More and more, church offices are utilizing web-based email marketing services for communicating with their congregations. Why are they doing this?
Have you ever worked on a project for a church committee where you’ve spent weeks meeting, planning, studying, and preparing to make a decision, then a few more weeks double-checking some things, and then a handful more weeks waiting for the right people to come back from vacation, and finally after months of delays, preparation, and hard work, discovered that the opportunity had passed or the problem had solved itself?
Nobody likes to waste their time, and sometimes churches move at the speed of committees. (Which is, incidentally, only slightly slower than frozen molasses on a January morning in northern Canada . . . during an ice age.) Speed is not the only virtue, of course, and we want to make wise decisions with limited resources. But in many cases, it would be very helpful if churches were a little more agile.
In the past, the front door of your church was probably, well, the front door. These days, however, the first exposure visitors get to your church is probably via your church website. Our church websites give visitors a small taste of what our churches are up to and what they can expect when they actually set foot in the building. They also can allow visitors to find the information they’re seeking without having to call the church secretary.
It’s important that we have the right information in the right location on our websites so visitors can find that information without having to dig. There are no hard-and-fast rules that demand every church website look the same, but there are some considerations you may want to keep in mind to help your website best serve visitors.
What happens after someone visits your congregation?
At my church, the visitors sign a guest book and a day or two later, they receive a letter in the mail from the pastor—which is an excellent practice. It’s personal, especially in this detached, electronic world. In fact, it has repeatedly led to visitors wanting to meet with him and eventually join the congregation. Several people have mentioned how important that letter has been. People like to be acknowledged and the personal touch makes a huge difference.
But more can be done to help someone get to know the congregation.
Whether they’re potlucks, special voters’ meetings, or trunk-or-treats, last-minute events are bound to happen (sometimes more often than we would like!). The idea of driving attendance or gaining support for a last-minute event makes most of us cringe. While it is sometimes easy to explain to a volunteer that they should consider moving the date to ensure the event is successful, it isn’t as easy to tell the church president or pastor.
So, what do we do with these last-minute requests? How do we pull off a successful communication effort in a short time frame? We must dig into our toolbox of available resources and communication knowledge. We must become creative and not panic in the moment of slight (or maybe big) frustration.
One of my greatest struggles working in a communications role for a church is finding the balance between executing existing plans or ideas and finding space for creativity and exploring new possibilities. Church communicators function within a certain tension of straightforward (relatively speaking) administrative tasks and an ever-changing communications landscape that requires awareness, innovation, and a certain amount of “let’s try this and see how it goes!” (See this post on agile failing for a little encouragement.) There are things that simply need to be done, but we can find ourselves so stuck in the maintenance of things that we forget to explore new possibilities.
Before computers became integrated with our lives, the big office complaint was about paper. A good deal of our communication and information storage involved paper. How to store that information, share that information, and avoid being buried in that information was a daily challenge.
I know—it still is.
While we might deal with less paper than previous generations, we’re bombarded with more information and communication than ever before. We have a completely different kind of clutter and the same need. How do we keep it all straight?
Perhaps you’ve heard this story before: a congregation invests a great deal of money in a new church management software, rolls it out to pastors, secretaries, and other users. Everything goes perfectly smoothly. The software is ready to help leaders collect information on the congregation’s attendance, finances, and everything else they want to know.
In a perfect world, our churches would have all the financial means to employ ginormous staffs who can serve both the people in our congregations and the communities around us. We’d have people hired to teach Bible studies geared specifically to certain age groups. We’d have communications experts who could craft social media posts to reach all the people in our communities to draw them to our churches. We’d have it all. But as we all know, the world isn’t perfect, and our churches can’t always afford to hire people to fill each role we need to do the ministry God has called us to do. That doesn’t mean, however, that God doesn’t provide exactly what we need to accomplish what He wants with what we’ve got.
When it comes to logos, branding, and name recognition, it seems the world understands why it’s so important for their favorite pair of shoes or beverage to have these things, but not why their church home should.