By Jonathan Howe
Annual evaluation is commonplace in work, in school, and in life. A new year presents the opportunity for us to take a moment to evaluate where we are at the beginning of the year, where we want to be at the end of the year, and how we can get from A to B during the year.
The same can be said for churches and church communications. With the speed of technology increasing every year, it’s good practice to evaluate your communications efforts to ensure you’re communicating efficiently and effectively with your members and guests.
With that in mind, here are five questions you can use to evaluate your church communications efforts and plan for growth in 2017.
- Is our website current with its information and presentation? Church websites are often neglected because there is so much static content on the site. Service times, class info, weekly schedules, and staff bios are often some of the most neglected content on a church website. Things change in the church and members know it because they see it each week. But the website fails to be updated because people either forget the information is on the site or don’t visit it enough to recognize changes need to be made. Also, check for broken links, missing images, or outdated graphics. Those tend to linger on church websites as well.
- Are our social media accounts up to date and active? If your church has a social media account that’s being neglected, ask if it’s needed. Most of the time, the answer is still “yes.” The problem is not having a plan or schedule for the platform. It’s always good to check your account details each year just to make sure everything is still accurate. Plan regular reviews of service times, logos, links, and passwords on your social media accounts, and update these items accordingly.
- Would our members and guests be better served by a new form of communication? Maybe you still print monthly newsletters. Would an email newsletter be better for members? It’s likely that some would still like a printed version, but most churches who are printing newsletters could save quite a bit of money and cut their production efforts by 75% while adding a low-cost electronic version. Maybe your church doesn’t have a website—get one. Talk to the folks at Mere Church. They are there to help. Maybe you need to get started on social media—start with Facebook.
- Should we upgrade the communications tools we already have? Maybe you have a church website, but it’s old and unattractive. Again, talk to Mere Church or a similar company. Let them help you. Maybe you’re still using an old email client. Check with your church management system provider to see if there are email options that can tie into your existing database. Consider Hootsuite or Buffer to help manage and schedule social media accounts.
- What technology are we not using as a church that we really should? While not related specifically to church communications, there are several technologies emerging that need to be considered by many churches. Online giving portals, church management software, project management apps, computerized check-in software, and wireless networks are just a few of these technologies. They are in fact becoming standard technologies in many churches.
How might these questions help you in your church? What other questions would you add?
If you need a fresh and easy method of sending an email newsletter, MailChimp is a solution we’ve used at our church. It’s free for up to 2,000 emails per month. The interface is easy for the average web user (no IT guru required), and it can look much more attractive than just text on a screen. Check it out: MailChimp.com.
Also, do not underestimate the power and ease of social media to communicate to your church! A quick snap on Instagram with one or two sentences can serve as a great reminder about an upcoming event, and they’re probably going to be looking at it while you’re talking during the announcents anyway. So, while giving the announcement, tell them to follow you on whatever social media outlet so they can keep up with what’s going on. (And try to make your church’s account name easy to remember and spell.) They can pass it along to their friends this way too.
Great points, Leo
Excellent reminder to ministry leaders Jonathan. Great point on number 1. These things are often forgotten during this busy season because they are not as “front face” like people are in ministry. Mere Church does some good work. As a Web Developer myself (http://reachrightstudios.com/) I have seen a lot of different options out there. Keep up the good work helping churches!
Make sure your church uses a Facebook PAGE and not a Facebook GROUP. Pages are much more user-friendly and can reach a larger group of people. Groups are great for communication within specific ministries. But pages are excellent for getting out the word about events, special services, and anything else that involves the ENTIRE church and the community.
Exactly. I tell churches this all the time. If you are serious about reaching outside of your community, you have to use a page and not a group. In a group, your posts can only be seen by group members, even if shared. For a facebook page, every like, comment and share only increases the reach beyond the people of your church.
We have also utilized a program called The City (by ACS Technologies) that incorporates a “facebook-like” experience with the opportunity to facilitate church life and discipleship outside of Sunday Morning. We use this platform for events, prayer requests, ministry team planning and communication, as well as countless other options (Giving, admin possibilities, etc). We found that this allows us to focus our website and social media on an audience outside of our regular attendees and members.
View the program here : http://www.acstechnologies.com/products/the-city
Excellent for those churches where technology is available. Keeping the information accurate and current is always a priority. Incorrect information is worse than none at all.
Bear in mind, some rural areas do not have Internet access (still) and it is not a priority for the providers to expand service areas to include all of us. Same for cell service.
Characteristic #6 of all high performance teams (the only ones consistently accomplishing exceptional results): Excellent Communication.
It really is not possible to overcommunicate the message or news/updates of the local church to its community or members (when you think you did, you find out you didn’t).
Integration >> Motivation. If members and others will be motivated, they must be integrated via means of communication. If the local church will be organizationally healthy/functional, that results–in part–from integrating and motivating activities of those responsible for them (pastors, layleaders, etc.).