Budgeting for External Communication
Once a ministry team or minister understands the need for improved communication strategies, the next question is, "Ok. How much is this going to cost?" The budget for every church has pressure from all sorts of directions. Salaries, office supplies, youth activities, the electric bill and dozens of other line items are in competition for dollars in the budget. Tithes and offerings only go so far and how many fundraisers, can a church do?
But, before we start throwing around dollars and cents you have to determine if your church really wants to tell others about your local ministry. Believe it or not there are a lot of satisfied churches out there. In the minds of some members, leadership and even ministry professionals there is a magic number that maintains a close to perfect harmony with little or no stress. Anything beyond that balance disrupts the church we want (not necessarily the church God wants).
First Christian Carmi Has a New Logo
Congratulations to First Christian Church of Carmi, Illinois! they have been working with Speiro Communications and have decided on a new logo.
The logo is a strong symbol that clearly communicates their new theme "Advancing God's Kingdom" and uses colors effectively. It is clear and contemporary.
We Resolve to Improve
This is the time of year we make resolutions. I have to lose weight. This year I am reading the Bible cover to cover. I am going to go deeper in my prayer life. These are resolutions that have been made and most often broken by February 1st. It seems it is very easy to state good intentions of a resolution, but very difficult to keep consistent in fulfilling those promises to yourself.
The same is true when it comes to changes to communication management of the church. There are limited resources of time and money so when something has to go, it often is the big ideas of how to improve how we communicate inside and outside our church walls. Before long we are back in the old rut of bulletin announcements, flyers and talking about things from the pulpit and then wondering why the response is the same as last year or worse. Click here for specific resolutions to help your church.
Go Ahead Blast Away
When it comes to internal communication we only have a limited amount of bullets to shoot so we should use all of them in our arsenal. This is because it is often hard to tell which will hit the mark. As a church leader I have seen this first hand as I have given announcements from the pulpit, shown slides with the same announcement and put the very same information in the bulletin. Yet when I ask someone why they didn't come tothe event the answer is usually, "I didn't know about it." or "Was that this week?"
I usually stand there incredulous, with my jaw about an inch off the floor. They are either lying or we are still using communication devices that tend to stream in one ear and flow out the other, without stopping in between. I'm not sure which it is, but I can tell you the church is never hurt by using better communication systems available today. So here is one more shot you can fire, the email blast. Read the Tips Here!
Christmas Check List - Check It Twice
Each Christmas churches are filled with Christians looking to celebrate Jesus being born in the little town of Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger of all places. We know and love that story, but let's be clear, many of the people that will show up at your church for Sunday worship or candlelight services are there purely for the tradition, the warm and fuzzy feelings and a break from all of the busyness of the holiday season. The motives of a lot of attenders will not be pure as the wind driven snow this holiday or any other.
So what are ways that we can try to break through to this cynical group? At Speiro we have put together a short list of things to consider for Christmas to make a good impression on outsiders possibly looking to become insiders. Please read Colossians 4:2-6 before you read this list. Click for the list!
How Many Logos Do We Need?
The root of "logo" in Greek means to speak, say or tell. That is the purpose of your church logo; to tell others about you through a simple image. Logos are a representation or emblem that identifies your church to your community and because they are an identifier, serious thought needs to be applied before you just pick one. It will become your stamp or image to your community and your church so it should, as clearly as possible, make a statement about who you are and where you are going.
Your church logo should become a part of everything you do. It should not necessarily be overbearing in design, but must be included. The logo should become so much of a statement about who you are that if you were to carry a banner with your logo in a local parade, people five blocks away would know who is coming up the street. Click here to find out more!
The Headache of Promotional Items
How many ink pens can you possibly need? Many churches give them away like candy and other churches hang on to them like they are solid gold. Some churches have a large budget for coffee mugs, tee shirts, key chains and bumper stickers, all with the church logo emblazoned on the item. Other churches don't waste the money on such items. So where is the line between getting the name of the church out with promotional material to the community, and finding another use for the tithes and offerings? Just trying to figure all of this out can give you a headache that aspirin can't cure.
Ministers and ministry volunteers are often faced with a difficult choice of how to best spend the promotional budget. Some church leaders now are thinking, "Promotional budget, what promotional budget?" But if you have one figuring out what to do with it can be difficult and if you don't have one should you? Click here for a list of things to consider!
The Church Secretary Under Fire
By Russ Ward
For years we have been driving our church secretaries closer and closer to the edge as the job expands and more demands are made. Even the title "Church Secretary" is an old out of date term. They are no longer keepers of secrets, efficient wordsmiths and typists. They are quite often the backbone of the functioning church and wear more hats than a mannequin in a haberdashery.
My grandmother was a church secretary for years and worked hard everyday to further God's Kingdom in the era of the typewriter, the mimeograph and phones with dials. Even her always pleasant demeanor would be challenged by the requirements of the job today. So click here to get a list of things we can do to lighten the burden on one of our most important resources, the church secretary. Click here for the tips.
Five Things Communication Plans Can't Do
Sometimes we find ourselves shouting at the top of our lungs and it seems that no one pays any attention at all. This can be very frustrating as we expect that when we talk, people listen, but this is not always the case and even the best communication plan can fail or be ignored. This is often because we do not realize there are certain realities that even great communication cannot fix.
Usually you see posts from Speiro on what improved communications plans, both internally and externally, can do for your congregation and church. But, it is also very important to understand what a communication plan cannot do as well. This will alleviate disappointment when expectations are not met and this can also interject some reality into the excitement that many have when beginning a new effort to communicate more effectively. So here is a short list of things improved communication efforts cannot do that might apply to your church. Click for the rest.
Weird Ways to Impact Communication
There are several ways over the years that we have used to impact communication and some are less conventional than others. Some are even down right weird but are functional. Here are just a few that have had an impact.
1. What says Thanksgiving more than John Wayne? - That right. To promote our annual Thanksgiving meal at church we decided to use an image of John Wayne from the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The words covering the poster were, "Thanksgiving Dinner - Be There Pilgrim". I have never seen such a response to our Thanksgiving effort. People were talking. Some liked it and some complained, but attendance was extremely high. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb, be professional but have fun. Read the whole story here.
Where Have All the Youth Gone?
Many churches are wringing their hands with worry and there may be a good reason to, as they ask, "Where have all the youth gone? According to a 2014 Pew Research Center Poll overall church attendance in the United States is dropping and one of the leading factors is generational.
According to the poll, current generations are not replacing older generations in church attendance and affiliation. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Click Here To Read More
Logo Change - The Battle Begins
The church has faced difficulties before; oppression, division, strife and conflict. But none of the previous trials have prepared the church for the impending battle yet to come. That battle is when the leadership decides that a logo update is needed. One of the most difficult times a church must face is when it becomes apparent that the logo is out of date and needs a revision or a total makeover. For some reason the logo, regardless of current iteration, has people of strong conviction landing opposite each other. The only debate that is fiercer is when you are considering a change to your church’s name.
If only all of that pent-up passion could be directed at the lost, the church would really make an impact. But, instead, people tend to quibble over colors and fonts and usually ignore the advice of graphic designers and other communication professionals.
What I find interesting about the controversy is that, often times, the people who do not want a change will say that a logo is “unimportant” and that we “shouldn’t concern ourselves” with making a change. But, when you propose just that, you would think that the world is coming to an end with their negative speaking and you start hearing, “over my dead body.”
So, you should be warned that a change to the logo can be a difficult battle where strong opinions and traditions often trump common sense and modern communication strategies.
How do you avoid what seems to be an inevitable battle? Click to Read More!
Bulletin Spring Cleaning
When communicating an idea we need to remember that it is not just the audible sounds in the form of words that gives us a message. Each of the senses in their own special way are receptors of information that our brain then translates into a message. When talking with your community, casual attenders, or members, we need to remember that all forms of communication need to be considered and refined to communicate as best as possible.
For instance, when I go into the mall, I am hypnotically drawn to the coffee shop. Why? The aroma of freshly brewed coffee pulls me to ordering a cup. Gloria Jean’s Coffee also communicates in other ways, for sure. They have signs, friendly cashiers, and plenty of products lining the shelves. However, the sense of smell is pleasing and communicates best in that situation.
When a visitor first walks into your church, hopefully they are greeted with a smile and then the greeter hands them a small publication that almost every church passes out each and every Sunday, the bulletin. Apart from the smile and the hello, your bulletin is the first thing that communicates who you are to the stranger when entering your building. What does your bulletin say?
DEALING WITH ELDER PASTOR CONFLICT
So you have read a few of the articles about improving your communications strategy and you realize that the church needs a new logo, name, website, welcome sign or needs to bring in an expert to give you some ideas and insight as to how to improve how you talk with your community and church. Now you have to talk to the elders and run everything past them. The sweat starts to drip as you imagine the conflict that could occur at the meeting. Your stomach starts to twinge and your head is already hurting and the meeting is in two weeks.
Hopefully, I am being a bit over dramatic. I sure hope so. I have been on the other end of the table hundreds of times as an elder for nearly twenty years. I have seen things handled well and things handled poorly. I understand it can be stressful to try to work with elders or board, especially if it is the first time or trying something totally outside of the box. Once a young youth minister thought of a new way of ministering to high school kids. He was very prepared, but I could tell he was extremely nervous. He began his verbal presentation and his voice got more strained, sweat started trickling down his furrowed brow and redness started to develop in his ears and then spread from forehead to chin. The stress was written all over his face. Hopefully, the tips below can let you know what elders are looking for in proposals and ideas and relieve some of the heartburn. Click here for the tips.
STEPS TO BECOMING A CONTENT MACHINE
My day usually starts simple enough. A cup of coffee. Checking my email. Prayer. But, then the pressure begins because I know that I must produce quality content that will make a difference in how churches communicate with their congregations and their communities. I get up from my desk, pace and get a second cup of coffee. Sometimes the words flow as I type like an uncorked fire hose but, other times it is slow and nothing more than a drip.
This pressure and subsequent drip reminds me that I need to stop doing what I am doing and practice what I preach. It is time to slow down and get back to the basics of content creation. I remind myself of the purpose, the process and the audience of content creation and then I start to hammer out the words that can inform, enlighten and assist ministers with talking to others about their church and God. Then I get a third cup. Below are the steps to consider when creating content...Read the Steps
The Real Thing
By Russ Ward
Coca Cola has made a bit of a stir when it announced that it was changing the way they are going to be marketing their products. For decades it was largely an image campaign where the logo and slogans such as "The Real Thing" or "Things Go Better With Coke" inundated the market.
They built product awareness with huge ad buys on billboards, in magazines and great product placement on grocery store shelves. They produced thirty seconds of the warm and fuzzy with TV ads such as "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." All of this made Coca Cola seem and feel like a product that could add life or even create world peace, if only everyone could get their hands on an ice cold Coke.
But times have changed and even mighty Coca Cola has had to alter its approach to keep up. They simply had to rethink their communication strategy, retool and relaunch. This does not mean that the product will change! That would lead to rebellion against the brand they have built, need I remind you of New Coke? However, the way they are going to communicate to potential customers will change; the change moving towards content marketing. So what does all of this have to do with the way your church communicates? Hopefully, a lot. Click to Read the Rest
RESURRECTION SUNDAY TIPS ON REACHING OTHERS
Every Resurrection Sunday churches are filled with Christians looking to celebrate a risen Savior and Lord. But mixed in with all of those Christians are the curious, the invited, the unchurched and the lost. As a long time elder on Easter Sunday, I have seen extended families packed into rows that we have never seen before and people that attend for egg hunts with children in ties and slicked down hair; and pretty dresses and curls.
It is easy to be cynical when attendance swells for just one day. But, that is a tendency we must avoid as church leaders. Regardless of motivation, attendees get to hear the Gospel proclaimed and that is never a bad thing. We must view each person as an opportunity for a Kingdom harvest.
So, what can churches do to help visitors get as much out of the service as possible? At Speiro we have put together a short list of things to consider for Resurrection Sunday to make a good impression on outsiders possibly looking to become insiders. Please read Colossians 4:2-6 before you read this list. Continue Reading!
Help is Available - Will You Ask?
A recent advertisement for a preaching minister position reads as follows:
We seek a leader with a compassionate, engaging preaching/teaching style. You must have excellent people skills and be able to apply loving accountability; a desire to fulfill the Great Commission in accordance with the Bible; and a willingness to live in our extreme climate. Responsibilities include partnering with the leadership in developing our strategic plan for the church as a whole, and forming a strategic plan and budget for the Outreach Ministry to help achieve the church’s vision. Candidates should have five to ten years preaching experience in a larger church and a willingness to develop and train a preaching team to assist. Leaping tall buildings in a single bound a plus.
I guess it is a good thing they realize, based on the last sentence, the job description is completely unrealistic. These unrealistic expectations usually continue throughout a minister's tenure with pressure to perform job duties that they have no training in, no God given talent for and precious little desire to perform. And unfortunately the smaller the church and the fewer the resources, the more pressure there can be to preach, teach, instruct, love, train, hold people accountable, write newsletters, update the website, perform funerals and weddings, make hospital visits, talk to visitors, deal with complaints, find new praise team members and most importantly plunge toilets. Click Here to Continue Reading
Speaking to Millenials - Action Steps
This blog stems from speaking with ministers about reaching the Millenial generation (approximately 21 - 35 years of age). It is one of the most discussed issues facing churches today. How do we communicate with the next generation? More specifically, what steps or general plan should be undertaken to improve the way we communicate. Most of the ministers I have spoke to have little resources and little training in communication strategies, so understanding where to start and what steps to take are a challenge because times have changed.
There was a time when a person would leave the high school youth group, flounder through the college years and then when they started to make adult decisions they would recognize the folly of their ways and return to church. Not so anymore. Younger adults are putting off traditional adult decisions such as marriage and having children and many are not revisiting their faith in the same numbers of past generations. Reaching this group can be difficult especially if the church is operating as if it were still the 90's.
We at Speiro believe there are two factors that need to be addressed when reaching this younger demographic. Below is a list of helpful steps...Click to read more.
Sign of the TImes - Does Your Community Know Where You Are?
By Russ Ward
At Speiro Communications we are constantly looking at ways churches can improve their communication strategies and challenge conventional thinking so they can become an alternative for God in their community. We look at ways to borrow from other models and apply them when it makes sense as long as the strategy does not violate Christian principles and morals.
The "borrowing" I am talking about is from retail stores. One of the basic principles that often gets overlooked by church leaders when putting together a communication strategy is the role that location and signs play in the way that the local church communicates with their community. When it comes to retail, why do we shop where we shop? A lot of that decision often has to do with the communication value of location and the physical appearance (signs). To demonstrate this...Continue Reading
Please Release Me- Tips On Sending Out Press Releases
By Russ Ward
Print is dead or at least on life-support. It's true, when you look at circulation rates for local, regional and national newspapers. As an example, the top ten national newspapers' Sunday edition circulation has dropped 47.5% in ten years. Total revenue reveals an even more devastating trend. In 2000, the advertising revenue for newspapers in the US was 65.5 billion; by 2013 that number dropped to 17.3 billion.
So if print is dead why should a church waste the time to send out a press release? Read More
10 Signs the Barn Needs Paint
In case you didn't notice, the title of this post is a punchline to the old joke about women wearing makeup in church. That joke has pretty much run its course when it comes to makeup. But, it can lead to other questions about the local church. When was the last time that you put on a fresh coat of paint?
Let's be clear, I am not talking about brushes and buckets, but the overall message that your current name, logo, bulletin, monthly newsletter, ink pens, website and other identity materials give about your church. Whether we like it or not the look and feel of everything in the church speaks to the visitor and the unsaved about who we are and what we are saying. So how do you know if it is time for a fresh coat? Below are some signs that you need to do some thinking about what your image is in your community. Read the signs here!
5 Steps to Help Churches Plug Into Social Media
By Rachelle Ward
At the church I go to, the auditorium doubles for both worship services and a meeting space for meals and special programs. So when we have a dinner after services the congregation jumps in and starts moving chairs, rolling out tables and putting out place settings. The 200 seat auditorium becomes a hall set up for food service in less than a half an hour because, many hands make light work and everyone knows their job.
As the minister you may have wanted to start communicating in a better way to your community and you realize that social media may be the answer. You have lots of ideas buzzing around your head, but there is just no time to get it all done. How is this conundrum any different than setting up tables and chairs? The same philosophy applies. Many hands make light work. Read More
Marketing - The Church's 4 Letter Word
Christianity has its own specific language that you don't find in many places. Terms like justification, grace and sanctification all have their specific meanings that only the elect know. But more than that, the church often shuns terms that the world understands and takes for granted. These terms become "four letter" words to the church as there is a negative connotation associated with them.
One of those terms is "marketing". Yes, I know it has more than four letters, but it is still forbidden. I guess that it is understandable. For years it was marketing that drove millions to smoke, drink and engage in all forms of sinful behavior. But, when you look at the definition of the term you come away with a different perspective...Read More
5 Tips to Improve Your Church's Social Media
"Social media" is one of those buzz phrases tossed around by media consultants and churches are encouraged in some way to engage their community with it. But, what is the purpose of social media for the church and how do you use it?
The first question is easy enough. Social media is the wild west of the internet. There are no real rules in the realm of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, LinkedIn or Pinterest, to name a few of the more popular sites. People post what they want, when they want, with very little direction and quite often no moral compass. People are belittled, insulted, given bad information and terrible guidance on problems they face; yet it thrives. And the purpose, as we see it at Speiro Communications, is... Read More
Talking to People Where They Are
We had a young teenager come to live with us because he was having some difficulties in life. He was from a significantly different background than our family, but needed a home. We live in a very rural setting, a 200 acre farm, miles from the nearest city. He was not from a farm and as a matter of fact rarely went outside let alone go for a walk in the silence and open spaces of a farm.
To help familiarize him with the property, he and I went for a walk through the rolling hills and bean fields that he would be calling home. As we topped a small roll in the landscape at the edge of a dark green soybean field, a fairly sizable buck rustled to his feet and then bounded off into the woods. My pride swelled at the picture of our farm with abundant wildlife and such a picturesque site of the multi-pointed deer hopping through the field. I turned to the young man and said, "Well...what do you think of that?"
He quickly replied, "I think we should get out of here before he comes back." Click for the rest of the story.
A Simple Test to See If Your Church Is An Alternative
Many churches today are not even an alternative to the lost people of their community. It is unfortunate, but a fact that many Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in general, do not appear on web searches or have websites, let alone have websites set up for mobile devises. Some church leaders will stop reading right there, and will not modernize the way they communicate. They do not realize that the ear of young people in their community has been lost.
This is despite the fact that of the 77 million Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) in the US, 85% own smart phones. This information comes from a Nielson poll taken in the second quarter of 2014. Not only that but 71% of all adults 18+ own a smart devise. Read More
Your Church Needs a Website
by Russ Ward
"Your church needs a website." That is the refrain echoed by many supposed experts in marketing churches. That advice is then usually followed by, "and engage in social media." While in general terms what they are saying is true, that sentiment often overlooks the fundamentals of marketing and public relations.
For instance, one of the first credos of professional public relations and marketing is "First, do no harm." Unfortunately, in the rush to complete a website many churches are hurting their efforts. Just one example I recently found was a church website with a photo caption that read, "Making homemade pizzas." Harmless enough, but the photo above the caption was someone holding a big snake! Not very appetizing to say the least and that mistake could leave a bad taste in someone's mouth in more ways than one. Read More
Why We are Needed
When contacting church leaders to do research, we recently spoke to a pastor at a large Midwestern Christian Church and discussed the need for our services. He said that marketing and social media are desperately needed. But, he went on to say that at the Christian conferences he has attended, they were usually long on advice but short on information the local church could use to implement a plan. In the breakout sessions about reaching into the community the discussion leaders always say, "You have to have a website, engage in social media and have a plan to use current technology to tell others about Jesus Christ and your church."
The problem is that many of the seminar leaders are long on advice on what to do, but rarely understand the nuts and bolts of accomplishing what is needed especially in the medium and small sized churches. These churches have limited resources, limited staff and no real training as to how to accomplish marketing goals and implement plans. Also, very few churches have a paid professional on staff that understands current technology and if they do, they are not professionals at using that technology for measurable results... Read More