No matter how entrenched you may be with social media, email is still one of the best forms of communication. The key is creating great email newsletters.  An effective email newsletter provides value, inspires action and is shared by subscribers through social media.

In my time I have seen plenty of great and not-so-great church email newsletters.  I unsubscribe from many and on the flip-side share many. So, before you press “Send” practicing these three principles when creating your next email newsletter.

Capture Attention

It’s not enough to have an email subscribe form tucked into the sidebar of your home page.  Now you can use an array of superb popups to capture the users email address.  From the homepage of your website to every subpage make subscribing to your email seamless and easy.  Be strategic in how you capture emails.  Give users a reason to subscribe to emails. What value do you provide subscriber?

Exchange Value

Giving people a reason to subscribe is even more important than simply grabbing their attention. In order to get willing subscribers these days you must sell the value of what you have to offer and most likely exchange something like a free ebook or video that sounds too good to miss right at the point of subscription.

The act of giving an email address comes with a price these days because all of our email inboxes are jammed.

Be Sharable

Smart marketers have always used tools that make it easier for people to share their email newsletter with friends, but these days that means making your content easy to share in social media as well.  Ensure that every email you publish is instantaneously easy to share.

A church email newsletter could be and should be your best communication tool.  DO NOT simply cut and copy text from a Word document and press “send”.  The attention and time of your church membership is far more valuable.  Be intentional and strategic.

How does your church use email marketing to increase communication efforts?

Facebook is the hottest trend America (the world) has ever experienced.  Facebook has over 800 million registered users.  That means they would be the 4th largest nation in the world. The social network is an unbelievable tool when used with purpose and strategy.  With most people in the United States entrenched with Facebook, the church has a great opportunity to leverage the trend into a kingdom impacting tool.

Here are 7 ways to maximize your Facebook page -

1) Good content

80% of people check out your website before attending your church.  The second place they visit is your Facebook page to view pictures and dialogue between church members.  In most situations your Facebook page is much more telling than your website.  This is perfectly okay as long as you manage your content well.  Provide people the opportunity to get to know you through general information, photographs of events and services, videos of messages and life-change stories.  Make sure the content is monitored and matches up with the message you want to deliver.

2) Make it known

I hear this statement all the time, “We created a page but nobody joined!”  I quickly respond, “How did you inform people that the page existed?”  They reply, “We didn’t.”  Here are some quick ways to make sure people know about your page – announce it regularly from stage, print Facebook.com/YourChurchName wherever you print your URL and provide a link from your website.

3) Regular relevant posts

In most cases, the administrator (typically staff person) will be the one driving page activity.  Be strategic about what you say status updates.  The content MUST be relevant.  Some ideas to share –  life-change stories, ministry event updates with pictures, quotes from worship service messages, recommended reading list, etc.

Tip: This is going to sound bad, but rethink the idea of posting a scripture verse each day.  I think if you took a look at your personal wall, you would see that 3-4 other friends already got that one covered. Be different and unique.  Offer value.

4) Staff interaction

Recently, I made a simple post on behalf of a church, “How can the pastoral staff be praying for you, specifically?”  Before I knew it, I got ambushed with requests.  The only problem was the staff was not prepared to respond.  I frantically had to contact the leadership team telling them they needed to engage immediately.  I recommend pastors check the church page daily, interact 1-2 times a week and provide the communications team with information ammunition on events and life-change stories.

5) Provide guidelines

Hopefully the staff team is active in building community through Facebook and other social media mediums.  If so, take some time to think through what guidelines you wish for them to follow.  For example, you might ask them never to speak negatively about your church or any other church.  Provide overall guidelines in social media etiquette.

6) Check the analytic reports

Facebook does a great job of report generation.  The reports provide information that will boggle your mind.  Check the reports monthly, as these reports will be a great guide on what content to offer to your audience.  What are people “liking”?  What do people click on?  When do people “like” your page?

7) Communicate purpose

Make sure it is very clear that you are using Facebook as a spiritual growth tool for your church.  Communicate the page will be used to help people stay connected, receive prayer, find opportunities to serve and spiritually grow.

In summary, make sure you capitalize on the opportunity provided by Facebook.  They’ve done a great job of assembling millions into one social community.  Now it is our turn to use the tool for kingdom growth.

How do you use Facebook to grow online community and ministry?

Pastors quit too soon.  Many of them quit because of moral failure, anger, discouragement and other reasons. I am learning more and more about going the distance and not quitting.  My learnings stem from my marathon training. This March I will run my first marathon.

1. Run at a healthy pace – In my first race I jumped out the gate and sprinted too early.  I was exhausted five miles in on a ten mile race.  No more energy. Nothing.

In leadership you must have boundaries.  Boundaries protect you from going too hard, too fast.  Protect your time, your body, your family.

2. Run with no excess baggage – In running you want to eliminate all unnecessary weight.  Early in my training I did not have the proper equipment.  I ran in heavy shoes, cotton shirts and large basketball shorts.  Unnecessary baggage and weight.

I switched to feather light running shoes and dri-fit clothing.  Instantly I was lighter and faster.  The same is true in leadership.  You cannot lead in a effective manner with excess baggage.  Leave behind anger, addictions, bad habits, guilt and toxic people.

3. Run with a team – It is easy to go on short runs on your own.  As time goes on and runs increase to ten, fifteen, twenty miles it is essential to run with a team.  Team running provides encouragement and support to press on and finish strong.

In leadership it is vital to be surrounded by a great team.  Great teams provide the necessary accountability, support and encouragement to be the best leader.  To go the distance you need a solid marriage (if married), teammates, and mentors.

4. Run with frequent re-fueling – I remember my first long run like it was yesterday.  I was clueless.  I laced up the running shoes and ran. No strategy or preparation.  I ran a course with no water fountains and I did not bring along water. Bad mistake.

In running it is imperative to stay hydrated.  Most experts recommend you rehydrate every two miles.  The same is true in leadership.  Leaders must refuel.  You are not build too go hard and fast all the time!

Find what refuels you.  For me, spending unhurried time with God, running and going on dates with Meagan provide new energy.

How do you go the distance?  What refuels you?
Excerpts from Jeff Wells – Senior Pastor of WoodsEdge Community Church

Why do pastors quit too soon? Here are ten potential reasons.

1. Discouragement

  • Many pastors and church leaders receive criticism, experience little or no growth, people leave, enemy attacks, etc.

2. Failure

  • Many pastors are successful.  But with unnecessary and self-afflicted pressure they feel like a failure.

3. Loneliness

  • It can be lonely at the top.

4. Moral Failure

  • Especially sexual sin/affair/pornography addiction.

5. Financial Pressure

  • Not enough money to support their family. Or lack of financial responsibility.

6. Anger

  • At certain people … at God.

7. Burnout

  • Exhausted and depleted – and angry.

8. Physical Health

  • Simply did not care for their bodies. Junk food, no rest, no exercise.

9. Marriage/Family Problems

10. Busyness/Drivenness

What other reasons do pastors quit too soon?

With over 500 million registered websites on the WWW, you can definitely find a slew of horrifically designed websites.  Unfortunately many of those websites are faith-based organizations. With new technology available we have unlimited ways to communicate and connect to potential audiences.  The website you form could be and should be your number one communication tool.  With that rant over, here are 8 keys to have a great website.  Get after it!

1) Don’t be cheap

It is extremely difficult to build an effective website with not spending money.  Sure, you can find a template and make it work (if you are skilled), but your church is not a template.  If you are going to bust your budget, bust it here.

2) Take your time

Slow down and take a deep breath.  Before you embark on creating a website, set aside a day or two to think, research and meet with people to understand what the website needs to look like and offer.

3) Use experienced and proven professionals

I am all for volunteers and lay people using their skills and talents to impact the church, but this is not the place for their volunteerism.  Again, your website is one of, if not the most important communication tool you possess.  Use people who know what they are doing and provide great work.  Contact Me if you are interested in my group providing website design and development services.

4) Tell your story

Communicate, communicate and communicate your story.  Communicate who you are, what you do, why you do it and where you are going. Tell stories with video, word and photos that communicate your culture and uniqueness.

5) Relevant content and design layout

People are visiting your website on purpose.  Take time to think through what your audience wants to receive when visiting your website.  Make sure to use words that are familiar with non-church attendees.  Use Adults, Children, Students, Volunteer instead of Community, Zoola Land, Xtreme X and Engage. Please keep your content and design layout simple and provide people what they want within one click of the mouse.

Tip: You already know this, but make sure you have Google Analytics tied into your website for tracking. Thank you to Google, for making it easy to know what content is relevant and should be featured.

6) Be known

The worst thing in the world is to have beautiful website and receive no visits.  If search engines don’t know you, nobody will.  Take some time and explore your options.  They are unlimited, from search engine optimization campaigns to Google ads to Facebook ads to blogging to email newsletters. Optimizing your website and managing ad campaign is insanely time consuming. This is another area where hiring experienced and proven professionals are a plus.

7) Socially connected

With social media moving at a rapid growth pace, your website must be connected to the movement.  Make it easy for people who visit your website to connect with you socially.  But please make sure that well designed and high-resolution social icons are used in designed.  Enough with highly pixilated and over sized icons.

8 People click on videos

It’s amazing how a video can inspire people more than words.  Don’t get me wrong, words are great as I am typing them right now.  But, in our digital age people like clicking on videos.  i.e. – YouTube.  If you cannot produce a ton of videos then make sure you do one great church overview video.  This overview video must include the vision and mission of church and should include information on age specific ministries and what your church is doing to bring hope to world.

In summary, your website is one of the most important communication tools you have.  Take your time, think, don’t be cheap and make sure people know about your website and receive what they are looking for as soon as possible.

Stories move people, perhaps none more than the story of Jesus Christ. Writer Tom Gilbert, personal historian and founder of Your-Life-Your-Story.com explains: “We want to relate to God, but human understanding cannot fathom God. The Christian testimony is that God meets us where we are, at our level. And it seems the most powerfully transformed lives are those who personally encounter Jesus in our broken-ness.”

Since these stories of life-change often speak louder than sermons or worship music, it’s important to have a system in place for capturing them.

5 Ways to Capture Life-change Stories

  • Provide links throughout your website where people can submit stories online.
  • Ask people to submit stories via Facebook and Twitter.
  • Encourage members to share their stories in a live service.
  • Give people plenty of time in a worship service to write their stories.
  • Build storytelling kits.  Include inexpensive video and digital cameras and a list of questions for storytellers to ask.  Allow staff and volunteers to rent kits and task them to cover certain ministry events.

Once you have captured stories, it’s time to tell and celebrate them.

3 Methods For Sharing Life-change Stories

  • Video – Film, edit and refine content, then share the story through the Internet.  Here is a great example of telling stories through video.

  • Print – Hire talented writers and photographers to “tell” stories.
  • Live – Help people develop a concise version of their story and coach them on delivery.  Add visual interest by projecting photos of the person in the background. Solidify this part of their story by praying over them.

Whatever methods you choose to capture and celebrate life-change stories, don’t lose sight of the actual change that God has worked in the person’s life.

How do you capture and celebrate life-change stories at your church?

The world lives online.  The average American spends more than 60 hours a month online. If you were to put those hours back-to-back, you’d be surfing the web for a whole month.

Question: Why should the church care?

  • The Internet is controlling people.
    • Online Pornography (Adult and Child)
    • Emotional Affairs
    • Bullying
    • Distracting – Try and put your phone down for more than 30 minutes.
  • The Internet is not going away.
  • The Internet is a mission field.
  • The Internet is not good or evil.  It is how we use the Internet that determines whether it is good or evil.

This infographic is both startling and exciting.  We (the Church) have an unprecedented opportunity to view the Internet as mission field.  We can redeem the Internet with proper strategy and execution.

timespentonline

How does your church use the Internet for good?

Everyone from politicians to American Idols have something to say about burnout.  Congressman Bill Owens, from Upstate New York, once said: “Leadership is an active role; `lead` is a verb. But the leader who tries to do it all is headed for burnout, and in a powerful hurry.” Singer Kelly Clarkson, on the other hand, had a more light-hearted outlook – “God will never give you anything you can’t handle, so don’t stress.” I prefer a more proactive approach to avoiding burnout.

Spend Time with God Daily

  • Make your daily time with God a priority
  • Give yourself unhurried time to reflect and listen
  • The goal is to be restored by God

Move Your Body

  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Check out the benefits according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676
  • My personal goal is to lift weights four times a week and run at least four times.  Honestly, I can say many days exercising helps me remain sane.

Proactively Connect

  • Relax with friends/loved ones to recharge
  • Keep regularly scheduled appointments or once-in-a-while check-ins with a Counselor (Make an appointment before it’s an emergency)
  • Stay accountable to other Christians through Small Groups
  • Seek out a more mature and wise mentor

Set Up Boundaries

  • Keep reasonable work hours
  • Manage relationships by spending time with people who encourage you – not just those you have to encourage

Finally, take some advice from renowned researcher, and author of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), the most widely used research measure in the field of burnout. Professor Christina Maslach advises, “Humor is a great way to relieve stress.” I couldn’t agree more.

How do you avoid burnout?

Apparently Mississippi State painted #HAILSTATE (school rally cry) in their north endzone.  Brilliant.  Now every time a Bulldog player scores a touchdown, fans in Mississippi and beyond have the opportunity to connect with one another via Twitter and a simple # character.

I instantly started asking questions.  Do most church leaders understand the meaning of a hashtag?  Are churches using hashtags via Twitter to keep online conversations going?  Do people even understand how to use and apply hashtags?

Source Twitter
Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

Hashtags: helping you find interesting Tweets

  • People use the hashtag symbol # before relevant keywords in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets to show more easily in Twitter Search.
  • Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category.
  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet.
  • Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.

Example: Below, @VegNews added the hashtag before the word “vegan” in their message. The word is now a link to search results for all Tweets containing “#vegan” in the message.

Screen_shot_2010-07-26_at_3.21.34_PM.png

Using hashtags

  • If Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet.
  • Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 3 hashtags per Tweet.)
  • Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic.

Here are a couple of ideas on how to use hashtags at your church.  The goal is initiate ongoing conversations beyond your Sunday morning experiences.

Ideas -

  1. Print Your Church Name As A Hash Tag on Business Card and Major Brochures.  Example – Park City Church would be #Park City
    1. Keep in mind many people will need a brief education on hashtag.  Simply apply text explaining #ParkCity.  “Join the conversation online at twitter.com/parkcity and use hashtag #ParkCity”
  2. Apply #ParkCity on Media Screens Off-And-On During Messages
  3. Encourage People to Engage in Twitter Conversations with #ParkCity Through Email Communications and Stage Announcements

What other ways could you use Twitter hashtags to initiate online conversations?

As a caring dad I am concerned with the state of the news and entertainment my family and I consume every day. Who really produces, owns and airs the shows my children are glued to every morning? Through Frugal Dad I found a great infographic illustrating who owns and produces the media we consume.  The most alarming stat within the graphic is our media is controlled by one of six companies.

Cody, Carly and Campbell (My Children) -

I apologize in advance.  Your television time once again will be significantly less.  Sorry.

Media Consolidation Infographic

Source: Frugal dad