How to “Sell” Translation Services to Your Church’s Leadership Team
#1. Become the Champion
In the political process, no bill, motion, or resolution is introduced (let alone passes) without a champion. A champion is more than a sponsor. A champion is the point person, the dedicated individual who takes the bill from initial development (its wording or text) to final approval. Without a champion, all legislation would come to a grinding halt (please, no jokes!).
Likewise, you’ll need to become the translation services champion in your church. Why? Inertia. It’s the default position of groups (e.g., church members) and committees (leadership teams). The old adage “When everyone’s responsible for something, no one is” is true.
It is possible to delegate the champion role, but whoever receives the assignment must be ready to own the entire process. Make sure that person realizes this.
What does ownership look like? It includes talking to church members and gauging their responses. Answering questions. Studying options. Investigating price points.
As champion, you must be convinced that translation services are a worthy investment. Why? Without internal commitment, you won’t be able to sell the idea with passion (which is itself a great persuader!). Let’s face it, there are a lot of causes your church could fund. However, most never receive serious consideration because nobody is championing them.
#2. Appeal to the Mission Statement
Mission statements have fallen out of prominence in some churches. Still, it’s the first thing you should look at in support of translation services. (Letters of intention, direction, and statements of faiths may work, too.)
Why look at your mission statement? Because regardless of denomination, it probably references the Great Commission (“go and disciple all nations,” Matt 28:19). Jesus’ last words, after all, are a central tenet of the Gospel. Having “evidence” for your case bolsters it, much like a judge does when he or she cites past precedents to issue a ruling.
Doing this sometimes makes would-be champions nervous. Why? Because their church’s mission statement sits in a storage room, collecting dust. They think that since nobody seems to care about it, it couldn’t possibly be referenced.
Not true. Here’s why. Church leaders are human. They can and do forget about mission statements (especially when nobody mentions them). In bringing your mission statement out of storage, you raise an important question: does it still apply to us?
Grappling with that question, although uncomfortable, will ultimately help your church plan for the future.
If the leadership team does decide to update the mission statement, ask where outreach to non-native English speakers fits in. Barring a fundamental change, you may still find leaders are receptive to translation services in the middle of an update.
#3. Provide a Simple “Reason Why”
Catchphrases, elevator pitches, and simple “reason why” explanations are crucial for winning support for church translation services. Why? Because they’re easy to remember.
When you make it easy for church leaders to remember one point (e.g., “we’ll have it up and running in 30 minutes!”), they can accurately recall, discuss and debate it among themselves. Clarity makes taking the next step (“come to our next meeting and tell us more”) easier.
Alternatively, when the main benefit is muddled by jargon, competing benefits, and ambiguity, you leave room for misunderstandings. Poor comprehension cuts off the opportunity for a deeper, in-depth discussion. When leaders don’t understand what you’re saying, it’s easy for them to say no.
Of course, a pithy slogan by itself (“Tagalog-speaking families welcome here!”) will not inspire your church to spend money on a solution. The simple phrase is only the starting point. You will still need a thorough presentation to answer questions and move the process forward.
#4. Include a translation services beneficiary
Closely tied to “reason why” selling is human interest. That is, a real-world example of someone benefitting from your proposal. The reason for that? Personal accounts provide context. They leapfrog the analytical mind – the head — and tap into the emotional mind — the heart.
You want to highlight one person’s comprehension plight, rather than discuss the abstract community of foreign language speakers who could benefit from translating their language in worship.
It shouldn’t be hard. Talk to someone in your congregation affected by the language barrier. Ask the person to describe church life. Are they growing in faith? Are they making friends? Do they feel connected to your church or more like a bystander?
When presenting your case, think like a newspaper reporter. You’ll notice that reporters always use a real person to prove the thesis of the article. The person’s story typically opens and closes the article. It’s an effective tactic. That’s because readers remember emotional stories over technical facts. If you examine a few articles, you’ll see that personal stories never contradict the thesis.
In the same way, the person you select should buttress the case for translation services. Use explicit language to unlock the pain he or she feels (“Lynda leaves our services confused and saddened — she’s missing the core of the sermon.”). Still, always be honest. God does not condone lying or exaggerating for the sake of manipulation. Church leaders often have tender hearts and sometimes unscrupulous people use that against them.
A first name may be all that’s needed to make your point. You should probably ask the person’s permission too, before proceeding. Be sure to keep any stories within the parameters of the larger pitch for translation services. Without that framework, first person accounts can get bogged down in minutia, losing momentum. Again, church leaders are human. When they disengage from a story (because of boredom), they might not say no outright, but they won’t say yes, either. Keep your pitch tight and focused (practice helps) and you’ll have a better chance of success.
An effective pitch for translation services is one that gets heard. Repeatedly. Eventually, you’ll hear a yes or no. Your pitches will evolve at every stage of the process. Fundamentally, however, they should tie into your church’s mission, include a compelling reason, and feature a real person. Here’s what a first pitch to your leadership team via email might look like:
I’ve [Champion] noticed the increase in Spanish-speaking attendees in the last year. Others too, have told me they notice the uptick.
Since we’re a community church, here to serve [Mission Statement], I thought we should look into this issue.
I found a service that translates English to Spanish for churches that might work well for us, considering our size [Reason Why].
Would you allow me 20 minutes at your meeting on Wednesday to discuss?
Strange as it sounds, the church is a marketplace. It buys, sells, and distributes ideas about truth, worship, community, and hospitality. Churches also have finite resources. Translation services typically are not included as a line item. Therefore, leadership must be sold before granting approval. Spf.io (“spiffy-oh”) can help you do that simply, elegantly, and without conflict — for God’s glory. Click here for a free demo.
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