Honey Boo-Boo and the difficulty of message preparation, Part 2

For a recap of part 1, go here

I realize this post isn’t for everyone and many (even communicators who just “get up and preach”) won’t appreciate the element of “craft” that I’m suggesting is needed for effective communication.

Let’s pick up with the email I wrote to some friends on my “speaking team” (all volunteers, friends, people I’ve “gathered” over the years):

The email I sent: “I’m sending this email to a couple of my “funny” friends because I need better lines than what I currently have.

Here’s the context of the paragraph: I’m trying to communicate that saying “no” is easy when it’s said to the bad things in life. Anyone can say “no” to bad stuff! The difficult part of life is saying “no” to the opportunities that are really good, but don’t ultimately matter the most. I need better/funnier comments.”

Here’s what I’m planning on saying: “I realize it’s easy to say “no” to bad stuff. (1) “Hey, do you want to go for a swim to Catalina?” Easy no. (2) “Do you want to try my mother-in-laws three bean salad?” Again, easy no. (3) “Do you want to come over and watch Honey Do-Do?” Uh, no thanks. Friends, unfortunately our lives are not filled with easy choices like: (a) Do I pet a puppy? or (b) put Tabasco sauce in my eye? Our struggle lies in choosing between the good and great.

Brian: [He sent me several better options and then ended his email stating]: “In regards to the reference to Honey-Doo-Doo… the little pageant queen’s name is Honey Boo-Boo.”

Doug:Brian, great stuff as always! Thanks for your contribution to this message. BTW: I was going for the obvious mistake because I thought Honey-Do-Do would sound funny (as in doodoo—can’t escape the youth pastor in me and my love for cheap humor).

Brian: The Honey-Doo-Doo line breaks the “joke within a joke” rule. While you’re thinking the audience will get how clever it is to do a riff on Honey Boo-Boo, they’ll probably just think you don’t know the correct name of the show. The underlying joke is just the idea of having to watch Honey Boo-Boo, which is horrible enough… trying to get an extra satirical joke out of it is “gilding the lily.” It would have to be done as a secondary joke after the first joke scores. For instance, after the laugh from saying the initial “Honey-Doo-Doo” line, you play naive and add, “that’s her name right? The little beauty queen girl, little Honey-Doo-Doo… Little Doo-Doo.” You milk that a little bit until somebody corrects you with “Boo-Boo,” then you just play it straight and say “that’s not as funny as Doo-Doo” or something like that. Sorry if that’s a lot more than you’re asking for, but that’s just what 8 years in a half-hour comedy room taught me.

I love it! I’ve been teaching every week for 30 years and I love learning from people like Brian.

By the way, here’s how I ended up crafting that particular paragraph:

It’s easy to say “no” to bad stuff.

(1) Do you want to try my mother-in-laws 3 bean salad? No.

(2) You want to listen to my niece play the accordion? No.

(3) Do you want to come over and watch Honey Boo-Boo? No.

Life is not filled with easy choices like: Do I pet a puppy? or get a colonoscopy?

What about you? Who are you learning from? Who have you “invited” into your message preparation? Are you taking intentional steps to improve as a communicator?

Question: What do you think? Is word-choice really that important? Especially word choice that’s connected to humor or illustration? Share your thoughts here.

[Are you getting Doug’s daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

Develop Your Skills as a Vision Caster & Strategic Planner

GUEST POST by Gregg Farah serves as a teaching pastor and the student ministry pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island. He and his wife, Janine have been married for 20+ years and are the parents of three amazing daughters. Besides laughing with his family, he enjoys writing, pursuring the perfect pizza slice, cheering for the Mets, and playing sports. Gregg & Doug served on the same youth ministry team a few years back and he’ll occasionally share a story of Doug eating his food and making his children cry on his blog

For years I thought vision casting and strategic planning were for the professionals. Either elite ministry leaders who heard directly from God or gifted business leaders of Fortune 500 companies. I was intimidated by big dreamers w/ strong personalities and thought “I could never do that.”

Not only did I think I didn’t have the ability to cast vision, but I feared it would be wrong to try…as if I were messing up the sacred ground in which only the select could tread. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic…but I was certain vision casting and strategic planning were not for me.

I could not have been more wrong. God has given each of us the ability to see beyond ourselves––to both cast vision and plan strategically.

Every youth worker is a visionary. Vision casting is not limited to the elite.
The moment you invite a student to follow Jesus, challenge a student to make good choices or explain why they will benefit from offering forgiveness, you are casting vision. You are helping them to see what they can’t see or haven’t yet experienced. Or you’re giving them a renewed vision to hope or to believe.

Vision casting requires two vital actions: prayer and courage

Whether you’re talking to a parent who just found out her son was arrested, a student who is afraid to try out for a team, a student who is devastated from a break-up, or another leader who doesn’t think he’s effective in ministry, you need to beg God (in prayer) for wisdom: “God, what do I say? Is there a Bible verse I could share?” These are important questions and need to be handled with prayer.

But once you know what you’re supposed to say, you need courage to follow through. Some ministry comes to us: a phone call, a text, and question a students asks while hanging out. But more often than not, we GO to minister. We sense a student needs encouragement, or we know a student has been making some bad choices and we go to lovingly confront. Most of us don’t like confrontation. In fact, our homes and churches are filled with bumpy carpets because we sweep things under the rug. But youth workers are vision casters. God has called us to work in the lives of students and families, and so we boldly yet humbly take courageous steps to care.

Strategic planning is linked to vision in this way: whether you’re casting vision for an event or a next step of faith, you’re more likely to have success if you formulate a plan. Well guess what? Strategic planning takes prayer and courage too…plus a lot of time. In fact the words strategic planning are Greek for “I need coffee.”

Some points about planning:
1. start w/ the end in mind (paint a picture for what it will look like and then…)
2. work backwards; identifying goals/benchmarks along the way so you know you’re making progress
3. work as a team (don’t do ministry alone)
4. don’t give up (warning: ministry is hard..that’s one reason it’s good to develop a team)
5. celebrate (the process and the results…even if they don’t match your expectations)

Leadership is not for the faint-hearted. But all leaders have the ability and responsibility to both cast vision and plan strategically. Help a student know where to go, and then help him/her get there.

Question: What else is required to effectively cast vision? Share your thoughts here.

[Are you getting Doug’s daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.