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How To Communicate With Your Congregation

Every week you probably have a staff meeting at your church. You go over your wins and losses from Sunday, you plan for next week. Maybe you even discuss what other churches are doing and what you can learn from them.

But its always the same old discussion.

There’s never any support for communications and marketing. It always comes back to “there isn’t budget for that,” or “that’s not as important as this.” or “we just can’t afford to hire more people.”

As the Communications person, how are you going to convince this group that your church needs to step up its digital communications strategy, or get more involved in social media?

How are you going to ever get a budget for such things?

I’ve come across it a million times. I encountered it at Mars Hill when I first started. I hear it every day from colleagues and clients. Even the big churches with a lot of followers struggle to put the resources and time and bodies that are needed to have a solid, and effective communications strategy.

So how do you get around this? How do we educate pastors and train up volunteers on the importance of church communications? How do we convince senior leadership to give us the budget we need to promote and grow the church?

When I encounter leaders who don’t want to support church communications, there are two common obstacles I run into the most:

1. We Can’t Measure ROI.

The most common thing I run into is the misconception that it’s hard to measure the return on investment when it comes to church communications efforts, particularly social media.

Leaders at the top are typically focused on results and return. That’s not a bad thing — they’re responsible for a lot of people and a lot of money, millions of dollars in most cases. And for a church, that’s tithe money from your donors and members.Stewarding that well means not wasting it on things that aren’t making a difference. And when you ask for $10,000 to run a Facebook ads campaign, or a billboard, or for new email marketing software, or even an Apple Watch… they don’t immediately see how that’s going to turn into more donors, more people being saved, more seats being filled.

Below I share some tips on how to define your purpose, as well as how to properly use data to help measure ROI.

2. Leaders with Little Digital Experience

The second most common obstacle I’ve encountered is leaders at that level are generally inexperienced with newer technologies and trends.

You’re probably a tech savvy millennial who grew up on Facebook, and now you’re trying to pitch your 60 year old senior pastor on why he should be more engaged on Twitter, how your church needs to reach the kids via SnapChat, or why you need to hire a social media manager and 3 interns to live tweet this Sunday’s sermon.

It’s the last thing on his mind because he doesn’t know what the heck you are talking about.

It’s on you to find a way to educate them. Below I’m going to walk you through five tips that will help you better educate with your pastors about the value of church communications.

5 Tips to Help You Better Communicate the Value of Church Communications

1. Have a strategy and a focus.

Know what you are doing, and cast the vision for why you are doing it. This may seem obvious, but it’s so important.

When you’re pitching someone who doesn’t know a lot about what you are talking about, you’ve got to be able to speak with confidence to earn their trust. Every decision they make is prioritized, and all this cool internet mumbo jumbo just sounds like a waste.

If you’re just wanting to do what every other church is doing because it’s cool, that’s not going to fly well. So get down to the heart of it. Know why you do what you do and how that aligns with the bigger picture.

How are your church communications strategies going to fill seats, get more donors, sell out an event, sell books, and ultimately bring people closer to the Lord? Make sure these align with the goals and vision of the church in general. If you’re all about church planting, then how is your proposed Facebook plan going to plant more churches? Are you going to target church planters via Facebook ads and then engage with them and build relationships with them so you can turn them on to your church and your mission? Layout how you are going to do that.

Using social media as an example. If your senior leaders don’t see the value in it, then find out what they do value and show them how social media can enhance that.

If they value people — loving people well, teaching people about Jesus — then how is your social media strategy going to love people well? Who cares how many followers you have or promise to get, if you don’t know those people and don’t have a plan to engage with them.

Show your pastors that you care about the same vision, you’re just going to use more modern tools to reach them. The people on social media are real people who need Jesus, and the church is in a unique position to learn how to be the best at reaching them.

Show your senior leaders how your church can’t just ignore these people, no more than you can ignore people walking in your front door.

2. Start small and slow, and do it well.

Don’t bombard senior leaders with requests to get on SnapChat, when you aren’t even using Facebook and Twitter well. Focus your strategy like a sniper rifle not a shotgun. Take on one thing at a time and do it well, showing your results before asking for more.

One thing you may want to try is doing a pilot with one ministry or event. It’s usually easier to get in on a ministry or event budget, than it is to get your own line item on the budget for a social media or digital communications.

3. Use Data.

This goes back to the ROI question. Using data is going to help you show that an investment in better church communications is going to pay off. It can also validate and backup what you are talking about.

Using social media as an example again, many of the experts will tell you that social media is still new and we’re still figuring it out. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Your senior pastor may even bring it up when you try to pitch him on the idea of spending more resources on it.

The idea that social media is too new, it’s only kinda true. I’ve found the people who say that are the people who are trying to get social media to do something that maybe it shouldn’t be doing. They’re using it wrong.

We actually know quite a bit about social media. You should know these stats:

  • Facebook has 1.44 billion users. That’s basically everyone.
  • Adults spend about 2.5 hours on social media every day. Every single day.
  • 56% of all American’s have a profile on a social networking site.
  • 31% of seniors use Facebook regularly.
  • 53% of young adults use Instagram and check it daily.
  • 42% of all online women use Pinterest.

These numbers go up every year. To not include social media in your marketing or communications strategy is foolish. What might be even more foolish is to jump in without a strategy or plan behind it.

Think of it this way. Chances are your church is trying to figure out better ways to engage in deeper relationships with the people who walk through your doors. As the communications person, it’s your job to figure out how digital and social strategies can help meet that need. You’ve only got people’s attention on Sunday for about an hour or so. If they’re in a small group, maybe another hour during the week. Well guess what, they’re on Facebook and Twitter almost 3 hours a day! Show your pastors how you can deepen those relationships by interacting with people where they already are. Start by sharing this data with them.

Now here’s the caveat. You’ve probably already bombarded your senior pastor with stats and spreadsheets. Maybe that’s why he’s turned you down. Is he a stats and spreadsheets kinda guy? Probably not. More often than not, preaching pastors are visual and conversational. They aren’t going to read a report or click on the links you send them. Try a different way to reach them. Draw a picture, create a video, demand an in person meeting rather than sending emails.

You also need to look at what are other churches doing and show examples. Use the churches that your senior pastor likes and that are like you. Keep in mind that chances are the bigger churches have a graphics team and content writers coming up with that stuff, so unless you have a team like that don’t compare your church to something you’re not going to be able to do.

Also, don’t just show screenshots of what others are posting to Facebook. Call up the church, ask to speak to the people who run the social media accounts. Take them out for coffee or invite them over to your church. Learn from them and ask how they do what they do and why. Collaborate together and bring what you learn to your leadership team. When you show a screenshot of another church’s Facebook page, you’ll then be able to share the story of how they posted what they did and why, and hopefully the results they saw from it.

Next, find your congregation online and show them off. Another objection you might here is that “relationships happen in person” or “our congregation isn’t online.” It’s 2015. 1.44 billion people are on Facebook. Even your mom tweets.

Take your top donors, your most faithful people who serve, the well known people in your congregation, and find them online. Search for them on Facebook and Twitter and put together a little presentation showing their photo and their posts, proving that these people are online, and that they are sharing more about themselves and their struggles and wins, than they ever would in person.

Like I said, Social Media is a tool to engage real people. It’s not a matter of if people are online, we will be. They are online, you have to be able to show that. Show your leaders that by not being online they aren’t staying relevant, they aren’t doing their best to engage and love on people. The question isn’t if we should be doing this, its how are we going to make it work so that we can.

Going back to our first point though, when you share data you’ve got to have a reason for it and you’ve got to be able to show why the data matters.

Facebook and Twitter have built in analytics that can give you a ton of useful info like followers, likes, comments, reach, etc. There’s a handful of other tools that you can get too. Your website has Google Analytics.

But if your pitch is “give me XX amount of dollars and I’ll increase our Twitter followers from 5000 to 10,000.” Who cares? What good does another 5000 Twitter followers do you if you don’t also follow up with a plan to engage those people and get to know them? Give me a week and I can increase your Twitter followers just by doing some searches and following like minded people. It doesn’t mean I’ll be able to actually communicate well with those people or convert them to church goers or donors. The data is useless without a plan for what to do with it.

4. Utilize and train up volunteers.

Chances are budgets are tight whether your department is getting some of that money or not. In the grand scheme of things, Twitter and billboards, and fun stuff just aren’t going to get the bucks if you don’t have them. There probably aren’t funds to hire some more people. That’s why taking the time to invest in your volunteers is crucial for any size team. If you can show you already have a team in place to help manage things, then you might have a better chance at getting approval for the things you want to try.

Don’t just assign tasks to volunteers. Train them in the same way you’re trying to train your senior leaders and pastors. Convince them of the vision and reason behind what you’re doing. If they can get excited about what they are doing, they’ll be better volunteers.

5. Share stories

People online are real people. Real people have stories. If you’re just pushing out content, you’re advertising. Which is fine, but that means you’re not going to be able to reach people well and build relationships with a strategy that’s only advertisements and promo.

If you’ve got a plan that actually aligns with your church’s plan to love on people well, and bring them closer to Jesus, then you’re going to hear stories. Stories of how unchurched people came to church. Stories of how Jesus is changing lives through your communications.

Share those stories with your senior leadership. Show them its working. Show them stories from other churches who are doing it well. And show your volunteers the results as well. Let them know who they are reaching and how it is making a difference.

Bonus Tip: Get outside help.

An outside consultant can sometimes have better credibility than you with your senior leadership, even if they’re saying the same thing you’ve been saying all along. Someone on the outside can validate what you’ve been saying all along.

Now I know what you’re saying, chances are you’ll never get approval for a consultant if you’re whole goal is getting approval for a communications budget. So tell them your struggles and a good consultant can help you calculate the ROI and will help you show senior leaders how they’ll pay for themselves with the work they provide.

I’ll close with this…

When it comes down to it, you’ve got to convince others that you’re working on the same team as them, not against them, but you’re working for the same goals.

You aren’t competing with other ministries for budget or time and resources, you’re creating new ways to reach new people and engage better with the people you already have so you can love them well and lead more people to Jesus.

The communications managers I talk to who are failing at getting what they need to do their jobs well, are the ones who don’t have a clear vision for why they do what they do, and a clear plan to do it.

The key to convincing leaders to support your church communications plan is aligning it with the church’s vision.

If you can dial that in and convince your pastors and volunteers of it, you’ll get the resources and budget you need.

Reposted from http://www.ministrycommunicators.com/

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