As we head into the summer and many churches rekindle some sense of post-pandemic normalcy, I think now is a perfect time to pause and reflect on effective communication strategies. What worked? What didn't? How can we do better moving forward? What worked before COVID that may no longer be adequate or useful? Are there some methodologies we can ditch? Are there some new ones we should adopt?
The more I speak with small church communicators and pastors who double as communicators, the more I come to realize just how overwhelmed everyone remains. There may be a renewed passion for church life in some areas — which is fantastic — but the reality is that many weary pastors and communicators are just now beginning to find their footing and look to the future with hope.
Long before words like "COVID" or "pandemic" were in our daily conversations, church comms was often intimidating and stressful enough even for the most talented and seasoned of communicators. There are weekly projects, deadlines to meet, social media channels to manage, new tools to learn, design trends to follow, videos to shoot and edit, podcasts to host, bulletins and flyers to proofread, and a million other things we could name. But — like any other job or ministry position — the key is to not allow yourself to become overwhelmed.
I believe healthy churches can and should focus on streamlining their communication procedures in ways that keep everything smooth, uncomplicated, simple, and as peaceful and stressless as possible. This ensures that everyone on the team is working together in harmony so that they can focus on getting the Gospel message to the audience with proficiency and ease. It also ensures that the audience can access that Message, which is the ultimate goal.
Here are some communication tools, tips, strategies, and techniques for healthy churches to be using as we continue to navigate through the remainder of 2021:
#1. Multiple Channels and Outlets for Information Access
During COVID, many small churches, understaffed churches, and churches in rural areas suffered due to a lack of more than one platform. Others completely backed off and only focused on one platform (usually Facebook.) Their people didn't know where to turn to find out what was happening, when they would be regathering, or if there were digital ways to watch their pastor preach. Many of these folks would have simply had to resort to calling their pastor's personal cell phone, assuming they even had the number. Much of this hassle, frustration, and confusion could have been avoided altogether had there been an updated website and/or social media channel.
Healthy churches keep their information and presence in more than one place whenever possible by utilizing both digital and print methods. A website is great, but maintaining a regularly updated Facebook Page is even better. You'll also have folks in the church and/or surrounding community who will want to know if you're on other popular social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter. Are you active on those platforms? Why or why not? Maybe your church wouldn't have a large enough following on Twitter yet to justify a presence there, which is perfectly fine. Maybe you have a large demographic that still prefers traditional printed bulletins to take home. These are things you will need to take into consideration, particularly if you're a small church pastor managing all of this yourself without the assistance of a Communications Director and/or team. Every church is unique and has specific communication needs. Either way, the general rule of thumb: The more channels, the better.
#2. Relevant Messaging
This has become all the more critical in the post-pandemic church movement. People want to know what they need to know. They don't have time for things that don't apply to them. This was true pre-COVID, but the pandemic exacerbated it all the more. Be sure that your announcements, posts, and messages reach the specific individual groups for which they are meant. In other words, your senior saints probably don't need to be included in a group text about an upcoming young couples retreat. Talk about awkward. When it comes to social media posts, you can always tag specific people in the comment thread who you believe need to see the announcement the most. These sort of things go a long way in helping everyone cut through the noise and filter out what is unnecessary or irrelevant to them.
#3. Enhanced Visitor Follow-Up Protocols
If you weren't doing visitor follow-ups before COVID, now is the time to start. (I discuss follow-ups briefly in this post here.) With so many folks still on the fence about how often to attend, whether they'll return to their home church or find a new one, and how long they'll even stay in one place, every single visitor to your fellowship matters. If you truly desire for them to grow spiritually, undergo discipleship, and become faithful attenders and subsequent participators, then you have to make some sort of effort to pursue them with personal phone calls, e-mails, texts, and even visits to their home or office. You might even meet with them for coffee or a meal. It's all part of the relationship-building process, which is also more critical than ever in the post-pandemic church movement.
Perform a quick assessment of your church's follow-up process. Do you even have one? Why or why not? Who is in charge of it? Is he or she friendly? Does the senior pastor also reach out? Do you use more than one communication method? Phone and e-mail? Text and coffee with the pastor? Whatever you do though, don't let a visitor slip through the cracks.
The challenges wrought by COVID upon the Local Church At Large have given us a unique opportunity to reassess our communication methodologies. Don't try to revive old strategies that didn't work in the past. Don't make up new ones just for the sake of newness. Focus on establishing relationships with people in the church and the surrounding community and be sure to lather that relationship in trust, kindness, and a whole lotta Jesus. And, in the process, don't be afraid to try something new or make adjustments to the way you did something before if the situation calls for it. It just might be time for a change.
What did I miss? What is has your church changed in regards to communication techniques that has been successful in the post-COVID emergence? Do you have any advice, tips, or suggestions from your own experiences? Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail!