|Image found at: http://www.webtemplatesgallery.com/|
I’m in the midst of thinking about church websites. I started, as many pastors do, by looking at what I think are “better” church websites. What I find are a lot of sites that look the same:
- You have the static, old HTML format pages that are out-of-date, not relatable, and …well… ancient. No thanks.
- You have the cookie-cutter sites from E-zekiel or some other company that are obvious from a mile away, are unintuitive, have back-end management systems that are either so complicated that staff job descriptions should require programming languages or are so watered down that you can’t implement mainstream apps like google and youtube, well, enough said, No thanks.
- Or you have, what I’ll call, the next-wave church website. They are much better. They are visually stimulating and are setup for more dynamic content and they are far less expensive than they used to be. But they still all look much like one another… they are still trapped in this mindset of “come to us,” and they still tend to be ‘information-based’ instead of relational.
In the church we are pretty good at one thing: continuing to do what we’ve always done without asking ourselves “why?” Now, I’ll give you one thing: we do often ask, “how do I do this better?” But we’re often operating under the delusion that the newsletter or mailing formula we’ve used is the only way to do it. Usually we are looking at a newsletter or bulletin or congregational letter and we are saying, “This is okay but I want it to look better or be more effective.”
That is simply the wrong approach.
Lately, I’ve been looking at church newsletters and bulletins (not just the ones from my churches) and I’ve asked myself that first question a lot over the past few months. I’ve considered some re-designs. I’ve thought about whitespace, flow, and consistency. I’ve looked at these documents from every perspective of design and communication that I can think of…
…but I had failed to ask the really pertinent questions. I had failed to think fully outside of the box.
This week I took some time to contemplate questions like, “What are we trying to accomplish,” and “what media (and format) would work best to do that?”
I made several realizations that I hope to share with you in the near future, once I put them into practice.
In the meantime, I beg all pastors and church leaders interested in effective communications in their church to do as I’ve done this week: set aside your current publications and think bigger:
- What are you trying to accomplish with your church?
- What audiences do you need to communicate with?
(worshipers, inactive members, active leaders, outsiders)
- What do you want to communicate to each of these audiences?
- What is the most effective means to use?
An appointment to a new church can be a anxiety-laden experience.
- You still have to have your head in the game at your current church.
- You need to start developing relationships with people at the new church
- and…you have to begin thinking about what ministry is possible with the new congregation.
First, I admit that I have it easy in this appointment change because I am on a medical leave after my brain surgery. I am working ‘ahead’ on some things from the comfort of my home, but I am still anxiously imagining ministry in this new place that I don’t yet know or fully understand yet.
I know, I know, partly I just have to go be with them and the rest will come…but that doesn’t stop my head from spinning with ideas.
First and foremost on my mind, of course, is communication. As an associate pastor I’m not sure how much I can influence the church in communicating in the ways I’ve been outlining on this blog, but that won’t hamper my enthusiasm…
- I am concerned with developing a more effective (and relational) presence on Facebook. They are a urban, on-campus church of about 1500 members but have 40 people on their Facebook page. I can’t help but think we can explode that! We can develop an atmosphere of check-ins, upload more photos and videos from around the church, and encourage relational posts (and sharing blogs). What else are people doing out there? Help me dream!
- I think that blogging is one of the most effective ways a church can develop an online presence, but I’m just an associate pastor. Does anyone have ideas for how an associate can get others blogging? Anyone out there doing it effectively, especially where there isn’t currently a culture of blogging?
- This next one may surprise you. I think that printed media can be a highly effective mode of communication. So much communication is shifting to the internet that more-and-more people will be surprised by and notice real life mail, I think. Yet, what a church puts out should not simply be a repository of small type and long articles. It has to be concise, relational…and (this is the big one) high quality. It has to look and be great! And, by the way, what we put in worshiper’s hands on Sunday morning should be high quality and add to the worship experience, hopefully adding to the experience visually (with photos). How important is it to have color capability? How does one help train and inspire staff in not just publishing technique, but also taste? (Again, not an indictment on the current staff…I just don’t know yet)
- Oh, and the website… well, there is work to be done but until we develop social media and dynamic content I’m not sure it’s time to put too much energy into the internet presence with the least future potential. This article shows that blogging and social media combined is outpacing website connections for churches and I think we’re only at the beginning. (38 percent of respondents said they had accessed a religious website and 41 percent had liked a religious institution, friended a religious leader, or read a religion oriented blog) Most importantly, we should note: 17% had read a blog whereas people who had visited their religious institutions website (19%) won by a surprisingly narrow margin of only 2%.
Well, those of you involved with organizations, please leave me comments on how you do communication or send me an email!
Title image was found at: http://www.ksrealitybites.com/2010/02/online-therapy-for-office-stress.html
For the past two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time considering communications and church. You see, as a church we have typical ways of communicating: Weekly bulletin, monthly newsletter, sunday morning announcements, and let us not forget those pesky phone calls and emails from the pastor, secretary or volunteer coordinator. Now, of course we have many new ways of communicating with our congregations such as e-news emails, but if you look at the types of communication I have listed so far, I have focused on informational communication.