Building a bustling, interactive congregation requires good communication. Here are 5 keys that will help.
1) IDENTIFY YOUR CORE MESSAGE
What is your purpose, the reason you exist? What one thing do you want to be known for? It could be as simple as - Where People become Followers of Christ. This becomes central to all communications coming from the church. The church logo, brochures, even teaching and preaching themes spring from this core message. You know you've done your job well when people with casual ties to your church recognize your logo and other printed materials as being yours, and can describe the essence of your church.
Taking it one step further, make sure every member of your staff and leadership team knows your theme or vision statement. When your leadership team is heading in the same direction your congregation will, too.
2) GET THE RIGHT MESSAGE TO THE RIGHT AUDIENCE
With the best of intentions my church started a Hispanic fellowship and hired a new pastor. The only problem was that there was only a small neighborhood of Spanish speakers nearby and they were predominantly Catholic. There just wasn't an audience for a Spanish speaking protestant church in our neighborhood. There was a need however, for tutoring Spanish speaking kids, and ESL classes for the adults. Today there are over 100 kids in the tutoring program, and dozens of adults in the ESL classes each year.
What does the profile of your church look like? Your congregation will most likely reflect the area that surrounds your church, and your message should to relate to the issues that members of your community wrestle with on a daily basis. Bloom where you're planted.
3) CONNECT WITH YOUR CONGREGATION
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
At a recent program on customer service, I was surprised to hear the speaker stress the importance of thank you notes in marketing. Business relies so heavily on media and print marketing that taking time to handwrite notes didn't occur to me. His point was that the customer chose you to do their business with, and nothing builds loyalty better than a personal acknowledgment and thank you.
The church is in the people business. Programs are really just a means to build relationships, and to foster connection points with other people and God. I'm not suggesting sending out notes to everyone after every event. Volunteers and leaders appreciate being noticed and encouraged. I had a pastor who kept track of everyone's birthday and sent a short note every year. As a result I felt closer to the pastor and looked for opportunities participate in ministry.
If you can't send a personal note, send something. A friend of mine receives an e-mail at least once a week from the pastor to families at his church telling him of upcoming family events. I had a pastor who send out e-mails a couple of times a month with a warm note and an invitation to join him for an upcoming event at the church. It helped me feel connected to what was going on even if I wasn't able to attend.
4) SET A HIGH STANDARD
There are so many promises being made today that the average consumer is skeptical. They are tired of organizations that over promise and under deliver. Because of this, it's harder for the church to reach potential visitors, and harder to keep them once they've come. There are 2 simple ways to build bridges of trust in your church.
DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU'LL DO
Don't make promises, even optimistic ones like, ³You'll love our church², if you can't control the outcome. There's no way to anticipate how someone will react when they visit. It would be more effective to describe your service or congregation and let them decide how respond. Likewise, when you promote an event don't over hype it or mislead people into believing it will be bigger than it really is. It may get them there the first time, but will deter them from coming in the future.
Communicating well doesn't have to be a financial drain. Plan appropriately and be prepared. Programs need the right kind of people to lead them, and may require teaching resources to equip the leader. With special events, make sure you have the right amount of people to carry out the plan, otherwise the volunteers will feel overwhelmed and be reluctant to help again, and the event may also suffer.
For promoting programs, there are more graphic resources available than ever, and the quality is growing. Clip art and subscription services can be found on the internet with everything from individual illustrations, to predesigned pages. In some cases you don't need to do much more than print the time and location of the event.
5) PLAN YOUR COMMUNICATIONS AS A CAMPAIGN
People are bombarded with messages from TV, radio, the internet, billboards, magazines, and mail. Without driving your community crazy you can learn from the way business communicates. The keys are to interact regularly, and have a consistent visual theme.
Start by looking at how you currently communicate, then plan for the future. Look at your:
- Meetings (Sunday mornings, midweek Bible studies, special events, and fellowship groups),
- Printed information (worship bulletin, newsletter and special event flyers).
- Electronic (E-mail and your web site)
Next, develop a visual theme for your materials. Lay out all of your bulletins, flyers, newsletters, church letterhead, and your Web home page printout on a table. If you were seeing these for the first time would you know these were from a single source? Having a consistent style will give them a seamless quality. The more your materials follow a visual theme, the more familiar they will look to the people that receive them.
Finally, plan for the future. Make a master plan for sending out information. Spread your events out over the year. Break the year into quarters and think seasonally. One church I know of planned a special event the week after Easter because they knew the weeks leading up to Easter were busy for many families. They saw the week after as a great time to follow up with Easter visitors and church members alike. Summer is a great time to do things outdoors. The Fall can be a time for renewed commitment and new programs. Next comes Christmas and Easter. The Spring can focus on growth and relationships. After you have roughed out a schedule you can begin planning your communication needs
Planning your communications will take time, but it can pay dividends in timely events and programs and improved response rates. By spacing events out and being strategic about getting the right message to the right audience, it could even save you money on mailing costs.
Copyright 2002-3. Michael Kern. All rights reserved.
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