Case Study: Easter 2015 Communication

You made it. Another round of planning, prepping and praying for the biggest Sunday of the year under your belt. Congratulations!

We had an incredible day at Southbridge Fellowship with our highest attendance ever and saw more people accept Christ than at any other service in our history.

Here’s a quick look at what we did for Easter:

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Aerial view of our 2015 Easter service

The Service – This was the second year of outdoor Easter services. We currently meet in a movie theater and use the adjacent parking lot to bring in a stage and chairs to host the outdoor services. One benefit to this approach is the amount of people who find out about our church simply by driving or walking by. My favorite story was from two young women who were originally on their way to Target saw the gathering and decided to attend. One of them made the decision to trust Christ during the service! How awesome is that?!

Design – We drew inspiration from vintage Billy Graham era posters and hatch print design. The outdoor service and gospel focus reminded us of revival days so we took the concept and ran with it. Web banners, social media graphics and print pieces were created from this design.

Promotion – Our promotions focused on visual and easy to share social media content and personal invitations. We shared videos and graphics on our social networks leading up to Easter. Our social media efforts were a combination of organic and promoted posts. We spent about $50 and reached thousands of people.

We handed out invite cards multiple weeks before Easter with an announcement from our Lead Pastor about the importance of personal invitations. We produced a silly video with the help of our Children and Youth Pastors to give tips about how to (and how not to) use invite cards.

Results – Over 1,100 people attended and many people accepted Christ as their Savior!

Easter can be an exhausting day when you work at a church. Take some time this weekend to rest, recharge and reflect on God’s work …and then get ready ’cause Sunday’s coming!

How did your church celebrate Easter this year?

 

 

Here’s a look at some of our social media posts: 

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3 Lessons from Video Announcements in the Snow

For the past few weeks we’ve experienced a mix of snow and ice in Raleigh. This sends our city into panicked frenzy to scavenge grocery stores for milk and bread because those are necessary for survival in .5 inches of snow.

One of our staff values is “make it better.” This means any team member can offer ideas and improvements to any area of ministry. One of our pastors and my friend has encouraged me to dream and think about ways we can improve our videos by adding touches of humor and creativity.

With that in mind, our team decided to have a little fun and leverage the snow for our weekly video announcements. We ventured outside into the thick of it and shot right in the middle of the snow storm. It still included our weekly welcome and a few events, but we added some humor at the end. Our Executive Pastor even joined in. By doing this, we engaged our audience with what they were currently experiencing in their own lives and gave them a chance to laugh. We actually got an applause at the end of them!

When was the last time someone clapped for your video announcements?

Here are three lessons I learned from this experience:

1. Mix it up. 

Most video announcements have a pretty standard format and flow. (Welcome to guests, sign up for this event, check us out online) This is great for familiarity and consistency. But mixing it up every once in a while makes people perk up and pay attention.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You could add a new host, include a special interview with a ministry leader, or ask a volunteer to share about the team they serve with, have a missionary record a short update video on their laptop and include it. There are tons of options out there!

What small change would make your announcements better this week?

2. Your audience will be as engaged as you are. 

We had fun filming this and in turn our church had fun watching it. Sometimes we focus too much on making sure we include all the right information that it’s easy to forget it matters how we say it. We should enjoy what we are creating. Because if we don’t, why would anyone else?

3. Get out of your comfort zone.

To be honest, I find most attempts at humor in church videos to fall flat. I shy away from this approach so I was hesitant at first. But our church loved it. I’m learning, with the help of my teammates, to think outside the box and try new things, even if it’s outside of my comfort zone.

What do you think? What lessons have you learned with video announcements?

How to Create an Inexpensive Booklet

Print pieces can get expensive fast. Most churches, mine included, don’t have a massive communication budget to spend on print pieces. And booklets are one of the most expensive print pieces because of the multiple pages. I’ve found we can ease this cost by printing a cover out-of-house and finish the inner pages in-house. This gives a finished look but costs significantly less.  This doesn’t work for every booklet application, but it’s especially useful for pieces like devotionals, reading plans, prayer guides and small group guides.

Here’s how to do it: 

1. Design a full-bleed 8.5×11 cover page.
(That’s where the color extends all the way to the edge of the page.) I’ll usually ask our design volunteer do this. This will fold to a standard 5.5×8.5 booklet.

2. Order the cover from an online or local print vendor. 
I like to use Overnight Prints or NextDay Flyers. I select the full-page flier option and have it printed one-sided. Usually, I’ll pick a heavier cover stock option, like the 100#.  (To give you an estimate of cost savings, 1,000 full-page fliers only costs about $200.  1,000 12-page booklets would cost about $1,000.)

3. Set it up as your cover page and then print the inside. 
Configure your print settings to a booklet with a cover page and finish with bi-fold, staple-binding. Keep in mind: To do this, you need an office printer that can run a heavier stock without jamming (because jams are the worst) and can do a staple-binding.

And voila! You’ll have a pretty print piece without busting the budget.

Here’s an example from our small groups expo.

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Cover

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Inside

If you liked this post, here are a few more you might like.

How to Create Bulletins In-House

How to Create Video Announcements

Communication Vocab: Words You Need to Know

The next time you are involved in communication or strategic planning, these are a few key definitions to keep in mind.

Strategy – What

What are you going to do? Your strategy is the words you put down on paper to overview the plan you have created. 

Tactics – How

How are you going to accomplish _____ ? This is the set of activities that you and your team will do in order to accomplish the strategy. 

Audience – Who

Who are you trying to reach? This is the people group that will be the focus of your tactics. 

Goals – The win

What does a “win” look like?  These are generally expressed in numbers; although, that can vary in a church setting. For example, we want to see __ % growth in our groups ministry by next year. 

How We Did Christmas Eve in a Movie Theater

This year we held our Christmas Eve services in our regular meeting space – a movie theater.

In previous years, we’ve rented venues that were large enough to hold our entire church (about 700 people) but none were available this Christmas. Even though we knew the space itself would present some challenges, we felt it could be strategic as many people would be out shopping and even attending movies on Christmas Eve. So, we plunged forward.

Here’s how we did it.

Tickets
Because each theater has limited seats, we used Eventbrite and had people reserve tickets. We set the limit at 15% above seating capacity, knowing that some would take more tickets than they needed. Next year, we could probably set it closer to 20-25%. Tony Morgan has a great article about Christmas Eve tickets.

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Live and Video Venues
We had a live venue and a video venue, just like we do on Sundays. Attendees could reserve tickets for either time. This allowed us to maximize seating for that night. We opened the theater doors 15 minutes prior to the start of the service so folks were lining up around the building. This created a lot of buzz and excitement outside.

Environment
Making a movie theater look and feel “Christmasy” was a bit tricky. Movies were still playing that day so we only had about an hour to set up the actual theaters. Thankfully, we were able to get into the lobby space at noon.

IMG_5597We shared the lobby with movie goers so we created a distinct entrance for those attending the service. A very generous church member donated Christmas trees and poinsettia to help make the theater feel more like Christmas. Hospitality team members were scattered throughout to assist and answer questions.

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CE Entrance

 

 

 

 

Promotion
We passed out 4×6 invite cards two weeks prior. We created a landing page on our website with all the information and pointed people there to reserve tickets.

We placed a banner ad in the lobby of our movie theater 3 weeks prior with our Christmas Eve design and service times. We placed a large emphasis on personal invites and social media sharing.

At the end of the Christmas Eve service, we passed out invite cards to our January sermon series.

CE bulletin

6×9 bulletin with a tear-off connection card.

Bulletin
We printed a 6×9 perforated card for our bulletin. The front had information for first time guests and our Christmas offering. The back had space for notes. We keep it simple so people could focus on the gospel message, without the clutter of announcements.

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Pre-service countdown included pictures people had posted as part of our social media contest.

Social Media
Since our sermon series was called ‘Tis the Season, our Lead Pastor approached me about creating a social media contest where people submitted their best Christmas photos…whatever the Christmas season meant for them. We created a hashtag, picked a few winners and announced them at the service. The winners got a free Southbridge t-shirt and a Starbucks gift card. We also streamed photos in for our pre-service countdown.

Christmas Eve is always my favorite night at our church, and this year was no different. Our amazing volunteers stepped up to serve, the gospel was shared and people accepted Christ.

What about you? How did your church celebrate Christmas Eve?

4 Things to Communicate to First Time Guests This Sunday

Visiting a church for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. A few months ago, I put myself in the role of a first time guest. I was out-of-state and decided to check out a nearby church. What did I do first?  I looked up the church online. I found service times, checked out the pastor and got a general feel for the church.

Then I actually visited on Sunday. I walked in and immediately started looking for some place marked for first time guests…but I never found it. As I sat in the auditorium listening to announcements, I waited for a special welcome to guests and instructions for where to turn in my information card…but I never heard it.

Perhaps I totally missed these parts of the service or maybe it was an off day. Who knows. But as church communicators, we can’t afford to miss the chance to communicate with 1st time guests.

First time guests are one of the most important audiences we communicate with and we need to get it right every single Sunday.

Here are four things you should communicate to first time guests this Sunday.

1. We’re glad you’re here.

This probably seems like common sense, right? But sometimes the most basic principles are the most easily forgotten.

A welcome to your guests could be in the form of your Lead Pastor giving a special welcome, in video announcements, a note in the bulletin and, of course, on your website.

There should be a special place reserved just for new guests and custom print materials catered to first time guests.

First Time Guest KioskAt my church, we have a First Time Guest Kiosk. This is where we receive guests and give them information and a gift. We also use this as a starting point where we can lead them into our facility and show them around.

We currently meet at a movie theater so our first time guest materials are packaged in a popcorn box. Inside includes: welcome booklet, CD from our Lead Pastor, candy, and microwave popcorn. We instruct our guests to fill out the Connection Card inside the bulletin and bring it back after the service. When they do this, we make a donation to one of our Strategic Partners and we also give them a $5 Starbucks gift card.

2. Next Steps

Your guests can’t take the next step if they don’t know about it. Turn in a Connection Card. Go the new attendee class. Check out a small group. Whatever your next step is for your guests, make sure they know. You can let your guests know when you welcome them, put it in your bulletin, and make it a part of your follow-up process.

One part of our follow-up process is to send a letter to anyone who turned in a Connection Card and invite them to Discovering Southbridge. This is a place where they can meet our Lead Pastor, ask questions and begin their journey with our church.

3. Where to get more information.

Where should guests go to have their questions answered? Visit our website. Stop by Guest Services (or whatever your church calls it). Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Tell them where to go to get the information they are looking for.

4. We hope to see you next week.

Surprisingly, this is the one that seems to be most overlooked. Show them why they should return the next week. Let them know about an upcoming sermon series or event. But it can be even simpler than that. Have your hospitality team make a point of inviting people back next week as they leave.

What do you think? What should you communicate to guests this Sunday?

How to Lead Design When You’re Not a Graphic Designer

I graduated with a degree in mass communication and marketing. But when I stepped into the role of Communications Director, I found myself faced with leading our church in graphic design and artwork.

If you’re in this position too, don’t worry. You can still lead design for your church without being a graphic designer.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned. I hope they are helpful to you!

1. Learn to identify good design and bad design.

Let’s be honest, there’s some really terrible design work out there. And unfortunately a lot of it is produced by churches. Learn to identify what makes the difference between a well-designed graphic and a poorly designed graphic. Take notes from churches that have a well-developed creative and design department. Check out Elevation Church and Mars Hill. Another great place to draw inspiration from is the Church Marketing Lab on Flickr.

Keep in mind: Be inspired by these designs, don’t just imitate them.

2. Take advantage of free resources.

Did you know that there are a ton of free resources available to you? These sites are gold mines and huge time savers. I’ve included a list of sites at the bottom of this post that should help you out.

3. Find an experienced volunteer.

The best resource for me has been volunteers. Find someone in your church who is passionate about your church’s mission and willing to serve by creating graphics and artwork that visually support that mission. These volunteers should have real-world experience and background in design. Ask to see a portfolio of their work. And, make sure to give them clear expectations and deadlines for projects upfront.

4. Learn the basics. 

I found online tutorials and articles to help me navigate the basics of Adobe Creative Suite. While I still don’t tackle major design projects, this gave me enough knowledge to create simple, basic graphics when I don’t have time to organize a volunteer.

5. Keep it simple.

The worst thing you can do is over complicate a design. Trust me, I’ve done it. It may seem boring, but always lean towards simple. Pick one or two fonts and stick with them. Brady Shearer over at Pro Church Tools has some good advice on this. If you have a solid design volunteer, have them create templates for your pre-service slides, web graphics, etc. and stick with those templates.

 

What do you think? How can you lead design for your church without being a designer?

 

Design Resources

CreationSwap
Vintage Church Resources
Seeds – Church on the Move
Lightstock (non-cheesy stock photos, plus one free photo a week)
Unsplash (10 free hi-res photos every 10 days)