Helping churches improve their communications has always been at the heart of why I write this blog. I’ve served as a Communications Director now for seven years. I’ve been blogging now for around four years and shared many insights or tips on what I’ve learnt. Recently I’ve leaned heavily into the sharing what I’ve learnt in the social media space. But today I want to write just for the auditorium experience.
Before I do that let’s have some perspective. Our church services has a finite time and for the majority of us, in actual time of a typical church attenders week it only takes up less than five percent of one day, or under one percent of their total week. Think about that for a moment.
Imagine what happens in the other ninety-nine percent. The average person receives over 14,000 advertising and marketing messages each week. Life also happens. Relationships break-up. People get married, have babies, new jobs, lose their jobs, score a hole in one for the first time. Apple releases their latest iPhone – and everything in-between. And yet, somehow we think our ‘important’ message will cut through all the noise and clutter (Thanks Kem), and the sheer tsunami of messages and call to actions those with much more budget/resources and sometimes influence, who are targeting our audiences with each and every day.
Don’t be. It’s not all bad news.
You see while we are all bombarded with a multitude a messages, and yes, life happens at a frighteningly relentless pace. The church ‘experience’ can be for many an hour (or more) like no other. It can be a time where people come to re-centre themselves. Get their heads right. Hear from God. Find out what they actually believe. Realign their priorities of life. There is something unique and divine about this time that nothing else comes close to.
That said, church leaders and communications professionals like myself see it as an opportunity to help our various communities take their next steps in their faith journey. Unfortunately despite our best intentions we can get it wrong. Here are eight valuable tips that I’ve learnt over the years from being in the trenches of church communications that will make your announcements more effective. It will help your church community take their next faith step. Most of these tips can apply whether you do live announcements or video news style announcements.
1. Limit what you announce
If you announce everything your church congregation will hear nothing. What is really important to your church? You have around 52 hours in a year. Your average attender may only attend once or twice a month. What are your top ten messages you think they REALLY need to know and act upon. Why ten? I would imagine that most churches shotgun blast around ten to twenty messages per week. If you can reduce it down to the most important what would they be? Now I personally think ten is too many. So how about your top five? What are they? Now focus on them for a month and see if you get an increase on the those really important goals or priorities. To put it another way, say yes to the big things and no to the little things.
2. Announce what you count
There are so many good great causes in and outside your church. How many more good causes from outside your church are you bombarded by requesting air time/promotions time? Do you take them up? I don’t. Not because they aren’t good great causes. It’s because I know that we only get our congregation for one percent of their time and it’s hard enough to get our messages across, never mind cluttering up the head space even more.
What does your leadership count as wins? What are their main goals for the year? These are what you should be supporting. Leaning in to every tactic to support and help them achieve those goals first should be every Communications Director’s priority in deciding whats in, and whats out.
3. Create announcement emphasis guidelines
This is tough because some people will feel like what they are doing isn’t as important as other ministries. But you can’t tell everyone about everything on your video news or platform announcement, because if you do you go back to tip number one. One helpful way to organise what you promote is to create a communications emphasis list. Decide what your main goals are. They get the full communications support. Your other ministries should receive a lower emphasis in terms of how many communications channels you will use to promote them. You may have for example:
Emphasis 1 = video news, email, bulletin cover story, social, blog,
Emphasis 2 = email, bulletin advert, social, blog
Emphasis 3 = email, bulletin advert
4. Preach your most important ‘announcements’
It will come as no surprise that as someone serving in a Baptist church that baptisms are a big deal. In fact we have a target of how many we want to reach every year. Like most churches we have baptism classes, the only problem was that we would promote it in all kinds of ways, yet the numbers weren’t large. We knew there was a disconnect around how many people were taking steps of faith for the first time and how many were being baptised. So we decided to eliminate a step. Baptism classes themselves. Instead our preaching team preached the ‘announcement’ and taught around the concept of baptism covering much of the content that was in the classes. Guess what? We had our biggest baptism response ever. We did the same for membership. Same result. What I learnt was that people didn’t want to do the classes, but were willing to the take the next step. We just had to remove the complexity of that next step and call for a response.
5. Understand who your audience is
Understanding who your audience is really important because there is no point in promoting baby dedications to a mostly young and single audience. Or promoting a young persons event to a mainly empty nesters audience is absolutely pointless. I have a principle about our video news. Does this communication apply to 80% of people watching? Yes? then it’s okay to promote. No? Then we are actually switching most people off rather than helping take another step.
6. Your Senior Pastor isn’t the answer
Knight in shining armour. Silver bullet. Dad of the house. What ever dodgy metaphor we use, tapping your senior pastor on the shoulder to bypass any existing communications system and making your communication more effective isn’t the solution. Sure it may work. But then everyone will do it and then it won’t work for anybody. Reserve your Senior Pastor for preaching the announcements.
7. Talk about the ‘why’
The ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of a next step/event won’t move a person. They ‘why’ might. By telling the why you move your communications from push to pull communications. You draw people into the heart and emotion, rather than the mechanics. For example, create a testimonial ad for LifeGroups/Smallgroups. Invite three groups to do interviews and ask ‘why did you want to join a group’. The answers will all be deeply personal and will resonate with your audience.
8. Change it up
Your message if repeated enough in the same way will eventually become noise. You will eventually lose your cut through. I’ve seen it and experienced it. No matter how polished. It’s just human nature. Try to change-up how you communicate. For instance, on some weeks when we haven’t had a full run of video announcements we’ve actually switched it back to the anchors job. People always comment on the different way the anchor presents the information in a positive way. Depending on who the anchor is, it can also lend weight to the announcement. Or the anchor can try recapping and reinforcing the main advert in the news after you come out of the video news from their own personal perspective. It works. Try it.
What has worked for you? Do you have any questions or tips to share? Comment below