Get free email updates as I write new articles:

Do You Dare Audit Your Church’s Communication Strategy? 33 Questions to Ask

Blog GraphicEverything your church does is communication, from the condition of the parking lot to the content in your bulletin to the tone of your sermon. Everything you do communicates something about what you really value, regardless of what you say you value.

I’m a church communications nut. I read dozens of blogs on design, branding, social media and marketing. I’ve designed logos, websites, and print pieces for dozens of churches. So I’ve perfected the art and science of church communications, right? Actually, in the last week, I received an email from someone who couldn’t find a location for our services, another who had a hard time finding out how to get involved, and a third who couldn’t find details on a couple of upcoming events. #humbled

But our bulletin does look kind of pretty…

Since the publishing and communication of the gospel is paramount, I’ve learned the value of doing some punch-me-in-the-gut audits of our communication strategy. We’re constantly tweaking and improving so that we can put our best foot forward and do the best possible job of getting the word out, connecting people to each other, plugging people in, and staying in touch.

To every Lead Pastor I would say, you need to perform an audit of your church’s communication strategy to see if all those sermons you’re studying so hard for will have maximum reach in your community. Here’s a questionnaire, divided by areas of communication.

BRANDING

Phil Cooke defines a brand as “the story people tell about a person, product, or organization.” Your church has a brand in your community whether you realize it or not. The key to understanding your brand is to find out what story people tell when your church gets brought up in conversation. That’s your brand.

  • What story do we want people to associate with our church? How would we like people to feel when they think about us?
  • What story do people actually tell about us? And how do we know this?
  • Does the appearance of our building, landscaping, and outdoor signage communicate the feelings we want people to experience?
  • Do we have a church logo that communicates the feeling and the story we want people to experience?
  • Does our website, bulletin, and other printed materials such as brochures, business/invite cards, or postcards uniformly agree with the story we’re telling across the board?

CHURCH WEBSITE

If you’re not found in a Google search for churches in your area, you don’t exist to people moving into town. A website is essential, even if it’s a free or inexpensively made website. And while not every church can afford the fees charged by professional designers, we still ought to invest in our website with both energy and resources that honor the importance of this crucial area of communication.

  • Is our website responsive and mobile-friendly?
  • Is our most basic information easy to find on our main homepage (location, service times, etc.)?
  • Do we use imagery that tells people that we’re human, we’re alive, and we’re welcoming?
  • Are event listings available and up-to-date?
  • Can people easily know what we believe? what we value? and how we function?
  • Do we have links to our Facebook page and other social profiles on our website?
  • Is there a way for people to reach out and get in touch with us without leaving our website?
  • Can people easily know how to pursue next steps such as baptism, joining a small group, or volunteering in an area of ministry?
  • Do we have a page dedicated to our staff and/or key leaders so that potential visitors can know who we are?

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media is a weird phrase. Media is just information, and “social” simply refers to how information spreads – from person to person, socially. When we use the phrase “social media” we’re generally referring to the websites or web-based platforms used for social networking. While a previous generation got to know social media as an optional activity, an up-and-coming generation sees social media the way we see oxygen – it’s just part of the air people are breathing.

  • Do we have a main church Facebook page?
  • Do the header and profile images represent us well? Are they consistent with the branding on our website and print pieces?
  • Are we a location that people can check into when they visit on Sunday?
  • Is our address, phone number, and website address displayed in the ‘about’ area?
  • Are we posting regularly? At least weekly if not several times per week?
  • Are we posting a variety of content such as pictures, text, and links?
  • Are we offering more than just announcements? Are we also telling stories, giving valuable content, and extending the preaching of our church in a positive way?
  • Do we engage our fans and followers by responding to comments?
  • Are our key leaders using social media? Are they on Facebook and Twitter? And do they promote the ministry of the church through those platforms?

PRINT DESIGN

Many experts claim that “print is dying” but most people walking through the doors of a church building on Sunday still expect some kind of bulletin to know what’s going on.

  • Does our bulletin look nice and clean? Does it match the look of our website and other communication mediums?
  • Have we put guests first, using bulletin space to explain what to expect during their visit?
  • Have we made it clear what announcements are really the most important?
  • Do we use valuable space to communicate church-wide what could be communicated via a different means to only a few people?
  • Have we offered clear “next steps” such as were to go online to get more information, how to sign up for events, and who to talk to about knowing Jesus, baptism, or church membership?
  • Are we using readable typefaces?

COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS

A lot of work goes into planning special events and ministries. It’s a shame for that work to go to waste when the right people don’t know about the event or service we’re working toward. Systems are imperative if we’re going to communicate effectively.

  • Do we have a process to follow when an event is planned?
  • Do we have a calendar that can be seen and shared by all leaders to avoid scheduling conflicts?
  • Do we have a checklist to glance at to be sure we’ve communicated events using every necessary means?
  • Have we made it clear that only major, church-wide announcements need to be communicated from the stage or pulpit?
  • Do we have any kind of content calendar or plan for what updates get posted on our website and social profiles and what times they should be posted?

There is more. Much more, in fact. But these 33 questions offer a great starting place for the leadership team of any small to medium-sized church. Knowing where we are and how we’re doing is half the battle!

Want more help with your church’s communication and social media strategy? Subscribe to the FREE Lifeword Social Media newsletter…

Is Social Media Really THAT Important?

Your Brand Represents the GospelNo.

Oh, did you expect me to say yes? To sell you on the undeniable need for developing a social media platform? To convince you that if you don’t start tweeting, your influence is going down in flames? Let me elaborate.

Social media is important. It matters so much that I wrote a book about using social media to share the gospel. I think you should buy it, read it, and pass it along. And yes, people, businesses, churches, and other organizations that ignore it are certainly in jeopardy of becoming obsolete. But it’s not all-important.

As a Pastor, I sometimes find myself lamenting my own emphasis on it. Unhealthy churches that use social media well will probably remain unhealthy unless they dig into some much deeper factors. And leaders who get sucked into the celebrity culture of social media without a firmly grounded character will lose their passion for Jesus and for real friendship and instead give into their addiction to the applause of mere acquaintances.

I want to help churches and organizations in the area of social media. I really do. I’m working through my blog here, through pastors.com, and with Lifeword Media to offer help, especially to fellow pastors who see the need to grow in this area. But sometimes, I must admit, I feel a little drowned by it. I’m a big believer in the power of personal branding, and I’ve managed to do a good job of branding myself as that Pastor who knows about social media. And on some days, I regret this.

Why? Because social media isn’t my first love or my greatest passion. So let me open up for a minute about some things I’m way more passionate about than being successful in the online world.

I love Jesus. I love walking with Jesus and deepening my walk with Him. Some of my best days are days when I don’t tweet or post or host an online discussion. They are days when I have an unusually large amount of time alone with the Father, where no one sees and no one follows me.

I can look back at a season of my life when I woke up in the morning and checked email and Twitter, then had a quiet time with God. I’ll just say I don’t ever want to go back there again. Let my testimony be a warning to you – seek the King first.

I love my family. On a recent trip to Chicago with my bride of 17 years, I didn’t work. And other than a few photos of interesting things, I just spent large amounts of time talking to the love of my life. And tucking my kids in at night and saying prayers with and over them is not a moment that my social media following is privy to.

There have been moments when social media has been too large a focus for me. While there’s a place for it, my family should never have to compete with it for my attention.

I love the church. I love to see churches get healthy, become purpose driven, and reach new people. Social media helps, but it doesn’t fix a broken church. If I had just one hour with the average Pastor to discuss the question, “why isn’t my church growing?,” social media would occupy the last ten minutes of that conversation.

We would spend most of that time on having a biblical ecclesiology, a scriptural and healthy leadership structure, a process for disciple-making, and well-defined core values. Every church should be using Facebook, but it’s a near-the-surface relational tool that must be supported by a healthy body.

I love preaching. And I believe that preaching is WAY more important to the life and health of the church than social media. Before offering tips for using Twitter to reach out to community leaders, I’d rather talk about preparing and delivering Christ-centered, gospel-saturated, relevant sermons that move the church and its people forward in their faith.

God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to shape the life of the church for two millennia. Just as the printing press, radio, and television help to extend the ministry of the pulpit, so can social media. But none of these mediums will ever replace the power of a well-delivered sermon.

I love theology and church history. One of the problems that we, who love social media, hesitate to admit is that when we are soaking in the world of social media, we are giving undue emphasis to contemporary thinking while often neglecting to nurture our connection with our roots.

In other words, there is so much being written and published right now that we forget all the stuff written back then. Right now, I’m reading through Calvin’s Institutes (and I’m not even a Calvinist) as I seek to understand the theology of one of church history’s most prominent influencers.

Social media makes leaders overnight, like mushrooms, whether they deserve the voice it provides or not. But theology and church history makes leaders over the long haul, with character and deep roots and rich fruits.

Chances are, if you know me only by virtue of the “online” me, you know I’m pretty into church communications and organizational effectiveness. But you who want to know the real me, need to know that my love lies elsewhere in things that are timeless and meaningful and can’t be praised enough in 140 characters or less. And if you’re just getting into the world of social media, heed my warning, don’t let it consume your love, your attention, or your affection more than the things that matter most deeply to the heart of God.

5 Trends Church Communications Leaders Should Watch in 2013

Responsive

Image via Mashable

Things are changing rapidly in the world of communications tools. I’m even writing a book about how to communicate an unchanging gospel in such a rapidly changing world. On LinkedIn’s blog, Ilya Pozin shared 9 trends entrepreneurs need to watch in 2013, and four of them (my first four below) jumped out at me concerning the world of church communications.

1. Crowdfunding

With the flow of capital to entrepreneurs becoming smaller and smaller each year, we’re likely to see an even greater rise in crowdfunding platforms. In fact, these collectively generous communities are estimated to transact as much as $500 billion in 2013.

2. Going Global

Today’s technological world allows us access to customers from all over the globe. Bringing successful U.S. business models into developing or trailing countries presents an opportunity for startups in every industry. Startups like Pheed, 2U, and Threadless have already made the jump into the global waters with successful outcomes.

3. Better Social Platforms

The need for higher quality content online will certainly drive a social trend in 2013 with the creation of more advanced content-driven social networks. Pheed is an example of a social platform that I feel will reach even larger audiences in 2013.

4. Great Emphasis On Company Culture

Creating a positive company culture will be of stronger emphasis for startups in 2013. Many startups are taking new steps toward building cultures that define their products. One step I firmly believe in: dismantling hierarchies, which can eliminate micromanaging and other attitudes that squash innovation.

5. Responsive Web Design

And a fifth, not mentioned by Pozin, but definitely more vital than ever in the upcoming year will be responsive web design, which refers to a website’s ability to detect a user’s browser size or device and re-arrange and adjust its content to fit. My site, along with pastors.com, were converted to responsive designs earlier this year and GraceHillsChurch.com will follow suit in the next month or so.

These are five of many. What else is happening that church communications leaders need to be thinking about?

One Day In the Life of the Internet

The people at MBAonline.com have put together a detailed infographic representing what happens in a 24 hour life cycle on the internet. It’s fascinating, but even more, it’s important for church leaders to “know the times” and understand how churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike tend to think, interact, communication, and consume information. So study it well…

A Day in the Internet

Created by: MBA Online

Why You’re Annoyed by Social Media Discussions

Napoleon Dynamite Likes Your Church's Social Media SkillsJust a note: This is one of those self-reflective, more-to-myself-than-to-you posts.

Come on. Die already – social media conferences, social media blogs, and conversations about social media conferences and blogs. Are you with me? (I actually enjoy conferences, but I’m trying to appeal to the side of you that’s a bit like me sometimes – overly saturated with this stuff.)

I always snicker inside when I’m in the context of a Christian conference or meeting and the question comes up about whether Jesus would use social media today if He were here. I think we need to conclude 1.) He IS alive and 2.) He IS “using” social media, with or without a Twitter account (I’m fairly sure @Jesus is not His official account considering the flippancy of it).

I’m more intrigued to know what the apostle James might say about it all. Yep. The guy who wrote that great book confronting us about stupid ways of living apart from God and bluntly calling us back to faithfulness to our message. I think if James were on a panel about using social media (don’t even go to whether he would be or not), he might say…

Be doers of this thing we call interacting with human beings and not just hearers only… Stop theorizing. Stop arguing about the nuances. Stop debating about whether “social media” is a one-to-one tool, one-to-many tool, one-among-many tool, many-against-one tool, or whatever. Just love people. Spread the gospel… Use Twitter and Facebook. Blog about it. Stand on street corners. Drop leaflets out of hot air balloons. Just get to doing!

I think what churches and church leaders are longing for is less “social speak”, fewer buzz words, and the end of debates about subjects we’re ten years behind the secular world on anyway and more things we can actually do to grow the kingdom.

Here’s the thing. “Media” is any kind of message. It can be a song, a book, a blog post, a famous quote… it can even be the gospel. “Social” simply pertains to human interaction and conversation. So “social media” just means interacting with humans about a message.

The weakness in the church is not a lack of adoption of social media tools so much as it is that we’ve moved away from interacting with humans, in human ways, about the gospel.

Thankfully, there’s this crazy “social media revolution” going on that includes tools and trends like Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging. And this crazy revolution is forcing us to deal with our unsocial natures. It’s forcing us to grapple with why our influence is diminished in modern society. It ultimately forces us to squarely face this bigger issue of why don’t we just share the gospel by all means to communicate with all people so that some might be saved?

Stop arguing about whether Facebook is good or bad or whether Twitter is just for narcissists or not. Stop clamoring for another platform from which to spew buzz words on bored audiences about how we need to be more “organic” or “conversational.” Be doers.

The most important details about social media were written before the existence of Twitter or Facebook in the form of The Cluetrain Manifesto, but most “experts” today won’t have read it, which is why we keep starting the conversation that’s been happening for a decade without us.

You’re annoyed by social media discussions for the same reason I am. Because it causes me to become distracted from… doing! Of course, if I stop talking… if I cut back on buzz words… if I simply do what we’re talking about so much… how will people know I’m cool?