Author: Carrie Evans

How To Plan For Christmas At Your Church

How To Plan For Christmas At Your Church

Do you hear that? It’s September and I can already hear the jingle bells in the distance. With Christmas on the horizon, here’s a look at the planning process at our church and ideas you can implement when planning Christmas this year.

1. It starts in January.
After our staff returns from holiday break, we review what went well, what didn’t, and what was missing from our Christmas services. Often, our Lead Pastor will have an idea in his mind for the coming year’s Christmas series. I save these notes in Evernote so I can bring them back around when Christmas planning begins.

2. Gather ideas through the year.
I save articles and ideas to Evernote all throughout the year as I come across them. Church Marketing Sucks has oodles of useful articles related to Christmas Eve and planning.

3. Schedule a meeting in September.
In early September, I schedule a Christmas planning meeting with our Lead Pastor, Worship Pastor, and Executive Pastor. We review the Christmas sermon series, nail down location and service times for Christmas Eve and begin brainstorming ideas for the Christmas Eve service. Depending on the size of your church and what you want to accomplish for your Christmas series, you may want to have that meeting earlier than September. But for us, September works.

After this smaller meeting, we will bring up the plan to all staff during a weekly staff meeting for feedback and additional creative ideas.

4. Create a plan.
After those meetings, I begin crafting a plan in Asana. This outlines the tasks I’ll need to accomplish based on the ideas we discussed for the services. This plan covers everything from Christmas Eve graphics, social media, promotional materials, and creative service elements. It helps me stay on track during the busy season.

5. Work the plan.
Once the details are set and the plan is made, we’re off and running. We begin hard promotion for Christmas the week after Thanksgiving. We will do teaser posts on social media and light promotion the week of Thanksgiving as people begin to get into the Christmas spirit. Promotional and creative elements are determined by the series messaging and the theme of the Christmas Eve services.

For example, one year we made it a big event with horse-drawn carriage rides and family photos before the service. We did a larger outside marketing push that year with radio ads and mailers. We’ve done a simpler, traditional service and emphasized personal invitations to family and friends. We created social media graphics and invite cards so our people would have tools when inviting their guests.

 

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year to work at a church. It’s also one of the busiest. As church communicators, it’s important to stay focused on why we are celebrating and not lose focus by checking our to-do list twice. This means giving yourself margin for prayer and time with the Lord – another reason planning ahead is important!

What about you? How do you plan for Christmas at your church?

Resources:

Church Marketing Sucks
SundayMag.tv
God Rest Ye Stressed Communicators

 

How to Add a Communications Volunteer

How to Add a Communications Volunteer

No Communications Director is an island.

There are too many moving parts for one person to do it all with quality and excellence. Plus, you will burn out in the process. But it can be difficult to hand off areas to a volunteer. What if they don’t do it like I would do it? What if they are inconsistent? The best way to set up your volunteers (and yourself) to win is with a clear volunteer process and defined roles

I recently decided to add a volunteer role that wasn’t as specialized as a graphic designer or videographer. I needed a person that could do everything I do, and help in creating content and planning for the year. I created the role of Communications Coordinator. There was a gal in our church who had a similar role in her job. I asked her to come on board.

Here’s what that process looked like.

1. Set up an initial face-to-face meeting.
Setting up a meeting with your volunteers is important. This gives you an opportunity to cast vision, explain the role, and hear feedback from them. Ask them what they want to do and how much time they can commit to each week. This sets up expectations for you and them. You should walk away from that meeting with clear action items and a scheduled time to follow-up.

2. Follow up within 36 hours.
For me, this is usually done via email. In this email, I will give an overview of our meeting, action items and next steps, and a date for our next face-to-face meeting.

3. Give them the tools they need.
I set up our Communications Coordinator with an Asana account, access to the guidelines, and tools we frequently use to communicate.

4. Let them do the job.
For the control freaks out there (myself included) – don’t micromanage. You’ve set them up to win and now it’s time to let them do the job, and even do things their own way. Often the best ideas come from our volunteers – not our staff!

5. Provide feedback.
Build in touch points for feedback. I tend to give frequent feedback in first 3-4 weeks with a new volunteer. Highlight and appreciate the great work they are doing and offer suggestions to make things even better. Ask your volunteers if they have all the resources they need to do the tasks and if they gave identified any gaps. You also should ask questions to evaluate if this is really their ‘sweet spot’ for ministry based on their unique skills and gifting.

If you’re feeling like you can’t do it all alone, you’re exactly right! And that’s okay. You need teammates, and hopefully this process gives you a good place to start.

 

What about you? What’s your process for adding volunteers to your team?

How to Create Social Media Content From Your Pastor’s Sermon

How to Create Social Media Content From Your Pastor’s Sermon

Social media is relentless. Each day requires fresh content to engage with your audience. Luckily, one of the most valuable sources of content is readily available to you every single Sunday – the sermon. Every week you need new content and every week your pastor creates it.

Here are a five ways to repurpose the Sunday sermon for social media.

1. Verses
Keep the main passage of Scripture or supporting verses in front of people through the week. You can simply post the text or turn them into images using Canva or Over (App). See an example

2. Quotes
Take the memorable quotes from the sermon and turn those into images. See an example

3. Video Clips
You can do this easily in iMovie or a similar program. Clip a short (3 minute or less) snippet that can be easily understood, even without the context of the entire sermon. Post to Facebook. See an example

Tip: Upload directly through Facebook, rather than linking to Vimeo or another site. This will give you greater reach.

4. Sermon Bumpers or Video Stories
Did you create an awesome sermon bumper? Share that bad boy! Folks love to watch these again and it’s a great way to share what happened on Sunday for those who missed it. See an example

5. Next Steps
Did your pastor talk about the importance of serving others? Create a post encouraging people to get involved with a volunteer or mission team. Emphasize Sunday’s application by creating a clear next step for your audience to take. See an example 

Bonus tips:

  • Ask your pastor to send the manuscript or outline to you each week.
  • Take notes during service to remember quotes and verses.
  • Use tools like Hootsuite and Canva to schedule posts and create images.
  • Plan out your content for the entire week. Don’t try to remember to post each day.

What about you? How do you create and plan social media content each week?

Why We Switched to a Monthly Bulletin

Why We Switched to a Monthly Bulletin

The bulletin. The word brings dread to church communicators everywhere.

Like many churches, we created, proofed, printed and folded hundreds of bulletins each week only to watch them be tossed into a trash, left in seats or crammed in Bibles to be thrown away later.

Surely there’s a better way!

In January we took the plunge and made the switch to a monthly bulletin.

Now we produce a monthly news that highlights major events and a story. We pass it out on the first Sunday of the month and make it available at our Guest Services all month. Each week we pass out a simple front and back card with our current series branding, information for first time guests and a perforated tear-off for a connection card.

Here are a few reasons why we made the switch.

1. We launched an app
The app is now the primary way for our regular members and attenders to see upcoming news and events. It’s geared toward our internal audience and we continually push people to check the app and use it to connect with us.

2. The bulletin didn’t change week to week
We emphasize small groups, volunteer teams, family ministries and missions. This means we don’t have significant programming changes week to week. If something does come up, there are other effective channels (email, social media, push notifications) we can use to get the word out.

3. It forces us to plan
All communication requests have to be submitted by the 15th of the month prior to be considered for the monthly news. The monthly method eliminates last-minute promotional requests and ensures details are mapped out well in advance.

4. It allows us to share stories
Every month we include a life change story or highlight a mission team. This gives us another avenue to share the mission of our church (connecting people to Jesus for life change), rather than simply pumping out more events and ministry leader requests.

How’s it working so far? Great! We’ve received positive feedback on the switch, saved money and can use time more effectively throughout the week.

There are no formulas for church communications – it all depends on your context and audience. For us, the move to a monthly bulletin has been the right one.

What about you? Does your church do a weekly bulletin? Are you ready to switch to a monthly?

Resources:
Monthly News – Example
Weekly Bulletin – Example

How to Use Asana to Plan a Sermon Series

How to Use Asana to Plan a Sermon Series

I’m an Asana fan. I use it for my weekly to do’s and to manage projects for our church . Sermon series are a major project that happen several times a year. To help me stay on track and make sure all the pieces for our series come together, I use a project template.

Here’s how it works.

Typically after a series planning meeting or talking with a our Lead Pastor, I’ll go into Asana and copy the project template from a previous series. The project is divided into sections based on the major things that go into a pulling off a series like design and graphics, promotions and then post-series tasks. I like to add a section that covers the marketing materials, just to make sure I have everything covered.

Screen shot 2015-08-25 at 8.24.15 AM

Design

First, I’ll map out the timeline for design and graphics. Typically, we run a 4-6 week timeline, depending on the series and how much marketing will go into it. I’ll add dates for when the initial design concept is due and how long we have for feedback and edits. After the design work is done, I’ll upload it into Google Drive and begin ordering any of the print or marketing materials.

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Tip: Begin with the end date and work backward to establish your due dates for tasks.

 

Promotions

Promotions and marketing varies for each series. Usually our staple promotions will be social media graphics, eNews/bulletin and invite cards. For a longer series or one that is geared toward reaching our community, we may add a mailer or a video, too.

In this section, I outline the promotions timeline. We’ll promote a series 2 to 4 weeks out from the start date.

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Post-Series

Finally, I create a post-series section. This is where I mark tasks that I’ll need to do after the series launches, like update web links and banners with the series page.

Screen shot 2015-08-25 at 7.50.16 AM

 

There you go! That’s how you can use Asana to map out your next sermon series.

What about you? What tool do you use for sermon series planning?

The Tension Between Relationship and Rules

The Tension Between Relationship and Rules

 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” – Exodus 20:2

Context, context, context. My pastor always drives home the importance of context when preaching the Bible. You have to look at the context of a passage of Scripture to understand the meaning.

Keeping this in mind as I was reading through Exodus, it hit me how God delivers the 10 commandments (Exodus 20) after establishing His relationship with the Israelites (Exodus 19). He establishes His relationship with them before giving the commandments to them.

This is an applicable lesson for church communicators.

It’s important to establish a relationship with your pastors and team mates before you introduce rules and systems. Communication is relational. It requires trust. Trust is established through relationship. Not rules.

At the same time, guidelines and systems are vital for clear and effective communication. Without them, you end up communicating everything which translates to nothing. Your message will get lost in the clutter and noise.

There’s a tension between the relationship and rules. In my few years experience working in ministry, I’ve found that many pastors and leaders are highly relational and prefer to focus on that, rather than systems and structures.

As a communicator, it’s your job (and mine) to help balance this tension within your church. Provide the structure and the systems but do it in the context of relationship.

When leading church communications, remember to establish relationship and build trust before you implement rules.

 

Case Study: Easter 2015 Communication

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:

easter-2015
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

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

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.

booklet-cover-example
Cover
booklet-inside
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