4 - Communicate

Communicating with your Audience

You’ve got fifty, a hundred, maybe even thousands of people watching your church online each week and bought into your mission. How do you keep them in the loop with what’s going on? 

Nils Smith is Innovation Pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas, one of the largest and fasting growing churches in the country. He says communication is key. Listen as Nils talks through five primary communication platforms that are available to you and urges you to be creative in how you use them.  

Nils said that things are changing fast in the world of communication. Does that excite you or frighten you? Why do you say that?
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What are your current challenges, frustrations, or questions you have about your church’s communication strategy?
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Nils said that communicating what’s going on in your church isn’t just advertising; it’s connecting people, building a global community. In what ways has your church been guilty of advertising events or programs but not ministering to people in meaningful ways?
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Niles said there’s not just one way to communicate. A solid communication strategy includes multiple different mediums used creatively for your context. He talked through 5 primary communication platforms that might be effective in your church: 

  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Blog
  • Mail
  • SMS/Text Messaging

Which of these communication platforms, or others, are most effective in your church currently?
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Are there any platforms you think your church ought to utilize more? Less? If so, which ones and why?
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Nils said that some people say email is dying. Do you agree? Have you seen a decline in the use or reading of emails lately? Why do you think that is?
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Nils offered several different thoughts on email:

  • There are a lot of different platforms to use when sending email. He recommends Mail Chimp and Constant Contact because they are simple, inexpensive, and easy to use.
  • Don’t send over one email per week. He recommends sending emails monthly.
  • In your emails, make the title creative, keep it simple with a call to action, and provide value. 

Do you agree with Nils’ suggestions? Which ones would you tweak or change?
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Take some time to brainstorm the value you want to have in your emails. What is the primary content you want to have in those emails? How frequently do you want to share that content (i.e. send an email)? 

Nils said that social media is an incredible opportunity to connect with your congregation and have church members connect with each other. How have you seen social media—inside and outside the church—reach people in ways traditional communication couldn’t?
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Nils recommends using Facebook first, Twitter second, youtube for video messaging, and Instagram only if you have the time and resources to use it well. To what extent does your church use these or other forms of social media? How valuable is that communication to your church community and why?
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Nils said that churches should communicate both inspiration and information via social media. When considering what to post, it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions:

  • Will people like this?
  • Will people want to comment on it?
  • Will this post/tweet get people talking to us and each other? 
  • Will people share this?
  • Has this content given value to people?      

Often churches get in the habit of merely posting information about their programming on social media, which could easily be found on the website. What are some creative ways you can begin utilizing social media? (Think of pictures, videos, clever wording, etc.)
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Do you currently have someone managing your social media—a volunteer or team of volunteers? If you decide to make social media a priority, who can you invite to help you with it?
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Nils said that the benefit of a website or blog is that people come to you. It’s a good host of content. Websites can house information about the church, tell stories, and be places for guests to contact the church. As we’ve already talked about in this course, your online site in particular can be a safe place for people new to the faith. 

Are you beginning to hone in on what you’d like to have available on your online site? What are your top priorities and why?
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Nothing beats a personal touch. Especially today, notes, cards, and gifts in the mail can speak volumes. You might be tempted—especially in a course about online church—to make all things digital, but don’t be fooled. Jesus came and lived a physical life with physical human beings. When we take the time to handwrite a letter, deliver a thank you note in person, or leave a gift for first-time visitors at our church’s welcome desk, we are showing Christ’s love and hospitality in a special way. 

Physical mail can’t reach a mass number of people, but it can make a significant impact. What impact have you seen physical mail make in someone’s life, maybe even your own?
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What new physical communication can you offer people—even if only for a few—so that they feel Christ’s love in a powerful way?
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Finally, Nils talked about text messaging. His church doesn’t utilize text messages to communicate to large groups of people, but he admits it can be a more direct and helpful way to communicate for some groups. If you think text messaging would be helpful in your context, brainstorm what types of things you’d communicate via text and what you’d save for other mediums.  

Nils’ 5 Keys to strong communication are:

  1. Be consistent 
  2. Be creative
  3. Make it personal 
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Provide value  

Would you add anything to the list? Is there anything you want to highlight? If so, what?
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We all want to communicate well, but Nils said not to over-communicate. If you try to say too much too often, nothing will be heard. On the other hand, if you take the time you need to be creative, thoughtful, and editorial with your communication, you will connect people in life-giving ways and build an online community that continues to grow.