Let’s take a step back before we jump into opinions on this one, and consider some facts, then we’ll talk about the real issues of why churches want to communicate Daylight Saving and time changes.
(by the way, my concern has nothing to do with Daylight Saving – that’s just a clear symptom of something else… keep reading).
Fact: According to Pew Research, 77% of Americans own a smartphone (full article). This means that the device they most likely use to tell time automatically updates with the time change.
Fact: Another 22% own a cell phone, not designated as a smartphone, so we can’t say for sure what percentage of those automatically update, but some will.
95% of Americans own a cell phone.
Besides smartphone owners, there are many other avenues of hearing about time changes in the spring and fall:
Listening to the radio
Watching the news on TV
Reading the paper
Reminders from friends and family
Someone else who lives in your house owns a smartphone (if you’re not in the 77+%)
It’s printed on the calendar in your kitchen
You just remember because this happens every spring and fall
In order to factually justify that YOUR CHURCH’S SOCIAL MEDIA POST is the reason someone remembered the time change and showed up on time for church would be to find someone who meets all 5 of the following criteria:
Doesn’t own a smartphone
Doesn’t live with someone who owns a smartphone
Attends your church
Follows you on social media
Happens to be in the 10% of the people who see that particular post (based on facebook / Instagrams algorithms)
My point: Churches (as with any online entity on Social Media) have limited attention given to us. We all get a piece of the puzzle in Facebook, Twitter or Instagram’s algorithm. Knowing that (statistically) your ‘social media audience’ is not relying on us to learn about or remember the time change, why waste that attention?
An exception could be if you’re posting something that pushes your church culture forward, or actually creates attention from people who don’t attend your church – a funny video about being able to sleep in and still come to church, or a values-centered discussion about how your church is using that extra hour to clean up garbage at a local park before service starts, for example.
If that’s your exception, go for it, because you’re actually communicating your culture, with the time change as a topic. If you’re just posting a “don’t forget” graphic then just forget it.
This isn’t about Daylight Saving…
My concern is not about whether or not to communicate Daylight Saving. My concern is that churches, given the information above, think this is an efficient use of communication and attention, attribute time to making or finding graphics, writing content and wasting attention.
Why does this happen? Here are some possibilities.
1. This is how we’ve always done it.
Great! That’s worked before, but it’s no longer valid. We don’t put diapers on our child once they’re potty trained, put gas in a car that doesn’t run any longer or purchase a new fax machine for every new employee. Be willing to say “up until now we’ve been doing X, and from now on we’ll be doing Y” (hint: in 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months or 5 years, you may be saying “up until now we’ve been doing Y, and from now on we’ll be doing Z”)
2. I don’t feel like being creative today
Let’s be honest. This is a simple way to check the box of “posted something on facebook today.” Maybe this is because you’ve got too much on your plate, you’re not feeling creative, you try and figure things out day-to-day without a long-term strategy, or you simply don’t care, other than checking the box that says “I posted something on facebook today.”
We’ve got to be more intentional. People need our church. They need Jesus. They need to learn about the hope we have. Getting lazy isn’t serving them or you. It’s time to build a strategy, delegate strategy building or have some conversations about whether or not this position is for you.
3. The concern that “if we don’t post this, someone won’t find out.”
If this reason resonated with you, then I’m sorry I haven’t been able to communicate how blatantly ineffective this is. It’s also possible, you’re looking for a reason not to change, and if that’s the case, despite facts, logic and the opportunity to use that attention towards helping your followers and community learn more about your church’s culture and pointing them to Jesus, it’s time for a gut check.
This doesn’t have to be a touchy subject, but for some reason it is. If you need to talk, let it out, or help me see something I’m missing: email@example.com
My wife and I (with our 3 boys) left our hometown in Canada in August 2018 to travel North America and visit churches along the way. So far, as of the end of October 2018, we’ve visited 8 churches, and less than half have utilized this simple follow up strategy.
I think you’d agree that following up with your guests after they’ve visited your church for the first time is a helpful way to increase the likelihood that they’ll visit a second time.
After all, there’s only so much information you can expect them to retain from their time at your service, and we can’t expect everyone to read all of the “more about us” paperwork we send home with them after church, so providing guests with bite-sized, relevant information is a helpful way to increase their awareness of what your church offers and how they can get connected.
While this is the case, the flip side is “How can we get more first-time guests to complete the connection card?” and the question is relevant, but maybe there’s a way they’re already giving you contact information that you’re not yet utilizing.
At 8 out of 8 churches, we’ve checked our kids in to their classes, meaning that 100% of the time, we’ve given our personal contact information (at least phone, email, name, and address) so that if we were to lose our kid’s pickup tag, there would be a way to verify we are who we say we are BUT in only 2 cases (25%) was this information used for follow up purposes.
How do we know that the check-in information wasn’t being used, even if the connection card information is?
Simple: My wife’s information goes into Kids check-in, and my information goes on the connection card – that way we can see who follows up in which way.
What do we know about someone who checks in their kids for the first time?
With a fair amount of certainty, we know that:
They are new, or relatively new to the church (even if they kept their kids in service with them the first few times they visited).
They have one or more kids (and we know the kids’ ages)
If the kid is a newborn (maybe the family has been coming for a while and just had their first child)
We know the age of the person checking them in (most times, our birthday information is collected to cross-reference against a drivers license if we lose our pickup tags and need to provide photo id.)
The parent’s first name, email address and phone number
The area where they live (if an address is collected)
Which service they attended (if you have multiple services)
What can we do with this information?
Put their information into your automated follow-up email and text service (Text In Church for instance) in the same way as you would treat someone who completed a connection card.
Provide information to that family about small groups, midweek activities, and events coming up that are relevant to the kids and parents ages.
Congratulate the parents on the birth of their first child, and provide information about baby dedications.
Create a reminder system for when that child reaches the right age to attend Youth Group.
Welcome them as a guest and offer to answer their questions. (for bonus points, send the email from the person who leads your kids’ department)
Introduce them to someone in the church of a similar age who lives in their area
Would it be best if everyone always completed the new visitor connection card? Sure, but if they’re providing their information another way, don’t miss the opportunity to follow up.
My father-in-law, John Power was an important voice in my life. He knew how to motivate teams to buy in and feel connected to where we needed to move as a whole. He was an innovator ahead of his time. He would write blog posts, print them out and distribute them at team meetings before blogging and Social Media were a thing.
He passed away in 2008, and recently I found this ‘blog post’ that he created and printed for a leaders meeting. It’s nearly point-form, so I’m sure he had much more to say about each of these, but I wanted to share what I had.
10 ways to maintain momentum with your team:
1. You Are Here:
Continually paint pictures of where you are going and show them where they are in them.
2. How’s It Going?
Regularly ask about their dreams, not just their obstacles
3. Encourage Encouragement
Purposefully look for something to encourage in your team members. Not flattery, but encouragement.
4. Fresh Fruit
Do what it takes to respond positively and immediately to good results/actions no matter how small.
5. Dream Along With Me
Regularly hold ‘dream meetings” where people can dream out loud without any restriction or price.
6. Credit Where Credit Is Due
Publically acknowledge by name the input or achievements of your team members.
7. You Have Mail
Use and encourage the use of email among your key leaders to promote up and down communication.
8. You Say It’s Your Birthday
Log and acknowledge the birthdays of your team members.
9. Handwriting Analysis
Occasionally send personal hand-written notes for no reason whatsoever.
10. Fix Forward
Teach your teams by example, not to solve problems of “what could have been,” but rather fix in advance “what will be.”
I like browsing the grocery store to try things I’ve never tried before. I found this fruit called a kiwi berry. It tastes like a kiwi and has the inside texture of a kiwi, but is the size of a grape with slightly tougher skin, but soft enough you can bite though – not as tough as a banana skin.
I’ve described to you a brand new experience that I had – eating a kiwi berry – but described it in the context of patterns I recognize; the taste of a kiwi, the size of a grape, the skin was softer than a banana.
As designers and project managers, we are not just creating designs but creating an experience. With that in mind, remember that our human psychology is built to recognize patterns and make correlations. By the time you reach your adult life, almost everything you experience is filtered through a previous experience.
What does this mean in a design context:
If someone sends you a text message in all caps, it’s a safe assumption that they’re trying to communicate that they’re yelling. (there are exceptions when you mother-in-law has turned on caps and can’t get them the off again – hypothetically speaking…) Bonus points for extra volume if you tag on an exclamation mark also.
I took a picture of a sign that greeted me when I walked in to visit a church. There’s no value to naming the church, but an opportunity for all of us to learn. (for the record, I asked their permission to post this picture)
For context, there is no other signage in the building. This is the only sign I see when walking in, and there are 4 of these lined up between the entrance to the building and the sanctuary.
They are in a metal frame, 3 feet tall x 2 feet wide.
What could this sign choice communicate?
Our priority is avoiding coffee stains on our seats. Kids check-in, guest services, and restroom locations didn’t make the cut when we decided what to communicate with signs, but not spilling coffee did.
WE’RE YELLING: Not only is it important, it also needs to be emphasized. It’s all capitals and ends with an exclamation mark. In most contexts, this is yelling. But Adam, it’s a design style… I get it. Leave out the exclamation mark then and use a softer font than a serif.
We have this rule. For someone who is apprehensive about coming to church because ‘it’s all rules about what you can’t do,’ you’ve started their experience by reinforcing their apprehension – Not “welcome home” or “we’re glad you’re here” or “here’s what we’re about” but just yelling and emphasizing our rule.
As an alternative to this sign, my recommendation to this church is to have a sign in the cafe area that says “Please finish your beverage before going into the sanctuary.” and have an usher or greeter at the door who can ask anyone walking in with food or beverage to finish it before going into service.
This church is also going to replace these signs with wayfinding signage, pointing guests to restrooms, kids check-in, guest services, and their coffee shop.
Ok, I can hear you from the other side of my keyboard. Adam, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
Remember: You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and if anything that I’ve said resonates true with a visitor, it’s worth considering.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment so we can all learn together:
I don’t hesitate to write this post, but I have reconsidered a few times about publishing it. The message is important, and I hope the delivery conveys my heart for how each church is unique. If you start reading, please read to the end to hear what I’m saying. If you can’t do that, just pick another option from the top menu, and let’s still be friends.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting many different churches. It’s a privilege because I’ve gotten to see the amazing variety of how churches reach their community and point people to Jesus.
It’s truly incredible to see different styles of churches reaching different people.
Specifically for churches whose priority is an environment for unchurched people
In churches that specifically focuses on creating an environment for unchurched people, we can go casually dressed and enjoy modern technology like lights and multi-media integrated into worship, there is one element that is often a distinct differentiation from our culture: Music.
Let me be clear that I’m not talking about the lyrics or the content of the music (I think this is an important distinction that needs to take place – we are talking about singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs) but I am talking about the style (or as us musicians would say, the arrangement) of our music.
How much of the worship music we play on a Sunday morning sounds like what our guests heard on the radio on Saturday? Which of your songs sounds like the newest Taylor Swift single? In the last 5 years, how many songs have you introduced to your church in the same style as “Uptown Funk” or “Happy” or “Shake it off”? These have been some of the most well-recognized songs in our culture in the past 5 years. How many songs do you hear on the radio that are driven by a drum beat that is tom-fills as the main rhythm like many current worship albums?
It’s almost saying to our guests “You can wear your skinny jeans, just like our worship team does and you can download our app on the coolest new phone you’ve got. We’re intentionally using words to help you avoid “Christianese” confusion and when we use a Biblical word that’s not part of our typical vernacular, we’ll explain what it means when we use it. We dress the same style, we use the same language, but as far as music, we’re not anything like you.”
Please hear me clearly. What I’m not suggesting:
I’m not suggesting you play the songs you hear on the radio and change the words for church.
I’m not suggesting that all churches have to sing songs that sound like top 40 charts.
I’m not suggesting you try and ‘become’ a style of music that doesn’t suit you.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do the latest song from your favorite worship band because it doesn’t sound like a top 40 song.
I’m not suggesting you throw out your music library and start over, or never play a song you’ve heard on a worship album that’s unique to what we hear on the radio.
What I am suggesting:
If your church values a style of music that is different than what’s on the radio, then own that – whether that’s hymns, southern gospel or something else. We love you. We need you. You are connecting with people that others aren’t.
If you are a church whose heartbeat is to make your experience feel ‘familiar’ to the unchurched person, then listen to the types of music that your community listens to – maybe that’s country, or hip-hop or top 40 pop. After that, listen to a recording of the songs your church played on Sunday. Are they anything alike? Can a first-time guest relate to the style of music they hear in the first song?
A Classic Example: Motown
In the 60s, Motown wanted to break the cultural barrier between segregated radio stations. They wanted to reach a wider audience, which in turn would allow them to sell more albums and concert tickets. Each week, they recorded a new single. Motown put out A LOT of music in the early days. On Monday, they sat down and listened to the top song on the radio from the previous week from the popular stations to analyze it.
This could be as simple as “In the chorus, there’s a tambourine on every beat” or “After the verse, they used this kind of chord for 4 beats before going into the chorus” or “after that first chorus, there’s a saxophone solo.” They would pick one or two elements from the past week’s top songs and incorporate them into their own single for the following week.
They were working to incorporate familiar elements into their new music to make listeners comfortable with the similarities. Using these techniques, the DJs on the other stations started to play more and more Motown music as the elements started to cross over.
Motown didn’t compromise the soul in their music, they didn’t change the theme of their lyrics or change how they dressed, but they did work hard to find common ground.
A Modern Example: Glee
The TV show Glee did something similar by taking Journey classics from the 80s, redoing them with modern effects, rhythms, and styles, and revitalizing Journey’s touring career! Without compromising the lyrics or message of the song, they presented them in a way that was relevant to their audience.
How could this work in our worship?
Listen to the most popular radio station in your community.
What kinds of instruments do you hear?
What kind of drum beat?
What effects are being used on the keyboard or guitar?
Which vocal effects are being used?
What is the tempo of most songs that people seem to request or blast out their car windows?
What do the intros of the most popular songs sound like?
Pick one of these elements and this week integrate that element into your first song this Sunday. Then, play your other songs as you would have. This will build a framework of familiarity for your guests as they recognize common musical elements to what they hear during the week. Do the same thing next week.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What isn’t clear to you, or what do you think you could work on this week to enhance your guest’s experience of your music?
At the core, CTA is all about creating a smooth presentation to remove distractions from people experiencing your service at your church, so naturally, we talk about the mechanics of your church’s announcements, and how to use them as a tool to talk about who you are as a church, and not as much what you do.
I give an example of a helpful vs unhelpful announcement (around minute 11) and at the end, Justin throws me a curveball and asks me to evaluate his announcement from Sunday. Check it out:
[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.22.3″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.22.3″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.0.47″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.8″]HELP! I have a limited budget, no staff and too many options to choose from. I’ve got news for you: You can do this!
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.
Often we may consider branding to be simply a logo or font choice or color scheme. For instance, we may consider Chick-Fil-A branding to be the cows on the billboards or Nike’s branding to be the swoosh or Apple’s logo to be an apple with a bite out of it.
While those things are trademarked, and no one else can (legally) use those images to represent themselves, these companies are known for more than their logo – there is more than a logo that makes them unique from their competitor.
Consider that when you say “thank you” at Chick-Fil-A they are known for saying “My pleasure” or a black and white commercial comes on of someone playing basketball, which doesn’t refer to a product, but simply ends with a swoosh, or a group of lifestyle shots is on a commercial that ends with a white screen. Each of these things is not a logo, but each is a representation of what makes that company unique – something that is not branding, (hint: this is marketing) but points to branding.
Your logo is not your branding, but it is a visual representation of your brand – a visual representation of how and what makes you unique.
In practical terms, your branding is your core values, and what you value at your core matters. Your core values dictate what makes your church unique from other organizations, and determine the decisions you will make as an organization.
Why does being unique matter for our church?
We’re here to tell people about Jesus, and make disciples, so why do we need to be unique from other churches? There are plenty of people to reach, and we’re not in competition with them by trying to be better.
This is all true. I don’t disagree with one word, so how are you going to reach the people that need to be reached? A church that sings hymns and has weekly meals together every Sunday is going to reach someone different than a church who has flashing lights and loud guitars.
A church with 2 mid-weeks services is going to serve someone differently than a church with Sunday services and small groups through the week.
A church who focusses on local outreaches to the poor is going to serve different people than a church whose focus is sending people to take the gospel to unreached people groups around the world.
A church with country music during worship is going to reach different people than a church who likes urban gospel. (And they can both impact their community in unique ways, even if they’re next door to each other!)
We’re not trying to be unique in order to COMPETE with other churches, we’re discovering the unique thing that God has called us to be so we can COMPLIMENT other churches, because just like your spouse was drawn to you because you’re unique, your friends like that about you too, and where you work, and which gym you choose (or in my case, which 711 is most reliable to get a coke Slurpee).
Your branding is about discovering what makes you unique. It matters so you can reach the people that no one else can.
Only 2% of 100 million facebook groups are faith-based. 74% of people find a faith-based community meaningful.
Facebook’s recent algorithm change held nothing back in showing that they would be focussing their algorithm on changes on making meaningful connections from people to people, rather than businesses or organizations. Nona Jones is a Strategic Partner Manager at Facebook, leading a department helping faith-based communities grow and make connections on Facebook, and recently spoke at BigIdeaNashville.com to 200 church communicators (and I got to be there!)
According to Google, every month there are more than 30,000 searches of “Church online” or “online church” which is a clear indicator that people are looking for faith-based connections online, and Facebook groups are an important tool to continue being the church outside of our Sunday service, not just a tool to enhance our Sunday experience
“Facebook has been viewed as a tool to promote your church’s content, but research is showing us now that we can have the biggest impact by going beyond content and building connections.”
The best way to build person-to-person connections on Facebook is clearly through groups, where everyone involved gets to post content and interact with other’s content – unlike a page that is one person communicating publicly with a brand – groups allow people to connect with each other around a common goal, focus or topic.
Nona offered some helpful insight (from the inner workings) on how to get started if your church is ready to embrace Facebook groups:
How to get started with facebook groups at your church:
Define the purpose of your group – Is this for everyone who attends your church, or people who are in your community, or members of individual groups or ministry teams? Is this for casual conversation, debating theology, or swapping hand-me-down clothes for moms? Defining the purpose will give you clear direction as you build your group.
Assemble your team – This won’t be easy to do alone, and getting a few people to help with reducing the lift required, plus help those volunteers feel more engaged with the purpose of your group. Choosing people who are already active on Facebook will help reduce the onboarding process and get you started right away.
Make a plan for ensuring your ideal community member can find and enjoy your community – Just like a new campus or a new service time, launch your group in a big way. Send out emails to people who may be interested, post on your church’s Facebook page and mention it in service or in your weekly small groups. Make the name clear enough to be searchable and specific to your group.
Be intentional about how you want people to engage – clearly outline the purpose of your group and make sure the members know what’s allowed or expected within the group rules. This might include general content like nothing defamatory or derogatory or may include specifically what will be posted like content and events for young families, or upcoming events in the community or prayer requests.
Keep your community safe as it grows – By having a private group (groups can be either public, private or secret) then your group will be searchable, but you’ll have to approve new member requests. Keep the group safe and relevant by asking a few questions before allowing someone in (are you a member of our church, how long have you attended, or do you meet the suggested demographics for the group).
Creating engagement in your group:
Your group is only as good as the engagement within in. Ste the stage for new members to give them the first impression that engagements are encouraged in the group:
Welcome new members as they join the group.
Have your team intentionally reply to new member’s first posts (including tagging other group members who may be able to help with a question or idea)
Remind members now and then what the purpose of the group is to spark ideas for new conversation.
Over-branding in your church is a serious deception. It seems fun or slick or enjoyable to brand your Wednesday night service as “Mid-week Recharge” or brand your youth service with an acronym like “Bibles And Radical Fellowship” (BARF) or your parenting class as “Mothers And Fathers In Action” (MAFIA).
20 years ago, this caught on as a cool idea. A lot of people came to church during the week as a social event, to fill their evenings or to nap in the back row while their kids threw water balloons in the parking lot.
If you told them you’re having an event called “Sunrise and SonShine” they could easily take in what you’re telling them and learn the name. You had their attention – without a phone in their hand…
Fast forward to 2018.
We are getting bombarded with more messages that we can count on a daily basis, while browsing social media, driving, listening to the radio and trying to narrow down our Starbucks order to less than 4 sentences. In today’s world, saying “Saturday morning breakfast” or “First Friday of the month worship night” or “Hope Church Youth” is the best way to communicate your message without having to cut through the noise and explain what your acronym or cute title stands for.
In 2018, having a ANOTHER cute title doesn’t make something memorable – it actually makes it more difficult to remember.
You’re telling them, “Remember a ‘cute’ name AND remember what the event is actually about.” Your church is the brand. Everything else can happen under that umbrella. Choose a name that describes the event.
Consider one of the most recognizable brands in our world: McDonald’s.
Back in the day, they branded their signature burger a Big Mac, and it stuck. Now, virtually everything else on their menu is a self-describing title: Double Quarter pounder with cheese, chicken nuggets, filet-o-fish. If one of the largest, most broadly-recognized brands in our world is going that simple, why does your church need a code word for every meeting room, classroom, small group and mid-week service?
How does this make a new person feel?
Would you feel included or excluded if you didn’t understand the code words at a new church? Would this make you feel like part of the family, or an outsider looking in?
However, if you insist, here are 3 options to confuse people with overbranding.
Option 1: Create an Acronym that’s just a bunch of random letters
This is a double whammy for confusion. Not only are you going to give people an event to remember topped off with a cute name, you’re also going to give them an acronym so they have to try and remember the acronym, then remember what it stands for, then remember what THAT stands for.
“Join us for GRBSP every Monday at 7pm. That’s our Grandparents reading bible stories to preschoolers.”
Option 2: Create an acronym with a completely unrelated real word…
Just choose a bunch of words that start with the right letters, even if they don’t describe your event at all.
“We’ve got a new event called LIGHT – That’s Ladies In Generations Holding Time. Come be part of that on Wednesday morning.”
Or what about choosing words that ACTUALLY describe your event, but form a less-than-desirable acronym:
“Learn more about the Bible every week at our Interactive Bible Study: IBS”
Option 3: Pick a word that only makes sense once its explained
We’re going to call our junior youth “On-Ramp” like getting on life’s highway. We’re going to call our ladies bible study group “Purpose”. In a stand-alone way, you may consider these explainable (and I’ve heard the argument “If anyone asks, it’s easy to explain,”) but considering you have 23 small groups, 3 youth brackets, a bible name for every room in your facility, a unique branding for your midweek service and morning prayer, then all-in-all, this is the perfect storm of confusion.
For the boring church people:
So if you want to be boring, err on the side of clarity and not confuse new visitors to your church, you could just call events and groups within your church what they really are:
Ladies Bible Study
Tuesday morning prayer
Example Church Youth
Example Church 20 something
Saturday morning breakfast
Be boring enough to let the name of the event or group perfectly explain the purpose. It doesn’t need it’s own logo, theme song, and catchy title. In this case, boring wins.