A Simple Strategy for Church Communication: Engage

In a previous post, I outlined three essentials of a church communications plan and promised to develop the three points further. Today, we begin with the keys to engaging your audience. Remember, your audience includes both church members and potential guests alike. So it’s imperative that you craft messages for both and to each segment.

Engagement is most successful when you start with the goals of your communication in mind and work backwards: consider the desired result, decide the best platform to reach your goal, and word your message accordingly. This can be seen more fully in these six strategic steps:

  1. Keep the audience in mind. One main reason for communications failure is not considering the audience for the message. When you don’t think from the audience’s perspective, you tend to miss details or context clues that are needed in communications. A good example of this is using acronyms. Members may know what you mean, but church acronyms are often lost on guests. Simplify your messaging to reach the widest audience possible as clearly as possible.
  2. Decide on the best channel for communications. Not thinking about the audience often leads to using the wrong channel of communication. Not every message has the same audience, and not every message requires the same channel. Some announcements are better made in print, others are better online, and still others need to be communicated verbally.
  3. Find the best timing. A major church event needs weeks of lead-time when you’re communicating to your members and guests. A Wednesday night supper menu doesn’t. But for weekly events, don’t wait until the last minute or the day before to promote them. Promote them early and often. Finally, when using social media, consider posting at times when you know people will be online and able to respond or share your posts.
  4. Think about the wording. Every word matters. How you label something or the words you use to communicate will have an effect on how people respond or digest the information. A pastor I know once referred to “tithes and offerings” as “church revenue” in a blog post. He received several angry emails and letters as a result. It was an honest mistake, but it goes to show how using the wrong wording can cause the message to be missed.
  5. Use appropriate imagery. Images should compliment the message, not distract from it. There are several free or low cost image sites online for churches to use. If you use imagery wisely, you’ll better communicate with your audience. Please, no clip art. Please.
  6. Proof relentlessly. Some mistakes will slip through. It happens. But you should do everything possible to proof everything that is sent out from your church. Find someone other than the creator to look over something before it’s sent. Familiarity with a document or message will cause you to miss errors. A fresh set of eyes is always best to catch spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors.

Once you’ve moved through this progression, you should have a more fully developed and engaging message to communicate.

How do you engage your audience with your church’s communications? Is there something that is particularly effective for you in your context?


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Howe

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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