TP_Blog_11_23_13

What should I wear? Will I fit in? Will our children have a great experience? Do I have the right Bible?

These are questions people ask before they even step foot in their vehicle and depart for a first time visit to your church. It’s easy for church leaders to forget the emotions people face when visiting a church.  It just happens.

Have you ever asked, “Why do people visit our church and never come back?” Maybe the guest did not have a good experience? Maybe the visitor did not receive follow-up contact?

Whatever the reason … As church leaders we must ensure our guests encounter a great first-time visit!

Here is a list of areas to evaluate -

From start to finish, you need to show your guests they are welcome by providing them an ideal visitor experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can do that:

Website

These days, the guest experience begins on your website. The Internet is your new front door. People will visit your website before visiting your church. Ensure your website is guest friendly.

Parking

Whether you are a mega church or a church plant, parking is the first “real-time” impression. Make sure a team of parking lot attendants are present and making a great first impression.

Greeting

As people enter the doors of your church, greet them with a genuine handshake/hug and smile. Do not barricade or bombard people. Make the entrance accessible.

Information

Have a very clear location where guests and members visit to receive information. Make sure information is readily available.

Services

Make sure you consistently communicate the heart of your church throughout the service. Communicate easy ways for people to get involved.

Follow Up

This is a major area church leaders often neglect. The guest experience does not end when the guest leave the church campus. It only begins.

So how do you create a great guest experience? You evaluate every area of the experience. Evaluating your guest experience will help you give future guests a memorable experience and reasons to come back! Wow! Why would you not spend time evaluating the guest experience?

I created a helpful resource just for you. It is a Guest Experience Evaluation Checklist. The checklist is insanely easy-to-use and will improve your guest experience immediately!

Here is how-to use the checklist -

  1. Download the Evaluation Checklist
  2. Print and Distribute Evaluation Checklist to Selected Church Members, Staff and Local Community Members
  3. Ask the Team of Evaluators to Evaluate Experience and Send Back Checklists
  4. Review Checklists and Identify the Top 3 Action Steps to Improve Your Guest Experience

Checkout a couple of screenshots of the checklist -

Checklist

As you can see the checklist is very detailed! The resource is completely done-for-you and simple-to-use.

You can download the checklist for $19.95 for the next 7 days + receive a coaching guide with other great ways to improve guest experience.

DOWNLOAD HERE

After 7 days the checklist will not be available for individual download.

Imagine staring at 200 TV sets at one time. You see dozens of glowing screens stacked one on top of another like bricks. Each screen flashing different images. The sound from all the TVs mixing into a tornado of noise. After gazing at the screens for an hour, someone asks you: “What did you watch?”  You’re stumped. The answer is both “everything” and “nothing”. When you receive too many messages, you receive no messages.

The same holds true for your church marketing and communications. When you onslaught church members with messages, you overwhelm them. It’s a mistake a lot of churches make. They send out so many messages and force members to digest so much information. As a result, people take away no information. Nothing sticks. Remember – less is the new more.

How do you prioritize your messaging?

Here are four steps your church can take to prioritize your church communications and messaging and focus on what’s most important. Following these steps will enable you to whittle down the number of messages you pass along to your church members, and deliver the messages you prioritize more effectively.

1.  Clearly articulate the mission and vision of your church

For every message you are considering passing along to church members, ask the question: Does this message reinforce and support the mission and vision of the church? If a message does not advance the overall goal of the church, then you should leave it in the dust. Every message you deliver should reflect your mission.

2.   Gain a crystal-clear picture of your audience and community 

Determine who your church audience is and what matters most to them. This will enable you to focus on messages that better speak to church members. Evaluate and understand the perceptions people have of your church (both internally and externally). Research how your audience(s) receives non-church messages and what messages are received most effectively.

3.   Create a yearlong communications calendar 

A great way to make sure you are not overloading people with messages is to create a communications calendar. This will give you a convenient way to visualize all the messages you are passing along to church members in a given week, month or year. It will also lead you to ask: What message do we want every member to know, understand and remember this week or month?

4.   Limit the ways you communicate key messages 

Train your church members on how you want them to receive messages. Drive people to your communication hub: Your website. Use your website as the central place for people to find information. Let your audience know your website is a reliable area they can go to discover important messages. Always keep your website maintained and up to date. Make sure you communicate your messages clearly and effectively on your website.

Take the steps above to help minimize the number of messages you communicate to your church members. Prioritizing and streamlining your messaging will give the information you do pass along greater weight and impact. When you communicate fewer messages more effectively, you increase the likelihood people will actually hear what you have to say. In today’s information-overloaded world, less definitely is more.

How does your church prioritize messaging? 

In any organization, it’s extremely important for communicators to understand how the organization is perceived externally and internally. Why? Because perception dictates how you communicate with your audience. It informs what you will say and how you will say it.

For churches, communicators must understand how the church is perceived:

Internally – By members of the church

Externally – In the community the church resides

I have found many church communicators are busy with a ton of tasks and limited resources. They are on the go nonstop. They’re making sure this ministry is promoted, and that ministry is promoted. They’re trying to spotlight this event, and that event. They are constantly in production mode.

I advocate communication leaders step back and take time to think, evaluate and research. Why? Because your message – what you communicate – will eventually inspire the perceptions people have of your church.

Perceptions are formed in two ways:

#1 - How you communicate to your audience internally and externally.
(This is your mission and vision – who you are, why you exist, what you do, why you do it, how you do it, etc.)

#2 - The experience people have when they attend the church. Or what people hear from others who have attended the church.

So, on one side you have what you communicate to people: How you are messaging the heart of your church and passing along that information to people internally and externally. On the other side, you have what people ultimately experience when they visit your church. Those two factors merge together to form overall church perception.

What you communicate + an individual’s experience = The perception a person has of your church

Without question – whether people have a positive or negative perception of your church – they will share their perception with others. That’s why it’s so important for you to work to shape and protect the perception of your church within the minds of your audience. When people think about your church, you want their perception to be positive.

How you can help shape a positive perception of your church

First: Communicate who you are precisely. Don’t overstate or exaggerate your identity. Be honest and exact in communicating to people who you are and what you do. Spend time reflecting on your church, and identify what perception you want people to have inside their minds. Perception is reality. It’s what is true to that person. You can’t create perception, but you can help shape it through clear communication.

Second: Make sure what you communicate is what people experience when they walk into your church. You want the two to line up with each other as closely as possible. Give people an experience to match your messaging about your church. When they take in all the information you have provided about the church and why it is unique and then they actually experience it for themselves, a positive perception is born.

Remember, perception is a powerful tool. With a lot of research and diligence, church communicators have the opportunity to shape the perception inside your church and in your community. A more positive perception will ultimately produce a more positive future for your church.

What impact do you believe perceptions have on communication? How does your church attempt to shape perceptions? 

Inside the church (internally), stage announcements are a constant battle. The people programming services, who are in charge of the flow of services, are constantly asking:

  • Do we really have to do announcements?
  • When can we do announcements so it doesn’t mess up the flow of worship?
  • Is it worth it since people aren’t even listening to the announcements?

Then you have every single ministry leader fighting for stage time. They want their ministry, event or serving opportunity presented from the stage. So now you have the conflict of everybody wanting stage time, and the people who are directing the flow of the service forced to decide what will be communicated and when it will be communicated.

With all the chaos and discord, I’ve often heard the frustrated refrain behind the scenes at churches: We’re not going to do announcements anymore. Yet they all continue to do announcements because it is a great opportunity to speak to your congregation as they are sitting in a seat right before you and you have their attention.

Make no mistake, announcements are extremely hard.

As a communications professional and former communications pastor, I know firsthand the challenges posed by announcements. Yet when I sit in church as a member and somebody says the word announcements (“I have a couple announcements for you this morning…”), my mind automatically checks out. It always leads me to wonder:

  • How can we better maximize this stage time when we’re announcing what is going on inside our church?
  • What can we possibly do to take full advantage of having the attention of all these people?

In answer to those questions, here are six ways you can capture people’s attention and maximize stage announcements on a Sunday morning.

#1. Follow the 80% rule.

When you’re deciding what you’re going to communicate from stage, unless it’s an abnormal situation, you want to ask yourself: Does this impact 80% of the audience sitting inside our worship center? If the event, ministry, serving opportunity or message does not impact 80% of your audience, then you do not want to dedicate stage time to it.

Remember you only have an hour or so of people’s attention a week. You don’t want to waste a single minute. If a message doesn’t impact 80%, as a communication leader you have to politely say “no” and give them other ways to communicate that message – through the e-newsletter, social media, or the website events page. You have to protect the stage with only messages pertinent to 80% or more of the entire audience.

#2. Lead with “the why”.

I see this all the time with church leaders. They stand on the stage and start rambling about the what, when and how of an event, ministry or message. They throw out words, dates and times, and people turn their ears off because it doesn’t capture them. I say this over and over on this blog because it is so important – you have to lead with why. Capture their heart about the event, serving opportunity or ministry, and then subtly and quickly give them the what, when and how.

You can even give them the what, when and how on a media slide projected behind the stage presenter. That way you don’t even have to state the information and people can still absorb it. Then you can really zone in on the why. The why is also the perfect opportunity for you to tie a life-change story to an event, ministry or serving opportunity. If it’s a teen event you’re promoting and you’re telling them the why, throw in a story of a young person who was changed by this event. That will propel and lift up the message to make it much more effective.

#3. Keep clear and concise.

As the person responsible for picking who will do the announcements, it’s important that you provide the announcer with a script. You are the communication leader. Your team needs to write the script with the why, when, where and how. And you need to help the announcer rehearse and practice – not to be perfect – but to move on and be clear and concise. You provide them the script and you encourage them to rehearse, so they can be clear and concise on Sunday (not perfect).

#4. Revitalize your presenters.

Don’t use the same rotation over and over again. Eventually, people will hear that person and begin to tune out. You want to keep things fresh. I recommend that you get really creative in this area. For example, use children and students that you have trained, taught and practiced to do the announcements alongside an adult.

You can even video the child or student doing the announcements. That way you can edit and add music. Another idea is to use Skype and pipe in missionaries from around the world to give the announcements. Do whatever you can to revitalize the presenters, mix it up and catch people’s attention.

#5. Play background music.

I’ve seen music used in church announcements very effectively. It helps keep the flow and energy of the room up – especially if you’re coming out of a song or you’re moving into a song. It keeps things smooth and natural. People are used to listening to individuals speak in movies, shows and YouTube with music in the background. It makes the message more engaging and exciting. The key is not to overwhelm people with the music so they can’t hear the message.

#6. Rotate the way you communicate.

You have this announcement time and you can use it however you choose. It’s not restricted to the normal person standing up there for 5-10 minutes rambling on without anyone actually hearing then. You can use this time and space in countless different ways.

You can use a live person on stage. You can use a prerecorded video to communicate your announcements. You can do it in print, where one Sunday you simply print out the announcements and place them in every seat. The person doing the announcements simply says, “We’re moving on in the service, you can read today’s announcements from your seat.” The options are endless.

While announcements may not seem like a big deal (the common thinking is, “it’s only 5-10 minutes inside a service”), you have to recognize you only have an hour of people’s attention. Even then, you really don’t have their full attention every minute. You want use these 5-10 minutes when you’re communicating ways for people to engage with your church in a very clear, concise and compelling way. Lead with the why, be fresh and creative, and make sure you maximize this time using the tips above.

How do you maximize your church stage announcement time? 

 

Within the church, most Communication Directors fall into the trap of viewing their positions as administrative rather than ministry roles. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s way beyond an administrative role. Leaders, pastors and directors need to view it that way, and so does the rest of the staff. When I worked on a church staff in a communications role, I fought long and hard to be called a Communications Pastor instead of a Communications Director. I felt that strongly about it.

The reason I believe it’s a ministry role is because we play such a huge role in communicating the heart, uniqueness and message of the church to the congregation and the community. If we do a poor job of communicating not only the gospel but also the heart of the church, we’re not bringing new people to the church or keeping current members engaged with the vision and mission of the church. Leaders have to recognize the work we do is eternal work and not simply “marketing”.

Here’s an example: My team was working with a church on a project where we built their entire web experience. Afterward, one of the pastors came up to me and said, “I really want to thank you for the work you did for our church.” I asked him, “Why are you thankful for the work we’ve done?” He replied, “Because of your ability to put every effort you have into our web experience, we’ve had several people join our young adult ministry. When we ask them, why did you decide to look at our church? They said because of the website.” That confirmed to me we do play a role in ministry.

With that in mind, here are three essentials to creating an effective communications ministry:

1. Standards – When I refer to “standards”, I’m talking about brand standards. This is where you articulate the mission, values, strategy, measures and vision of the church. Inside the Brand Standards document, you have:

  • Your church logo, tagline and statements
  • How to use the logo and how not to use the logo
  • The fonts you use (heading font, subheading font, etc.)
  • Style (professional, clean, modern, etc.) and color template
  • Email signatures and phone messages

Those are just some examples of the standards that protect your brand. If you don’t have standards, you have no foundation to protect and communicate your message.

2. Strategy – After you develop your standards, you’ve got a good idea of who you are as a church. Your strategy involves understanding your audience, and then identifying the best way of communicating who you are to that potential audience. You have to bridge the communication gap between your church and your audience.

One great way to do this: Survey your current church audience. Ask them how they prefer to be communicated to on a regular basis. That will give you a pretty good idea of how people outside your church want to receive communications.

You have a lot of options in how you communicate – from traditional forms like radio, newspaper, billboard, magazine and direct mail to new ways like inbound marketing, search engine optimization, social media, e-newsletters, video broadcasting, websites and blogging. All these are available, but you need to identify what’s best for you. You have to decide:

  • HOW you are going to communicate to your audience
  • WHAT you’re going to communicate to your audience
  • WHEN you’re going to communicate to your audience

And you have to make sure you have metrics in place to gauge whether or not you’re achieving your desired results.

3. Systems – You can have great standards and strategy, but if you don’t have systems in place it will not be upheld. Let me repeat that: If you don’t have systems in place, standards and strategy mean absolutely nothing. The systems that you must set in place are the wheels that turn everything in action. It’s what allows the day-to-day operations to run smoothly.

Your systems are how you handle projects internally. They include how you work with:

  • Outside agencies
  • Other ministry staff leaders to communicate their message
  • Senior staff to make sure the most important messages are being communicated the right way

You have to put these systems in place and communicate them to the staff. The Communications Pastor must be directly connected with the senior leader and leadership team – if not on the leadership team. If the Communication Pastor doesn’t fully understand the mission, values, strategy and vision of the church, they won’t be able to communicate them. They’ll be walking in the dark and all communication efforts will be futile.

Once the senior leadership has committed to the standards, strategy and systems, they need to be communicated to the entire staff and volunteers. For communications to be effective, everyone must “buy in” and treat the Communications Pastor and his team as the experts in the field. It is also advantageous for the Communication Pastor to include other staff members, volunteers, church members and community members to help shape the standards, strategy and systems. Doing these three things – and doing these three things first – will enable you to create an effective communications ministry in your church and for your community.

When is the last time you thought about what a “guest” thinks about before attending your church?

What should I wear? Will I fit in? Will our children have a great experience? Do I have the right Bible?  

These are questions people ask before they even step foot in their vehicle and depart for a church service. It’s easy for church leaders to forget the emotions people face when visiting a church. Or the stress and anxiety people experience as they make their way to a church for the first time.

The car isn’t loaded. The kids are half-dressed eating Pop-Tarts. Mom can’t decide on an outfit. Dad forgot to iron shirt. The kids begin to whine. Anxiety is boiling and rising. Finally they pull into church parking lot…

What will they experience? Are you ready as church leader for these guests? How can you give them the guest experience they desire and deserve?

Guest Experience Checklist 

From start to finish, you need to show your guests they are welcome by providing them an ideal visitor experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can do that:

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“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” - Scott Cook

In the old days, branding was a means of telling one owner’s cattle from another. Today, branding is a way of telling one organization from another.

Many organizations spend a lot of time carefully honing the “brand” they want to present. Problem is: Brand isn’t what you want people to think about your organization, it’s what people actually think about your organization. So what can you do to create a positive perception? Short answer: Everything. All your efforts should work to provide a positive brand experience.  Your brand is the sum of the user’s entire experience.

How You Can Influence Brand Perception

Whether you know it or not, you have a brand. It’s what people think about you and how they perceive you. Ultimately, your brand lies in the minds of others. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any control over your brand. You may not be able to open people’s heads and toss in the ideal version of your brand, but you can influence how they think about you. That’s what branding is. It’s effectively communicating what you are all about and why you are beneficial to your audience.

Make All Your Efforts Reflect Your Brand

Brand is not just an ad or a logo or a mission statement or a website. It’s the culmination of all those things. It’s how people decide to perceive you because of your ad, logo, mission statement, website, services, products, customer service, PR, communications, etc. Add everything you do together from top to bottom and you have your brand. It’s the sum of the user’s entire experience. That’s why your ability to make every interaction a positive one is essential to building a strong brand.

Here are five proven traits of a positive brand experience:

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“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” - Steven R. Covey

 What do you do? It’s a simple question, yet one that’s difficult for a lot of professionals to answer. That’s because we do so much. Our days are so jam-packed with work, scheduling, research, meetings, management, phone calls, administration, social media and other miscellaneous tasks, it’s easy to lose sight of our central purpose or mission. Fortunately, the solution lies with you. Let’s look at how you can “keep the main thing, the main thing”.

Main Thing: Your essential mission or purpose. This is the thing that inspires or excites you. It’s what keeps you up at night.   

Minor Thing: The little tasks that cause headaches and stress without directly helping to achieve your goals.

We live in a world overwhelmed by the minor. Minor tasks pop up and add up, distracting us from the main thing. I see it happen to organizations everyday. A tidal wave of minor tasks floods individuals and the main thing gets washed away. The next thing you know, the minor things become the main thing – eating up the majority of your time. Then you wonder why things are not getting done or goals are not being accomplished. It’s a counterproductive cycle that professionals get stuck in far too often.

Follow these four steps to stay focused on the main thing and achieve your goals:

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We’ve all had bosses we are proud to follow. People we’d do anything for. Even run through brick walls. On the other hand, most of us have also had bosses we follow only because, well, they’re the boss. So what separates the leaders we “want to” follow from the leaders we “have to” follow? The answer lies in the 4 Cs of Effective Leadership.

I have the great privilege of Guest Blogging on Michael Hyatt’s blog, today.  Read this complete article on Michael Hyatt blog.

After hundreds of hours reviewing and testing church websites, I present to you the Top 3 Church Websites in America.  What makes these websites the best?  First, they present an experience.  Secondly, they deliver value added content to users in seconds.  Thirdly, they do a great job of engaging the user via social media and life-change stories.  Fourthly, they present content in a simple but effective design.

Mars Hill Church

Simplistic design, captivating graphics, ease-of-use with detailed drop-down menus, relevant content via blogs and videos, consistent and clear messaging.

The Village Church

Ease-of-use with detailed drop-down menus, captivating life-change stories via video and written story, brilliant site architecture, succinct and informative New Here? section, highly accessible sermon media, effective use of video communications.

The City Church

Clear emotional communication via images, excellent use of videos to communicate stories and important details, vector graphics/icons to illustrate content, consistent and clear content, instructive and detailed pages with no wasted space or language.

What other church websites would you place in the Top 3 in America?