(recently, I wrote a letter to Pastors hoping to help start conversations about why communications teams are overwhelmed. This is a follow up to that letter. The letter that I wrote to pastors has gained more attention than I had imagined, with a 1400% increase in traffic to my blog on the day that I published it.
Along with the public shares, comments posts, and tweets, I also received private messages from people in that role who thanked me for helping them realize that they’re not the only one who face those pressures. As a follow-up, I write this.)
Dear Church Communications Teams,
I hope I was clear in my blog post that I wasn’t creating the list to create a justification for laziness on our communications teams, or entitlement.
Famously in church world, we have a habit of bragging about how bad we have it. Twice in recent memory, I’ve sat at a table with 4 or 5 Pastors (or Pastoring couples) I’d never met before, and they each took turns talking about how bad their latest church split was, or how their county wouldn’t approve their building permits, or a how long their church has been struggling with finances.
We have to push against this culture. We’ll never reach our communities with the compassion of Jesus if we’re so intent on making ourselves out to be victims, and the same is just as true with our communications teams.
In communications, the pressures of overwhelm are real, but we don’t have to give in or give up.
There’s a reason that some people thrive in the environment and others give in or give up. I can think of a dozen people in a blink of an eye who are thriving in that position, and here are some observations about how I see them blazing the trail that we can all learn from.
In the true spirit of the typical creative. Here are quick ideas and bullet points you can turn into a checklist.
Review this with your leader and find out if you are unclear on any of these details.
Build an online form to handle incoming design/event/promotion requests to get all of your information in one place. If you’re not sure how to do that, use a pre-built service like ChurchRequests.
Find a volunteer with an administrative gifting/project manager. You don’t have to do this alone, especially if it’s not your strong suit.
Use a project management software to track your progress where each department can see the progress without having to interrupt you to ask. My project management stack is simply Trello + Dropbox + Email. (as an alternative to email, a lot of teams use slack.)
Create timelines of how long projects take, and provide that timeline to all other departments. Maybe a sign requires 6 weeks: 2 weeks for creative and first proof, 2 weeks for revisions, 2 weeks for printing and hanging. Maybe a Facebook post is 2 days. Create the timelines so your departments know what to expect and are clear when you say you are able to or unable to fulfill a request.
The worst answer you can give someone when they make a request is “no”. I know we hear all the time that we need to learn to say more no often, but in our role, we need to try and find a way to make things happen.
Instead of No, you left it too late,” or “No, I’m too busy right now,” aim for “Instead, we could try THIS with the time we have left,” or “Instead, I do have a file from last year. Could we make it work if we just change the details?”
Take care of yourself
This is for sure the most obvious, and the least likely to actually happen. You might be getting overwhelmed because you’re in a fog from not taking care of yourself, or personal situations are occupying your focus at work.
Pray and read your bible.
Instead of burning an hour at night on your phone, turn it off and get an extra hour of sleep.
Eat properly and intentionally.
Stand up from your desk and go for a 5-minute walk a few times a day.
Turn off your phone either Saturday or Sunday after church, and let your team know you won’t be accessible.
Have phone-free / work-free conversations with friends and family over lunch or dinner.
Get your personal finances in order and save for emergencies.
Build your relationship with your leaders
Remind yourself that while they may not fully understand your challenges, you can’t fully understand theirs either.
Understand that their decisions may include factors that you’re not privy to.
Recognize that they may be trying to hide their own stresses to support you.
Remind them that you love them, you’re committed to them and you’re committed to the mission of your church. (do it now. Send a text or email)
Offer feedback, and recognize there may be confidential details that won’t allow them to fully explain what’s going on.
Trust them to have your best in mind.
Have real conversations, tell the truth, express your frustrations, and re-affirm your commitment to the team.
Ask for their trust with questions like “I see we have different ideas on this. May I try this my way to see what the results are?”
Talk about your role: “I think I would be a lot strong contributor to the team if I was able to focus more on X instead of Y. How could we move towards that?”
You can do this. The pressures are not impossible to handle. You’ll have to be intentional, but the results are worth the effort.
Whether your key communications and marketing person is staff or volunteer, you’ve probably run into hearing that he or she is overwhelmed from time to time.
You need to know that it’s not unusual for the position, not always something they are doing wrong, and not something that can be fixed overnight (or debatably, not something that can ever be permanently resolved).
There are some strategies that you can implement to help them address feeling overwhelmed and reduce the likeliness of it recurring.
My goal is not to defend or justify laziness, disorganization or an entitlement mentality. My goal is to give you a peek into our world – a world we can’t always articulate – with some practical tools to help so your communications department can reduce the likelihood of being overwhelmed and be as effective as possible in helping your church introduce your community to Jesus.
Why is feeling ‘Overwhelmed’ affecting your church communications department?
Before we dig into strategies to mitigate and address overwhelming situations, I wanted to dig in a bit about why they affect the communications department specifically. I know these details are different for every church, community, and culture, but generally speaking, here are some of the ideas that affect most churches.
Consideration 1) Vertical: The Communication Leader is Middle Management
The communications department is somewhere in middle management in the organization’s structure. Usually, the communications person is not the lead Pastor, and often they have someone working under them that they oversee – whether this is a graphic design contractor like Church Media Squad, or working with external software and teams like Text In Church, or a volunteer team on-site at your church.
While not making the decision, or sometimes getting input into decisions, the Church Communications person represents the decision as if it’s their own and communicates on behalf of the leadership and the church (internally or externally).
This can be taxing when we have an idea of how to best communicate something, which channel to use, or how to position an announcement, but we’re considered robots – following directions about how, when and where from someone who may not understand our tools – rather than considering us creative people who specialize understanding our tools and presenting ideas in a unique way.
Consideration 2) Horizontal: We primarily serve other departments.
Some leaders are in a solely-focussed role, while other leaders who are wearing a few hats may have to work in 2 or 3 categories. Your communications person needs to have their ears to the ground in almost every category, event and department at your church.
For example, the youth leader has a full plate getting youth services ready, preparing games, food, missions trips, weekends away, counseling students, communicating with parents and executing midweek services or small groups. While the responsibilities are diverse, all of those items fall in the category of the youth department.
A week in a communication person’s world may look like:
When is VBS?
How many new small groups are we adding this year?
What is our Social Media strategy leading up to Back to School / Back to Church?
Did the printer quit partway through printing the bulletins?
What are we including in announcements this weekend?
Did we get that email sent out about the food drive coming up this weekend?
Where did last week’s volunteer photographer leave the battery when they were done?
Is it time for us to rebuild the website? Kids ministry pictures are outdated.
Why aren’t we getting as many new likes on facebook this month as we got last month?
I need to get a quote from the printer on new banners for our parking lot.
Which graphic would best suit the upcoming series?
We often have to make decisions that are going to lead to some amount of disappointment in other departments:
We’re announcing this but not that (one person is happy and another is not.)
We only have one spot to hang a banner, so we’re hanging this banner up, but not that one (one department gets promoted, and another isn’t).
We’re not going to promote small groups in that way (now a whole group of people is disappointed because they wanted their small group to get an announcement, bulletin mention, yard signs, billboard, radio ad, a personal Instagram video from Pastor, and a parade downtown are all upset that you “don’t value their group as much as they do”)
Consideration 3) How long does that really take?
In addition to having both Vertical and Horizontal responsibilities, our “to do” list is often misunderstood or misrepresented. The question of “How long does that really take?” is an important part of the ongoing conversation that you can have with your team.
With the perception that “Posting on facebook is as quick as sending a text message” or “Creating a 2-minute video is hitting record on your phone and recording for 2 minutes,” or “I write a 3 paragraph email in 10 minutes, so writing a 3 paragraph email newsletter should only take 10 minutes,” or “Just send the bulletin to the printer and pick it up when it’s done in an hour.” (I could go on…)
In light of those perceptions, the ACTUAL time it takes to craft a Facebook post, or shoot an announcement video or write an email newsletter may seem too long and can create a sense that the communications person is unproductive or needs more on their plate to fill their work hours.
Did it really take you 20 minutes to edit a photo and create a 1-sentence caption for Instagram? Did it really take a whole afternoon to film and edit a 4-minute announcement video? You’ve been working on that email newsletter for how long?!
Keep in mind that a 40-minute sermon may take you days to craft at times, and other times, could literally take only 40 minutes, and many care and counselling roles at churches are driven by meetings: a 1-hour meeting takes one hour. A 15-minute meeting takes 15 minutes. Surprises and overruns don’t happen often when you have back-to-back meetings – you can simply schedule another meeting if needed for a future date.
The same isn’t true when creativity and technology meet at a crossroads.
While we have tools that make us more efficient, creatives often use the tools to do better work, not faster work – we may use a tool that gives us a better final outcome, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we spend less time picking a color, or choosing our words, or adding in final touches to a video.
Consideration 4) How much energy does that take?
It’s not uncommon for a creative person to be exhausted by 2 pm or 3 pm.
Sometimes we’re night owls, so our best ideas (and best work) happen late at night. It’s possible we were up until 3 am night working on graphics for church this weekend, then at the office at 9 am the next day for a staff meeting.
Maybe it’s that we’re morning people, so we’re able to knock out a creative video in an hour at 9 am, but that level of energy is going to leave us unable to put together a perfect tagline for the next series at 3 pm.
Inversely, someone who is a night owl who has a flex-schedule may work until 2 am, get into the office at 11 am and have some of their most productive time mid-afternoon with a great project to show from the night before.
Being “less productive” from mid-afternoon until the end of the day isn’t always a symptom of laziness (although, let’s be clear that sometimes it may), but it may be a symptom that we’ve given our best for the organization at other times through the day, and we need to recharge.
Just because something took 1 hour this morning, doesn’t mean we can turn around and repeat it in 1 hour this afternoon.
Consider a creative day like a boxing match. A punch is a punch, but that doesn’t mean that round 5 has the same level of sustained energy as round 1.
I’ve heard from many Pastors that they are exhausted after preaching for an hour on Sunday. It would be ridiculous to assume that one hour of replying to emails on Monday might take the same energy as presenting a one hour message on Sunday. The same is true for someone who is spending their creative energy.
The same thing may be true early in the week compared to later in the week. It’s different for every person, but there has to be some flex built into the schedule for considerations about “How much energy does that take?”
Consideration 5) Our world is always changing.
…And I don’t mean that every few years a new channel shows up. What I mean is that what you see another church doing on Instagram may not be able to reproducible the next week, or what you see someone with a large following doing on facebook may be a feature that requires 100K or more ‘likes’ on their page, and you simply aren’t there.
What you did on facebook last month to get an incredible response may fall flat this month, Instagram may add or remove a feature, and twitter may change how their timeline functions altogether.
You may not get the results you’re used to from one day to another, or your communications person might have built a strategy around a particular feature which is no longer accessible one week into a campaign.
A program they’re used to using could run an update and change the layout of the toolbar that takes them an extra half hour to get re-oriented, and Google may change what constitutes as “spam” email, and way fewer people may open the email this week compared to last week.
Unlike the worship team that turns on the same sound system each week or the kid’s team that has the same classroom space in your building, their world, tools (and the communication strategies/tools they use) are always a moving target.
Consideration 6) We execute with a strategy in mind.
While you may think that it’s only going to take a few minutes to publish a simple “last-minute” post on facebook, that may actually hurt your big-picture strategy.
In this example, Facebook wants to see engagement on each individual post to determine how often to share the next. If you had just posted on facebook a few minutes ago, it can actually hurt the impact of both posts by publishing too quickly again since there wasn’t much time for people to see and engage with the first post.
If your communications team has a strategy about what gets included in Sunday announcements, it could actually hurt the impact of the 3 important things they want to share when you insist on Sunday morning that there are 4 additional things that need to be mentioned without discussion.
They love your church. They’re doing this because they love the community, your vision, and they want to communicate effectively. They’ve made decisions that lead to a certain result (and your team would probably love to have a conversation with you about that.)
I imagine that you wouldn’t randomly walk into a youth service and tell the youth leader to add in a new song that night or tell the kids teachers on a Sunday morning to change their lesson plan. A random “I need you to do this now” doesn’t reflect an appreciation for the strategy your communications person brings to the table.
Something more like “We need to communicate this urgently. How can we best do that?” shows that you trust what they’re doing and you’re trusting them to handle the details.
Consideration 7) Our work is on public display
Ask your communications person how many communications they get per month about a typo on the screens or a detail incorrect on a facebook post (that instead of commenting privately, the event co-ordinator decided to make a public comment on the post to correct the details). It’s not that your communications person is sloppy, but we’re human and mistakes happen – and ours are often public.
Worse than actual, identifiable mistakes, we also get to hear everyone’s opinion about “Why would you choose that background?” or “Can we do something a little more subtle?” or “I don’t like that font” – and often from people who are unrelated to the event being promoted.
I once had a gentleman come to me after church to tell me that he noticed a typo in someone’s name on the screen during a video I made for our building campaign. He said “If we’re raising that much money, it’s disappointing that we can’t even spell someone’s name correctly.” (this was only one of the three times the name appeared during the video.)
I asked if he would like to help and preview the videos like a “proof reader.” He said he wasn’t the one getting paid to be sure it was right, that’s my job.
Most departments may have an internal memo with a spelling error, or the youth leader has an off night during his message, or in a meeting, something is said that could have been worded differently.
Our work is getting mailed out to the community, posted on the front lawn, shared on facebook, seen on the screens, or hung in the lobby.
How would you handle it if every time you misspoke during a sermon, someone stood up and let you know like it was urgent?
A fire alarm is urgent. Misspeaking, having an unclear thought, mentioning one scripture reference but turning to another, or tripping over your words is not worth someone yelling “FIRE!”
I realize that you’ll often get a follow-up email from someone about your message, but even that person knows to distinguish between what they think is important (important enough to send an email) and urgent (like jumping up in the middle of church service).
How can you help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed?
Consideration 1) Vertical: Middle Management.
Move towards giving your communications person a seat at the decision table and allow them to earn your trust. You don’t have to flippantly toss decisions to them or take their recommendation every time, but a simple “What do you think?” or “If this was your decision, what would you do?” along with hearing the rest of the discussion is going to be helpful in communicating the big picture.
Consideration 2) Horizontal: Serving other departments.
With the help of that toolbox, you’ll equip your team do their best in tracking projects, create incoming request forms, and work with other departments in your church as efficiently as possible.
Delegate communications decisions to the Communications person, support them as the decision-maker, and bring them into a conversation if someone comes to you to request that you veto a decision.
Consideration 3) How long does that really take?
Ask the question when you delegate the responsibility and ask it again when a project is completed.
Come to an agreement on what is a reasonable expectation, and where time consumed on one project may not provide the best return compared to that same time spent elsewhere.
Be slow to assume that making a request is so simple that it can be easily fit into the workload instantly.
Build time into the schedule for your communications person to be creative, dream and explore new ideas. Stuffing every minute of their day is going to be exhausting, and you’ll get the same recurring results… which leads us to the next point.
Consideration 4) How much energy does that really take?
Have conversations like “What is your most creative time of day?” and “When do you do your best work?” and “What would an ideal schedule look like for you to bring your best to the team?”
Push back against the tendency you may have to set office hours. When Sunday rolls around, do you want to present your best work or do you want to check the box that said someone was present at their desk from 9 am – 5 pm all week? Of course, nobody at your church cares how many hours a project took, or whether it was completed at 2 pm or 2 am.
What matters when all is said and done is the end result, not the schedule necessary to create the result.
This isn’t to say that your communications leader can miss morning meetings if they’re a night person, or miss afternoon meetings if they like to start earlier in the day. But if there’s nothing scheduled at 9 am, and they worked an extra 4 hours last night, what difference will it make on Sunday if they show up at the office at 9 am or not?
Earn the best from your communications person by having clear goals and helping them meet those goals in whatever time it takes.
Consideration 5) Our world is always changing.
Have regular conversations that start with “What strategy do you have in mind for this event?” or “How are you planning to promote this?” or “What have you seen others doing that could work here?” Understand that we can’t promise the same results since the tools we use are always changing, and those changes are outside of our control.
Avoid saying, “We’ve done it like this before. Do that again!” or “They’re doing it. Why can’t we?”
Instead, have conversations with your communications person that lean into their wisdom, experience, and hands-on knowledge of the tools they have available to them. Ask questions that start with “What would you suggest for…?”
We’ll never get away from changing social media tools, but you can reduce the stress that keeping up with those details can cause by giving us some freedom to try new things, and explore. Recognize that at any time, the answer might be “That’s not how it works any longer.”
Consideration 6) We execute with a strategy in mind.
While we can technically post something quickly on facebook, it may not be the best strategic decision based on the technology, the way we want to present that information or the timing.
The same goes for what we plan to include in announcements, (or how many announcements), what we post on facebook, twitter or Instagram, how we’ll send out text messages or our email newsletter.
By all means, have conversations with your communications person about their decisions, their strategy, pick their brain about what and why, and be clear about what you’re hoping to achieve so they can help your church get to that end goal…
…AND, remember that this is our life and focus. We don’t take the responsibility lightly, and we’re not (usually) trying to be flippant or lazy or territorial if we say that your suggestion about how we communicate something may have some better options.
Consideration 7) Our work is public.
Learn to distinguish the difference between important and urgent. Important means “That’s worth noting and talking about later so that we try to avoid that mistake next time.” Urgent means “This needs to be addressed now.”
When you walk up on stage after an announcement video and make a joke about a typo on the screen, or send off a text message about the bulletin when it’s already printed and can’t be adjusted, then that’s come across as “Urgent: This can’t wait and has to be addressed now.”
It’s a bit overwhelming to be told that “This is urgent, but you won’t be able to do anything about it until next Sunday.”
Here’s an example of the distinction between urgent and important:
Urgent: “The time was incorrect on that announcement, and we need you to be here tomorrow at 7 pm instead of 7:30 pm” – That’s worth addressing now.
Important: “There’s an extra “w” before the website address in the bulletin. I’ll send an email Monday so a correction can be made before the bulletin goes to print next week.”
Support your communications team and recognize team effort if someone else points out an imperfection.
“We’ve been working on a lot as a team. I’ll have someone take a look this week,” causes much less stress than “So and So looks after our marketing. Go point it out to them” or “Here’s some public shaming in the form of a joke because I don’t want someone to think I’m responsible for the issue.”
Learn to delegate to and trust your communications department:
This could be difficult. This may not seem ideal. They have probably made mistakes before, and they are publicly representing your church, so if you don’t feel like the person in place is the right person for the job, please correct the situation sooner than later.
It doesn’t serve anyone to keep someone around whom you don’t trust, you won’t delegate responsibilty to, and you don’t believe knows what they’re doing in their job position. However, if you trust that they know what they’re doing, then let them do it.
If the person overseeing your marekting and communications is not someone that you trust to take the reigns, either get them the training they need to become that person, have the conversations about what indicators you need to see in order to build trust with them, or release them from the position. It’s not an easy request, but neither is the veil of trust when there’s no foundation to support it.
I want to be clear that your communications person is not against you if they have different ideas.
They’re not trying to steer the public side of the church in a different direction through social media or public relations. If they want to discuss a decision further, it’s because they see an opportunity for improvement, not that they’re looking for a reason to tear down. Please give him or her an open line to have conversations about what is working and what they think could improve.
They love the church. They love your vision. They love you. They need your support when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Ever get a week out from the big day and get thrown a curveball? This FREE Planning checklist will help to get everyone on the same page with some helpful discussion questions about Promotion, Easter Weekend and Guest Follow Up.
• What are the topic and theme for Easter Weekend?
• Do we have any special presentations?
• How can we integrate our “Big Takeaway” into our kids classrooms?
I think in answering the question that we arrived on the thought that bulletins are specific to each church and there are no right or wrong blanket statements for whether it’s best for all churches to have a bulletin or not.
I told the story of how I transitioned the church I served with from having a bulletin to a weekly email newsletter over the course of 6 months, and how I used surveys (both online and in paper) to find out how many people were actually using our bulletin compared to our email newsletter and evaluating those results with the paper, ink, photocopier ‘per piece’ lease cost and labor involved in producing it weekly or monthly.
I had to apologize during that session that I came across with the suggestion that all churches should get rid of their bulletin. I believe that through the conversation, we all understood that bulletins are very effective at serving some churches, and very ineffective at serving other churches.
There were many follow up questions – questions that I believe were genuine – about the purpose that the bulletin serves and how those purposes could be served otherwise, and I confirmed that I don’t hate bulletins.
Bulletins are merely a symptom
What concerns me about the conversation (not at this conference, but the larger conversation that I have with many churches about their communications) is that we are often making communication decisions based on:
What we’ve always done
What we anecdotally / logically think is best
What might upset someone if it changed
… and unfortunately, communication elements (like bulletins, or announcements) are often this untouchable piece of the puzzle based on the “What about”s created by the information above.
We have limited time and resources (for some, that limit is higher than others) so it’s worth finding ways to evaluate if our current strategies are the most effective strategies.
Make a list of the “What about”s:
Let it all out here. Finish the sentence “If we were to discontinue the bulletin, what about…”
All of the anecdotal concerns, fears, and possibilities, but before you make this list commit not to let the process end here. In the example of a bulletin, here are some great questions that I hear:
What about new visitors? How would they know what’s going on since we don’t have their email address yet to send them that information?
What about the person who volunteers and proofreads the bulletin each week?
What about people don’t find out what’s going on and miss events?
What about greeters who lose their ‘comfort blanket’ of having something in their hands to hand out
Our email newsletter only gets read by 25% of people. What about the other 75%?
(insert other “what about”s here)
Add up the costs:
If your bulletin takes an hour in a staff meeting or an hour worth of back and forth emails to discuss each week, an hour of design time each month to create a format, then an hour of inputting content each week, an hour of proofreading and verifying the content with every department, an hour pounding the photocopier and monitoring it for paper jams, plus the cost of paper, ink, and your “per piece” cost on the lease, then it may be worth the effort to add up all of those details and discover what the actual cost is to produce your bulletin each month.
In our church, the cost was between $400-$500/month
Find out how effective that method is:
Next, you’ll need to find out how effective your bulletin is. Include a survey on the inside of the bulletin asking people to answer a few questions (for instance: How do you first find out about new events at church? Where do you look for more information about events between Monday-Saturday? Help us update our records: What is your first name and your email address?)
Be clear about how to submit that survey (ie. rip of this section and leave it in the offering plate either this week or next week.)
Also, send out an email version of the survey (this is great to learn about all different communication methods and how your church hears about and finds more information.)
In our case, we learned that 2% (8 people out of our 400 survey results) first found out about events in the bulletin. For the second question, we learned that 0.25% of attendees (this was 1 person when we got 400 survey results) used the bulletin to get more information between Monday – Saturday.
(Helpful information that we learned was that our website was the most likely “go to” place for more information from Monday – Saturday)
Make a decision:
With both the costs and the results of your survey, only now can you make a decision about the effectiveness of this communications piece.
In our case, we were spending $400/month to serve 8 people.
If you’re spending $100/month and 85% of your congregation uses the bulletin, then the decision is obvious. Your bulletin is a valuable communications piece.
Solve the “What About”s:
It’s important now to discuss the initial “What about”s.
If you’ve decided that maintaining the bulletin is ineffective, then how can you allocate some of those resources (time and money) to getting new visitors the information they need to get connected at your church (maybe this is still a print piece specifically for guests?) or communicate in other ways so everyone has the opportunity to find out what’s going on.
If you’ve decided that maintaining your bulletin is effective in your communications strategy, then how can you take the “What about”s and use your bulletin to solve those communication opportunities?
To sum it all up:
I don’t hate bulletins. I think some churches are served well by having a bulletin. I do, however, have a concern when we make decisions about our communications strategy on anecdotal concerns, and not based on factual information to discover what best serves our church and community.
Love this post? Hate this post? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
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You may be starting from scratch, volunteering or taking over a communications role at your church, but inevitably, you’re going to need some tools to help you communicate to people in your church and reach your community, and there are so many options so where do you start?
For most churches of just about any size, you can take your communications from good to great starting with this toolbox for only $100/month:
Whether you’re involved in your live production team and need backgrounds for lyrics, or you are creating videos for Facebook and Instagram, each month CMG’s graphics package is a must. Having an entire library of similarly-styled images and video to use creates consistency in your communications.
Drop a background behind a sermon graphic, use it as a title overlay in your video announcements, and integrate the stills in your Instagram stories for a unified look each month. Check out CMG here!
Sunday Social’s library is an incredible collection of pre-made graphics for your social media channels. They offer fresh designs with scriptures, lyrics, encouragement and engaging questions, all designed to create engagement on your channels. The library includes natively formatted graphics for Instagram and Facebook stories, twitter, Instagram and facebook timelines PLUS pre-made announcements slides that you can use in service.
Browse their library, choose a graphic that suits your audience and download the image that’s formatted for where you’re going to use it. Choose a month’s social images in an afternoon. Check out their 14-day free trial!
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Text In Church: $37/month
It’s not enough to get new guests through the door. Following up with them is essential in our digital culture. If someone has come to church for the first time in their life, then they’ve created an event, not a lifestyle. Text in Church helps you follow up with new visitors through email and text messages that help your guest get the information they need to learn how to get connected with your church.
Aside from automated follow-ups with your guests, Text In Church is perfect for event registration during your service announcements, connection card sign-ups and facilitating giving online all during service while someone is holding their phone.
Don’t have an app? Use text messages instead of push notifications (without having to convince people to download an app).
Click here to start a free 14-day trial with Text In Church.
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There are plenty of task management apps available, so rather than getting caught up in comparing them all (most of which are really great products), I’m just going to make a recommendation that has worked best for me: trello.
I like trello because it’s the most visual for me. It’s a drag and drop to-do list that simple for everyone to understand from department leaders, volunteer designers, photographers and social media managers.
Imagine a digital version of a wall of sticky notes that you can move from a “to-do” column to assign it to someone to design, approve or clarify, and then move to a “completed” column so you can track your progress on the project or projects over a day, week or month.
Trello has a free version, but the upgrades to integrate with mailchimp, dropbox, Google drive, slack (and a whole list of others) make it well worth including in your monthly tool box.
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Email newsletters are the new bulletin, and MailChimp is the easiest way to create great-looking emails that communicate effectively.
Each Saturday, send your church an update of what’s coming up this week, or a link to a big event registration or a graphic that they can share to invite their friends to church.
There are still great opportunities to use a print piece to draw attention to an event or opportunity, but email allows you to send information without the physical limits or cost of paper and it’s searchable in someone’s email inbox later in the week when their bulletin has long since hit the trash. While social media is great for conversations, we know that our posts rarely reach everyone who has liked our page. We can be sure that emails are being delivered to everyone on our list, and track the number of people choosing to open them.
If someone is sick or away this weekend, they can’t pick up the bulletin, but they can get your email and click to register for what’s coming up at your church.
Sign up for a few emails newsletters from brands you respect for inspiration, and click here to get started with MailChimp for free. (side note: you’ll want to pay the $10/month to remove the branding from your emails and use some of the bonus features to make your emails stand out.)
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Whether it’s grabbing a logo on the fly using my iPhone app or backing up large files to send to another department to proof, Dropbox is my go-to for file sharing.
Sending a file to someone else is as easy as uploading through your file manager (right on your computer), grabbing a link and pasting the link in a text message or email.
If you’re in need of a free option, start by creating your dropbox file, then invite everyone on your team through the link Dropbox provides. As other people sign up, your dropbox storage space increases, but for $10/month you can go straight to 1TB which is plenty of space to share files from your laptop to a computer in the office, or sync between your photography and social media teams during your church service.
Click here to get started with Dropbox!
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Coffee / Slurpees: $5/month
ok, I know. $5/month is an EXTREME understatement when it comes to coffee (and especially slurpees), but I’ve added this here as a reminder that your greatest assets are relationships. It doesn’t matter how you’re using the tools above if you aren’t connecting with people, both for your personal growth and theirs.
Our job is to get people one step closer to Jesus, whether those people are on staff, on your volunteer team, in your church or in your community.
You can’t do this alone. You need a team, so make sure that you’ve included in your budget and in your schedule opportunities to build relationships.
Take someone from your volunteer team, another department, your intern or your Pastor and just ask them what’s going on for them. Build it into your schedule and your budget.
The value you gain from building relationships will make the rest of your job much easier.
You don’t have to have a huge budget to make a huge impact. Take the time to evaluate every dollar and be sure it’s serving you, then use these tools to their fullest potential to impact your church and community.
These are in no particular order, but some of the best FREE resources to take your church communications game up a few notches in 2018. I’ve used these myself and continue to use them as our team grows through 2018.
These tools are not meant to your church communications job for you, but to enhance your strategy to most effectively communicate with your church and reach your community this year.
Do you have a free resource you love that missed the list? Leave it in the comments at the bottom so we can all learn together!
Church Communications Facebook Group
At last count, this group has over 17,000 people talking about everything from branding, marketing, design and lots in between. Some are church staff and some are volunteers. It is THE ‘ask anything’ group for church communications.
A free, online conference focussing on everything digital, from Justin Dean and Van Baird, creators of That Church Conference. Summits happen at different times through the year. Register for free for the next That Church Summit by clicking here!
Starting by a commitment to add 10 new FREE photos every 10 days, unsplash.com is now growing much faster than that. This library contains everything from landscapes to people to animals to abstract photos and is curated into categories so you can find what you’re looking for. Use these high-resolution photos for free on your website, print material, social media and anywhere. Check out unsplash.com
Ready Made Stage Designs from Jonathan Malm
From ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com, this free e-book has five great options for ready-made stages, perfect for when you need something last-minute or don’t have a lot of energy to put into building something yourself. Download it here!
88 Social Media Post Ideas from Seth Muse
We have to post great content every day, so every church social media manager makes a plan, creates a schedule, and casts a vision for each platform, right? Nope. You get busy. Things pop up. Priorities shift and often you have no control over it.
Get your volunteer team to multiply by itself with Ryan Wakefield
Have you ever wished your volunteer team was on autopilot and would build itself?. Ryan Wakefield and I are finishing up editing the videos and pdf downloads that will go with the module, then this module will be part of a paid subscription to CMU.
BUT, here’s the great news (and the reason it’s appearing on my free list): IF you are game to give me feedback, I can get you full access to this new module. Check it out for free (and email me your feedback to email@example.com)
2018 Website checklist from Be Known For Something
From decades of Church Website experience (helping 100s of churches get their content right), here are our top 15 tips for ensuring your website has the BEST content in the CORRECT place.
One simple PDF with church website tips you need to know.
Created to post in your office for easy reference. It’ll help you do your job faster too!
Use it to convince other ministries (your Pastor?) how to create the best content!
Start using live video streaming to reach an untapped online audience. Learn how you can take advantage of the 4 Live Streaming Modes to maximize your church’s reach in a digital world. Download the ebook here!
The 3 P’s Successful Promotion from Ryan Holck
This video training, cheat sheet and resource file are focused on a simple strategy to help you:
Increase the time available to run promotions
Know what and how you will promote before you start
Some churches are giving up on Twitter and that’s a mistake. This platform has unique advantages over other social platforms and can be leveraged to bring people from your community through your church’s front door. With this ebook, discover how Twitter can be one of the most effective tools in your communications toolbox. Download The Twitter Advantage.
Church Marketing Summit March 5-14 with Alejandro Reyes
Join over 5,000 church leaders, communicators, and church staff at the online summit designed to inspire and empower you with the latest marketing tactics. Discover powerful marketing growth tactics as these experts reveal their #1 marketing tips and practical, real-world, proven examples.
Rethinking Easter Video Training from Church Marketing University
Church Marketing University is offering a FREE video series on rethinking Easter for 2018. These are top-quality videos with ideas and information that are going to change how you approach Easter this year. (yep, it’s January and yes, Easter is less than 90 days away…) Check out the videos for free here!
TrustGlue & SnorkelFork Ebooks (from me)
TrustGlue: 11 ways to create a first impression that sticks is about aligning your core values through Branding, Marketing and Advertising to create trust with new visitors at your church so they stick around. Download TrustGlue.
SnorkelFork: This book title is confusing, your church announcements don’t have to be. Why do announcements feel so out of place and like a list void of relevant information? Becuase you’re treating them like a list of information rather than an opportunity to move your culture forward. Learn how to use present your announcements so they emphasize your church’s core values. Download SnorkelFork.
Do you have a free resource you love that missed the list? Leave it in the comments at the below so we can all learn together!
Personally, I don’t like the flavor of pumpkin. My wife’s favorite pie is pumpkin pie and if she makes one, I don’t touch it, but from a communications perspective, I think there are a few things to learn from…
What makes the Pumpkin Spice craze successful?
You can’t get it all the time, so when people can get it, they’ve missed it and they rush for it, then tell others it’s available. There’s something to be said for scarcity. Is there something on your church’s calendar that is too frequent? If you have a new member’s class that 10 people attend every month, could it work better to have 30 people every 3 months? Would that give you some space to say “It’s coming up, but won’t be back for a few months.” or could it be more engaging with a larger crowd?
It’s a flavor so it’s portable to other food products
Pumpkin Spice is not just about a latte, but has now impacted all kinds of different food. Once realizing that PS could be more than a drink, Starbucks started making muffins, cookies, candy, and from there it took off. When Starbucks saw the success, they expanded with a “Keep something, change something” model.
The ‘Keep something’ was the Pumpkin Spice flavor, the “change something” was the actual food item – muffins, cookies, candy, etc.
Is there something that is successful at your church that you could expand with the “Keep Something, Change something” model? Could you take your Sunday service, or worship or message and turn it into a podcast? Could you take your Pastor’s notes and write blog posts?
Could you take a successful small group curriculum and turn it into a book, or create a video series for facebook, or use it for a facebook live curriculum for people who are unable to meet in someone’s home?
What is successful within your church that could be adapted to connect with people outside your church? Maybe you have a date night where you offer free childcare at your church, but could you then invite people from the community, and not only provide child care, but provide dinner, popcorn and a movie for the adults. Let you church people know ahead of time and have them invite a friend.
What if you could take one of your Pastor’s series about families or marriage, keep the biblical principles, but remove the exact scripture references and publish a booklet for your people to share with friends?
Find something that works, and discover other ways to use that success.
Starbucks turned Pumpkin Spice into a lifestyle
Phrases like “I’m all about that Pumpkin Spice Life” have turned PSL from a drink people enjoy to imagining that it could be an actual ‘Lifestyle’ as if your life could revolve around a drink.
But what if you could communicate that serving in your church is part of your church’s lifestyle – an expectation, not a request or a great idea. Maybe that’s prayer groups or serving on a team or serving your community or giving to missions.
What could you do to create the lifestyle of what’s important to your church? How could you highlight families that have embraced that lifestyle and give new people a really easy on-ramp to that lifestyle?
Even people who don’t love it know about it
I have no inclination to eat, drink, smell or wear a pumpkin spice anything, but it’s everywhere, so I don’t have to love it to know it exists. Why does that happen? Because there are people all around me talking about how much they love their pumpkin spice.
How can you create a way for people who love your church to talk about it? Is it a business card invitation they can hand out, a bumper sticker, a t-shirt or posting something on facebook every week that they can use to share and invite friends to church?
Side note: Pumpkin Spice Jello… Two wrongs don’t make a right.
What have you implemented from the ideas, and which are you going to work on next? Comment below so we can learn from what’s working for you!
I’ve been silent for a little while… no blog posts, email newsletters or podcasts coming from the “Church Marketing Ideas” world. It’s because I’ve been reading “Be Known For Something” by Mark MacDonald and it shook up my perspective of what I can contribute to the church communications world.
The short version is I haven’t been making an effort to focus on one strategy – one thing I’m specifically good or – one thing I could be known for. I was trying my hand at social media how to and branding and photoshop tips…
I started to realize I may have a handle on presenting stage announcements that inspire a response, and that other churches may share this same frustration I had just a few months ago: nobody responded to our stage announcements.
This blog will stay live. It’s been a resource for many churches, and my Trust Glue Ebook will still be available for download. I’ll still post ideas there now and then, but my main focus is going to be on StageAnnouncements.com to help church communicators give their people the information they need to impact their communities.
Our Facebook group has been helpful for a lot of people, but more and more, I’m finding people are cross posting in the (significantly) larger groups. With a larger pool of people to pull from, there is more discussion and engagement in the larger groups.
In the best interest of pointing people to their best solution, I’m going to close the group and suggest a few of the larger groups that I’ve found to be helpful. This really is the best solution for people looking for input on their church marketing, branding and visual strategies.
Have a question? Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Church Graphics… Simplified Save Time. End Frustration. Attract Visitors.Get Unlimited Access to Done-for-you Media and Graphics for Email, Social Media, Worship Slides and Print Promotions. Get a free trial here!
Stacey asks about which Social Media channels to be on to connect with a young demographic, and if cross posting is a good idea:
Facebook is still the largest user base, so don’t let it go.
If you’re using Facebook consistently and seeing growth, reach a younger demographic on instagram or twitter – both have it’s perks as far as content and strategy.
Maximize the strengths of each platform (twitter is real time, instagram is image driven)
Send a consistent message across each platform, but it doesn’t have to be an identical message.
It’s cool to cross-post. Some people prefer one channel over another, so they won’t know you’re cross posting. Other people will see the same post, but at different times or in a different context.
Have a church communications question you’d like answered? Ask it here. We’ll reply to all of them and pick a few for our podcast!
Free resources from Life.Church in Oklahoma – message graphics, scripture images, audio and video for Adults, Youth and Kids. Each week, this is our go-to tool to find the scriptures our Pastor used on Sunday, and schedule those graphics through the week on Facebook, twitter and instagram.
Nicole asked about increasing her church’s website ranking in Google. Here are a few ideas:
There are a lot of ‘buzz words’ in Search Engine Optimization (SEO: Basically optimizing your website to appear as high as possible in search engine results, like Google, Yahoo, bing… )
Nicole asks about how to setup meta tags. Meta tags used to be important with how Google decided how to rank your site, but since someone can put in meta tags that say things completely unrelated to your websites content, Google has (multiple times) adjusted their search parameters.
2 things to focus on: New content and how long people stay on your site.
My recommendation is writing a blog. The ongoing content will help Google see your site is being updated, show more content for Google to show and when someone comes to your blog to read about one topic, they may stay to read about others.
Want to learn more about Search Engine Optimization directly from Google?