Do you know a student who has a passion for the Church and for excellent communication or sales?
The Unstuck Group has an internship program for college students who are passionate about the mission of Jesus and helping the Church get unstuck. We are now accepting applications for our Fall 2018 Marketing & Communications Intern and Sales Intern positions.
Holidays can bring new people to your church and create opportunities for impact. Most pastors can easily name the big days that bring high attendance. But knowing about big days and planning for them are two different things.
Too often, these calendar-given gifts sneak up on pastors, resulting in last minute planning and low impact. One of the biggest days comes early this year. Easter weekend is only a few weeks away!
When big days sneak up on you, the rule of thumb is to polish what’s working instead of trying to create something new. Creating new requires time and planning, and time isn’t on your side.
If you were to ask someone who attends the church that I’m a part of why they first started attending, you’d more than likely hear something like this: “A friend invited me to that series with U2 music, because I love U2,” or “My first weekend was during that series about the wilderness,” or “I first attended because I saw your ad about the marriage series.”
Notice people don’t often say, “I came because I heard your bible studies are the best,” or “your church seems to have the cleverest phrases on your roadside sign.”
In case you haven’t heard… The Unstuck Group has an internship program for college students who are passionate about the mission of Jesus and helping the Church get unstuck. We are now accepting applications for our Spring 2018 Marketing & Communications Intern position.
A lot of people are talking about creativity in the church right now, and it’s raising some tension in me (and maybe in you too?). We’ve been haggled on both ends of the creativity spectrum over the years. On the one hand, we’ve bought into the rationale that says, “God hasn’t called you to be creative. He’s called you to be effective.” Therefore, copy & paste at will. On the other hand, we resonate with the thinking that says, “All ministry is local.” Therefore, creative contextualization is the only way to impact a locality. It’s a tough balance to strike, really. And if you add the complexity that multisite churches bring to the table, this can be a serious monkey on our backs as leaders.
I’ve been saying this for years now, but I get tired of church marketing. The advertisements, the clever slogans, the social media strategies. Many churches try to achieve success by using the right tactics, by “appealing” to the right audience. But in some cases marketing is a barrier to the advancement of the Gospel message. It can actually be a hindrance for the church.
I’m still shocked by how bad most church graphics are. Yes, most. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’re in a cool church bubble, my friend.
I’m shocked for several reasons…
Bob Dylan once wrote “The Times They Are A-Changing.” This certainly is true when it comes to the way we communicate. Right now your phone is more than likely flooded with text messages, social media notifications and direct messages. Leaders have made themselves accessible 24-hours a day.
A quick glance at an Apple watch can connect you to a video conference with someone on the other side of the world. Despite all these changes, email still continues to be one of the most predominant methods of communication. With so many demands for people’s attention, it is essential for church leaders to sharpen their communication skills.
Lately our team has started noticing some reoccurring email mistakes. Here are 7 simple ways to improve your email communication:
1) Include contact information in the footer of your emails.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email that required a follow-up call. Unfortunately, I didn’t have their phone number so I had to write them back and ended up waiting two more days for a reply. No one has time to search everywhere for phone numbers and addresses. Make it easy for people by including your contact info in your email footer.
2) Get to the point.
Sharing life updates may be a nice gesture for close friends but if you work on a fast paced team, just get to the point. Before sending an email determine why you are writing and what you want to say. If people open an email with multiple paragraphs there is a strong chance it will never get read.
3) Use clear action items.
Don’t make it challenging on the person reading your message to know what you are asking them to do. I’ve read emails that included action items meant for other people or tasks that were hidden in the middle of sentences. Instead of assigning tasks in emails, consider using Asana. Our team has found this to be very beneficial.
4) Stop using the “CC” function to include everyone in your organization.
Lately, every time I get an email it has 9 to 11 people included in the “CC” section. What’s the deal with this? This isn’t efficient and I’ve probably wasted countless hours reading unnecessary emails. Honestly, I can’t figure out why this keeps happening. Are people doing this for accountability, to cover themselves or to let everyone else know what they are working on?
5) Reply as quickly as possible.
I think it’s much more efficient to reply quickly with a couple of short sentences than to let an email sit in my inbox for weeks. Obviously, instantaneous responses can’t be expected for emails but when someone on your team is waiting on a decision or an approval don’t just leave them hanging for days. Their email isn’t going to suddenly go away, give a response and move on.
6) Pay attention to your tone and attitude.
This isn’t rocket science but it’s probably a good idea to handle conflict and difficult situations face to face rather than through email. Mark Batterson loves to say, “The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.” This theory applies to email as well. Messages written in a negative and angry tone have a way of resurfacing. Email messages are permanent so always be mindful of what you are saying.
7) Proofread emails before sending.
It is very easy to overlook mistakes in text messages that were made because of autocorrect. I get it, we are all busy and there is no way to do a grammar check on every Instagram comment or Facebook post. At the same time, it only takes a couple of seconds to read over your message before sending and good email etiquette is still very important.
What do you think? Communication methods are changing, is email here to stay?
I have an issue with “mandatory volunteer meetings.” Do you hear the contradiction? Mandatory and volunteer don’t belong together in the same sentence, but churches and nonprofits juxtapose them all the time. (Need proof? Just Google the phrase!)
I understand — it’s a really, really important meeting. They won’t be able to chaperone that student retreat if they don’t come. They won’t be able to teach that class if they don’t participate. They can’t serve in the kitchen without the training. You have essential information to share. But telling them it’s mandatory–like paying taxes, or getting a physical before gym class? Surely we have better language than that.
Volunteers are, after all, the hands and feet of Christ, and it’s the Church’s job to equip them to do ministry, not to enforce participation at training events. Getting and keeping your church members engaged in volunteering takes excellent and inspiring communication. Here are a few ideas:
– Make It an Invitation –
Invite before you mandate. Most people volunteer because they are excited to be a part of what God is doing at your church. People also volunteer to get to know other church members. Appeal to those two desires when you communicate.
Let’s say you are sending your students to youth camp and you need to train your leaders before the trip. What about something like this?
“Let’s celebrate the record-number of sign-ups for summer camp together before we head to the beach! Join us for a fun night with your fellow leaders, and we’ll equip you with the essentials you’ll need to help your students grow closer to Jesus next week.”
Does that sound more inspiring and inviting than mandatory leader training? I think so.
– Offer Flexibility –
In-person meetings can be tough and aren’t always necessary. Don’t make someone feel rejected because of scheduling conflicts. Can you live-stream the meeting over the Internet and let people send in questions electronically in real-time? (You could with Periscope, or a number of other free apps.) Can you put together a manual that covers the key points and schedule follow up calls to make sure volunteers understand their roles and expectations so they can serve effectively? As full-time staff, the goal should be to equip as many members of the church to serve as possible, and that will sometimes require flexibility. And when you offer flexibility, communicate the options clearly without stigmatizing any of them.
The Unstuck Group’s Paul Alexander wrote a great article about getting more volunteers by making it easier to start. Every role can’t be simplified in the same ways, but there are definitely some good places to start!
– Make People Feel Irreplaceable, Not Disposable –
I’m not suggesting you stroke egos or try to make people feel important. As leaders we should always be encouraging biblical humility. However, God values every person and wants them to know it. We frequently say things in the Church like “If you had been the only sinner, Jesus would’ve died for you.” Then we sometimes treat people like God would’ve said “Eh, take ’em or leave ’em.”
The Church should be a place that communicates to people their value in the Kingdom. It’s a good thing to communicate to your volunteers that you appreciate what their uniqueness brings to the culture of your church and to the role in which they are serving.
What other ideas do you have for improving the ways we communicate with volunteers?