Communication matters. The Bible is the revelation of God to humanity. In other words, the Bible is a communication document. God is a communicating God, and he invites us – as his co-regents – to represent him in the world. One of the ways that we do that well is by carefully communicating information in beautiful, compelling, and thoughtful ways.
At the heart of the Christian faith is a gospel message. This message must be shared to ends of the earth in ways that it will be understood and received so that people might come to saving faith in Christ.
When we frame out the communication task in those terms, we begin to sense how important it is to communicate well with both care and nuance.
Our goal with communication is to think carefully about the various channels available to us and how to use them appropriately.
We want to prioritize messaging by rank. The messaging that is deemed higher priority will receive more emphasis and opportunity. Here is a sample of ranking:
Additionally, we think carefully about the intended audiences of our messaging. People need, expect, and receive information in varying ways. We can disenfranchise members of our audience by giving them information that is not relevant to them, that they did not ask for, that is unclear, or that is that is not well-designed and delivered.
Our aim then is to match the priority of the messaging with the appropriate channels that will give us the greatest chance of communicating well. Below, we’ll explore the various channels of communication within our church and give explanation as to how they can be utilized.
Social media is a new and challenging communication frontier. The algorithms are constantly changing, and our messaging must adapt and pivot as needed. Each platform has its own unique features and opportunities for communication.
The main metric on social channels is engagement. Social media engagement is measured in a variety of ways (clicks, shares, likes, hover-time, etcetera). The more engagement a post gets, the more likely the algorithm will promote that particular post. An un-engaging post will be buried, and the audience is unlikely to see or find it. Understanding the algorithm is a science unto itself.
The audience on socials is vast. Many of our church people have “liked and followed” our facebook page. Some have also joined us on other platforms like Instagram, snapchat, and youtube. Yet, our reach is much greater than just our people. We have over 800 “followers” to our page. With paid advertisements, we can effectively reach thousands of people in the stateline area.
The fragility of the audience must be considered too. While we have over 800 followers, we are only ever one post away from losing that audience. Social media users are easily able to block content, unfollow pages, and mute an organization from being able to communicate with them in the future. This happens for a variety of reasons – some which we mentioned above (irrelevant information, unwanted info, unattractive info).
This begs the question, ‘How should socials be leveraged by the church?’ The answer to that question is nuanced. We seek to follow the best practices of social media experts here. With the constantly changing landscape, these concepts are relatively fluid.
Using social media for outreach. Social media gives us the ability to communicate with a large amount of people who have an expressed interest in our church. If done well, the social platform can be used to proclaim the gospel and invite outsiders into experiences where they can explore the faith.
Using social media for digital discipleship. Almost everyone is on social media and is being “discipled” by the worldviews found there. As a church, we feel the need to be present in that “marketplace” of ideas with the beautiful and truthful message of Christianity. In order to do this well, we have to create content that “stops the scroll” and allows people to consider spiritual things. This must be done with tact and care.
Using social media for promotion. Since so many people are on social media, it seems logical to use the platforms to announce the activities of the church. However, recent polling has shown that email outperforms social posts 40:1. While it is nice to have the ability to create events and promotions on social platforms, we need to be careful not to overuse it and potentially disenfranchise followers. Further, we should prioritize outreach messaging over the promotion of in-house programs. This is in keeping with our priorities and understanding of our audiences.
Primary Audience: The hundreds of people that are connected to our church through our page, our people’s friend lists, and through their physical proximity to our church.
- Strategy: Clearly communicate the gospel and invite people into gospel-environments (digital and physical).
Secondary Audience: The hundreds of people that have liked/followed our social pages (including our members).
- Strategy: Use digital platforms to disciple our people by creating engaging Christian content.
Each week we gather as a church and have the opportunity to communicate with a large majority of our people face to face. In the liturgy of the service (Liturgy = order of elements in the service – some may call this “the service plan”), we can schedule a time for announcements. However, this must be done sparingly and with care. A bombardment of messages on a weekly basis trains people to tune out the happenings of the church.
We follow the best practices of church communication experts here.
Church announcements must apply to over 50% of the congregation (exceptions can be made but should not be expected).
Announcements must be planned for and built into the order of service. This allows the worship leader, tech director, and others to know what to expect and how the various elements in the service will contribute to the overall aim of the liturgy that week.
Announcement requests should be made in advance through our online request form. If approved, this information will be shared with the pastor, worship leader, and tech team and decisions will be made and relayed to the requestor.
Audience: People who attend our services (physically or digitally).
- Strategy: Communicate relevant information.
As indicated above, email outperforms social posts 40:1. However, that is not the entire story. Emails can effectively communicate information to the appropriate audiences only if done well.
Emails should be aimed at subgroups where the information is most applicable. Staff members can access reports of particular audiences and send emails through our people management software (Planning Center Online).
Church-wide communication can be done through MailChimp. This service allows us to design emails are graphically engaging to the readers, utilizes marketing tools, and allows us to track communication patterns.
Church-wide communication should apply to over 50% of the congregation. Smaller efforts should utilize the subgrouping of individuals to which the information is most relevant. Failure to do this well can result in unsubscribes.
Church-wide email requests should be made through our online request form. This information will be shared with the leadership team and decisions will be made and relayed to the requestor.
If an email subgroup list is needed, these reports can be provided upon request.
Hard copy handouts are another avenue to communicate information. At times, we will offer print pieces that are handed out or mailed. These are a supplementary form of communication (if print is the only place where the information lands, it is unlikely to be effective).
Preferably, print pieces should include graphic design. This ensures that communication is attractive and therefore more likely to be effective.
*Please allow extra time for us to obtain graphic work (we contract that out).
The website is an incredible tool for communication. It is the new “front-door” to our church. People will google “park city church” before ever attending a service. The website then is a preview of what to expect. Our landing page, calendar of events, and explanation of our church’s culture are all designed with an awareness of this audience.
Further, the website is a discipleship and outreach tool. Through the resource library, we can disciple our own people and provide digital answers to onlookers.
Through Google ads, we are able to reach thousands of people in our area. This drives web-traffic to our website which is purposefully populated all kinds of helpful and engaging information.
THE CHURCH APP
The church app is a useful tool for members to communicate. The directory allows people to share their information (to the level of their comfort), and groups can communicate with one another through the groups page.
The church app also allows us to send push notifications to the active directory members. This feature is used sparingly. We tend to only utilize this for very necessary information (ie. A church-wide initiative or the cancellation of a service due to weather).
PLANNING CENTER SUITE (GROUPS/CALENDAR/REGISTRATIONS)
Planning center applications give us the ability to communicate to specific groups within our church. No requests are needed to be able to publicly and/or privately communicate with members of a shared group. Calendar requests can be used for facility requests (please see building usage policy doc). Registrations can be created for the management of events.
At a Glance
Here you’ll see the various channels and audiences of our communication strategy.
It is important to be mindful of “the age of information” in which we live. People have more information thrown at them than ever before. If we are unwise with how we communicate, we can add to the noise and lose our “voice” with our intended audience.
Given this dynamic, our communication cadence is carefully designed.
Why do we need a policy? That seems restrictive and limiting to the work of the Holy Spirit and the kind of church that we are (a small church that feels like a family).
Policies help us better serve the needs of the church. Many times in Scripture we are encouraged to design and implement wise plans that help people. Further, the Holy Spirit is concerned with “order” not “chaos”.
Also, the absence of a policy creates inconsistency. A lack of policy results in varying results and often disadvantages certain people and ministries.
Shouldn’t I have the ability to promote ministry to the largest audience possible? Don’t we want people to know about the things that we offer?
As explained above, not everyone is interested in everything. Without using care and discernment, we can actually train people to tune us out if we give them information that is not specific to them.
Can I use my own channels to communicate to the church family?
Of course! This document applies to the official communications of the church. Informal communication is probably the most effective communication of the church (personal phone-calls, emails, in-person conversations, social posts, and more). Please take advantage of the natural communication opportunities that you have within our church.
How do I make a communication request?
Please fill out the form below and Cory Williams (pastor) or Sarah Santas (office manager) will get back to you.