Going Old School with Church Communication

Is your church leveraging chatbots to reach people? Are you leveraging a social media listening tool to understand the sentiment towards your church? What’s your Instagram story strategy to engage people in your community? Is your church ready for augmented reality and the impact that will have people attending your services?

STOP!

Too many church leaders are running too quickly to optimize the latest communication tools to reach people in their community while they are ignoring “low hanging” fruit with “old school” technologies with proven abilities to do the same. Before your church figures out the latest tool or trend, you need to make sure that you are leveraging existing channels.

In January, Facebook announced its latest changes to the news feed which means organizations like ours are going to see even less “organic” reach on that channel. In fact, many brands are reporting a 50% drop in traffic from the social media behemoth in just a matter of weeks. [ref] This underlines that no church communications strategy can be single source dependent but needs to employ a wide variety of channels to reach your people and your community.

3 Reasons Church Leaders Are Drawn to the Latest Communication Technologies

  • Shiny Object Syndrome // Too many of us are drawn towards the “latest” thing because it’s the latest thing. We hear some tech blogger talk about the latest whiz-bang service and we’re convinced that will solve our communication issues. The act of jumping from one shiny object to the next means that we don’t take time to dig deep and optimize any given channel.
  • FREE is in our Budget // Most of us are trying to figure out how to reach more people with little or no financial investment. Lots of digital marketing solutions start out using “free” as a marketing tactic to get businesses using their platforms, and we’re drawn to that pricing! Over time, these platforms end up charging for what they were giving away, which means, we need to move on.
  • We’re Aware Consumers // Lots of church leaders I know are actively engaged in the world around us. We spend time not just floating through life but are curious individuals. This is a great way to be! We see other organizations and businesses communicating with their communities and wonder what would happen if we applied those lessons to what we do in our church. In the end, we can be left bolting on one new strategy after another and ignoring legacy approaches that are still highly effective.

Your Church Should Be Sending More Emails

The industry’s average open rates for email for churches is 25.62%, and average rate that people will click on links in those emails is almost 8%. In fact, in a recent study it was found that as an industry, religious organizations have the highest open rates among dozens of tested industries. [ref] In a world where less than 1 in 100 people will see a post on Facebook that your church publishes, the fact that 1 in 4 people will open an email you send them starts to seem like a great opportunity!

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with email. In fact, if we’re honest most days we hate email. However, don’t allow your stress around managing your inbox drive assumptions about how your people think about receiving emails from your church. Well-crafted emails need to be at the core of your communications strategy. Regardless of how many emails your church sends on a regular basis, you need to increase the frequency. Email isn’t going anywhere and continues to be the go-to channel for driving engagement with people.

6 Emails Every Church Should Be Sending on a Regular Basis

  • “New Here” Guest Welcome // When guests arrive at your church, you need to acknowledge that and send a quick email to them. Ideally, this email is received within hours of them visiting your church.
  • Saturday Emails Before Series Launch // In my book, Church Growth Flywheel, we talked about using email in some ways to grow your church. One important way is through sending an email to your people the day before you launch every new series.
  • Donor Acknowledgements // When people give to your church they are doing an incredibly special thing. Ensure the emails you send to them not only thanks them for giving to the mission of the church but also point towards how their giving is fueling the mission of the church.
  • Volunteer Reminders // Send your people a reminder about the fact that they are serving with your team. Use this email to reinforce the vision of why they are serving and give them vital information so they know what to expect.
  • Sunday Recap Emails // Not everyone attends your church every weekend so why not tell them what they missed. Give them insights about what the message was about. Tell them what the big “call to action” announcement was.
  • Year-End Giving Email // 10% of all charitable giving is done in the last 48 hours of the year. You need to leverage that opportunity through a well-crafted email asking people to give to the mission of the church. Read more about this here.

4 Ways to Increase Open Rates on Your Church’s Emails

  • Pay Attention to the “Sender” // Experiment with who the emails are sent from to see what increases open rates. People are more likely to open emails from the Lead Pastor than a generic inbox.
  • Write to Real People // Don’t overdo the graphics and fancy stuff. Lots of studies show that the best responding emails are underwritten as if they are going out to just individual people.
  • Ask Questions in Subject Line // As a rule of thumb, when you use a question as the subject of an email it will see higher open rates. Humans can’t help but click on that to see the answer.
  • Email is a Mobile Tool // Remember that most of the people who open your emails will do so on a phone or other mobile device. Keep your email short and to the point!

What’s the open rate on a postcard mailed to someone’s house?

Your church isn’t leveraging the postal service enough. This is about as “old school” as it gets to when it comes to communication strategies. However, there is a great opportunity here because there are only two types of mails that most people get at home anymore:

  • Junk Mail – stuff they don’t want.
  • Bills – bad news they wish didn’t exist.

When you send any form of direct mail to your people, it’s received as an oasis amid that desert. Your direct mail gets their attention and can drive deep engagement with your church. Often the mail that you send to people’s homes has long lasting staying power as people will put it up on the fridge or the coffee table.

5 Direct Mail Pieces Your Church Could Try This Year

  • Series Invite Cards // Instead of just handing out invites to the next series coming at your church you could mail two copies to all your people and ask them to invite two friends.
  • Volunteer Thank You Cards // Everyone loves a handwritten note. It brings a smile to people’s face when we take a minute to write out a few kind words to people who serve in our ministry.
  • First Time Donor Gift // A tool something like “What Happens When You Give” is a perfect way to acknowledge people who choose to fuel the mission at your church.
  • Recall Letter // If someone comes as a “first-time guest” at your church but you don’t see any evidence that they’ve been back in the last two months … send them a letter with a coffee shop gift card and ask them to join you again!
  • Annual Report // Taking time to celebrate what is happening through an annual vision report is a perfect thing to mail out to your community. A well-crafted vision report reinforces that people are making the right decision being a part of your community.

Like most forms of communication, direct mail needs to be regular and high quality. You won’t see an immediate response from one single print piece that you send to people’s home. However, over time as you submit pieces to people’s homes, you’ll notice that your people will respond to what you’re sending their way.

Calling People Still Works

Perhaps one of the greatest ironic twists of technology’s fate is that as the “phone” became ubiquitous and went from being used for calling the homes that people live in, to calling people directly, we call people a lot less than we used to. In fact, lots of people seem to be allergic to talking on the phones that they carry around in their pockets all the time. The availability of this technology is a tremendous opportunity for churches.

… like really calling people.

Your church could organize a small team to ask people who they are inviting to the upcoming “big day.” A few years ago, we assembled a team to call 2,500 people connected to our church to ask them to come to our Easter services, and in the end, it was part of us setting an attendance record that year. [ref] With a little organization and motivation your team can make hundreds of connections at scale and see people more plugged in with what God is doing at your church!

… or at least texting people.

The “open rates” on texting are nearly 100% because people are reflexively answering those little notifications that happen when someone texts them. A well-timed text can be received by your community as a small gift on their phone. Texting is also a perfect tool to drive “call to actions” like registrations because you know it’s being received on a phone that can open online forms and registration systems.

… the 1% factor.

Experience shows that about 1% of your audience will be annoyed by this personal approach to communication. Be ready for a tiny group of people that will think you’ve stepped over some line and are invading their privacy. You have just reached into their pocket or purse and asked them to pay attention for a moment, so it’s somewhat understandable. Don’t be put off by this group though … the clear majority of people you reach out to will be thankful that you reached out to them!

Why don’t more churches blog?

This one baffles me. Why doesn’t your church have a blog where you’re communicating with your people and your community regularly? This free communication channel continues to provide considerable benefits to churches who invest the time to make content and share it on a regular basis.

5 Benefits to Churches Who Blog

  • Google Sees You // We all know that if people can’t find you when they search online, you practically don’t exist. Regularly and thoughtful blogging makes your church more “search engine friendly” and ultimately makes it easy for guests to connect with you.
  • Content for Social // Rather than another graphic square that tells people your service times for this weekend, your blog content is a fantastic fuel to feed your social media channels.
  • Make Your People “Famous” // People love seeing their names in print, posts like “volunteer of the week” and “small group profiles” are great ways to celebrate people in your church.
  • Test Content // Blogging is a fantastic channel to work on ideas that you are going deal with in other venues in your church. This could be through passive channels of merely sharing ideas that you’re thinking about or effective methods like polling & surveys.
  • Extend Learning // Prevailing churches are looking for ways to extend the learning beyond just the weekend and into rest of their people’s lives. Blogging gives the church an opportunity to take what you’re talking about on Sunday and push those lessons into the rest of the week.

NewSpring is probably the most beautiful example of church blogging around. They provide helpful articles on a wide variety of topics and are committed to creating regular compelling content. In Church Growth Flywheel, we pulled their strategy apart and looked at how you can apply lessons to your church.

Maybe it’s time to go old school?

When it’s all said and done it’s about being effective. Rather than jumping just to the latest trend, you should be looking for what is an effective approach to ensuring that the right message is getting to the right people at the right time at your church. As we’ve shown above, oftentimes the solution is right under our nose and we just need to apply it. I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve done that seems kind of “old school” but has worked well in your community!

> Read more from Rich.


 

Learn more about the effectiveness of “old school” communication – connect with an Auxano Navigator today!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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Recent Comments
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
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Write a Better Blog with These 21 Checkpoints

Are there elements that should pretty much always be included in every blog post? Yep. But it’s rare to find them all together in one, awesome post.

You don’t have to do all of these things every single time, but my own mental checklist that I run through as I’m writing, and before I hit “Publish” looks like this:

  1. Write a compelling title. Run it through CoSchedule’s headline analyzer?
  2. Use the first paragraph to motivate the reader to keep reading.
  3. Research some keywords to find out if anyone is actually searching for what I’m writing about.
  4. Include those keywords an appropriate number of times, especially in titles and headings.
  5. Include some bullet points.
  6. Include at least one image that looks good. Find them at Pexels.
  7. Assign a featured image and make sure it pops up in social posts. Debug if necessary.
  8. Include an average of two internal links to other posts within your blog.
  9. Include an average of two links to other relevant resources.
  10. Among those links, make one or two affiliate links.
  11. Pick an appropriate category or two.
  12. Add some relevant tags for cross-referencing purposes later on.
  13. Check the spelling.
  14. Evaluate the emotional impact of the post.
  15. Answer a question or solve a problem with the post.
  16. Be personal – use conversational language.
  17. Call the reader to act on what they’re reading in some small way.
  18. Post it to social media profiles, pages, groups, etc.
  19. Invite readers to connect and subscribe (not always within the post, but in the site design).
  20. Email your mailing list inviting them to check it out.
  21. Go back and re-evaluate the title one more time. After writing, is it still the best it can be?

As I said, this isn’t exhaustive. It’s just the list I run through as I write a post.

Read more from Brandon.


Talk with an Auxano Navigator about how your personal blogging can increase your church’s ministry influence.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders (brandonacox.com). He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
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
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Secret to Meaningful Blogging

I never intended to become active on social media. My boss intended it for me and I am glad he did. It has helped me formulate thoughts more clearly, has pushed me to keep learning, and has broadened the types of people I can connect with.

At first, I did not have a social media or a blog strategy. As I started hearing feedback from people about things I wrote, I thought, “I really need to take this more seriously.” So Chris Martin helped me form a blog strategy. We sit down once a month and he brings me a list of potential topics, shows me data on what seems to be helping and resonating, and makes suggestions on tweaks I should make.

Culture might eat strategy for breakfast, but that doesn’t meant we abandon strategy. If you are a leader who uses social media, here are three reasons you should have a strategy:

1. Strategy saves time.

I don’t feel like I have any extra time, so when Chris nudged me to get on the Five Leadership Questions Podcast and to start Facebook Live videos, I was like “Dude, are you crazy.” He showed me we could simply plan to tweak and adjust existing content to move into different mediums. So Facebook Live videos are simply me explaining and articulating something I have already written. The podcast takes zero prep time, but then becomes prep time for future blogs.

2. Strategy simplifies processes.

Without a strategy incredible amounts of time are wasted having the same conversations over and over. Because we know the plan for what content will go where and when, we are not daily rehashing the same conversations. I write, send for editing, it gets posted, which later becomes a video, etc.

3. Strategy serves your audience.

Having a strategy allows you to think more intentionally. Having a strategy and being strategic are not the same things. But having a strategy can help you be strategic. Having a blog or content strategy provides a framework for you to think about how to best serve those in your audience.

Read more from Eric.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
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
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Big Benefits of Blogging

I’ve been a sporadic blogger for the past few years. However, my weekly post at ThomRainer.com has created a routine for blogging for which I am grateful. As 2017 begins, I want to encourage you to consider starting (or continuing) a blog next year.

There are several reasons many people begin blogging—many of which can be quite selfish. Fame, prestige, money, or job freedom is not necessarily a bad reason to begin blogging. But if one of those reasons is your driving motivation for blogging, your journey into blogging will be likely short-lived and frustrating. Most bloggers never become famous, most never make money from their site, and most can’t stick with the schedule blogging demands.

All that being said, I do have five positive reasons you really should consider blogging in 2017. If done correctly—and with the proper motivation—maybe a modest amount of prestige and a little side income might come your way as a bonus.

  1. Discipline carries over into other aspects of life. Most new bloggers don’t realize the demands a blog can place on time and creativity. However, once the discipline of blogging is developed, it can benefit you in other aspects of life. Maintaining a blog practically forces you to develop routines and content plans. These routines can be mimicked in your dietary planning, workout regimens, personal discipleship, and relationships. A successful blog may not always mean more page views. Personal growth through the discipline of blogging can be success in and of itself.
  2. Blogging forces you to think more about a subject. We live in a hot take society. There are far too many commentators online and on television who speak before they think. Blogging can help you avoid a hot take mindset if you let it. Yes, some bloggers write before they really think about the words. But many of the most well-known bloggers online put a great amount of thought into their words. To them, every word matters. And the more you think about what you write, the more you grow and develop as a blogger and as a person.
  3. A personal website adds credibility in your professional life. Regardless of your profession, having a professional-looking website helps add credibility. When it comes to dining, we eat with our eyes first. A meal that looks appetizing will psychologically taste better than one that doesn’t—even if it’s the same dish. The same goes with a personal website or blog. If you have an eye-catching site, you will be taken more seriously than if you don’t. This is one of the many reasons I’m a fan of the websites Mere Agency builds. If you’re intimidated about the technical or design work it takes to get a blog running or upgraded, they can help you out.
  4. You network with people you might never have met otherwise. Along with your credibility, your network of friends and acquaintances is likely to grow as you blog. In any given month at ThomRainer.com, we have readers from every country in the world and commenters from many of them as well. There is no way we will ever meet all of our readers or visit every country our readers live in. But the number of people we have met through this site is incalculably greater than it would be if ThomRainer.com did not exist. The same will be the case when you start consistently blogging.
  5. Blogging can accentuate discipleship of the readers. This might be the most important aspect of blogging if you are a pastor. Pastors, you have the opportunity to speak into the lives of your congregation on a more regular basis when you blog. I encourage you to capitalize on the opportunity you have through blogging and use it to further the discipleship of your congregation.

Have any of you who blog realized these benefits? What other benefits might you add? If you don’t blog, what are some benefits you would hope to realize if you did?

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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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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
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
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.