It’s the time of year when we’ve generally settled into the fall rhythm of life and begin anticipating the next big things coming down the line, namely the Advent and Christmas seasons. Some have decided on a theme/focus for midweek services and at-home devotions. For others, this is the first blip on the radar.
Whether you’re already well on your way to Advent planning success, just starting to think about it, or somewhere in between, Rev. Daniel Ross suggests combining your efforts with Lent planning as well. Not only is the gap between Christmas and Ash Wednesday sometimes small, but planning for these seasons simultaneously helps keep the Gospel story and the anticipation of the resurrection tied together in our minds rather than in isolated events.
Start by selecting themes for the Advent and Lent seasons. Selecting them sets the tone for the work ahead, bringing focus and direction to communication efforts and other planning. You can create your own or use a package. Synods and other organizations often create graphics for congregations to use. You’ll also find resources for the seasons in the Church Year through publishing houses that serve the needs of congregations.
Give yourself a gift; plan and work ahead by batching similar tasks. Once you’ve decided on a theme, focusing your work on one topic, type of task, or another grouping that makes sense for you will save time and can also sharpen skills through repeated practice. Pick a time, block it out on your calendar, and stick to it—your future self (and staff/team and family) will thank you! (If you need some external motivation, pick up a drink from your favorite coffee shop or consider working off site.) Seasons like Advent and Lent are great times to try this way of working if it isn’t already in your wheelhouse.
From a preaching and worship planning perspective, think about things like selecting a service order/structure, slotting hymns, and scheduling worship assistants. Doing each of these tasks at once for this focused period allows us to see how the individual parts support the big picture, decide where repetition is a helpful tool, and identify areas or elements that might need a little extra time or attention.
For seasonal social media, batching tasks like caption writing, image selection, graphic design, advertisement planning, and scheduling content goes a long way in avoiding the hamster wheel of last-minute scurrying when you’re in the thick of Advent or Lent. If you’re looking for some new ideas for Lenten (or Advent) social media, Pastor Ross shares a handful here and here.
Finally, breaking down your congregation’s general communication channels and creating a checklist can help identify specific areas where batch working could be helpful for you. Don’t forget about contact points with the community, printed media, resources for members, outdoor signs, and bulletin boards.
Don’t go it alone—work with others! Whether you enlist others in your congregation (staff or laity), set up brainstorming or work sessions with fellow pastors, church musicians or communicators (locally or virtually), or connect in some other way. Embrace the gift of community and allow the opportunity for iron to sharpen iron. This can also be a great way to implement accountability for the batch working plan you set up.
It may seem silly to take the time to plan for something this far in advance when your urgent to-do list is already overwhelming. But taking small steps and trying new approaches can deliver different, perhaps more favorable, results than you’ve had in the past.
We encourage those we serve to slow down, reflect, repent, and focus on Jesus throughout Advent and Lent. By carving out time to prepare for these seasons, we make space for the spiritual practices that point us to Jesus and nurture the faith we have in Him.
It’s the time of year when we’ve generally settled into the fall rhythm of life and begin anticipating the next big things coming down the line, namely the Advent and Christmas seasons. Some have decided on a theme/focus for midweek services and at-home devotions. For others, this is the first blip on the radar.
It feels so good to get things done and mark items off your to-do list. Sometimes, you’re in a groove, and everything is clicking. Other times, you can barely think, and you can’t seem to find the one book or piece of paper needed to move forward on a project.
I love heading into a new season (or month or week or even day) with a plan, knowing what needs to be tackled and when I'm going to do it. When that doesn’t happen (a fair amount of the time), it can feel defeating and I often find myself floundering, buying the lie that it’s too late to do anything, and constantly playing catch up.
Although school has already begun in most places, and many church activities are back on the calendar, it’s not too late to take time to plan for fall communications in your congregation! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
In many places, churches are returning to what feels normal: in-person services with members coming together in the building. But as churches face the future, there are many things they must confront. These topics include virtual services, changing attendance habits, and shifts in how members want to give.
At this point, I hope you have familiarized yourself with podcasting and are interested in starting your own podcast. If you have not read the previous blog post on creating a podcast for your ministry, I encourage you to do so.
This post will break down the fundamentals of podcasting, including the equipment you will need, how to record your podcast, and how to upload your podcast to a streaming platform.
The pandemic caused church attendance to hit an unprecedented low for a couple of months last year. My father, who is an LCMS pastor, and I were sitting around one afternoon in March 2020 wondering what we could do to combat the lack of God’s people in the pews, and how to bring comfort to those who needed church the most. We decided to start a podcast to bring the Good News to people in the safety of their own homes.
These days, it seems like social media is better known for its penchant to divide people rather than bring them together. While we’ve likely experienced something along these lines in the past few years, hidden below the divisive rubble is a tool for connection.
“People go on social media because they’re seeking connection,” Seth Hinz, Director of the Marketing and Creative department at Pathfinder Church in Ellisville, Missouri, said in an interview on the Mission Field: USA podcast.
With various service options available (different times and days, in-person and online) and full schedules, building and nurturing connections between church members can be challenging. With so many members on social media, churches have an opportunity to leverage these platforms in ways that move toward the goal of connection.
Meet Kimberly Myers, Communications Director for the Nebraska District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and a communications volunteer in her congregation. With a focus on serving a broad range of congregations throughout her district and a background in teaching overseas, Kimberly offers insight and encouragement as she shares a picture of her work in church communications.
Communicating as a church throughout the summer has its challenges. With nice weather and time off from school, many families take vacations. In some areas, it’s common to head to the lake for the weekend when work wraps up on Friday and not return home until Sunday evening. Those in “destination” locations may see an uptick in visitors. For these and other reasons, summer church attendance can be sporadic, throwing a wrench in more traditional church communication methods.
Videoconferencing is a great tool for connecting with far-away friends and family. Initially prompted by a desire for connection and social interaction in the midst of a pandemic, many now have established a regular (weekly, monthly) virtual-gathering time with friends who are scattered across the country, or even the world.
For those who work on remote teams, virtual meetings were commonplace prior to the spring of 2020. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, they, and more specifically the platform Zoom, have now become a conduit for connection across nearly every sector of life. As those who serve in congregations, many of us have leveraged this technology in more than one ministry area: Bible study, board and staff meetings, visits with homebound and hospitalized members, even worship for some.
Though not new, the opportunities for people to serve in technology-related roles have greatly expanded in many congregations. Joining the ranks of service mainstays in the church, technology teams are now just about as prevalent in the regular functioning of a congregation as the altar guild, trustees, and board of education.
About a year ago, we were experiencing one of the biggest disruptions to collective life in decades. Although the calendars of some were wiped clean, others’ lives ramped up to an exhausting pace. Church workers and communicators fell into the latter category. Leading in unfamiliar territory quickly became the norm and tools that were once supplemental shifted to our primary conduit for connection.
When I was a sophomore in college, I moved into a dormitory that had previously been used as a fraternity house. There were a lot of things that made it different than a typical dorm, but the thing I was most excited about was the large kitchen.
Over the previous year, I started to become interested in cooking, especially food that was healthy. The prospect of having a full kitchen available made me decide to skip the cafeteria meal plan, plan to go grocery shopping on a regular basis, and cook healthy recipes for most of my meals.
Like many plans, I certainly had good intentions, but I didn't implement it very well. By the end of the school year, I was so busy with homework and finals that the majority of my meals ended up being off-brand mac and cheese bowls heated up in the microwave. It was not really healthy, but it was inexpensive, quick, and easy, and I was at least able to eat.
In 1997, back in the dark ages of the internet, I wrote my first website. I wrote it, but I didn’t publish it because, honestly, I didn’t know how. It wasn’t a great website, but I was proud of it.
I wasn’t even a teenager yet, but I was fascinated by computers and especially the internet. Creating a website seemed like a fun challenge, so I did what is almost unheard of now: I went to the library and borrowed a book about how to write Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the language of the internet.
It’s so tempting, isn’t it? It’s new, it’s exciting, and it seems to be quite effective at doing the job. Plus, the price is right.
Sure the old one was working just fine for you, but this new one looks like it might be even better! Why wouldn’t you jump in feet first and give it a try?
The “it” that I am referring to could be almost anything. It can be the newest iPhone from Apple or the latest streaming service like Disney+. It could even be the most recent gadget that achieved the “As Seen on TV” label. However, in the realm of church communications, it’s usually the latest social media platform or the newest feature on an existing platform.
“What’s your favorite color?”
As adults, we typically do not ask each other this, but for kids, it is an especially important question.
My four-year-old daughter has a knack for both picking up on details about people and mentioning them in a positive way. She will notice if one of her fellow students is wearing a new shirt and say how much she likes it. She will compliment a teacher on her new haircut, telling her it looks nice. And when she colors a picture for someone, you’d better believe that it will have a lot of that person’s favorite color in it because that is one of the first questions she would have asked them.
Everyone appreciates it when someone else does a nice thing for them, but when that nice thing has been personalized, it makes it even more special.
Admit it; you’ve done this before too. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’m at a restaurant having a meal with my family. The server brings the food out, distributes the dishes to each person, and checks to see if everything is in good shape. We confirm, and she replies, “Great, enjoy your meal!” I respond, “Thanks. You too!”
How embarrassing! If I had stopped to think about what I was going to say, I would quickly realize that she was going to continue working, not sit down and enjoy a meal, but I did what came naturally and returned the pleasantry in kind.
This past Sunday, my church, along with many other congregations, observed Good Shepherd Sunday. While not an official holiday in the Church Year, it has been historically called that because the Fourth Sunday of Easter focuses on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
The Gospel reading this Sunday was from John 10:1–10, but I want to draw your attention to what Jesus says just a short time later in verse 14.
“I know My own and My own know Me.” (John 10:14 ESV)
What a wonderful thing to have a Savior who cares about us so much that He left the glory of heaven and became a human being so that He could live and die for us and our salvation. Jesus is a Savior who really, truly knows us.
We as leaders in the Church are called to follow Christ’s example as a shepherd and care for His flock. In fact, the word pastor is a Latin word that means “shepherd.” As every good pastor will tell you, you can’t care for your flock until you get to know them.
At Concordia Technology Solutions, we hold weekly product meetings with members of our marketing, support, and development teams. We discuss what happened during the week and what tasks will be accomplished in the coming week. This is also a time for us to share feedback we’ve heard from the users of our software.
We get a lot of great ideas on a daily basis, but I’ve learned I have to be careful in how I bring them up. If I say, “What do you think, can we add this new feature?” it’s likely that I will get a tongue-in-cheek response from a developer such as, “Yes, we can do anything ... with time and money.”
I’ll admit I’ve used that phrase in other meetings as well. While there is a certain level of sarcasm to it, the reality is that technology has improved so much over the years that (almost) anything is possible, as long as you have sufficient resources.
One of my favorite board games to play when I was a kid was a two-person game called Stratego. The goal of Stratego is to capture the flag of the opposing player while protecting one’s own. Each player starts with a large number of pieces, and each piece has a ranking. The players battle those pieces against each other until one can capture the other’s flag.
Throw out the phrase “bullet journal” in conversation, and you’ll likely get a variety of responses: everything from “Oh, I’m not ‘arsty’ enough for that,” to “This is the single greatest tool I’ve found for organizing my life,” and a lot of reactions in between. While some take a more elaborate approach to bullet journaling, others use their notebook or journal to simplify.
The COVID-19 has quickly changed almost every aspect of our lives, including our worship lives. Many churches are choosing not to hold worship services in person, but are moving online through recorded videos or livestreaming.
When I started as a church office administrator, one of my first projects was to update member records in a spreadsheet. As I sat typing, I remember thinking, “There must be a software program that can make this process easier… and keep it that way!”
We’ve all heard about those congregations that just seem to have a toxic culture. Perhaps it’s a tight-knit community that has a hard time welcoming in strangers. Maybe it’s a church whose members try to run the church behind the pastor’s back. I think one of the most common examples of toxicity in a church, however, is one in which too many people become apathetic to the church’s mission of growing disciples and feeding Jesus’ sheep.
I recently reread Kem Meyer’s book, Less Chaos. Less Noise. As I did, Meyer’s words hit me right between the eyes, as they often do. This time, however, it wasn’t about written communication. What got me was her writing on people skills.
About six weeks into my DCE internship, I was planning to leave town on my day off for the first time. There was an event taking place at the church while I would be gone, and though I had carried out my responsibilities and left the day’s tasks in more-than-capable hands, I felt anxious, almost guilty, about leaving.
His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”—Matthew 25:21
Working for a church can be one of the most fulfilling career paths out there! Not only do you get paid to pursue your passion and serve God using the gifts and abilities He’s given you, but you also get to grow extremely close to the people you’re serving with, in ways that aren’t typical for non-church-work jobs. Your faith not only plays a role in your work life, but is the center of it. Many times, you become family with the people you are serving with.
Fundraising is a hard topic, and I’ll admit at the outset that it’s one I struggle with. The problem is, of course, that it’s so easy to get the perspectives wrong. We can become so intent on our financial goals, particularly if we’re dealing with a large capital project like a new building, that we forget our main purpose of sharing the Gospel with the people we’re working with. Technology can be used to make fundraising more effective, but like any other tool, it has its pros and cons. It can be used in ways that are helpful in building up the Body of Christ; or it can be used in ways that, even if successful in meeting your fundraising goals, can be manipulative and destructive.
So you’ve made good use of your Church Management Software (CMS), and you have some new prospective members who are beginning to interact with your congregation, perhaps even showing up in worship for a few Sundays. What’s next? How do we begin, particularly in larger congregations, to move people from attending to belonging?
In my last post, I laid out what landing pages are and why they are important in communicating to your target audience. I wrote about how the retail industry uses landing pages, and hopefully you did your homework to see how effectively the industry uses them to communicate targeted information to its customers.
Landing pages. Maybe you have heard of them before, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you know all about them, maybe you don’t. Landing pages are not new, and we have all been sent to one, whether we knew it or not.
Maybe you’re just now considering creating a landing page for your church, or maybe you’re a website designer who’s looking to take your site to a new level. In this first of a series of posts, I’ll help you navigate the basics of landing pages and learn how they can be used for specific opportunities and events for your church.
I love how diverse our churches are. Of course, we all have the Gospel in common, and we also share many similar rites and ceremonies, but the way we dress, the type of music we use, and the way our churches operate varies greatly depending on our context.
Anytime we set out to talk about ways to manage church members’ information, targeted advertising, or other efforts to use technology in outreach, we need to start from the right perspective. None of our cleverness, targeting, or planning can make the Gospel more effective—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours. What we’re seeking to do with communication, advertising, and technology is to remove barriers to people hearing the Gospel and to ensure that God’s Word is able to speak as clearly as possible to those who need to hear it. This month and for the next several months, we will be looking not at efficacy, but at clarity and removing noise from our communications.
Sociologists maintain that you can learn a lot about looking in people’s medicine cabinets. In the same vein, I believe a narthex tells a lot about a congregation. When I visit a congregation, I notice so many things:
Nothing will stop a project faster than a lack of communication. To fill the gap, misinformation will quickly spread. This will lead to ever increasing amounts of frustration from leaders to stakeholders until overall apathy envelops the project. In turn, the project will stall out or people will come to resent it.
One of the greatest blessings we have as a church is that we have such amazing ways to share our faith. In the past, information and stories had to be passed down orally. Later on, with the invention of the printing press, books of information could be produced quickly and shared. At the beginning of my lifetime, we still received information primarily from our televisions and in the mail.
Lutheran schools and churches have always gone hand in hand. Martin Luther, all the way back in 1530, wrote “A Sermon on Keeping Children in School,” and he was quite the revolutionary as he called for the education of not only boys but girls as well.
This desire to educate our children was kept by the Saxon (and other) immigrants who would form the Missouri Synod. In Germany, religious instruction was a part of the public school curriculum. In America, however, the public schools were much more secular, or the Christianity that was taught in them was generic and watered down. So in many places, Lutherans established their schools first and then, a few years later, built their church.
We’ve all gotten them . . . the well-meaning envelope trying to notify us about an important upcoming event or to make sure we’re aware of the can’t-miss deal of the century. And you open the envelope (maybe) and pull out the letter and begin reading the message meant uniquely for you. “Dear Sir or Madam . . .”
Spring is in the air, and the church calendar is telling us Easter is almost here. But you’re not worried because you have done all that can possibly be done. The bulletin covers are ready. The Easter egg hunt went off without a hitch. Information about Holy Week has been shared. This year you even coordinated a Lenten video devotional blog for social media followers. You have a strategy for greeters when visitors arrive. Little cards are out to collect visitors’ information. Postcards are ready to be sent out as follow-up. The elders are lined up to make those follow-up calls. And let’s face it—the website was off the charts with all the awesome graphics. YOU KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK! Now it’s time to sit back, pat the team on the back, and watch the strategy unfold. Or is it?
When I was young, I used to collect and trade baseball cards with the other kids in the neighborhood. The cards we collected were not really worth much money, so whenever I tried to trade for a card, I was always pursuing one of two objectives: collecting cards from my favorite player or team, or completing a series.
As an adult, I still find myself collecting things, although I have moved on from baseball cards. Now I collect technology, and if I had to guess, you probably do too.
Last month, I wrote an article about creating shorter videos for your church, but sometimes, a story can take a little longer than two minutes to tell. While many of the concepts behind creating a longer video can apply when you create a short video, you’ll tend to put a lot more time and effort into longer videos, and in turn, you may want to consider increasing your quality as well. Many people can and do shoot these types of videos with their shoestring budget gear, such as an iPhone. But if you plan to make these long-form videos for your church (and I’ll explain why you should), you may want to look into some of the gear suggestions I have for you.
Most people think that a website is an end goal for any online effort. But it’s not. The final goal is to let people know they will find Jesus in the Church, and we want them to come and meet Him there.
There are other reasons why the website isn’t the final goal when trying to draw people to your church.
If you’ve purchased anything in the last twenty or so years, you’ve almost certainly experienced it: that moment when you get to the register to purchase an inconsequential item, perhaps with exact change at the ready, and your dreams of a quick in-and-out transaction are dashed on the rocks of a series of questions:
“Can I get your phone number please? Hmm . . . you’re not in our system. Let me add you. What’s your name? Address? Email address? Phone number? Mother’s cousin’s oldest stepchild’s phone number?”
In my last blog post, I walked through how to decide what to post on your church’s Facebook page. This time, we’re going to dig deeper and talk about when an event or crisis is going on nationwide or in your community. The question always comes up: to share or not to share?
In February 2016, my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world. Two weeks later, we were sent into a panic. My wife had recently started a job with a local hospital on an as-needed status. She had basically gone through training and then been put on maternity leave. Two weeks after the birth of our son, she was asked to come back full time at the end of her leave. This meant we needed to suddenly find day care for our child. To complicate matters, the day care associated with our church had eight children already on its waiting list.
As many churches continue to see the value in social media for reaching out to their communities, it’s important that we use best practices for helping our content reach more people. As many studies show, when it comes to Facebook, videos tend to be the best content to get more engagement. Because of that, it’s a good idea to produce high-quality video content to share on our social media platforms.
For many church workers, this can seem daunting. You might be thinking, “I didn’t go to film school. How am I supposed to create this kind of content?” It doesn’t have to be as hard as many people make it sound. There are some easy steps you can take to regularly make short, high-quality videos to share on social media.
Whether you love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. Facebook started back in 2003 as more of a college/dating-type site and has turned into something much bigger that influences everyday life around the world.
I’m always impressed by a good marketing strategy, and the folks at Netflix have shown once again they know how to market. On January 1, 2019, the day when New Year’s resolutions are started (and often ended), Netflix released the show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Inspired by her #1 New York Times bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this show features Kondo coaching families on how to organize their homes using her KonMari Method™.
Happy new year!
For many, on a personal level, a new year means quitting a bad a habit, starting a good habit, making new goals, being more intentional about everyday tasks, and getting priorities straight. What about on a large-scale level for your church—specifically for priorities and communication?
With the rapid-fire pace of web applications today, it seems there’s a new must-have product about every other week. Generally, these come and go and aren’t actually all that new or innovative, so I hope I might be forgiven for largely ignoring Slack when it first launched. It was, after all, little more than a glorified chat tool, and not something our team at CTSFW really needed.
At this point, though, I think I’m willing to concede that I might have been mistaken in my first look at Slack. Over the last few years it’s actually become an indispensable part of our team’s toolkit, finding a niche alongside apps like Wunderlist, Google Docs, and Gmail in the selection of apps that do one thing, do it really well, and don’t try to do anything else.
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.
Happy 149th birthday, Concordia Publishing House! Of course, there’s a bunch of excitement about the big one-five-zero happening a year from now (and rightfully so!), but you only turn 149 once. Whatever the number, birthdays are a great time to remember, reflect, and celebrate—so here we go!
When you saw the title of this post, what went through your mind?
- I’m already too busy.
- What would I write about?
- Who would read it?
- I have no idea where to start.
- You’ve got to be kidding!
You’re not alone. Those are all common responses. Many of us have the experience of the forgotten blog somewhere in the internet, so some of us feel timid or even aghast at the idea of starting one for a church.
All the same, you should absolutely have a church blog.
If you’re a church worker, you never have a shortage of ways to stay busy. It seems like as soon as you finish your Sunday services, you’re already running out of time to get everything ready for next week’s services, especially when you add up the countless meetings and tasks on your to-do list. If you want to keep your sanity and have any kind of family life outside of the church walls, it’s important to find ways to save time and be efficient. One of the best ways to keep yourself from drowning in your work is to pass some of it off.
Read any number of books on church organization and evangelism, and you’ll hear some common goals. Visitors should feel at home. They should be comfortable finding their way around. They should feel like they’re welcome and that their presence is valued in the community. They should feel safe.
Those are all good things, at least objectively, but it’s hardly a list that your elders couldn’t have written themselves. More interesting are the competing ways we’re advised to achieve these same goals. Visitors should be singled out and welcomed the moment they walk in the door or they should be allowed to worship in anonymity and peace. We should follow up at their house later in the day, or send them a letter next week, or maybe just leave them alone and hope our distance conveys enough respect for their privacy that they come back. It’s a mess.
In my last post I touched on how I ditched a well-thought-out communication request form for more personal interactions with our ministry leaders. I think this idea of relationship building goes even deeper than with the leaders; it applies to each volunteer too.
Our goal as church staff members, called or not, is always to be personal and to connect. But sometimes a volunteer not seeing the bigger mission of the church can drive a wedge between what the volunteer wants to do with a specific ministry and what should be done. As a communicator, I know for me anyway that this wedge can create unnecessary friction. We want to help the congregation and pastors achieve our church goals, to do our job, and to make everyone happy. We all know that is easier said than done! Am I right?
My eyes have been opened over the last two years about showing appreciation. Not that I wasn’t appreciative before, but now that I’m in development, appreciation has become a large part of my role in ministry and I’m much more conscious of showing it.
Ben Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
Although I’m one who loves a well thought out plan, I have a lot of growing to do when it comes to having a solid grasp on this. So, I’ve been reading, listening to podcasts, and trying to soak up any wisdom I can from those who do this sort of thing well. One recurring theme I’ve encountered is that of planning rhythms.
As college students are packing their bags to go back to school at the end of the summer, there are a few steps that churches can take to make sure their college students are feeling cared for. As a college student myself, I find that it is always a big transition when you start attending church at a new place at the beginning of the semester. It is hard to feel connected to your church when you are hundreds of miles away, so here are a few easy tips for churches to keep college students engaged when they head back to school.
“Why haven’t they replied to the email? I sent it over a week ago.”
—A pastor who shall remain anonymous
That is a true complaint I have heard from another pastor. And I have heard similar remarks from other people. In fact, I am fairly certain I have made a parallel lament at some point myself. I am also willing to bet that the readers of this blog have made it too.
On my job description, it says, “Develop templates for media, agendas, and the like to assist busy ministry teams and lay volunteers in creating better message-driven content in a more effective amount of time.”
Great. I can do that, not too hard.
Creating a church webpage should be easy, shouldn’t it?
Whether we’re talking about a home page, an about page, or a simple blog post—type it up and hit “publish,” right? But if you want your page to actually get read, it’s not that simple.
Don’t worry, it’s not that hard, either, but it is important to know how to structure your page so that readers want to read it.
Have you sat in a restaurant or in a line at the DMV and just observed? Like really watched people? Are people connecting with those around them? Or are they immersed in the five-inch screens in their hands? How are they interacting with their surroundings?
For any organization, big or small, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the employees learning to communicate with one another. Most problems that occur within a church staff happen because people aren’t communicating well, the ball gets dropped on a big project, or someone is left waiting on a piece of work they were expecting to receive.
I’ve had the opportunity to work for multiple organizations with larger staffs, and two of those have been churches with multiple sites. Communication at places like these can be extra difficult because not only do you need to learn to communicate well with the people you work with, but those coworkers also happen to be at a different location from you, typically miles away. It takes careful attention and a lot of hard work to ensure problems don’t arise because of lack of communication.
On May 25, 2018, Quantic Dream released their much anticipated seventh game, Detroit: Become Human. (Warning: Link launches trailer, which contains swearing.) After spending a week or so with the game, I’ve found it has much worth recommending to even your casual video game player. But, more importantly, Detroit continues a cultural conversation that’s only going to grow in coming years, and it’s one the Church would do well to get involved in. What makes us human, and what moral value do non-humans have? Is life found in the essence of a thing or in its behavior and appearance? Does it matter how we treat objects if they’re not alive? Detroit seeks to answer the question of whether androids are human, but I think the bigger question isn’t whether the android is human (it isn’t). It’s whether the android’s owner will remain human if he or she learns to behave in inhuman ways.
Stories are some of the most powerful tools in a church communicator’s belt. They have the power to engage us in something beyond ourselves and pass life-giving faith from one generation to another.
Because of their leadership with various communication channels, church communicators are sometimes asked by parents how to keep kids safe online. This article was originally posted on the CPH Education blog to help parents and teachers learn how to do just that. We hope this post is helpful to you as you serve the families God has put in your life.
As a parent, God has entrusted you with the care and upbringing of your children. This task has not changed throughout all time. We are called to bring them to the life-giving water of Holy Baptism, to teach them the faith, and to protect them from all harm and evil. No pressure, Mom and Dad.
Before electricity, churches were architecturally designed to carry sound and light into the worship space. While modern architects often factor natural sound and window fixtures into their church designs, many sanctuaries are nothing more than drywall boxes with vaulted ceilings that may carry sound, but not well, and certainly not with clarity. The windows along the sides of the nave help illuminate hymnals, but without large stained-glass expanses featured above the chancel, seeing the pastor or the altar can be a challenge.
Enter the modern lighting and sound reinforcement system. Some form of modern sound and lighting system can be found in almost every church today. Whether you are seeking the latest digital sound and LED lighting system or just need to amplify a single microphone, chances are you will engage in purchasing sound or lighting equipment for your sanctuary at some point.
I often wonder if one of the biggest challenges facing Church Communicators is deciphering the who, what, where, why, and how of church news and events. Our efforts often are spread among multiple mediums, our time is spread thin to format and reformat content, and still we often receive feedback about people not “hearing” our message. (Here’s a great article to help set up your communication framework.)
We live in one of the most connected ages in history. We can stay connected with friends around the globe and have unlimited potential to make new friends. News travels around the globe in moments, and we’re routinely treated to a front-row view of history as live-streaming technology becomes more commonplace. At no other point in human history have we been so quickly and easily connected with other people.
So why are we so isolated?
There’s nothing quite like being in worship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, receiving God’s gifts and giving Him our praise. The beauty of Christian worship goes far beyond our human comprehension. Unfortunately, there can be times we miss out on that time together for reasons beyond our control.
Occasionally, we have in our congregations members who are home-bound and unable to attend weekly worship. Thankfully, with the use of the internet and technology, these members may still be able to receive God’s Word (they’ll have to wait to receive His body and blood until their pastor can come visit them) by watching either a livestream or recording of the service. Needless to say, participating in worship in this way is by no means as wonderful or edifying as being present with our fellow believers, but for those with no other option, this can be an incredible blessing.
My sixth-grade homeroom teacher stood over my desk.
“Daniel, you didn’t get your agenda signed again.” Sigh. “Minus five points. You know this is worth five percent of your grade, right?” The question of incredulity quickly following the sigh of disappointment.
Of course, what she did not seem to understand was my view. It was worth only five percent of a grade that did not matter. Harvard was not going to be checking my sixth-grade report card to see how I did. So what was the point of filling out the agenda every single day and getting it signed by my parents over the weekend? It was not like there was never enough time to finish assignments in class.
It seems there is a new communication channel introduced weekly, if not daily! Some have been long lived, like Facebook, and some were one-hit wonders only to fizzle out, like Vine.
Many times, a quick scroll through my social media feed and reading through communication blogs leave me feeling defeated in this mass world of instant communication.
Am I doing enough? Am I choosing the best way to reach the world with the greatest message in the world? Am I making sure our members feel connected with our various ministries?
There’s a story that’s told of a wise man to whom a king was indebted. The king offered him his choice of any reward in the kingdom, but the wise man demurred. Instead he asked only that the king provide him with a chessboard and a single grain of wheat on the first square. On the second square would be double that amount (two grains), and on the third twice that, and so on. The king readily agreed . . . and bankrupted his kingdom. By the time the board was halfway done, the thirty-second square was worth two to the thirty-second power, or 4,294,967,296 grains of wheat. The final square ended up being worth two to the sixty-third power, which is more wheat than the world produces in a millennium. (For the history and the math, see the wiki.)
Maybe you’re at a church plant that is outgrowing its space, moving to a new location, and deciding to bring in new technology in the form of worship screens. Maybe your church building is decades old and your congregation is ready for some updates. A while back, we wrote a blog post on how to use a screen in worship without worshiping a screen—but it’s worth taking the time to consider whether adopting screens during worship is the best choice for your congregation.
This is not a usual Concordia Technology Solutions blog post. In fact, there will be very little discussion about technology at all. No trends, no flashing doodads, no talk about social media or websites. Nope, this is more of a devotion for church workers and those heavily involved in a congregation’s ministry during Holy Week.
Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Social media is an interesting paradox. On one hand, it’s really easy to use, and its strength lies in the fact that almost anyone can use it. (Not everyone should, mind you, but there’s nothing we can do to stop that!) On the other hand, though, to do it well, to stand out from the crowd and make sure your message gets heard. . . . That’s a lot harder. Hopefully over the years of reading the CTS blog, you’ve learned a trick or two and you’ve gotten a solid foothold in at least one social media community. (If you’re looking for some tips to get started, check out the archives.)
“Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms.” These words were deemed the unofficial motto for the 1933–34 World’s Fair in Chicago. More than eighty years have passed since that grand event, which celebrated great strides in technological innovation. For our culture, the same motto seems to ring a little too true.
In his book Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology, Dr. Bernard Bull discusses this pattern of our conforming to, or being shaped by, technology, at times without realizing what is happening. It’s vital we recognize that the solving of one problem generally leads to a slew of new challenges to address. Many of these challenges have significant connection to our spiritual lives and the faith formation of our families.
Peter Frank and I get along pretty well. In fact, if we ever had the chance to meet in person, I am sure we would both be more than happy to get coffee together and talk technology, media, and theology all day long. Peter is pretty insightful on all that and is a great guy to boot. In fact, you should check out his blog post about seven tech trends for churches to watch for in 2018. Well, except for one part of it. You can ignore the first trend, because Peter is wrong about it.
This post was written by Richard Bauer, e-Giving Ambassador for Vanco Payment Solutions, and originally appeared on the Vanco blog. Vanco Payment Solutions is the exclusive e-Giving partner of Concordia Technology Solutions.
Two years have passed since we released the first findings from our groundbreaking survey of churchgoers’ attitudes, preferences, and behaviors toward electronic giving, and we’re excited to announce that we’ll soon have an update to share with you.
Technology touches all aspects of our lives. From the ways we work, play, create, and learn all the way to how we spend our final days, technology plays a significant role in what’s possible, and, of course, what isn’t . . . at least for now. Ministry is no exception to this, and the Church has historically been one of the bastions on the cutting edge of technology. We were among the first to adopt the codex, and some of the earliest written words in history are found in the Old Testament. Even Martin Luther benefited from his unique timing in technological history by seeing his writings widely distributed through Gutenberg’s printing press. The Church and technology are old friends.
Oh Canva, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. . . .
Okay, so Elizabeth Barrett Browning I am not. I do, however, have a long list of reasons why Canva is a church communicator’s best friend. Like many, my first introduction to Canva’s superpowers was learning how to create those really beautiful, crisp, professional-looking social media graphics. But there are so many other ways Canva can be used in your congregation’s communication efforts!
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.
Peace in Christ Jesus! Once again, the calendar flips and it is the season of Lent. This year I am trying to figure out if Ash Wednesday is going to be very romantic, or if Valentine’s Day will be very somber? I will let you all decide in the comments.
Last year I wrote about six ideas for sharing about Lent on social media. This year I am back with some more. So, without further ado, I present to you: Social Media Ideas for Lent, Part 2!
Websites have a rather interesting history. At first, they were difficult to create and required a certain understanding of HTML. Then tools were introduced that made it easy to create websites. Then everyone had a website, which made it hard to get traffic. Then social media came along and made it seem like no one needed a website anymore.
That’s a rather over-simplified history of the internet, but the reality is that it’s never been easy to build a website and gain traffic, and today is no different. One interesting thing about today’s internet is that Google is its king. Over 63% of internet searches start with Google, an overwhelming majority in a previously competitive market. That means that while your church website is competing to gain traffic, it’s really only competing in one arena.
You need ideas for something—an event, a Lenten theme, new online outreach, a new ministry. And you need help coming up with ideas. So you decide to hold a brainstorm session. But during that session, people are pretty quiet. They’re just not saying anything, or the ideas they do share are too specific or narrow. Where’s that big idea you’re looking for?
People are full of ideas, whether they tend to think analytically or creatively. In the right environment, they’ll truly be themselves and let you know what’s going on inside their minds. So in a brainstorm session, establishing the right tone is essential to getting ideas flowing. Here’s how to create that tone so creativity is stimulated and people feel comfortable sharing all their wacky, dramatic, and big ideas.
In our information-saturated landscape, many have asked the question “how do we communicate well with our church’s members?” The answer to that question is, of course, multi-faceted and ever-changing. A little more than a year ago, as my church—Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Rockford, Illinois—evaluated the congregation’s communication needs, our existing communication avenues, and the time and energy we devoted to different efforts, we determined that our monthly email newsletter wasn’t as helpful as it had been in the past.
Enter The Connecting Point. Well, to be honest, it didn’t have that name or a clear direction for a while. There was a good chunk of time in the development stage when I would refer to it as “the new quarterly storytelling publication that will be available both as a hard copy and digitally.” Let’s just say that, while descriptive, the name garnered more raised eyebrows than buy-in.
I’ve always enjoyed reading the annual blog posts and articles about predictions for the coming year. There’s something fun about seeing if they come true, although I rarely see follow-up posts detailing how many, if any, actually did come true. (Spoiler alert: most of them don’t.)
In the world of technology, it seems to be the trend to make big and bold predictions. Remember when tablets were going to replace all computers? Or when smart watches would be more useful than smart phones? More often than not, technology predictions are way off base, or just too early.
Welcome to one of my favorite weeks of the year: the week between Christmas and New Year’s. At Concordia Publishing House, this is a short work-week bookended by two holidays and an extra day off. That means someone can take three days of PTO and turn that into ten days off in a row. What a deal!
We’re less than one week away from Christmas—is your social media ready?
While Christmas provides some great opportunities for your church to share the Gospel with your community, it can be a challenge to get everything done on time and still be creative. Here are three quick ways to leverage social media during the busiest time of the year.
The way we use our memory has changed in recent years, and daily tasks that once required us to recall information are now done by accessing digital directories or using voice activation. When I was in grade school, memory tools were of the index-card variety, each holding a different historical fact, spelling word, or basic math equation. Now memory cards hold countless digital images and files, at times doing our remembering for us.
If your ministry is on Snapchat, I applaud you! Snapchat is, in my opinion, one of the hardest social media platforms to manage and create content for, especially for churches. So the fact that you even have a Snapchat means you’re going in the right direction.
Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday. Is it just me, or are all these Thanksgiving-weekend activities getting a little hard to manage?
As is so often the case, it’s easy to let our celebration of thankfulness for all God’s good gifts become eclipsed by our relentless desire for more and better. How can your church help your members to pause and reflect throughout Thanksgiving weekend? Here are some ideas for simple Thanksgiving-weekend activities that can help your church and her members maintain a thankful spirit in the next few days.
I had only been a pastor for a short while at my first congregation. I remember trying to look up families and guessing the ages of their children. I cannot remember if it was for confirmation or something else. The church wanted to send a letter because of an upcoming class. The secretary was walking by and asked me what I was doing. I explained and said that it was hard work. I had been doing it for a couple of days at that point. She started laughing and telling me that all I had to do was ask her. All that information was kept in Shepherd’s Staff, which was our church management software (CMS).
Instagram has made a lot of changes in the past two years. This photo-sharing app has come a long way from its early days of square photos, heavy filters, and jagged borders. What used to be an app that was used to share photos to other social media sites has become a standalone app that many people use as their primary social media account. Millennials and Gen Z-ers especially are locked in on Instagram rather than Facebook.
“Immortal God, what a world I see dawning. Why can I not be young again?”
The Dutch scholar Erasmus wrote these words in 1517, enraptured by the possibilities created by the Renaissance. The zeitgeist of the Renaissance was closely entwined with that of the Reformation, also dawning in 1517, as Europeans awakened to new ways of seeing the world and understanding their individual roles in it.
It was technology that enabled the ideas of the Renaissance and Reformation to spread like wildfire around Europe: Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press drastically increased the speed and accessibility of information. This technological innovation not only transformed the way ideas were spread, but also played a significant part in developing the ideas themselves, as more and more people were able to consider themselves readers, writers, and independent thinkers.
So there’s a big event coming up at church, and you’re the one doing the communications. You’ve got to get the word out to members and the community. You’ve got to get other people on board for the marketing and make sure they can do what you need them to do. It’s a lot to do, and it might just be a big swirly ball of chaos inside your mind. Or maybe you don’t know where to start and feel like you’re staring at a blank canvas. So how do you get started?
Here’s an outline for coordinating the marketing for an event. It’s the same process I used when running the marketing for a huge event that happened at my church a few weeks ago. This road map will guide you through the planning, execution, and analysis process, helping you manage a campaign that is comprehensive and well organized.
IFTTT is a dream come true and can save an entire weekend of your time in a single click. I use this tool to automate portions of the social media marketing efforts in Michigan, and I’m always seeking out new ways to expand our reach and reduce the time we have to spend on busywork.
Live video is a great medium churches can use to connect with members throughout the week. So where should you start if you’re thinking about trying a live video for the first time? How can you ensure that your first live video is a positive experience? Follow these three tips to get started.
It’s been quite a while since I wrote about my favorite application, Microsoft Excel. When I’m not using different combinations of formulas and applying beautiful styles to my spreadsheets, I find that there are many fantastic tools within Excel that many people have never used. These tools aren’t actually hidden, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can easily miss them. Here are my seven favorite Excel tools that you can start using today.
Even in the age of social media, email still proves to be more effective than social media when reaching people. In the last five to ten years, email providers, email clients, and government regulations have combined to provide better management, more personalization, and less spam for an overall better email experience. Unfortunately, many organizations (even churches) don’t use email to its fullest and can end up abusing it.
The best way to leverage email is to properly manage your lists so you can provide the most relevant content to the right audiences. Here are some principles of list management to help you make the most of email communications.
When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, one of my routines was to venture to Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle on Saturday mornings. Not only was it fun to pick out fresh fish for Saturday dinners, but the fish market employees also brought such joy and fun to the experience. They would literally toss trout and salmon through the air to each other, to customers, to anyone who would frolic in their game.
The fourth quarter of 2017 is just around the corner, and in addition to Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, this time includes one of the most stressful tasks in the church office: preparing for next year’s offering envelopes.
Last week, I explained several reasons why your church Facebook page should not replace your church website. The last reason I mentioned was that despite Facebook having a huge number of users (more than 2 billion!), not everyone is on Facebook. One group that can be very hesitant to join Facebook is church workers.
It’s a trend among some churches, especially smaller ones, to have only a Facebook page and not a website. In some ways, this makes sense. Facebook pages are easy to set up, they are free, and Facebook has more than two billion users, so most people are already using that platform. With that in mind, it certainly begs the question, “Is it still necessary to have a church website?”
This excerpt as taken from the ebook Computer Security for Your Church.
The mobile revolution has brought with it a number of new security threats. Modern devices can carry infected files as easily as floppy disks could in ages past. Additionally, the threat of devices being lost, stolen or compromised themselves leave a number of concerns which need to be thought through. While it’s beyond the scale of most church offices to be able to fully secure and administrate these things, there are nonetheless a few simple precautions which can make your data more secure.
The trends of how people first connect with a congregation have changed over time. It is important to explore these trends and adapt with them. In this blog post, we will cover how these trends have changed over time, and a current way to reach individuals in your area—through community events.
This is the fourteenth and final post for our training course Church Online Communications Comprehensive. After covering everything from setting church goals to writing persona profiles, it’s time to put it all together, develop a strategy, and implement the strategy. Here are the answers to some common questions about rolling out an online communication strategy at your church.
God has a habit of opening and closing doors in our lives. He uses these opportunities to shape us and grow us into the person He created us to be. Sometimes it's easy to walk through a door He's opened up. Perhaps you're in a job you know isn't a forever job for you, but you're just patiently waiting until finally, He opens up that new door and you can move into the career you've always wanted to.
When the Church Online Communications Comprehensive started thirteen weeks ago, the discussion of online communications started with a focus on strategy. Since then, the topics have become more specific with information about individual channels and tactics.
Now that all of that has been discussed, it’s time to take a step back and see how to pull everything together. Figuring out how to get started is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as determining how to find the time to do it. Here are some ways to make communications take less time and some of my favorite tools for maximizing efficiency.
Last week, we dove into the topic of social media and how you can use it to direct people to your church’s website. This week, we’re going to talk about the number one way to bring people to your site: search engine optimization.
In the bad old days of the web, users had to specify the formatting for every page and item on the page in the HTML tag. This worked, but it led to a lot of repeated code, and it made changing your site’s look or design an absolute nightmare. (In fairness, designing a site was a bit of a nightmare, so it evened out.)
Fifteen years ago, social media was not even an idea, much less an integral part of communication strategies. Even ten years ago, there were a lot of questions about whether social media would stick around or if it was just the latest internet fad.
Obviously a lot has changed since then, and today, social media is a far more important platform in communications than anyone would have guessed. No longer is it a question of if social media is part of a communication strategy but rather how and how much. This post will describe the benefits of using social media in the church and how to apply it as part of your church’s online communications strategy.
Writing is a skill that comes naturally for some, and is a struggle for others. Whether or not you’re confident in your abilities, or if you have a job that doesn’t require it, it can still sometimes be necessary to write something that will be read by someone else.
A couple weeks ago, we talked about how a content framework consists of a home base (your website), a media empire (blogs and emails), and outposts (social media). This week, our focus will be on the media empire, which is the source of all your church’s long-form communication.
Though your media empire may reside on your church’s website, it serves a very different purpose. The purpose of your website should be to encourage people to visit and get involved at your church; the media empire should direct people further into your website. In this blog post, we’ll delve into blogs and emails and learn how they can develop your church’s content framework.
In this week's session of the Church Online Communications Comprehensive, we're going to switch our attention from the theoretical to the practical. We've spent enough time talking strategy; now it's time to get into the practical implementation. Let's start off by discussing church websites.
When the topic of church websites comes up in the discussion of online communications, it's hard to do it justice in only a couple weeks. While I'm going to focus on the highlights, it's important to remember that this will only be a sample of the many different best practices that can be applied to your church's website.
A good church website answers questions for visitors and members alike. This is instrumental in easily locating important information about your church. Below is a list of common questions every church website should answer. When creating a “What To Expect” page, here are some questions to keep in mind.
This session will start to get into the hands-on aspects of communication. We’ll dig more into the nitty-gritty of what church communication consists of and how to successfully communicate with your audience. We’ll do this by talking about a content framework.
I've discussed the concept of having a content framework in a previous blog post, as well as in a live presentation just a few weeks ago. This is such an important concept in online communications that it's worth exploring in a bit more detail.
With everything having a website these days, how do you make your church’s website stand out in a Google search?
An essential thing to implement on your church’s website is SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is how we make things show up in search results. Without SEO, no one knows your site exists unless they already have its URL.
One could easily write an entire book on how to optimize a site for SEO, but here are some basic tips to get you started. Because your site will have a mix of long-term pages that aren’t frequently updated and timely pages you need to draw traffic to, you may not use all of these tactics on every single page. But implementing them when appropriate will make a big difference in helping new people find your site and get connected to your church.
If you're just starting to follow along, this is the seventh session in our fourteen-week series about online communications in the church. Every week, a different communication strategy has been defined and shown how to apply in a strategic manner.
Recently, the topics have focused on audience personas, journey maps, and message maps. This week, we will explore how to combine these three concepts and apply them in a very practical action plan called a content map.
This post is an excerpt from Seth Hinz's ebook Social Media Automation.
Social media automation tools will help you scale your social media marketing efforts. You’ll discover how to schedule out and recycle content indefinitely, find and engage in conversations you’ve been missing, expand your follower base, and reduce the time you spend on repetitive tasks. All of this will turn you into a lean and mean marketing machine. One stop short of full-on robot.
The last four sessions of our Online Church Communications Comprehensive focused primarily on high-level strategy. Now we'll start to transition to some lessons that are a bit more detailed and have practical implications on your day-to-day communications.
The first step in this direction is to focus your communication on a few key messages. A long-standing practice within public relations and communications is to develop a message map.
We spent the last two weeks identifying your church audiences and gaining a better understanding of who they are and how to communicate with them. Today, we're going to shift gears a bit and start planning ways to move these audiences closer to your church goals.
The way we'll do this is by creating a journey map for your audiences. This map, which could also be described as a timeline, should be based on your church goals. The starting point is right before your first point of contact with your audience, and the subsequent points, or destinations, are the desired outcomes based on your church goals.
Success is one of those words that people seem to use without giving much thought to what they’re saying. Whether we talk about success in a personal or collective sense, we often times use the word without knowing what we mean by it. Or worse, we know what we mean by it, but when we try to measure it, we fail to look at the right indicators.
Last week, I talked about determining the personas your church communications will be developed for. This week, we’re going to work on developing profiles for those personas.
First, we’re going to look at what types of information your personas should include. Then we’ll look at how you can compile that information. At the end of the post, you can download a free worksheet that will help you assemble that information into easy-to-understand profiles. Keep these profiles on hand so you can check your communication efforts against them and so you can easily train new volunteers on your church’s communication strategy.
In my office, on the top shelf of my bookcase, I have a orange and purple acrylic picture frame. Aside from the material and the transparency of the frame, there is one thing unusual about it: it doesn’t contain a picture.
This picture frame is a reminder for me of the first mistake I made in my professional career.
Including content that will both provide useful information for members and attract visitors is the most crucial part of having a church website. Church websites that do not provide proper content are as useful as not providing any information at all.
Here are a few examples of essential content every church website should provide.
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.
How many of us remember the candlelight services we have once a year?
When we engage more than one sense in a learning environment, the chance of us learning what is being taught exponentially increases. In candlelight services, we are using the senses of sight, touch, and smell. Remembering these sensory experiences later can also help us recall the message we heard about God’s grace.
From early in church history to the present day, believers have wanted to use their skills and gifts to help others learn about God’s grace. In the past, artists used paintings, sculptures, mosaics, or architecture to tell stories and share messages. Today, in a world full of technology, what are high-tech and low-tech ways we can engage the senses and create an environment for learning?
My first experience with church communications was around the year 2000. I was fifteen years old, I had learned web design as a hobby, and my church was looking to launch their first website.
The Board of PR Communications invited me and another high schooler to work with them to build their website. These adults were not very tech savvy, but they understood communications and strategy, and I learned from them that a church website is far more than just HTML.
Now that you’ve decided on your message and audiences (if not, see part 2 in this series) it’s time to look at where you’re actually going to put the website once you’ve got it perfected. There are quite a few options, so it’s easy to get lost.
When my husband and I were younger, we served as teachers in Southeast Asia. As part of our orientation, we were given the book Where There Is No Doctor, which taught us things like how to amputate our own limbs or assist someone having a baby. Fortunately, we never had to use that book for any medical procedures! Some years later, we moved to another location and I was asked to teach several literature classes…without textbooks. Somehow, I made do and ended up cobbling together a passable syllabus and materials.
So you’ve decide to build a new church website, in spite of all the perfectly good reasons not to do so. Before you rush off to buy a new copy of Frontpage and start working, there’s a few steps before we start actually building a site. A little bit of time now will save you a ton of pain and suffering later.
In an earlier blog, I spoke about personal silos. Since church workers feed into a congregation’s culture, it is the attitude of the church workers that dictate what the culture of a congregation will be. So, that being said, when addressing congregational silos and how to break out, the congregation church workers’ cannot be operating out of a silo mentality, if the congregation is to move out of silos and the assumption is that the church workers are outside.
This expert was taken from the ebook Computer Security for Your Church.
When we think about the many ways our churches serve their members, we don’t often think about things like technology or data security. In today’s growing digital world, though, a robust awareness of data security can be one of the most important ways to safeguard the privacy of your users and their families. Just as we wouldn’t broadcast information given to us in confidence in day to day conversation, so too in the digital world we need to ensure that the information our members and visitors entrust us with is kept safe and secure from those who would use it to cause harm.
In churches we are used to operating on a shoestring budget. We have to make the most of every dollar and sometimes, every penny. What I want to provide are a few things that are either discounted or FREE that you may not have been aware of previously.
Pinterest is like a virtual bulletin board or pinboard where you can share things that you are passionate about and love. Members of Pinterest will pin things that they like and things of interest to their account so they can return to them easily. It’s a great place to pick up ideas and learn from others. Pictures, quotes, recipe ideas, activities, crafts, do-it-yourself projects, and more are shared. Basically, Pinterest wants to connect people based on similar interests or organizations.
So you’re thinking of doing a complete redesign of your church website. The theme is dated, the info is out of date, and those 4000kb background images were never good ideas. That’s right. It’s time to burn the whole thing down and start over from scratch.
This post is an excerpt from Rev. Daniel Ross's ebook The Beginner's Guide to Communicating Your Brand for Churches.
Let’s do a quick thought experiment. What comes to mind when you think of: Apple; Microsoft; McDonalds; Nike; Coca Cola; Starbucks. Those companies have poured a lot of time and money into building their brands.
Done is better than perfect, and I needed to learn to get to “done” faster.
True confessions - rapid fire edition.
- I love working on teams.
- I love getting feedback on my work.
- I hate working alone.
Here’s the problem: Most of the time, I work alone, in an office digging away at code, video editing, graphic design, you name it.
A half-century after its publishing, Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man continues to be a popular work in the area of media and communications. In the opening paragraph, he proposes the following:
Only here will you get the truth and the full story!
Does your family celebrate Easter in any particular way? My large extended family has always loved getting together for every holiday we can think of. It can be difficult planning all of these gatherings (thankfully my mom and wife still do most of the actual planning), figuring out where we'll meet, what day works for everyone's schedule, and who's going to bring dessert. With the crazy amount of planning that goes into celebrating together, it can be easy to overlook why we're celebrating in the first place! That's why I'm thankful my family tries hard to schedule our family activities around church activities, rather than the opposite.
Easter is a season of anticipation and celebration for people who may seldom attend church the rest of the year.
For churches, Easter also requires preparation for greeting those infrequent attendees and converting them into regular members. Starting the outreach process immediately shows that your church embraces, listens to and cares about connecting with them.
When you hear the word “silo” do you think of farming, work environments, or congregations?
For farmers, a silo is used as part of the process in crop storage. It is a sealed environment, keeping bad things out and good things in.
In a work environment or congregation, it can be destructive.
Many churches provide a pastor’s Bible Study class that is taught each Sunday. If you’re like me, you know of some in your church who can’t attend because they have a required work schedule or are homebound or are facing other unique situations. Although a good number of churches post the pastor’s sermon (video or audio) online on the church website, there is a distinct difference between listening or watching a sermon and being involved and connected in studying the Bible.
Studying the Bible leads to being more reflective, asking questions, and digging deeper. The connection that takes place can be more personal than in a large-group worship setting.
If you oversee scheduling social media posts for your church, you may sometimes feel like you’re staring at a blank canvas each week. Either that or the canvas has so much paint on it you don’t know what you’re looking at anymore. If this is you and you’re looking for a refresh, here are some ideas for your social media calendar.
Imagine this scenario: You work in a church coordinating communications, among other responsibilities. One day, you receive a call from a lay leader, who tells you that a business client of his showed him a new software her church uses to communicate with and schedule volunteers. This member tells you that while he knows the price is high (or spendy, if this hypothetical church is in Minnesota), he’s willing to donate the funds to purchase this software.
Welcome to the wonderful world of creating your website! Feeling some pressure? Don’t. You can do this. I promise you, with a little guidance you’ll be sailing through and wondering why you ever worried in the first place.
In this series of articles you’ll learn the easiest way to make an attractive website for your church with the least amount of headache.
While the copyright law in the US provides several rights exclusively to the rights holders of a creative work, the law nonetheless allows use of works, even those covered by copyright, in specific ways. To protect the ability of artists to reference one another’s work, teachers to educate, and critics and commentators to reference artistic works, the copyright law provides a series of principles collectively known as Fair Use.
Pew Research recently came out with an interesting study. The study in and of itself is not interesting, however, the results are. In the rush to digitize everything and the push towards moving to video one little thing has been overlooked: Millennials prefer to get their news by reading. Overall, Americans want to get their news by watching video compared to reading or even listening to the news (46% : 35% : 17%). However, things look much different when you break down the age groups.
This article is intended to familiarize you with the basics of copyright as it relates to churches. Because copyright is a legal issue and the intricacies of your situation might make a significant difference in your rights and responsibilities, you should consult a lawyer who is familiar with your circumstance before following any legal guidance.
Copyright is a set of laws designed to help artists and others who produce creative works to be able to benefit from their work and to control its use.
Stories are a powerful way to communicate and connect. From advertising to our dinner tables, stories saturate our lives. God’s Word is filled with stories, communicating our fallenness and Jesus’ faithfulness. As we use stories in church communications(social media, blog, video, website, etc.), it’s vital that our narratives continually point back to Jesus - his life, death, and resurrection.
Within any culture there’s a certain orthodox set of ideas that aren’t allowed to be challenged or compromised except at great peril. Some of those are held in common across most, if not all, cultures, such as the idea that killing without justification is wrong. Others of them are unique to a particular culture, place and time. In ancient Rome, for example, one of the guiding principles was that of polytheism. It was perfectly acceptable for someone to worship whatever god they chose to follow, as long as they didn’t make any claims to be the only god. Obviously Judaism and early Christianity ran afoul of this principle, and as a result they found themselves on the margins of Roman society pretty quickly.
In the western world today, we also have a set of guiding principles.
If you’ve attended worship at a variety of churches, you know that church announcements are a wild card. You might get a newsletter when you enter into the sanctuary. There may be screens with looping announcements prior to the service. The pastor(s), staff, lay people, or a combination of those people might give verbal announcements at the beginning, middle, or end of the service. In many of our churches, there is a lot of information we’d like both members and visitors to know about us and what’s happening in our ministries.
Improving your church announcements is an important task to consider, as it’s a component of your overall communications strategy.
I love finding tricks and "secret" ways to do things easier. When I was growing up, my brothers and I played lots of video games together. I remember always trying to look online and find out if there were any secret codes I could type into the game and get extra coins or abilities. Sure, it may have taken away from the actual game-play a little, but it made me feel pretty cool.
There are so many option when it comes to the world of content creation. For church workers, trying to figure out where to even start can be a daunting task. Maybe some church workers just feel like they don't have that much time to invest in making a long video documentary or designing a massive infographic. Creating content, however, doesn't need to be that scary of a process.
If no man is an island that goes double for churches. It would be downright impossible for one person to do everything. Now, the bigger a church gets the more staff and volunteers are needed to do the work of calling all to faith. And, the more staff and volunteers a church has the more imperative it is for effective organization and behind the scenes communication.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the fuss surrounding Facebook Live. If not, Andrew’s got an article from last month that’s a great place to start. But once you’ve started playing with it, how can you use FB Live to connect your members, your leadership and your surrounding community? Here’s a few thoughts:
Part two of a two part series on Church Communication Professionals.
Part one of a two part series on Church Communication Professionals.
In the world of church communications, it is important for us to learn from each other and share what works and what doesn't. With that in mind, I wanted to interview Rebecca Thomas, an amazing church communicator who serves as the director of communication for Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, Michigan, and give us all a chance to learn from her ministry.
Advertising on Facebook isn’t as difficult or expensive as one might assume it could be. And it can really help your church increase its visibility in your community.
It’s important to note that increasing the visibility of your church’s Facebook page, or the reach and engagement of your posts, isn’t a goal in and of itself. We know our mission is for people to be connected with Jesus and His people, the Church, and to be fed by the Word and Sacraments. We don’t want our Facebook stats to improve but have our disciple-making remain static.
Think all of the ways a person, group, or ministry can communicate information at your church. More than likely your church has a website, a bulletin, church announcements (both verbal and slides), a monthly newsletter, and possibly social media and emails.
The communications world seems to be abuzz with talk of storytelling, and for good reason! Stories have the power to connect, engage and inform. We learn about people as they share their experiences, joys and sorrows. Stories give organizations the opportunity to share the “why” that motivates them, along with the outcomes of their efforts on a more personal level.
If there’s one constant in the world of technology and communication, it’s that things change. This is especially true when you have technologies that involve communication and where rapid development is rewarded with public interest, market share and, hopefully, profit. It’s probably not a surprise, then, that the landscape of social media continues to shift rapidly, and it’s easy to get lost in the details. Whether you’re a church beginning to dip your toe in the social media world or a seasoned professional trying to discover the next right thing to focus on, it’s important to have a high level view of the terrain going forward.
Have you ever been in a meeting that veered off course and shifted to family, sports, or even movie recommendations? Most meetings appear harmless, they start with “we need to discuss X.” However, five minutes into many meetings, a team can end up looking around wondering who actually called the meeting and if it’s supposed to go 30 minutes or 60 or?
I read it in news articles. I hear it on newscasts. I hear it walking on the street. I have even heard it used in churches. I see and hear it everywhere, and it makes me cringe —Every. Single. Time. What is it? It is people using a characteristic (usually a disability) to define who a person is. And it is wrong.
Now, I am no Social Justice Warrior. Nor am I a guy who is on the extreme edge of being politically correct. This is not about that. So please, hear me out before you tune me out.
Three opportunities presented themselves to me in a relatively short timeframe.
- An international mission trip that connected with unchurch youth
- The decline in youth group participation
- A youth event open to our community
Happy New Year! It’s 2017 and people are setting goals, making resolutions and sharing various ways they plan to better themselves in coming 12 months. Although I’m not necessarily one for making resolutions, I do appreciate the opportunity to take stock, do a little dreaming, and make a plan, particularly as it relates to serving in church communications.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wonder what my congregation thinks about (fill in the blank)” or “I wish I could ask my youth group if they preferred (option one) or (option 2)”? Well now that a majority of people use smartphones, you can!
As we head into a new year, we reflect back on our successes and failures of the previous year, and we look forward to new opportunities in the year to come. As church communicators, that involves evaluating our forms of communication and their effectiveness, as well as looking for new ways to reach more people with the comfort and joy of the Gospel message.
You’ve just hosted a webinar and want to know if you should host additional ones. The fund-raising event just concluded and you would like to know what your sponsors’ impressions were. Your congregation wants to move forward with an expansion of their building. A family ministry wants to determine key aspects of the relationship between parents, schools, and students.
On average, a church worker spends about 39,204,823,907,402 hours of his or her life in meetings. Okay, maybe the number isn’t quite that large, but there are times it doesn’t seem too far off. We have board meetings, council meetings, voters’ meetings, informational meetings, and training meetings, just to name a few.
Meetings can get a bad rap, but when we keep a few things in mind, they can move from a begrudged necessity to a powerful ministry tool.
Christmas is a time to celebrate! We celebrate when "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." We celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus, who would die to forgive us all our sins. As church workers we encourage our members to make Christmas about more than cookies, gifts, and parties. We share with them the true reasons we celebrate.
Facebook is a fantastic tool for church workers. It allows us to interact with our members and communities outside our church walls in ways that we never could. While Facebook is extremely helpful and easy to use, we church workers can sometimes make some common mistakes that can be easily avoided with some prior thought.
Many people who are active in social media and blogging feel pressure to constantly develop new and exciting content. That pressure can sap creativity, making it hard to come up with original content and tempting you to closely copy something someone else has done.
Criticism is hard to take. We all want to just have everybody happy with us and our performance. After writing an article on how to deal with criticism I had a few requests to go into further detail about dealing with destructive criticism in particular.
Destructive criticism’s point, unlike constructive, is to cause hurt, damage, and pain. Whereas constructive criticism’s goal is the betterment of all.
(Part two of a two part series)