Categories
Preparation Presentation Stage Announcements

Church Announcement Prep Worksheet

We have a challenge as church communicators that few other departments have. While other departments need to know what’s going on in their area, we need to know what’s going on in everyone’s area.

In light of that challenge, and my ongoing focus of bringing practical ways to help you communicate with your church and community, below is a worksheet that you can print to help you organize your thoughts about what you communicate for your announcements and how you’ll present it based on my ebook: SnorkelFork, this book title is confusing. Your church’s announcements don’t have to be.

While this worksheet is nothing fancy, my hope is that by giving you this tool, you’ll be able to focus on creating your announcements and get the task out of the way to focus on the hundreds of other things on your plate. Eventually the questions on this page will become second nature to you, but feel free to print and use this page as may times as you’d like.

Categories
Preparation Presentation

Your grocery list is boring. Your announcements don’t have to be.

We have a rule at our house.  if I’m picking up more than 3 things at the store, I need a written list. My wife knows not to trust my memory, but there is a trick that I’ve found that helps me remember more than 3 things without a list, and that’s to make those things connected somehow – make up a song that includes 5 or 6 items, or create a quick story that ties those ideas together.

For instance, I have no problems singing the alphabet (which means I remember 26 things in order) but if you asked me the 10th letter of the alphabet and I recited it, I would pause after ABCDEFG (just like the song…) before I get to HIJ

But a grocery list isn’t exciting. It’s a bunch of individual items with no given correlation – potentially like your announcements. Lists or groups of ideas get easier to remember if they’re tied together or associated. So inspire a response with your announcements by making them memorable, rather that expecting the listener to create that system.

I’ve found 2 ways to do this effectively with church stage announcements:

  1. Talk about your announcements as if it’s just 1 thing to remember
  2. Create a memory trigger for your announcements (like the alphabet song)

 

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Talk about you announcements as if they’re just 1 thing to remember:

We have our information center that is the pivot point for all of our communication, so I’ll tie that as a common thread into all 3 announcements.

If you’re here with us for the first time, we’ve got a gift for your family at the information center. It’s a Life Church mug with more information about how to get connected here at Life Church, and one of the pieces of information you’ll get is about our Life Groups. They are small groups that meet around our city on a weekly or bi-weekly basis based on common interests or growth goals. We’ve heard many stories of how friendships have been developed through Life Groups, and another great way to meet new people at Life Church is to join one of our teams, serving in Kids Life, or with the ushers, or in the cafe. You can find out more about those teams at the information center in the foyer.

In this case, the 3 announcements are:

  1. Gift for new visitors at the information center
  2. Sign up for Life Groups at the information center
  3. Sign up to join a team at the information center

I tie them together with a common thread of going to the information center, and our team there is prepped to ask leading questions – If someone comes to sign up for a Life Group, then the guest service team will also ask about serving on a team, or vice versa. I use screens that show the different topics I’m talking about, but I don’t stop to refer to them.

I want it to feel like one thought about going to the information center and the things that can be done there. The one thought: Stop by the information center.

 

Create a memory trigger for your announcements:

This could be an acronym

What you need to remember is as simple as ABC. A: Apple pie social this afternoon B: Bring a friend to our coffee shop on Friday C: Connect with others from our church at a Life Group. (Then go on to explain the ‘why’ for each  ABC topic, and at the end remind people: A is for Apple, B is for Bring a friend, C is for Connect)

Or maybe you could use a common acronym already at your church. If your church is First Baptist Church and you call yourself FBC, then maybe those could be the letters in your acronym or use a short word like LOVE or JOY to help people remember.

You could also use an external association like a song – It depends on the personality of your church and what permissions you have during announcements, but changing the words to a popular song could trigger what you talked about when later in the week, someone hears that song on the radio driving or in their office or in a retail store.

Be sure that whichever strategy you use, that you tell people WHY they need to respond to your announcement and HOW.

 

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Categories
Post Evaluation Preparation Presentation

Evaluating Live Announcements

Whether live or video, printed or digital, your church’s announcements are asking people to respond in some way, like come to an event, register for something, sign up for a team.  In business, this is called a ‘call-to-action.’  and in order for your call-to-action to be successful, it needs to have 3 components, and often in this order:

  1. Attention
  2. Inspiration
  3. Information

I’ll explain each of these 3 items, then below an example of a live announcement I did from this past weekend and how it worked, plus a few things I noticed that I’d like to work on moving forward.

 

1. Get Your Audience’s Attention

If you have inspiration and information, but you don’t have your audience’s attention, it’s worth nothing.  We’ve all had an experience where we had a technical difficulty and a video didn’t play in service.  At that point, it doesn’t matter how much inspiration and information is in that video if no one sees it.

How to get your audience’s attention: Ask a question, mention something that everyone is experiencing and tie it to your announcement, or start with an interesting fact.

Keep your audience’s attention by only talking about things that are relevant to them (Here’s how we determine what to include in our announcements).

While you may switch the other 2 around, I would suggest that getting attention needs to be first on the list.

 

2. Inspire Your Audience

Make them laugh, make them cry, make them feel  hopeful or make them experience someone else’s hopelessness.  Trigger an emotion that makes them want to respond.  This is your WHY.  (side note: Here’s an article on communicating your WHY… not just how to respond but WHY.)

 

3. Give Your Audience Information

This is possibly the easiest piece of the puzzle, but so often done poorly.  The 2 extremes are too much information (too much to remember) or too little information (the person is walking away wondering how to respond.)

Find the middle ground, and this takes some practise – enough information to get someone interested, but not more than they need.  Then give ONE way to respond. On campus, we’re pointing people to the horseshoe (our Guest info kiosk that because of its location is shaped like a horseshoe) and online, we’re pointing people to our website.

A mistake in the response that I’ve seen is saying “Visit our website example.com/adults/women/prayer” or “Go see John Smith after service to sign up.” (You’re basically saying “If you know who John Smith is, you’re welcome to get involved. If you’re new, we know you don’t know who John Smith is, so we don’t want you to be involved.)

Multiple ways to respond isn’t helpful either. Stop by guest services, or sign up on our website, or join our Facebook group, or call the office this week, or send an email to PastorJohnSmith@example.com… Overload…

 

Here’s my opening announcement on January 8, 2017 at Life Church in Fort Myers, Florida. I’ve made some notes below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkZ_lL6GkBc&feature=youtu.be

 

1. Attention

I started by talking about the cool breeze this morning.  In south west Florida in January, we don’t often have a morning where it’s down to 50 F. People are pulling out warm clothes or jackets that they may only wear a few days each year, so it was a common thread everyone could identify with.

I kept the attention with a couple of jokes that led me to New Years Resolutions.

 

2. Inspiration

We’ve created a way for you to reach people who may have decided on a new years resolution, and here’s a way the you can connect them to Life Church and God.

 

3. Information

The business cards are simple for you to carry around and hand out. You can pick them up at the horseshoe in the foyer (our Guest Info kiosk is shaped like a horseshoe).

 

A few things I would like to work on when I present Live Announcements:

  • Our media team expecting whoever is speaking to be standing on the grey carpet you see on our stage (that’s simply an indication of where that first camera shot is positioned.) I need to wait until I’m on that carpet to start speaking. (This is a cut from our Live Broadcast feed, so this is actually what was broadcast online that morning.)
  • I walk back a forth more than I’d like to. A little is fine so it feels conversational, but I don’t want it to be distracting for the message.
  • I didn’t hit the inspiration part as well as I’d like to.  I don’t often script my live announcements, so in this case, I would have like to help create more of a sense that people are looking for the information and our people can help connect them with it.
  • I have some verbal static (repeating myself talking about resolutions, I say ‘Actually, Believe it or not, typically, umm, ah…’) Verbal static is when you say words that offer no value to the conversation while you gather your thoughts to say something meaningful. Slowing down a little would allow me to vocalize those thoughts without the static.

 

If you’re interested, here is my full announcement clip from that Sunday:

https://youtu.be/I5pPqNxz7Xo

 

Brady Shearer from Pro Church Tools has a great way to integrate stories into your announcements (more than 35% of the time Jesus was teaching, He used stories!) Check out Brady’s 2-part formula here!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, or if you have a clip of your live announcements, post it in the comments!

 

 

 

Categories
Preparation Presentation

4 words we rarely use in our announcements

There are 4 words that I try and stay away from when it comes to how we announce events and groups.  The 4 words are ‘Always’, ‘Never’, ‘Everybody’ and ‘Nobody’.  It’s not to say that they don’t ever appear, but when we choose these words, they are used strategically. (I’ll tell you when we DO use them at the end).  We talk about strategically use these words with our team.  Even as I typed them, I’m thinking about conversations we’ve had.  It’s helpful to know that muscle memory dictates I consider how and when I use them.

We stay away from these words because they create a sense of black and white, inclusion and exclusion, either / or and the reality is, situations and people don’t often fall perfectly into one of two categories.

Everybody & Nobody

If we say:

Everybody will love morning prayer at 7am on Tuesday.”

you may have someone instantly thinking to themselves “well, not me…”  Is it possible they prefer to pray in the evening, or they prefer to pray alone, or they prefer to pray at 5am because they work at 7?  What if you’re inviting them and saying “This is what everybody here is doing,” and that person could be thinking “They must not be including me, so I must not be in line with everybody here”

And what if the next announcement IS practical and applicable to that person, but they’re still having an internal conversation about not being included with everybody here.

This one is a personal pet peeve when whoever is speaking says:

“Everyone knows what happened to ________.”

(Jonah, Moses, David, Peter, Saul… you fill in the blank).  If someone doesn’t know the story of Jonah for instance, that person is instantly not in the “everyone” category… and if the person speaking believes that everyone already knows the story of Jonah, then that person likely won’t take the chance to review.

A better way to frame that reference would be:

“In Sunday school, I was taught about Jonah and the whale.  You may have seen the VeggieTales movie, or read about it in the book of Jonah. He disobeyed God and went the opposite direction of the city where God sent him, got caught in a storm on a boat and was thrown overboard.  When tossed overboard, he then got swallowed by a whale and negotiated with God to save him.  When God made the whale spit him out, Jonah made sure he finished God’s instructions… Here’s the point of the story… “

It takes less than 30 seconds to summarize the story, so you’re not boring people who already know, it’s a rem diner for people who are a little fuzzy, plus for a new believer who isn’t familiar with that story, you gave them 3 places to go to find out: Sunday school (a great place for new believers to start serving and learn Bible basics by the way…), VeggieTales’ Jonah and the book of Jonah.

In reverse:

“I know nobody here will miss prayer this Tuesday morning at 7am.”

It has a different sort of connotation.  This could really hurt the trust that’s been built with your church.  “If I don’t come to prayer, then they’re saying I’ll be the only one.”  Maybe that person’s internal conversation becomes “Well, they don’t know how busy I am.” or “I guess this church is only for management class and above who get to work a 9-5, but I’m on rotating shift work.”

 

To get around the option of using Everybody or Nobody, I like to frame conversations with an ‘If’.  If you’re a morning person and would like to pray together, we have prayer on Tuesday morning at 7am.  If you’re an evening person, or your schedule is changing, you can download our prayer podcast and listen on your schedule.

 

Always & Never

“We always like to take a chance to….” is usually followed by “…except when…”

What if you didn’t last week, or you didn’t last month, or you missed a day once.  Is it really Always? Remember 99% of the time isn’t always.  You may be thinking that most of the time is a lot like always, and only really picky people are going to try and distinguish between them… so then what does it mean to a new believer if you tell them God is ALWAYS listening, or God ALWAYS has the best in mind for them?  Can you then justify that sometimes you use always to mean most of the time, and sometimes you use always to mean always?

Since we have the choice of every word we use, why not use the word that actually says what we mean?  What about Often, usually, most of the time, or consistently, rarely, few and far between, have or haven’t.

Instead of:

“We always have new guests who join us and we want you to fill out a connection card.  Our Pastor always follows up during the week.  If you’ve never learned the basics of the Bible, join us Wednesday for our new believers class at 7pm.”

You could try:

“We often have first time guests here with us and we’d like to honor you.  Please fill out a connection card so we can connect with you this week and answer any questions you have about Life Church.  If you’d like to learn more about the Bible, you’re invited this week to our Bible Basics class.  We hold them almost every Wednesday, and the schedule is available on your bulletin today.”

 

I gave it away in the always and never example, but we sometimes do use these words in a black and white context in relations to what God has spoken to us in the Bible:

God is always good. Sin is never the right choice. Everybody has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Because we use these words so rarely, they are naturally emphasized for full impact when we choose to use them.

.. but we rarely use these in context of our advertising.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts.  Is this new information for you, or have you implemented a similar strategy, and how is it working at your church?

 

 

 

Categories
Preparation

To Announce or Not To Announce… that is the question.

In conversations I’ve had with other communication teams, this really breaks down into 2 questions:

  1. What do you decide what to announce from the stage during service?
  2. How do you tell someone that you’re not going to announce their event?

I’ll answer each one individually as far as the filters that we use at Life Church.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGdZmtVqIT0

What do you announce from the stage?

We filter our announcements based on 3 criteria:

  1. Does it apply to 75% of people or more? (this could be service schedule change, guest speaker, holiday hours at the office, upcoming church-wide event, etc.)
  2. Is it something new or outside of the usual schedule? (a ladies conference, a new small group, VBS, a change in online giving, etc.)
  3. Do we have less than 5 things to announce this service? (We have a saying: “If everything is important, then nothing is important.”  If you announce 8 or 10 things, it’s very likely the people who need to hear important information are tuning you out because it’s mixed in with information they don’t need to hear.  Recently I visited a friend’s church. The person doing announcements read everything in the bulletin for the week and month as their announcement time.  I don’t remember any of it, except he started with a joke.

We usually do 3 announcements during the “Mid-Service” announcements (sometimes live and sometimes video) and then 2 at the end.  The 2 at the end are usually the “immediate response” information – ie. register in the foyer on your way out, see you for a special service this Wednesday, etc.

If we have less than 5 things that meet criteria 1 or 2, then often we’ll fill those slots with things that are important to our core values, but don’t meet 1 & 2.

If we have more than 5 things that meet criteria 1 & 2, then we cut down to 5… this leads perfectly into question 2:

 

How do you tell someone you’re not going to announce their event?

The easiest way to tell someone that their event won’t be in the announcements is to let them know ahead of time what your criteria is (so they can figure out for themselves if it’s worth asking) and then paint a picture for them of all of the different ways they can still spread the message about their event without it being in the announcements.

Paint the picture that their event is important and we don’t want it to get lost in the shuffle… I use the example that if I go to the grocery store and my wife asks me to pick up more than 3 things, I need a list.  That 4th thing may be really important, but I’ve probably forgotten. That’s why we stick with 3 announcements in the middle of service.

So, the married couples over 70 sky diving weekend may be a really important event to someone.  It may be the way that a couple connects with someone who leads them to salvation.

I’m not down-playing the importance of the opportunity by not announcing it from stage, but I’m saying there are better ways to connect directly with the people who may be interested.

(…and by the way, if we only have 4 things to announce next weekend, I would be happy to make this the 5th announcement.)

In the mean time, here are some other promotion options that you can choose when you submit an event request form:

 

  • Image on the 20 minute countdown clock pre-service in the Foyer, Worship Center & Duplicated on the digital signage rotating for 30 minutes after service
  • Facebook / Twitter / Instagram Scheduled Posts
  • Information printed in the Church Bulletin
  • Website Calendar
  • Add it to “Upcoming Events” TV above the Information Kiosk
  • Weekly email newsletter to all members

 

Opportunities you can utilize directly to connect with your group:

  • Provide handouts to your current group members and those you meet in church that may enjoy your event
  • Use your personal email address to send out an image and event information to people who may be interested in your contacts (include people who may not attend our church who may be interested).
  • Post information on your personal social media channels
  • At this event, hand out information for your next event

What is your experience with announcements and alternatives? Let us know in the comments below!