Are you at a new or small church and you want to do a good job with your communications, but don't know where to start? Want to communicate like a big church but don't have the time or budget? You've come to the right place.
Below is a list of thoughts and resources to get you started. If you're looking for an exhaustive list of resources, check out the church marketing directory over at the Center for Church Communication.
The first and most important thing is to decide what your communications philosophy is going to be. Are you going to try to communicate everything that happens in the church (all events and ministries), or are you going to be strategic and only communicate the most important things?
I highly recommend that you read Kem Meyer's book, Less Clutter. Less Noise before you decide. And take a look at this open letter to pastors as well (be sure to click Roland Gilbert's link about half way down). Trust me, if you figure this stuff out and write it down, you will be much better off as you grow.
This is one area where you can't go cheap. When starting* your branding, you need to find a great designer (I'm available) and pay them to make you a good logo. This could be the most important $500 to $1,000 your church ever spends.
Almost everybody in your congregation is already gathering in the virtual space known as Facebook. To be successful in church communications, you need to be there too. If I could only give churches two pieces of advice, this one would be in the top two (the other is to make sure you you have your philosophy figured out see above):
Sign up for a Facebook account for yourself and get familiar with how it works, then get a Facebook page for your church. Here are a few things to remember:
—Post to it regularly.I recommend between one and three posts per day. Ultimately you have to figure out your rhythm, but you want to make sure you have a consistent presence. Use Hootsuite to schedule your posts, if necessary.
—Respond to every comment. This one isn't always easy, but it's important because it gives a personal touch to a digital format, especially since they can't see you "hearing" them like they would in a face to face conversation.
—Be conversational. Don't be preachy. Don't just make announcements. Have conversations to people
—Listen. Use this opportunity to listen to what is going on in the lives of your people and learn from what they are saying.
—Ask lots of questions. Ask what people are going through. Ask for stories about how God is working. Pick a point from your upcoming message and use the opportunity to get some feedback on it. I feel strongly that you should have more question marks than periods in your posts.
—Everything that you post doesn't have to be "churchy." It's okay to talk about current events (though you might want to avoid politics). For example, West Ridge Church (just outside of Atlanta) posted the following when the Atlanta Falcons lost in the playoffs last year:
Falcons Fansthere will be life counselors ready to pray with you tomorrow at West Ridge.
One last thought about Facebook: A lot of churches who are just starting out in the area of communications have found success in pointing their church's domain name (a.k.a. as website address) to their Facebook page. While the thought of not having complete control over your website (people can say whatever they want to about you on Facebook) might seem daunting, the idea of not having to maintain two web presences might be really beneficial.
If you do decide to have a separate web presence, I highly recommend using WordPress as a content management system and Church Themer as the design theme for it. WordPress was originally designed to be a blogging platform; however, with the amount of plugins and themes and customizations you can do, it makes a great content management system (my own blog has WordPress as its foundation).
There is likely someone in your congregation who can get this hosted and set up for youand if not, you can hire a designer to do it for you for pretty cheap. Once it's set up, you're only looking at $7 to $12 (depending on what company you host it with) a month to keep it up and running. Here is a sample site that we built recently using WordPress and Church Themer.
Want to record your messages and put them online? There are a couple of things you'll need to get it going: a recording device (many of you have this built in to your sound system), a way to "clean up" the audio, a place to host the audio files, and a place to put the links to the hosted audio files so people can get to them.
If you don't already have a way to record your audio, I recommend purchasing a Zoom H4N. It is an audio recorder that you can put on your podium (to record over the air) or at your sound booth (to run a mic line out of your sound board). It records to the .mp3 format, which is the format you need to have for uploading.
Cleaning Up The Audio
If you don't start and/or stop the audio in the right spot, have copyrighted material, record too loudly or to softly, etc., you might need to clean up the audio. There are lots of free programs out there (such as Audacity for Windows or Garage Band for Mac).
Hosting The Audio
If you have a web savvy person in your congregation, or if you use church theme on your wordpress blog, you can host the .mp3 audio files on the web server where your website resides and simply provide a link to it on your website. If you do not have such space available, or don't know how to go about putting the files there, there are a couple of services dedicated to hosting audio files. This is a good, comprehensive, article on how to get your audio online (with links to hosting providers about half way down).
Chuck Scoggins served as communications director at Calvary Church in St. Peters, MO, where he was responsible for web, print, video,social media, general communication strategy, and serving on the creative service planning team. He is also senior partner at the 374 Design Agency, a creative agency providing design solutions for small(er) organizations. And, he runs Motion Design Media, a division of the 374 Design Agency that designs motion animation videos. Find more insightful articles at chuckscoggins.com, and be sure to check out his book, Getting Started In Church Communications, available for download here.