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5 Questions to Know What to Communicate, Every Time

5 Questions to Know What to Communicate, Every Time

One of the top struggles I see is with churches Knowing What To Communicate. Here’s what I mean.

We spend hours creating amazing ministry opportunities designed for life change. We announce it on Sunday and put it in the bulletin, but people aren’t engaged. Uncertain about its importance, and with a busy schedule, they put off committing until the last moment, and don’t attend. It’s the exact ministry they need right now and they pass on it!

Why?

Maybe it’s because we gave them information without inspiration. We talked about an event without inspiring them by sharing what was in it for them.

So how do we change this scene?

It’s going to sound crazy, but it starts with asking the right questions. They lay a foundation for what is coming and give us guardrails to keep us on task.

There are five questions to help you…

Know What to Communicate, Every Time

1) What problem, need, goal are we addressing with this event / opportunity?

Let’s face it. Most people are self absorbed. Sometimes it is just plain narcism but most of the time it’s busyness.

Think through your past week… what got your attention enough to make you stop in your tracks?

Most likely it was something that addressed an issue you have or need to solve.

Our church and community is no different. They are are always asking “What’s in it for me?”

When we can articulate the problem we solve or benefit we offer people will listen.

2) If I had no prior knowledge about this event / opportunity, what information would I need to take part?

(date, time, location, who its for, cost, registration info, etc.)

A solution without information is useless.

“Join us Wednesday for bible study!”

Uhhhh, that sounds great but I have more questions now that when we started.

Is it for men, women, students?

Is it at the church, a coffee shop, someone’s home?

Is it in the morning, evening, lunchtime?

What are they studying and how does it apply to me?

We often approach church events, especially reoccurring ones, from the standpoint of a connected person rather than a guest. When we think about the person who wants to connect but needs more details everything changes.

3) How can we share about this event / opportunity in a way that makes it accessible to the unchurched?

“Join our Wednesday night Bible study on the book of Proverbs beginning next week!”

For the churched that might be enough, for the unchurched, not so much.

A study in Proverbs means nothing to them because they don’t know what the book is about or that it’s even in the Bible.

Making something accessible to the unchurched doesn’t mean we have to water it down. It means we have to make it understandable.

How do we do that?

Tell them about the event in a way that applies to them and shows the benefit of participating, regardless of their biblical knowledge.

We could share about the same Bible study like this…

“Life can be confusing! Join our adult Bible study as we talk through practical ways to gain wisdom and understanding. Wednesdays, 7pm, Main Office Lobby”

4) How does our community get information about events / opportunities?

Every community has its own communication culture. A way it shares information on a daily basis.

Through personal invitation, social media, community events or online, your community is listening.

The question is whether your church is speaking in the spaces where people are listening.

Unsure of the ways most commonly used by your community to communicate… go ask them.

The gospel is too important to mess this up.

5) How will we deliver the relevant information using the communication channels our community is already using?

Now that we know what we want to say and how people are listening comes the fun part.

Pick an area (or two) and begin sharing.

Don’t feel the need to do everything at once, just get started.

Become part of the ongoing conversation and offer life through the solutions your church offers.

As people see you care and have solutions to the issues they face your church will grow.

Action Plan

Pick an upcoming event / opportunity and answer these questions.

Share about it based on the benefits of participating and see your church grow.


Have a story about how these principles changed your church communications and grew your congregation? I’d love to hear about it. Send me a message today.

Church Websites: Your Digital Front Door

Church Websites: Your Digital Front Door

For years, the worship service was the front door of your church. The best way to connect people was to have them attend on a Sunday, hope they liked the experience, and want to know more.

The growth of a tech conscience, research minded population has changed that. The church website is the new digital front door of your church.

With 85% of people visiting online before they attend in person, you have an average of 7 seconds to make an impression. Visitors are looking for clear, concise and organized information. They expect service times, location, worship style, children’s programs, information about the pastor,  church size, and more, to be readily accessible.

So how can we create and maintain a website that embodies the personality of our church?

1) Plan Before You Act

The tendency with a church website is to treat it like an online version of your bulletin…

Post as much information as possible and let the reader sort it out.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Before you ever design a page you need to answer:

  • What is your goal online? (awareness, community connection, church engagement, information, etc.)
  • Who is your audience? (visitors, attenders, leaders)
  • What will you share? (times, locations, ministry information, etc)
  • What do you want to include? (social media, sermon audio, sermon video, event registration, online giving, etc.)

2) Prioritize

Time and budget are the biggest challenges you will face as you build your website. Once you know what you want to include prioritize them. If you can’t afford to include something in your website immediately don’t give up on it. Consider making it part of a second phase or future budget year.

3) Be Realistic

Don’t underestimate the time required for upkeep and maintenance of your website. It requires technical knowledge to manage the site, forethought to work ahead and people skills to track down information from ministry leaders.

You spend hours each week planning for Sunday and training volunteers to serve. You wouldn’t dream of putting if off until the last minute or ignoring it for weeks. Your website requires the same type of intentional planning and focus.

You need to know:

  • Who is responsible for managing the website?
  • Do they have the time to do this well?
  • Do they have the ability to do this well?

4) Pick A Website Solution

The options abound for website creation, management and upkeep. Based on your plan, priorities and budget you can pick a solution to match.

Custom Design

endlessly customizable based on your needs and ministry desires, mobile integration available

  • price depends what technology you desire to incorporate

Pre Packaged Design

customizable church templates with user support

WordPress

theme based template design, high customizable, mobile friendly options, functionality added in pieces based on your needs, a technically minded staff member or volunteer can design and maintain it for you

  • low cost to set up and manage

 

As you plan your new website or contemplate updating your existing one remember… this is your new front door. It is the way you will be viewed and remembered by a large percentage of your community.

Make certain it represents your church and the gospel in a way worth remembering.

What Story Are Your Promotions Telling

What Story Are Your Promotions Telling

We live in an age of story telling. From books and movies to television and magazines, stories are all around us. Some connect and move us emotionally, while others leave us unmoved.

Think of the emotions you felt during Carl’s life story montage in UP!

Up! - Montage example

Or the sense of excitement and uncertainty as Bilbo leaves the Shire to begin his adventure in The Hobbit.

Hobbit - example

The best stories all have something in common…
They let us see a piece of ourselves in the struggles of the main characters.
We relate to them and find ourselves hoping, even cheering, for them. Their victory becomes our victory, their loss our loss. Something about their struggle connects with our humanity.

Our church promotions hold the same potential…
To let our church and community see a piece of themselves in the story we are sharing.
To relate in a way that when they see life change in others they are encouraged and want the same for themselves.

This doesn’t happen by accident.

As I’ve written before, it begins with working ahead. Working ahead frees you to be intentional with your planning and and focus on the story you will tell.

As you focus on the story, you give your church a chance to see themselves in what you are sharing and connect at a deeper level.

Helping them connect in this way begins by…

Asking the Right Questions…

What do we hope to accomplish with this event or opportunity?

This brings clarity to the look, feel and vision for your event

Example: To connect & challenge men to a higher standard of living. For them to understand that life lived in community with others provides spiritual protection and opportunity for growth that living alone can’t.

What story will we share to connect with people emotionally?

This brings clarity to what you will focus on sharing and how

Example: Use a testimony from the group and a character study on the life of David. We will focus on the role of Jonathan (friend) and Nathan (spiritual leader) in his life.

What type of life transformation do we hope to bring and how will we challenge people to it?

This will help bring clarity to how you want people to respond.

Example: Men challenged to go further in their walk with God and connect to small groups for accountability and growth.

If we could write the post event “buzz” what would people be saying?

This will help bring clarity to what you hope is memorable about the event

Example: “I thought I was alone, but I found out others have these struggles too. I can make it. There is hope.”

How will we support the event and planning visually?

Graphics and design are the first hint of what to expect of an event. They set the tone and feel for your planning. It also helps the person responsible for creating the visual promotion to know what your vision is before they begin.

Example: Mountain climbing, A journey of steps, Teamwork in climbing together

 

Document Your Answers…

The natural tendency is to answer these questions mentally or skip over them altogether. After all, we’ve done this before. Why spend time working through something we know well?

Remember, the goal here is to help people see themselves in what is being shared, to inspire them not just inform them.

Resist the temptation to short change this step and take a few minutes to write out your answers.

When you’re done, post the paper where you can see it as you plan.

 

 

Social Media: Reach your community for $1 a day

Social Media: Reach your community for $1 a day

For many churches social media is a struggle.

Will you use it to…

Build relationships?

Inform people of events?

Connect with your community?

For some churches the answers comes naturally while others struggle.

If you’re wrestling with the roll social should play in sharing with your church and community I have some suggestions for you.

These will help you capitalize on the best ways to get your message heard while keeping your effort on task and budget.

In 2014, Pew Research Center released a study outlining

  • 74% of online adults use social networking
  • 71% of online adults use Facebook
  • 23% of online adults use Twitter

statistic from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/

Numbers like that show incredible promise for online ministry potential. At the same time, the implications are huge because it means one thing…

Getting your message heard is a growing challenge

According to Facebook, “On average, there are 1,500 stories that could appear in a person’s News Feed each time they log onto Facebook. For people with lots of friends and Page likes, as many as 15,000 potential stories could appear any time they log on.” statistic from  https://www.facebook.com/business/news/Organic-Reach-on-Facebook

Facebook knows users would never sift through that volume of content so they rank posts based on interaction and response levels. The better the interaction the more users see the content in their feed. This results in a user seeing approximately 300 items in their News Feed instead of 1500.  statistic from  https://www.facebook.com/business/news/Organic-Reach-on-Facebook (include funnel graphic)

The ramifications are, most of your churches posts will only be seen by 3-6% of your followers.

This poses a significant problem when you want to build a thriving community.

Twitter has similar issues. According to the Twitter blog, “brands that tweet two to three times per day can typically reach an audience size that’s equal to 30% of their follower base during a given week.” statistic from https://blog.twitter.com/2014/introducing-organic-tweet-analytics 

While the reach percentage is better than Facebook it still isn’t great. At its heart, Twitter functions best as a real time delivery system. It has been compared to watching ‘live tv,’ versus a DVR. If a person is online at the time you post, the content is seen. Tune out and it’s easy to miss information.

So how can you use social media advertising in a budget friendly way?

Facebook

The growth of Facebook and changes to their business model means going forward, most churches will need to Pay to Play. While it’s easy to complain and question why a ‘free’ service would make you ‘pay’ the reality is, Facebook is a business. For them to continue to exist they need income. With that income comes research and marketing tools. Those tools are the thing that makes our church outreach more effective than ever before.

There are 2 features to help with this…

Boost Post

Boost_Post_example

  • Create posts like you normal would and watch the reach (how many people interact with it)
  • Chose the posts that people interacted with the most and pay to boost them
    • Target your post to reach your church or community
    • Costs as little as $1 per day
    • Increases the likelihood of being seen by your fans and community

Power Editor  – Facebook Ad Creation Program

Power_Editor_example

  • Pick a budget
    • Per day or per campaign options
    • Costs as little at $1–5 A Day
    • More effective reach for $30–40 Per Campaign
  • Create a delivery schedule
    • Length of campaign
    • Days of week for campaign
    • Time of day for campaign
  • Create an ad
    • Text
    • Image
    • Link to follow
  • Send it out
  • Track the results with Power Editor analytics

There is no other advertising medium that allows you to speak to your specific audience for so little money.

Twitter

Because of the nature of Twitter paying isn’t the only option. You can start by making sure to…

  • Post multiple times a day to hit the 2-3 post minimum for 30% engagement
  • Use a scheduling service to free up your time
  • Hints:
    • Don’t copy and paste the same tweet (retweets are allowed but duplicate posts are discouraged)
    • Address the same topic in multiple ways and post them throughout the day
    • Use hashtags for your posts
      • Interact with other people utilizing your hashtags
    • Use shortened links to send people to your website
      • bitly.com or goo.gl offer free services for this
      • allows you to track which posts worked and which didn’t
    • Include images to increase engagement

If you come to the conclusion that reaching everyone in your target is the best way to go then check out…

  • Twitter AdsTwitter_Ad
    • Pick a campaign objective
    • Choose an existing tweet or create a new one
    • Target your audience
    • Schedule delivery
    • Pick a budget
    • Launch your campaign
    • Track your results with the ad dashboard

Overall, the cost for connecting with your audience through social media is incredibly low.

I encourage you to try a daily budget of $1-5 and see what type of difference it makes.

I’d like to know what kinds of results you have as you dive further into telling your story through social media. Let me know in the comments section below.

 

Email: How to reach your church through their INBOX

Email: How to reach your church through their INBOX

Let’s face it, there is nothing glamorous about email.

For many,  it is a necessary evil that invades our space with info we’d rather ignore.

But, done well, email gives churches a way to tell their story in a user-friendly way that members are already engaged with.

The question is how do we do it well? What steps can we take to keep cost low and deliver a quality email people want to open and read?

We need to understand…

The Power of Email

Email is the communication medium of choice for several reasons.

  • low cost
  • ease of setup
  • its personal (goes to the user)
  • its part of our everyday lives
  • its transactional (people can interact with you)
  • email has nearly 3x as many user accounts as Facebook and Twitter combined (2.9 billion)  statistic from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/email-crushes-social-media/

A look at the total emails sent every day vs the number of social media posts its even more staggering.

Email_infographic

 

With reach far exceeding social media, email has the potential to be a powerful communication tool. If we know how to use it.

Unfortunately, email has some…

Challenges

Personal email plans, like the kind you get from Yahoo, MSN, or Google, are created to send messages to small groups of people. Try to send a large group message and you run into trouble.

Email providers track every message that passes through their systems. They don’t read them, but they measure…

  • number of recipients
  • percentage of emails opened
  • number of links clicked
  • number of undeliverable emails (bad addresses, typos, etc.)
  • number of emails marked spam

Each of these areas has a point value assigned to it. Below a specified point value your email goes through. Hit the next level and your emails go into the junk mail folder. Exceed the final level and they label you a spammer and block your account.

If you’ve ever fought to get your account unblocked its not fun. My IT buddy has done it several times and its a long, ugly process.

Solutions

There are two options to help get around this.

Option 1: Church Email

  • Create a dedicated email address that is only used for church communications
  • Write your email
  • Format your content
  • Copy and paste names out of your contact list
  • Send the message to a small number of recipients, every 5-10 minutes, until your list is complete. (Every provider has different rules for number of emails and time between matching subject lines.)
  • Use a tracking service, like Sidekick, to make sure people are opening your emails ($10 a month)
  • Track and purge bad addresses from your contact list regularly
  • Pray you don’t get banned

Option 2: Email Service

  • Import your email addresses
  • Pick a template
  • Write your email
  • Send your message
  • Let the service track
    • opens
    • reads
    • clicks
    • bad addresses
  • Watch your email analytics to know what is working and what’s not
  • Contact tech support when you need help

Most likely, Option 1 is a slightly different angle on your current approach. Before you discount Option 2 take a look at the breakdown.

Email_infographic2

 

If you have fewer than 2000 email addresses in your list MailChimp is free. You get access to their basic tools and analytics with options to upgrade if you need extras. They take the headache out of Option 1 and keep your email from getting flagged. And, for the price, you can’t beat it.

Email is the communication medium of choice. While I haven’t addressed the importance of writing engaging content,  I hope this post helps you share your story in budget friendly ways and avoid the most common technical issues.

 

This post appeared first on ChurchTechToday.com