessible voice” to help people put their faith into daily practice. The great thing about Busted Halo is the (very short) videos! Sometimes we just need a break from text. Videos on the sacraments are clearly intended for a Roman Catholic audience, but all their videos, even those filmed years ago, help viewers of all ages see the world through a Christian lens. There is a lot of content on their site; so it might take a while to find what you want.
- On Being is the online repository of Krista Tippet’s award winning radio show. The website features easy-to-access audio files of Krista’s show, along with essays on the intersection of faith and culture by a wide variety of faith leaders. Podcasts and essays are easily searchable.
These are just a few ideas – you will have many more sources of good content!
8. Once you start curating, content will come to you
There is a blessed snowball effect with curation. When you start recommending resources, people will send you good stuff. For example, if you recommend children’s books, people will share their favorite children’s books. Before long, you will build up a working stream of content to share.
Matthew Kozlowski and Charlotte Hand Greeson are co-editors of Building Faith, published through Virginia Theological Seminary. They will be presenting on the importance of curation at the upcoming Forma Conference in Charleston, SC. Learn more.