Every good plan starts with goals, and a church communication plan is no different. Stating ministry goals and building communication goals off of them is the first step in making an effective online communication strategy happen.
Characteristics of Effective Goals
First, it’s important to understand the distinction between a goal and a process. A process is the way you regularly do something; it’s a standard operating procedure. Goals, rather, are specific, desirable results that have not yet been achieved.
One common way to establish strong goals is by using the acronym SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable Relevant, and Timely.
For example, a goal that uses these five principles is, “Increase the percentage of members attending a weekly Bible study to 35% by year-end.” This goal is
- specific because it identifies an exact percentage to measure (35%);
- measurable because by taking attendance at Bible studies, the church can collect quantifiable results;
- achievable because if the church already has 25% or 30% attendance at weekly Bible studies, increasing that amount to 35% in one year may be feasible;
- relevant because Bible studies are related to the church’s work and are of interest to the members; and
- timely because it has an end date at which results will be measured and success can be determined.
Great Commission > Church Goals > Communication Goals
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave His disciples a task: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20a ESV).
Any goals your church establishes should not replace or compete with the Great Commission but should flow from it. Your church’s goals should define how your members work toward fulfilling the Great Commission in the time and place God has placed you and with the specific resources He has given you.
Establishing overall church goals is an important first step because online communications should flow from and support the church’s overall goals. The success of those communications should be determined by whether they help the church succeed in its overall ministry goals.
Doing Your Research with a SWOT Analysis
You may be asking yourself, “What if my church doesn’t have defined goals and I don’t have the authority to make them?”
You are not alone. Many churches don’t have established ministry goals, and many of their communications people are volunteers who don’t have much say over what happens. But you can still move forward in establishing communication goals.
While stated church goals are preferred, implied goals can still provide the necessary base for communication goals. Speak with your pastor, your church’s leaders, and even the members, and ask them what they would like the church to be like in five years.
One thing that can be quite helpful as you do this is to perform a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Identify any positive characteristics that are unique to your church (strengths), then identify the negative characteristics that are unique to your church (weaknesses). Looking outside your church, identify positive characteristics of the environment it is in (opportunities) and negative characteristics of the environment (threats).
As you collect information through your conversations and SWOT analysis, listen for common themes. Use those themes to form the basis of your communication goals.
Developing Communication Goals
If you are just starting to branch into online communications, it may be best to limit the timeframes of your goals. For example, if you are setting goals for your church’s Instagram account and you have never used Instagram before, set your goal to be evaluated after a short period of time, like 3–6 months. During that time, focus your attention on learning the channel, then evaluate the goal at the end to develop a new one.
Here are three aspects to keep in mind when getting your communications plan going.
- Establishing processes. Processes are standard operating procedures, so if online communication is new to you or your church, you probably don’t have processes in place yet. Make it a priority to establish some processes, considering things like quality, consistency, effectiveness, and frequency.
- Implementing new channels. With the rate at which new online communication channels are developed, a church cannot use everything that’s out there. Prioritize the channels you think will be the most effective for your church. Be sure to factor in time for learning and testing.
- Increasing activities. This is the ultimate goal of any online communication plan. But at the beginning, be conservative rather than ambitious. Make sure to establish baselines first.
As you begin to go through the steps of determining goals and putting them into action, you’ll start to notice common themes, and certain priorities will naturally rise to the top. Before you know it, you’ll get into a pattern of setting goals, evaluating them, and determining new ones to make growth happen.
Need some help getting started?
Download the free church communication goal-planning worksheet. Use the document to complete a SWOT analysis and to develop communication goals that flow from your church’s overall ministry goals.
Free Training Course
This blog post was part of the training series Church Online Communications Comprehensive. All the course materials are available online for free, and you can move through the course at your own pace. Start working toward an effective online communications strategy for your church today!