Church communications are more important than ever. With the emergence of the smartphone, the information we consume on a daily basis is mind numbing. Unfortunately, most churches are terrible at church communications. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s look at how to do church communications well.
How do we make sure people know about our upcoming events? How do we make sure people are being encouraged by the gospel message throughout the week? How can we build excitement and engagement in anticipation of this weekend’s services? How do we get more people serving? How do we get more people plugged into community through small groups?
These are just some of the questions that all point back to doing church communications well. If your church can do better in communications and marketing, it will likely grow. Why? Because more people will be aware, encouraged, informed, and excited.
Let’s jump in.
Most Churches Are Terrible at This: How to Do Church Communications Well
What is Church Communications
Let’s get our terms right. Church communications involve the systems and channels a church uses to contact and connect with its congregants and people in the community as well as the systems and channels the congregants and people in the community use to contact and connect with the church.
Church communications are two-way. This is not a one-sided conversation.
Never forget that.
Think online contact forms, connection cards, information desks, prayer cards, and signage.
Think Sunday morning gatherings, websites, social media, email, mobile apps, bulletins/programs, postal mail, etc.
So now that we’re on the same page, how do we use these systems and channels of church communications well?
Build Engagement First
We must start here. Church communications are about far more than just sharing a Facebook post of the Sunday bulletin. It is far more than announcements. In order to do church communications well, we have to build engagement first.
Carey Nieuwhof says, “In the future, the engaged will attend because, in large measure, only the engaged will remain.”
If he is right, which I believe he is, church communications play a vital role in getting more people engaged in the mission and vision of your church.
What does engagement mean, though?
Engagement in the church looks like serving in a ministry, being in a group, giving, being connected to the church’s communication channels, reading the info on the channels, reacting to posts on social media, commenting on those posts, taking action from the Sunday sermon, becoming a member, and more.
But how do we do this?
Here are some ideas:
- Share stories of life change via video (or text with a photo of the person who is sharing their testimony).
- Show your church’s values in action. Did a small group go serve the community? Tell people about it through pictures, videos, a Sunday morning live testimony, etc.
- Always call people to action at the end of your sermons.
- Connect the activities of the church to the mission of the church – always.
- Give people a behind-the-scenes look at what is going on at the church. A big day coming up? Show people the prep work leading up to it.
- Ask fun questions on social media to get people interacting with your church’s account and each other.
- Create content that people will want to share.
Here’s an example of our new Marketing and Communications Director at The Crossing doing that last one:
Encourage and Inspire
Question: does your congregation perk up when they see your church post something on social media or do they scroll on by? When they see your church’s name in their inbox do they open it right away or delete it right away?
You may not know the answer, but you can use those two questions as filters for what to post, what to send, and what to communicate.
Here’s an easy test: are you excited about what you are posting, sending, or communicating under the name of your church? If you’re not excited, you can bet that your recipients aren’t either.
What Not to Do
Please, please, please do not let your church’s communication channels be only an announcement engine.
What to Do
Help people see God at work. Help people seek God. Help people honor God.
Here is how North Point Community Church did this in a Facebook post this week:
How simple is that?! Andy called the church to pray a specific prayer at church in his sermon (remember, always call people to action) and instead of leaving it in one communication channel (the Sunday gathering), they decided to put it on Facebook as a reminder and as a tool. You can do the same kind of thing, too.
If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t worry. Canva.com is a great resource that will let you appear as if you know what you’re doing.
When it comes to church communications, especially those outside of a Sunday gathering, we should always strive to encourage and inspire MORE than we strive to simply inform.
Creatively Inform and Call to Action
Here are a couple secrets: pictures and videos get in front of more people than text only posts do on social media, but text only in email gets better open rates.
That’s interesting, but here’s the more important point: be a student of the communication channels your church uses.
If you want your next event to have the most people possible and social media is going to be a key driver of sign ups, then have a plan for how you can use it to maximize the response.
Use multiple media types (text, pictures, videos) to drive traffic to your sign up page. The key is to use a variety of approaches when getting sign ups for events or ministries. Don’t do it the same way all the time. Mix it up.
At The Crossing, we are hosting a day of community events on June 10th and one of the events is a free concert. As we get the word out, we’ve been doing so in a few different ways. See below for the examples:
We also created a Facebook event page.
Plus, we budgeted money for Facebook advertising which, again, we’ll use a variety of media types to maximize the effectiveness of our return on investment.
Simplify Your Website for Future Visitors
One of the most important aspects of your church communications is your home base – your church’s website.
Most of the people who visit your church on Sunday have either been invited by someone they know, checked out your website or they did a Google search and found your church out online.
Your website has to be designed with future visitors in mind. I love how Vineyard Cincinnati keeps the focus on the future visitor on their homepage. Check it out:
Notice the top menu? The first thing your eyes will catch is “New Here?” Future visitors know exactly where to go.
Then look toward the bottom. Those three links, “visit us,” “learn more,” and “find help” are all vitally important for someone just checking them out online.
If you need help with creating a better church website, I highly recommend you look at the footer (the very bottom of a website) and see who designed the church websites you like and contact them.
If you want a cheaper solution, check out ChurchThemes.com’s Marantha theme. It’s pretty good!
A few quick pointers on site design:
- Keep your menus simple to navigate with future visitors in mind first.
- Opt for simplicity and lots of “white space” rather than complexity and clutter.
- Hire a professional photographer to take pictures on a Sunday and use those pictures on your website rather than stock photography.
- Eliminate typos.
- Be mobile friendly. Most people will be visiting your site on their phone.
- Learn SEO or hire someone to do it for you. It will help future visitors find your church online.
For some great examples of church websites done well, visit Pro Church Tool’s list of The Top 25 Best Church Websites Of 2017. Check the footers of the sites you like or simply contact the church itself and ask them who designed their site.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Ignore Email. Do it Well!
Email is the bread and butter of businesses, nonprofits, this site, and… you guessed it… churches. The problem is, many churches don’t use the bread and butter like they should.
If you have the ability to be in someone’s inbox, do it and do it well. Become a student of email marketing or get someone on your team to become a student.
We really have no excuse. Mailchimp is free for your first 2,000 subscribers! It’s easy to learn, too.
Once you learn the technical aspects of Mailchimp, the first thing you need to learn how to do well is the subject line. Because if the people on your email list don’t open your email, what’s the point?
Here’s a great primer on email subject lines: 37 Copy-And-Paste Email Subject Lines For Churches.
Want to learn a ton about MailChimp? The peeps over at ChurchMag are big fans. Check out this link for a TON of articles on how to use MailChimp, and more importantly, how to use it well.
And when you get a handle on it, be sure to utilize the paid ($10/month) automation feature to help engage with visitors from the past Sunday. In the video below, I show you how.
Improve One Aspect of Church Communications at a Time
Depending on how much help you have with this, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. But don’t worry, improving one aspect of what we’ve talked about can make a huge difference.
Plus, there are people in your congregation who can put the time and attention needed to improve your church’s communication strategy. They just need to be asked and empowered.
Don’t feel like you need to do this on your own. Share this article with a few people you think would be good fits for being on your church’s communications team and ask them to join.
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