Once upon a time, major brands could reach most of their markets with TV commercials. There was no need to diversify the media mix or the message. It was believed that most Americans looked and thought the same, and watched TV as a family every night. Communicating was simple.
Similarly, Sunday bulletins, modest websites, and marquee boards with next week's sermon title defined internal and external communication for churchestheir very own versions of a primetime TV commercial.
Over the past few decades, communication and media have gotten considerably more complicated for the commercial world and the Church. The advent of the Internet and all that it entailsespecially social mediaand the sheer diversity of our population have made one-size-fits-all messaging and straightforward message delivery systems obsolete.
Commercial brands have caught on and caught up with this reality. Has the church?
Setting a Foundation
At first glance, the convolution of modern media can be overwhelming and intimidating. Kenn Dixon, director of communications and media relations for the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, cites lack of knowledge, funds and manpower, volunteer or paid, as the perceived obstacles that keep churches from being strategic and innovative with their communications.
Yet, all of our modern-day media nuances, nooks and crannies are actually huge opportunities for the church to connect more easily with more people in more meaningful ways.
"The modern church might not realize the tools and resources it has at its disposal. Don't fear them," adds Josh Howard, student life ministries pastor at HeartsEase Family Life Church in Baton Rouge, La., and founder of JWH Communications. "We need to use everything we possibly can to tell our story."
Howard and Dixon will both present sessions on the church's use of communications and media at the 2016 WFX REACH Conferences in Raleigh, N.C. and San Antonio1.5-day education and training events produced by the WFX Network and hosted by churches in different cities.
"While larger, longer conferences have a very important purpose, conferences such as REACH provide attendees with a more personal, unique opportunity to engage with the material and the speakers," says Howard.
The ability to engage and share with others is central to Howard's overall platform and a session he will lead in Raleigh titled, "Building a Communications and Content Team". His talk will focus on interdependence within teams and the importance of that team's unity in communication. He shares that most churches do a good job of initially casting vision, but fall short in training team members to communicate and explain that vision on an ongoing basis. "We can’t do life alone and neither should we try to do any ministry alone. We’ll discuss practical and ministerial ways of building a team that speaks with one voice in every communication platform," he shares.
Making the Most of Opportunities
Both REACH Conferences will offer the same Communications and Media Educational Track presented by regional church leaders and industry experts. In Raleigh and San Antonio, attendees will have opportunities to learn about social media analytics, creating video content, branding, and other current media and communications trends.
In San Antonio, in his session, "The Connected Church", Dixon will discuss how to create and implement social media campaigns and strategies. A key takeaway will be how churches can use social media to connect with and then engage, inspire and care for their communities while powerfully sharing their missions.
"Many churches use social media in their ministries, but may not be seeing a return on investment or may be just trying to reach their own members. My workshop will share basic tools for starting and sustaining a successful campaign," says Dixon.
Those tools include content strategy, reputation management, and learning to simply listen to what's going on in your community.
Howard's second session, "Demystifying the Millennial Mindset: Using Media to Connect" will examine the attrition of the millennial demographic from church and how intentional and strategic communication methods can win them back. "Communication strategy is oft overlooked in the church for multiple reasons. For us to all move forward and engage with our respective congregations effectively, we have to take an intentional look at how we communicate at all levels," he says.
The 2016 WFX REACH Conferences will be held May 16-17, 2016, at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Raleigh, and May 19-20, 2016, at Westover Hills Assembly of God in San Antonio. Learn more or register for either WFX REACH Conference at wfxreach.com.