Recently I published a post entitled ’5 Things Every Church Should Communicate Every Sunday’. I received tons of positive comments and hundreds of Tweets and Facebook Likes. Over the weekend, I decided to produce an extended version of the post in a eBook format. In the eBook I added two additional ‘things’ every church should communicate every Sunday.
You will definitely enjoy this eBook and the material will be easy for you to pass along to other church leaders and volunteers. You can download the eBook for free by filling out the form below. Thank you!
The concept of a brand is a little bit elusive, especially as it relates to Church Marketing and Communications. Some people think the brand is the logo or the artwork you use in advertising media. Some leaders talk about brand identity in relationship to strategy. Some talk about a brand it terms of its projected image.
The reality is that your brand is the positive collision of all those things. It’s who you are, who you say you are, and who your audience says you are.
But sometimes it’s hard to think of a church in terms of a brand. So here’s a quick way to think about it.
You have a vision, given by God, that guides your church. It’s who you are; who you were meant to be.
You communicate messages to your audience via sermons, announcements, social media, your website, events, etc. That’s who you say you are.
Your audience has a perception based on your communication messages. It comes by way of their own personal bias, past experiences, expectations, personalities and general word-of-mouth. That’s what determines who your audience says you are.
If you communicate well, then your vision, your communicated message, and your audience’s perception will work together to create the brand you desire. To do so requires that you know each of these very well.
Brand Identity is a critical component of any communication strategy, but especially a church communication strategy. Church communications matter because what the church communicates matters.
How does your church develop a positive brand with your church and community? Leave a comment below.
We’ve all heard the expression, “You have one chance to make a great first impression.” But what if I told you that your one shot, your one opportunity to make a great first impression with the first-time guests at your church, had an eternal impact?
The initial guest experience is one of the driving forces of a person deciding whether they will ever attend church again. And not just your church, any church.
Why? Because people have preconceived ideas of what church is. These preconceived ideas are based on Christians they know, their personal upbringing, and maybe even past experiences they have had with other churches.
It naturally generates stress, pressure, and discomfort; and all before they ever walk through the doors of your church!
Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time guest and quickly you’ll hear questions like, “What does this church believe; will I feel comfortable; will I be wearing the right clothes; will I know where to take my kids?”
Then combine those anxious questions with the reality of waking up, getting ready, getting there, getting lost, being on time, answering a myriad of questions from your kids in the backseat and all the other thoughts going through the mind of a first-time guest.
In short, your guests are likely going to be nervous when they come on your campus, and you’ve got one shot to make them feel welcomed.
Sure, it’s important to have a great parking team and friendly, welcoming greeters, but a great guest experience is so much bigger than that. Guests at your church will be checking you out long before they ever arrive at your doors. Your guest experience begins with your website and continues from the parking lot to the worship center, and all the areas in between.
Keep this in mind, your guest experience will be just that, an experience. As a church Leader, you have the power to influence what kind of experience it will be.
How does your church maximize the guest experience?
I learned the hard way when developing my very first church communication strategy. I was new to the role and didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t know what I was doing, so I developed a strategy in isolation, instead of surrounding myself with the people responsible to help implement it. It failed, miserably.
Learning from my past failure, the next time I needed to develop a Church communication strategy, you can bet I developed it in a collaborative environment.
Here is who should have input and a seat at the table when developing a Church communication strategy:
1. The leadership.
Most Senior Pastors or key leaders are not thinking about this. They may not even think it’s important. But it is critical, and they need to be in the room. Why? Because the vision and direction of the church rests inside the heads and hearts of the Senior Pastor and key leaders. The primary purpose of a Church communication strategy is to communicate and advance the unique vision of your church.
2. The implementers.
Far too often, the people responsible for the execution are not included in the development. This increases the likelihood of burnout and frustration because they had no input. By including them, they are clear of what is expected of them, but they will also have a lot more passion because they were included in the development.
3. The audience.
Many times the church makes decisions without including the very people it will impact. The same holds true with your communications. If the strategy is intended to communicate what is happening to your church, the audience should have some input into how, what, and when they are communicated to. They will give you a different perspective that you wouldn’t receive by remaining in a church office bubble. Simply put, do not develop a Church communication strategy in isolation. It’s about communication. Gather your team to craft an effective strategy that everyone will feel good about.
It was an uncharacteristically warm winter day, even for Texas, and I decided I would take that opportunity to get my car washed. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea, as the lines that day were long. Ever prepared, I grabbed my tablet and headed inside to do some reading while I waited. As I opened my tablet and clicked over to an eBook, I happened to glance up and realized there was a very large number of other people doing the same thing.
I can’t say that I was particularly surprised, as reading is on the rise – eReading, that is. And I can’t help but feel like the Church is missing a great opportunity here.
Here are 4 Reasons Your Church Should Publish eBooks -
#1 – Popularity
Over time, eBooks have become extremely popular. To date, publishers are now publishing 78% of their books via electronic format over paper format. Another interesting statistic, also related to digital publishing, is that reading itself is on the rise, up 30% according to Time Magazine. From paper to digital, people are more and more accustomed to reading eBooks. And the primary reason people say they are reading? They are reading for education, to make their life, business, and family better.
#2 – Sharable
eBooks are not only a great way to communicate with your audience, but if they like the content, eBooks are easily shared. Two great examples of ebooks widely being shared by the church are the YouVersion Bible and Jesus Calling. It’s likely you have one of these on your smartphone or tablet right now.
#3 – Connectivity
By providing free eBooks to your church and community, you generate a way to capture their email address. And before you discount this as some slick marketing trick, think of it this way; you can use this method to keep your database up to date, a direct link to staying connected to your members. In addition, you can use the email address to provide a way to connect with people on a deeper level, via pastoral newsletter, daily devotionals, etc.
#4 – Strategically
Based on the vision and priorities of your church, strategically create eBooks that help your church live out the calling God has for your church. For example, develop the “Story of Your Church” eBook, or a devotional series aligned with a sermon series, or a compilation of life change stories eBook. The possibilities are endless.
eBooks are educational, easily attainable, and a smart idea for churches who want to strengthen and deepen their relationship with their audience.
Every ministry leader that I have ever encountered thinks their event and ministry is the most important, and I suppose that’s as it should be. But when it comes to Church Communications and these leaders, sometimes their requests can be challenging. If your ministry is anything like mine was, they are probably constantly knocking on your door or filling your inbox with requests for postcards, seat cards, t-shirts, announcements, toilet seat covers, and who knows what else.
But if you communicate everything, you communicate nothing.
So how do you determine what, when, and how information will be communicated? If you don’t know the answer to this question, then it’s likely you have no internal communication structure in place; a fact that will leave you struggling to meet expectations, unable to meet deadlines, and frustrated in your role.
But more importantly, because you have no systems in place, the very audience you are communicating to will also be frustrated. They are being asked, via communications, to do everything, typically resulting in them being overwhelmed and taking no action whatsoever.
The solution? Communication Tiers.
Follow these steps to develop Communication Tiers that will bring clarity to your team, your audience, and your communication plan.
#1 – Assemble a Team
- This team should include the Communications team, the Senior Pastor, and other key leaders.
#2 - Define Your Communication Tiers
- A communication tier is a group of events or ministries that hold a certain level of importance.
Level One: Easter, Christmas, Giving Campaign, Vision Celebration, Life Change Stories, Impacts 80% of the church
Level Two: A Major Ministry Event which Impacts a significant amount of an audience (VBS, D-Now Weekend)
Level Three: Low priority, reoccurring ministry events like Wholly Fit, Divorce Care, Men’s Barbeque, etc.
#3 - Identify Tier Channels
- These are the ways you will communicate the event or ministry based on it’s tier grouping. There is so much to be said in this category, it’s just too much for a blog post.
#4 – Determine Which Ministry Falls Into Which Tier
- List every ministry event, campaign, and directional statement on a white board.
- As a team, determine, based on all whiteboard content, what tiers each event, ministry, campaign and statement falls into.
You can expect this part of the process to be very challenging. I’ve been in several meetings where I have helped many churches walk through this and you need to know that I have not been in a single meeting where this was easy (or pleasant).
After you have developed these tiers and channels, have the Senior Pastor alongside the Communications Pastor, communicate this cohesive decision to the entire church staff and volunteers.
Conducting this one exercise will make your professional life so much easier because everyone has the same expectations about what is being communicated. As a bonus, this exercise might be a good time to determine ministries you want to stop doing because they don’t connect to the vision of the church.
How does your clean up the clutter of Church Communications?
If you are like most Church Communication Directors, you communicate the vision so often that at some point, you become sick and tired of hearing about the vision. But when you are sick and tired of hearing it, keep in mind that some people in your church still don’t get it.
And if by chance you are not yet sick and tired of communicating the vision, then you haven’t communicated it enough.
“The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame and Winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Is Your Call to Action Missing in Action?
Through years of research and curious studying, I have viewed thousands and thousands of church websites. That’s not an overstatement. I really do mean thousands. As I view these websites, sometimes I am encouraged, and sometimes I am discouraged. Sometimes I am amazed and other times, quite frankly, I am horrified.
Recently I decided to view church websites, but not taking into consideration, design, functionality or content. In my research this time, I asked this question over and over, “What is missing?” “What is the most important part of this church’s website, and what is it missing?”
What I found to be consistent among most church websites was that they did not provide a call to action.
The design was great. The functionality was phenomenal. But I could not tell what the church wanted me to do. A call to action provides a way for you to connect with the web visitor in a deeper way. It helps the user understand the next steps to take in the journey with their church.
Here are a just a few types of calls to action:
- Submit a prayer request
- Download the history of your church eBook
- Share your story
- Ask about baptism
- Talk with someone about salvation
- Sign up for an event
I’ve said in the past, you don’t want your church website to be merely an informational hub. You want it to be an experience. You want it to draw your web visitors into a relationship, into community with the church.
How well is your church doing in this area of your website?
I am excited to give away a FREE copy of my friend Scott McClellan’s new book - Tell Me a Story (Finding God and Ourselves Through Narrative). It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend you purchase the book if you do not win.
How do you win a free copy?
It is pretty easy. The first three people to subscribe to Sayge will receive book for free. During the registration we will receive your mailing address and the great team at Moody Publishing will send you the book. What do you have to lose? You get a free book and the opportunity to tryout Sayge for 30 days for free!
SUBSCRIBE TO WIN
Book Description -
Do You Know What Makes a Great Story Great?
All the best stories have a few things in common—sometimes, we just have to step back from our daily routine to see them. First, we need the voice of a narrator or a storyteller. Then, add in some interesting characters, throw them into a risky setting, and get ready for a good dose of conflict. Give those characters a purpose or goal and then…well, then the real action begins!
When we recognize the elements of a great story, we begin to see our lives as a part of God’s story. Then, we’ll better understand what He has for us, what we should believe about this story, and what we should then do.
God’s story is happening. We are right in the middle of a page-turner—and God is with us in it. Start seeing your life as a part of God’s story and make some great adventures happen right now!
Connect with Scott -
As a Communications Pastor, one of the dilemmas I often face with volunteers was that they quit. I would spend my time finding them, investing in them, and training them, and then, suddenly and without warning, they would leave.
Sometimes their reasons for leaving were real life reasons. They got a job transfer, had a baby, lost a spouse, etc.
But more often than not, they stepped down because they did not feel informed, appreciated, or valued as a team member.
Once I learned that if I spent, some time staying connected to my volunteer team, they would stay on my team I changed my volunteer management style. I paid attention to recruiting, training, investing, managing, encouraging, appreciating, and praying for my volunteers.
But overtime I realized I did not have the bandwidth to manage all of my volunteers and still do my job well. And then I had this crazy thought.
What if I found a Volunteer Coordinator that had great leadership skills, understood the world of church communications and had 10 to 15 hours a week to give as a volunteer?
And that’s exactly what I did.
I found a stay-at-home mother willing to volunteer 15 hours a week as a volunteer coordinator while her children attend the church childcare. It was a perfect fit.
Volunteer Coordinator Role -
- Meet with Communications Pastor Once a Week to Plan and Review
- Connect Regularly with Volunteer Team on Projects
- Host Training Events to Help Volunteers with Roles
- Celebrate Volunteers with Small Gifts, email and Social Media
- Provide Communications Pastor with Frequent Updates via Project Management System
Turning over such a vital leadership roll to a volunteer can be a scary notion, but it doesn’t have to be. God has given each of us skills, strengths, gifts and time to use for His Kingdom. We would be very shortsighted as leaders not to help the people in our churches use those gifts by serving in roles where they are qualified to serve. I could have never done my job effectively with a Volunteer Coordinator leading a team of great volunteers.
What is your church’s philosophy about volunteers in high capacity roles?