Church Communication Hero: St. Nicholas

Church Communication Hero: St. Nicholas

December 4, 2013 by

With all his list making and checking, Santa Claus has the organizational skills of any church communicator. With his bright red hat and bushy white beard, he has the branding to make any marketer jealous. And Santa’s worldwide spree of gift-giving to children around the world is a story like no other.

But beneath all the myth, folklore and legend of Santa Claus is the story of a true hero for church communicators.

Old St. Nick

St. Nicholas was a bishop in modern-day Turkey in the third century. This “Old Saint Nick” is the original Santa Claus, the real life inspiration for the jolly fat guy we’ve commercialized today. St. Nicholas is known for giving away his inheritance and constantly helping the poor.

The primary St. Nicholas story that morphed into our familiar Santa Claus is about St. Nicholas coming to the rescue of a poor father who couldn’t provide a dowry for his three daughters. Without a dowry the girls would never marry and likely be forced into prostitution or slavery. St. Nicholas gave bags of gold coins to each daughter, providing their dowry and a safe future. Whether to give anonymously or to spare the father’s pride, St. Nicholas did his giving under the cover of night, stealthily dropping his gifts through an open window.

You can imagine how the legend of this generous act has spread and turned to tradition, with stories of the gold falling into a shoe or landing in a sock hung by the fire to dry. One story claims the gold was given as the daughters came of age, so for the third daughter the father hid in order to discover his benefactor. Not wanting to be found out, St. Nicholas tossed the sack of gold coins down the chimney.

Down through the chimney with old St. Nick, indeed.

Good Stories Need Action

We talk about marketing, strategy and communication plans. Those are all good and important. But communication has to be more than mere words. We don’t remember the words of St. Nicholas. His sermons didn’t inspire a tradition of giving, his actions did.

It was the extreme generosity of St. Nicholas’ actions that brought his story to life and captured the imagination of the world. So much of our December mania is rooted in his act of sacrificial giving.

That’s one heck of a story.

A story requires plot, movement, action. It’s more than words.

Today’s writers, including Donald Miller and Scott McClellan, have talked about the importance of living a good story. You’d be hard pressed to find a better example than St. Nicholas.

So when your church communicates, don’t post idle words or repeat the same old thing. Do something and then tell the story of what you’re doing, how you’re loving, how you’re spreading hope and good cheer.

May we follow the example of St. Nicholas and communicate with our actions. May we give generously of ourselves, not just at Christmas but all year long.

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Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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One Response to “Church Communication Hero: St. Nicholas”

  • Eric Dye
    December 5, 2014

    I remember this from last year! Love it. :D

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