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Doing Church in the Digital World!

Now, and going forward as we get beyond the COVID Pandemic, staying in touch with your church community will be the critical communication task every week. It is critical that we reach out multiple times during the week using various media and platforms. This idea becomes difficult to live out because now that we see the magnification of the  technical diversity of our multi-generational congregations. Some folks don’t use Facebook, others aren’t signed up for email, and a few don’t have internet service at all. Here are some tips and ideas as we continue refining our communication strategies entering our new era of doing church.

Now more than ever, we have to get the right message to the right audience at the right time using the right media. I have been saying this for many years as the foundational objective of our communication strategy. Here is how we translate that into our weekly communication. Here is a sample formula for weekly information dissemination:

* Two weekly emails (see below), one with important information and the second a reminder to join the online worship event. If you have a texting service, use it also for a worship reminder or as a primary communication for the weekly update if the member chooses to receive texts (don’t duplicate if at all possible, send a member either an email or a text – see below).

* 4-5x per week use social media and online social platform groups to share encouragement primarily and community news secondarily. Use social platforms to encourage and facilitate communication within your church community and avoid the temptation to make it a bulletin board.

* Bi-weekly mailing of updates and important announcements to your elderly or shut-in members.

1) In my opinion, email is the media to communicate your most critical information. You need a weekly email that delivers on the same day each week that contains the most important and current information for the church. If this is your newsletter, then now is the time to declutter it and/or ensure your most important information is front and center.

Also, you will use emails to send out important updates or emergency announcements, but make sure this doesn’t become a “catch-up” email because you forgot to put an announcement in the weekly update. For example, a weekly email reminder early Sunday morning about the upcoming online service with a link to watch it is probably the second weekly email your people should receive. Guess what, you should continue this practice even when we go back to onsite services, maybe change the delivery day to Saturday afternoon.

Let your people know that this is where they can get the most important information. Use your worship stream or video to inform about the weekly email. Make sure there is an email subscription button on the homepage of your website and direct people to sign up.

Use your Facebook groups to share the importance of the email communication. I would be careful using Facebook groups as the bulletin board for all the regular announcements because these groups are for interaction between the group members (right audience-right media).

Pro-Tip: Make sure you are using an email app like MailChimp or Constant Contact so that you can automate the subscription sign-ups and see the engagement rates for your email correspondence. Some churches use text messaging apps which are great for emergency situations and short-term upcoming events, like a weekly reminder about online worship with a link. There are a few services available that combine email and text to give you the ability to send a message to either media (like Flocknotes or Text in Church).

2) Your website is now not only the online hub for your digital communication, it is your church’s gathering place. The most important function for your website is to make connections – connections to the church, to discipleship, and to each other. Make sure any online gatherings like worship and classes are easily accessed either directly or to sign-up for access. Your emails or social media posts should share links back to your website for more information and to sign-up/access the information/event.

If you are streaming your worship service to Facebook Live or YouTube, consider adding a viewing capability to your website. The key with any streaming of worship services is to have hosts on the platform you are using to greet online viewers, share important announcements, and answer questions/give directions to answers.

All-Pro Tip: An easy and free way to do this is through the Church Online Platform which you can link to your website and share livestream or pre-recorded video events. It includes a chat room for discussion and questions, a Bible app, a schedule of worship broadcasts (and re-broadcasts), and a place for sermon notes. It also gives you direct links to prayer requests and online giving.

3) Even in our digital age, snail mail still has its place in our communication toolbox. Obviously, it is our only means to share information with our elderly or shut-in members. But it is also the best means to share vision and mission-critical information to the entire congregation. Depending on the size of your church, a quarterly letter outlining how the church is living into its vision and mission with a call-to-action for them is a very effective tool. And with any of our communication media, make sure your correspondence is focused on a main idea and not cluttered with ancillary other details that could be communicated in other media (like a weekly newsletter for example).

 


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