Ash Wednesday is just about a week away, which means there are less than two months until Easter. Have you started planning your Easter communications yet? I realize for some churches, this started happening before Christmas, but for many of our readers, Ash Wednesday is the day the clock starts ticking.
While pastors tend to plan Lent and Easter together and some of them even do their planning with Christmas, church communicators know that Easter is the main event. Lent is a time for reflection and repentance, but let’s be realistic—it’s not the time you are going to have an increased number of visitors at worship.
Easter, however, is the best chance to see a large number of visitors, as well as unengaged members, attend worship on a Sunday morning. While we rely on the Holy Spirit to work faith in the lives of God’s children, good communication can help remove obstacles or excuses (“I would have gone to church on Easter, I just didn’t know what time the service started”).
Last summer, CTS presented a 14-week training course called the Church Online Communications Comprehensive. During this course, tools were provided to develop a complete communications plan for your church. This post is a very abbreviated version of that plan, specifically tailored for Easter.
The basis of any good plan is to have defined goals or objectives. When planning for Easter communications, the first goal that usually comes to mind is high attendance at worship. I encourage you to look past that and think about the next visit: how many Easter worship attendees can you get to come back another time (and not just next Christmas)?
Having a large group of people at your Easter worship is great, but ultimately, our goal as the Church is to share the Gospel with the lost. One way the Lord has called us to do that is through the fellowship of believers. But between special music, youth group breakfasts, and additional volunteers in each role, it seems like everyone is wearing an extra hat that day, and this makes it harder to connect with guests.
By keeping your goals centered around the second visit, your focus will be on building a Gospel-focused relationship with people, not on just filling seats.
While churches will welcome all visitors, it’s important to narrow down your audience from “anyone who will come” to a specific subset of people. This doesn’t mean you won’t try to reach people outside that subset; it will just be where you focus your efforts.
For a short-term communications plan like this, I encourage you to determine your primary audience based on their past actions and bring in demographics as you get into the details. Rather than saying everyone in your community, specifically identify a group that has interacted with your church in the past, like people who have attended a community event or current members who haven’t attended in at least a year. By identifying this audience first, you’ll have a starting point for determining your different personas.
If there’s anything to take away from this post, it’s this: if you can’t identify the actions you want your audience to take, they won’t be able to either. Once you have established your goals, it’s important to figure out the ideal path for your audience to take in order for you to achieve those goals.
If your goal is about encouraging people to return for a second event, it’s necessary to know what the next event is that you’ll be inviting them to. This is where your audience’s demographics come into play. If your primary audience is young families, a MOPS event or VBS is a logical choice. If your audience is older and retired, maybe it is a Tuesday-morning Bible study or the next potluck. Maybe the next step is just having someone from the church office reach out with a personal phone call.
It’s also important to plan out the steps leading to worship. How will you expect the audience to find out about the service times? How are you going to get that message in front of them? Knowing the path means knowing what the ask or the “call-to-action” is for each piece of communication.
Just as dependent on the audience is the message you will share during each new step. After you have determined the next step, you’ll need to figure out how to describe the value or the “what’s in it for me” for your audience. Once you know the what and the who, the rest of the message becomes a bit easier to determine.
Identify important details first-timers probably won’t know. “When is Easter worship?” “Where should I park?” “What should I expect at the service?” “Are children welcome?” “What will the message be about?” Think about follow-up information they’ll need as well. “Is child care provided at MOPS?” “Is there a cost for VBS?” “Why does the church need my phone number?” Provide this information clearly without being condescending.
After you have determined what your message will be, you need to decide where you will share it. There are numerous channels where your message might be appropriate, so use your personas to determine the right place. Are you targeting millennial mothers? Make sure you have an Instagram or Facebook strategy. Are you targeting older adults? Plan on a bulletin announcement, an email, and information on the website.
It’s tempting to put the same message out on every channel, but just like tailoring the message for each audience, tailoring the message for each channel is important. I’m not just talking about character counts; the tone on each platform is different, so the message should follow suit. How you communicate on Instagram is different from on LinkedIn, and the same can be said for any channel.
Regardless of whether your goals focus on Easter worship or the visit after that, having a follow-up plan will complete your Easter communications plan by ending on a high note. Make sure you plan communications around the message of Easter, show pictures of special events (including worship), and thank those who attended and volunteered.
This kind of communication can be easily lost in the shuffle, but it is important for anyone who follows you online now or in the future. Make sure your church delivers on the value you communicate up front.
So there you have it—six steps to a comprehensive Easter communications plan. Simple, right? Hardly; this just scratches the surface, but I hope it gives you the basis for a more detailed plan that accomplishes your communication goals.
Want to learn more about the Church Online Communications Comprehensive? Read all the posts and watch the videos in our Resource Center.