Each month I have a ‘standing’ lunch with my Senior Pastor. I have many reasons why I enjoy my time with him. But the main reason is because he is an insanely good listener.
My Senior Pastor arrives with a list of questions to ask! He asks tons of questions and listens attentively. Many times he asks follow up questions from our past lunch.
Every time I leave our lunch I feel rejuvenated, encouraged, loved and inspired.
How does this relate to social media interactions? Glad you asked. A LOT.
Think about it … The opposite of listening is talking. We’ve all been a part of conversations where the other person constantly talks. About themselves, their interests, their opinions, etc. As they pause and catch their breath you start to talk but are quickly interrupted by noise.
I find the same to be true with many churches and organizations. They ‘talk’ more than they ‘listen’. Especially with social media! Stop talking and start listening.
Ask questions. Respond. Ask questions. Respond. Repeat.
Social media is called social media because it is social. Spend more time talking with your audience instead of to your audience!
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.
Bill Gates famously once said: “Content is king!” That’s his exclamation point, not mine – but I definitely agree with the sentiment. He is Bill Gates after all. However, I would take it a step further and say: “Clear, concise, compelling and catalytic content is king!” Any individual or organization has the ability to create content, but only a select few generate heart-grabbing content. Church websites, for example, are notorious for overloading visitors with information rather than connecting with people on an emotional level. So how do you develop rich and engaging content? Start by asking: “What content does our audience desire?”
Engage both the head and the heart …
Every organizational website includes two forms of content: 1) Brain Content and 2) Heart Content. Brain content is informative and knowledge driven. Heart content is inspiring and emotional. These two are not at odds with each other; rather, they work together to give visitors a total experience. Each serves a specific purpose. Let’s take a closer look at these two forms of content and how they function on your website:
I interviewed Mike Anderson of Mars Hill. Mike is the Director of Communications Mars Hill & The Resurgence. Last week I posted The Top 3 Websites in America. Mars Hill easily made the list. I wanted to dig deeper and understand why and how Mike and his team developed an effective web presence on behalf of Mars Hill. Connect further with Mike via his blog and Twitter.
What is your role at Mars Hill?
I direct the communications team. The team has broad oversight of all communication aspects of Mars Hill Church, The Resurgence, PastorMark.tv, and now the Acts 29 network.
What are your primary responsibilities?
I lead a team of very strong managers who each are much stronger than I am in their specialty. My responsibilities are to make sure that we have the right people in the right positions, to translate the vision of our leadership into strategy, and create a culture of execution in which we do great work that is true to our focus of “it’s all about Jesus”.
What process did your team follow in developing Mars Hill web experience?
We have a general philosophy of project management that we try to follow that you can read about here: http://mikeyanderson.
What elements are needed to produce a strong Internet presence?
There are a ton of ways to get a lot of people to a website. But a successful Internet presence is based off of the mission and vision of the organization you’re building for. In our case we are all about making disciples and planting churches. We have a general goal of planting 100 Mars Hill Churches and 1,000 Acts 29 churches – additionally our goal is to baptize around 10% of each of our church congregations each year. This means that we’re telling people about Jesus, empowering our people to be missional, and people are getting saved. To create a strong Internet presence for that mission has a few big characteristics:
Define your audience
In our case this means that we have 4 large websites that each hit a different group of people that are essential to the mission and vision of our movement. MarsHill.com and it’s social network presence revolves around the idea of “making disciples”. This site is aimed at telling people about Jesus, providing Jesus-focused sermons, and connecting them into meaningful community at Mars Hill. For the Resurgence we’re aimed at current and future leaders—mainly focusing on theological, pastoral, and practical topics that leaders of any level face. Acts 29, which we’re currently in the process of building a new site and content strategy is focused on higher level leaders who are planting or may have church planting in their future.
Make a flywheel
In his book “Good to Great” Jim Collins talks about the fly wheel principle. This means that just as a flywheel is a large heavy disk that as it spins it gains more and more momentum and is very difficult to stop – the fly wheel of a web presence is the idea that the right strategy can grow in momentum and be a driving force in the success of your mission. With Resurgence this is very simple – we publish two articles a day that are short, punchy, and helpful. On most days we have around 20,000 people a day coming to read those articles. These are all people that we are praying will grow in their love and knowledge of God, and that will contribute to our mission of Making Disciples and Planting Churches where ever they are.
If you can’t do it well, it’s often not worth doing. If I was responsible for the website of a church that was small and didn’t have the resources to create a well thought out web strategy, I would create a simple one page website. It would say the name of the church, the mission we’re on, the times we meet, and how to connect.
How does Mars Hill use the Internet to engage people with the Gospel?
We have two primary ways that we engage – the first is that we push out what we believe to be the best teaching we can though each of our sites. We don’t hide Jesus. On the new MarsHill.com we decided to put Jesus in the upper left corner to be clear what we’re about. The second way that we engage people is that we try to connect people online to real like Gospel-centered communities so that they can get discipled well.
What systems does your team follow on a daily basis to maintain your Internet presence?
We have a few staff members devoted to the content on these 4 sites, but we have literally hundreds of writers from around the world that are contributing in some way. We have a set of themes for each of the site that we’re trying to communicate. For Mars Hill this is almost always related to what is being preached from the pulpit on Sunday, for the Resurgence this is often related to a quarterly theme that we choose to have about 50% of our posts address.
We have a ton of different rhythms that help us to organize the massive amount of content that we publish.
What advice would you give a church leader when attempting to develop a Internet presence?
I believe that the internet is important, but not ultimate. It is a tool in your tool belt to accomplish your mission. For a church that has a very large and expanding vision I would recommend bringing in a specialist or a consultant to create a roadmap. For a church that is focused on multiplying small churches or growing linearly I would recommend that you try to apply these communication solutions (http://mikeyanderson.com/
Why do you believe the church must use the Internet to engage people with the Gospel?
I believe that some churches must use the Internet to engage people, and even those churches should automatically go hog-wild with online. They should use the Internet only as much as it helps the mission.
We did an audit of our communications at Mars Hill and found out that we were communicating with our people through 57 different channels. The result of our good intentions to engage people were ever they were is that we created a passive audience that waited for information to come to them instead of seeking it out. To address this problem we actually diverted some of the effort that we were putting into the web and investing in doing a great job with our weekly handout. Simplifying and communicating to our people through fewer means has initially seemed to drive engagement with those channels.
I (Tim Peters) enjoyed the intentionality of advance the mission of Mars Hill via the Internet. Brilliant. By streamlining messages, site architecture and rich content the mission of Mars Hill is reaching thousands and thousands of people.
What do you think?
Fifty-nine percent of execs believe businesses that do not routinely leverage social media will not survive, according to a Forrester Research survey. And 71 percent said companies taking social media seriously gain a competitive business advantage, the survey found.
Cambridge, MA-based Forrester’s consulting division conducted online surveys with 101 VP- and C-level marketing professionals and interviewed 12 CEOs, CMOs, and VPs. The 29-year-old research firm was commissioned by Facebook to orchestrate the report. ClickZ News received a sneak peek to the results, which will manifest in a 15-page report to be released on Wednesday.
Three other interesting data findings:
- 41 percent of the execs’ firms have begun using social media to market products, manage staff, and optimize operations.
- 40 percent plan to start employing social media as a marketing and operations tool.
- 76 percent said social media is a brand builder.
Immediately my thoughts race to Senior Pastors and other Senior Leaders of churches and how they embrace social media.
- Are senior church leaders fully embracing social media?
- Are senior church leaders leveraging social media to extend pastoral conversations with people beyond Sunday?
- Are senior church leaders viewing social media as a tool to live out the Great Commission?
I believe in cases, a group of senior church leaders use social media to connect with church members. However, I believe the majority of senior church leaders do not embrace and leverage the power of the Internet. I believe they should.
Why? Because the stats of Internet consumption are alarming and represent much more than statistical data. The numbers represent PEOPLE. SOULS. ETERNITY.
I highly recommend every senior church leader calendar specific time each week to intentional connect with people via social media.
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.
At the Texas Ministry Conference, I was asked to provide a number of web site resources to help creatives working for churches. This is a good list to get started. Use these tools to intentional design great websites that generate positive web experiences.
Review resources for stock designs, fonts, colors and web examples -
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.
Simplistic design, captivating graphics, ease-of-use with detailed drop-down menus, relevant content via blogs and videos, consistent and clear messaging.
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.
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?
- The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.
- A person followed by others.
Being a leader means setting a precedent. It’s standing in the front of the line and guiding people in the right direction. If there’s one area where leadership has been lacking in businesses and organizations, it’s social media. In fact, many leaders have taken a hands-off approach to online communication. Today, I’ll tell you what I am learning as I strive to be a social media leader.
Here are four ways you can work to become a social media leader:
I had a fantastic time presenting to organizational leaders at Texas Ministry Conference. The experience was very satisfying in knowing we helped Texas Ministry Conference reach an all time attendance record through Internet Marketing Campaigns. Additionally, the conference was very enjoyable knowing many people were impacted by receiving relevant content on ministry best practices.
Below you will find my handouts, notes and presentation decks for all three sessions -
Create a Web Experience, Not a Website – Maximizing Your Digital Front Door
After word-of-mouth, your website is your most powerful marketing tool. In 2011, your “new front door” starts with Google and ends with a click of the mouse. Are you capitalizing on the opportunities technology provides? Do you tell an online story or simply provide a PDF brochure online? Do you present people with an experience or an “every day” website? Learn compelling statistics and practical ways and tips to create a memorable website.
Vision in Action – Vision Beyond the Whiteboard
Does your organization have a vision statement? How about a mission statement? You probably do. If you do not have these two vital statements, or if you have them but are not using them to guide your organization’s work, you are missing out on the most effective ways to create movement in your church. This movement requires action driven by vision and mission. Without an action, the vision and mission will never leave the whiteboard. Learn practical ways to identify and integrate vision and mission within your church and ministry.
Healthy Leaders Lead Healthy Organizations – 10 Keys to Being a Healthy Leader
Being a pastor is a demanding and at times, a chaotic role. It is difficult to find restoration. Restoration is a key ingredient to being healthy. The mind, body, and soul need restoration…daily restoration. In this workshop, you will learn 10 principles that will change the way you do ministry. These principles penetrate every area of life, from spiritual to growth to marriage to physical exercise. Concluding the presentation, each attendee will be equipped to take the next steps to full health.