Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Church Communicators Blog Closing Down

Hi all, although I've enjoyed the time here with the Church Communicators Blog, Jennifer has now taken another job and is more busy with her own site and other activities ... the same can be said for me.

With those responsibilities and work, we just can't put in the time for this site it deserves ...

We'd like to push you to our sites:
Jennifer can update you more on what she's doing ... but I thought I'd tell you about a couple of things I'm doing (shameless plugs) ...

The last month I've been doing a series called Blogging 101 for Pastors. The response has been tremendous. I emailed a bunch of blogging pastors and other believers to get their answers for 5 questions about blogging. It was a lot of fun and I'm drained!

Also, for November, I'm starting a new series called Building Rockin' Church Web Sites.

Would love to have all of you come over to my blog and comment on those posts!

I'm also looking for guest contributors to my blog. If you have something you'd like to say, let me know! :-)

Monday, October 16, 2006

And What About That Guy in the Pink Princess Suit?

My route to work used to take me past several oil change stations. I recently noticed the trend of the sidewalk sandwich board guy. All three of the stations I passed inevitably had one of their mechanics out at the curb, dressed up in some crazy costume, waving at the cars and holding a sign for a $19.99 oil change. While it certainly got my attention, I couldn't help but wonder if I was really ready to trust my car to some guy dressed up in a princess costume, wearing a tiara.

Sometimes in our effort to come up with new and creative marketing strategies, we are faced with the possibility of damaging our credibility. While we would never consider someone dressed up like the Apostle Paul out at our curb and waving a staff and Bible, is it much better when we commit an act of service to the community only to plug our worship times or interrupt our sermon broadcast to promote an upcoming event? For the person who stumbled upon our TV program while flipping past a variety of more tantalizing shows, or for the person whose windshield got washed by a volunteer at a gas station, I wonder if that promotional plug somehow detracts from just showing and sharing Christ with others.

I am all for churches communicating effectively and marketing with the level of excellence that can be seen in the secular world, but I am also ever aware that our mission is far different than secular organizations and that the stakes are far greater than a bottomline. My hope is that the church, in its efforts to communicate in new and exciting ways, never loses sight of its mission, its purpose and the consequences of poor strategy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

iStock

I love iStock. It's where we primarily get our stock photography for print pieces. They've recently also launched iStock Video where you can download video clips, counters, etc. Best of all, iStock offers quite a few freebies! Download the free image of the week from both iStock Photo and iStock Pro, and the free video of the month from iStock Video.

While you're at it, check out their new initiative to reach the faith-based market.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Church Marketing/Communications Collaborative Cookbook?

I'm thinking about using this concept -- WikiHow, a collaborate Wiki where users write tutorials on everything (and I mean everything) -- for church marketing and communications.

But instead of doing it on the WikiHow site, I'm thinking about hosting it ...

The idea and goal is to create a how-to manual of church marketing/communications for churches -- where even the smallest church could have access to the expertise of you.

I've thought about starting a forum, but it takes a lot of time to moderate it and keep up with comments ... with this Wiki, if any of us have a question (i.e. photo releases, direct mail postcard standards, etc., etc.), we could consult the cookbook. It'll take time to get topics up, but could make a big contribution to the Kingdom.

What do you think? Make a comment below, or email me.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Church Bulletin Samples

Here are the Sunday Bulletins I have received from other churches to post on the Church Communications Blog:

  • Pleasant Valley Baptist Church (Liberty, Mo.) -- PVBC's is a booklet. According to Nicole, a generous donor prints them each week.
  • Quail Springs Baptist Church (OKC) -- Mine. We're doing color for a new sermon series. It's not always full color.
  • New Hope ( Lorton, Va.) -- Here, here, and here. Good stuff! Sent by David Schleyer. Church Web site here.
  • First Baptist Raytown (Raytown, Mo.) -- Jennifer Anthony's church. They call it the Advance -- One Side (jpg) and the Other.

    ADD YOURS TO THE LIST: Email corymiller303@gmail.com with a PDF attached ... please keep the file size relatively small (for screen viewing) to save bandwidth. Thanks!
  • Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Dealing with the Media

    Follow this conversation about a church that hired a sex offender for a janitorial position and the local paper coverage of it ... here's the links at CMS and MMI

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    What do you call your 'bulletin?'

    I'm probably outdated on my terminology ... but what do you call your Sunday "bulletin?"

    I've heard it called:

  • A bulletin -- this may date back to Jesus, actually. :-)
  • Worship guide
  • Celebration guide

    I like "Celebration Guide" because it communicates that, well, worship is a celebration.

    Would you all be willing to share PDFs of your "bulletins" with us? if so, email them to corymiller303@gmail.com, and I'll upload them to a later post.
  • Friday, August 18, 2006

    Shock Therapy

    I love the new VW Jetta commercials (1, 2). I think it's the best ad campaign I've seen in a long time. It's surprising. It catches you off guard. It makes you think, "That could've been me." Most of all, its message is very clear: Jetta keeps you safe.

    Sometimes I think that churches are afraid of being shocking. We're stuck in the rut of predictability: open the service with prayer, 3 songs, a special, maybe a video or movie clip setting up the sermon, a 25-minute sermon, invitation, offering, and benediction. How often do you walk away from church transformed and muttering under your breath, "Whoa."?

    I'd like to see more church services that are edgy, unpredictable and creative. I'd like services to catch congregants off guard, make them think, surprise them. I'd like to see churches be creative without losing sight of the message.

    As communications professionals, we can launch great advertising campaigns in the community that set us apart and depict us as cutting edge, but if that first time visitor who acts on that campaign comes to our service, will they find what they were looking for?

    I'm curious if you, as the marketing/communications director, have any input on your worship planning team. Do you sit on the committee that plans services? If so, what does your input look like on that team? If not, how do you make sure that the image you work to build cooperates and coincides with the worship style of your church?

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    3 Rockin' Cool Redesigned Church Sites

    Hop over to ChurchRelevance.com and say 'hi' to Kent ... excellent site.

    In this post, he gives three recent church site redesigns that rock:

  • Vineyard Community Church
  • Phoenix First Assembly
  • First Baptist Springdale

    My personal favorite is FBC Springdale ... vote by commenting on this post (and give Kent a holler too!) ...
  • Friday, August 11, 2006

    Check Out This Church Site: MySecret.tv

    LifeChurch.tv, one of the fastest growing churches in America, has posted a new Web site called MySecret, where people can go online and "confess" their sins.

    If you're not sure how to comment, read this.

    Before commenting though ... read our disclaimer. Only constructive criticism/feedback is allowed, OK?

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Communicating Who You Are

    I love how Asbury Methodist in Tulsa -- one of the fastest growing churches in 2006 -- communicates who they are to a watching world in a page titled "Characteristics of a Methodist."

    This type of communication tells their site guests who they are and battles against stereotypes. You don't have to guess who they are, or how they want to be known in their community.

    Here are their ten "characteristics":

    "A Methodist is a person who:

    1. has the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost.
    2. is happy in God.
    3. has the hope of everlasting life.
    4. prays without ceasing.
    5. shows his love for God by loving his neighbors.
    6. seeks only to do God’s will.
    7. manifests the fruit of the Spirit.
    8. keeps the commandments.
    9. never lives without accountability.
    10. does good to all men."
    Here's what I, as a guest, glean from this:

  • "Love" or "loving" is mentioned three times -- they want me to know they love me and give love; I would guess I'd also be freely accepted at Asbury
  • "Happy in God" is No. 2 -- They are "happy" Christians, bucking a popular stereotype; I'm guessing I'm not going to get frowned at when I walk in the door
  • I sense warmness and a welcoming environment as they do "good to all men"
  • Igniting Ministry

    Too often we focus on the individuality and autonomy of our own churches. Our marketing campaigns are structured in such a way that they set us apart. We herald what's unique about our congregation, highlight our stellar ministries, and cater to the individual's need for belonging. Most of the time, whether we like to admit it or not, the goal is to get people to choose our church over other alternatives. While competition is an inevitable component of marketing - even in church communications - it certainly shouldn't reflect the competitive feel of the corporate campaign.

    But, there are those who have found another way. I stumbled across Igniting Ministry, a denominational marketing campaign for the United Methodists. This campaign entitled, "Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors." promotes the denomination, not a specific church. They have blanketed United Methodist churches with a consistent message, and have equipped the local churches with media kits and tools to take the national message and implement it in their local congregations and communities. It is truly a "united" effort.

    I think this approach has a great deal of potential for reaching the unchurched. It takes the focus off of the individual differences of the local churches and seeks to grow the denomination as a whole. The best part is that they are doing it in a coordinated way, with a clear and concise message and universal images.

    I hope they'll make available an assessment of how well the campaign worked for the denomination in hopes of inspiring other denominations to unite in the same way.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    What's in Your Wallet? What's in Your Wallet? What's in Your Wallet?

    My husband and I have collectively decided that Capitol One is beating a dead horse. Though I think the "What's in Your Wallet?" tagline is still pretty effective, their viking warrior advertising campaign is wearing thin with us. Where else can they really go with this idea? In fact, we're so tired of those commercials that we actually switch the channel when they come on.

    I was speaking with our advertising agency last month and our discussion detoured slightly to the value of repetition. Message repetition is critical in any campaign, particularly as it relates to branding. Each of the different mediums have their own statistics. We were speaking of radio spots, which she indicated requires three hits before a message registers with a listener, and that it takes 25 spots rotating for you to catch that listener and achieve just one of those hits. That's a campaign of at least 75 spots just to get your message to stick. Necessary repetition.

    I'm trying to figure out the balance between necessary repetition that values a campaign, and excessive repetition that outlives its effectiveness. How long do you run the same tagline? How long should you run the same campaign? How often should you reinvent your image or redesign your logo?

    There is a tipping point, I'm just not sure where it is.

    First Baptist Raytown's tagline is "Discover a life worth living." We've been using it in some form for about five years. It first started out as just "Life worth living," and then transitioned into a more active tense. I think it has worked well with our branding. Whenever we use the logo, do a tv spot, print a brochure, the tagline is on it; but, I am beginning to consider whether it's time for something fresh.

    Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Almost as important as actively pursuing it is knowing when to call it quits.

    Friday, July 28, 2006

    Surveys: The Village's Comm. and First Impressions Survey Links

    After listening to audio from an awesome conference session brought by Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Highland Village, Texas, I checked out his church's Web site ...

    Here are some things I really liked about their site and am thinking about phasing here in my church:

  • First Impressions survey -- I'd love to see what comments they get from this
  • Communications Survey/Audit -- I REALLY like this, and again, would love to see their comments
  • Article submissions -- I've been reluctant to do this, but I like the article in theory at least

    ***

    P.S. -- I REALLY appreciate the great feedback from the "photo releases" post. Check out the comments if you haven't had a chance.

    My hope is that this blog becomes a resource and conversation for those of us struggling to define the "communications director" position in our churches.
  • Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    Photo Releases?

    Hey, anybody know anything about using photos of members and kids in your printed and online materials?

    This question keeps popping up for me ... thanks!

    Sunday, July 23, 2006

    Map of 25 Fastest Growing Churches

    I've made my first interactive map (thanks to Wayfaring.com) of the top 25 fastest growing churches. I wanted to see where they were located. Kind of interesting to see where they are on a map. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Service or Self-Promotion?

    With the record breaking heat wave we're experiencing in the U.S. (and Oklahoma where I'm at), I see both an opportunity for service and self-promotion ... but am wrestling with this.

    Last night on the news, I heard there were a couple heat-related deaths in our metro, with a tag at the end about a community agency who is giving fans away and has a waiting list of about 150 or so.

    Here's what I'm wrestling with ... I believe the mission of the church is to not only seek to save the lost ... but also to serve them in Christian love. I want to suggest our church make a donation to buy several fans. BUT the tension is ... I'd also like to get some good PR out of it too.

    If the primary motive is serving and helping ... should we be guilt-free about getting good press out of it? Be honest ... what are your thoughts about this?

    Friday, July 14, 2006

    50 Most Influential Churches

    The Church Report recently issued its annual "50 Most Influential Churches" report. Each year I find myself wondering what is it about these churches that makes them so influential. Are there things in these ministries that would be worth replicating in ours? It also makes me a bit introspective, looking at our church and ways in which we are innovative and creative. I think we have our highlight moments, but are we reaching our full potential? Are we settling for mediocre ideas or are we thinking outside of the box? Are our ministries relevant or are they simply remnants of Christianity past? What are we doing to keep our ministries fresh and alive, and are we communicating that to the community at large?

    I'm a net geek, so I like to visit the sites of these churches. I've always been a fan of the think string that churches with significant web presences are most likely to be those churches that lead in their communities and/or denominations. It's a logical thought: ministries that draw people in tend to have a greater pool of resources. A greater pool of resources translates into a greater ability to invest in marketing - print, online, broadcast, etc. A greater ability to invest in marketing draws people into the ministry.

    I'm always surprised when that thinking is proved wrong. Some of these churches have fabulous sites. I'm particularly fond of Oak Hills, Fellowship of the Woodlands, Calvary Chapel, New Life, and Christ Church of the Valley. However, others (who shall remain unnamed out of courtesy) are not quite as impressive to me. Is the value I place on web presence misguided or are these simply exceptions to the rule?

    Of course, in the end it is God who draws people in and leads them to join the place of worship that fits them best. As church communicators, we just tell that story and offer ourselves as a tool for outreach.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2006

    Reaching the Spiritually Receptive

    Pastor Rick Warren gives (here) two categories of people who are spiritually receptive: "people in transition" and "people under tension."

    Here is his list of the "10 most receptive groups of people" he's found over his years of ministry ... with my questions and ideas on effectively positioning your church to reach them:

  • Second-time church visitors -- How many repeat guests do you have who aren't connected? What do they need to get connected? Information, friendship, personal visit?
  • Close friends and relatives of new converts -- What resources are you giving new converts for them to tell their friends? For example, videotapes of their baptisms, testimonies.
  • People going through a divorce -- See Warren's "DivorceCare"
  • Those who feel their need for a recovery program (any type: alcohol, drugs, sexual, etc.) -- See "Celebrate Recovery"
  • First-time parents -- Do you have a safe and clean environment for their precious babies? How about background checks for workers? Is this information in all your promotional materials?
  • Terminal illness of self or family member -- Do you have support groups on grief or for other hurting people, like Lupus sufferers? There is bound to be people in your church who have gone through similar situations and are perfect to minister to them.
  • Couples with major marriage problems -- How about marriage seminars on Saturdays, or prominently advertising your counseling ministry? Do they view your church as a resource for salvaging their marriage?
  • Parents with problem children -- What service can your family and youth ministries provide here?
  • Recently unemployed/major financial problem -- Do you have a "care line" for this? A ministry budget for caring for these people by temporarily providing food, or job listings?
  • New residents in the community -- Are you sending new homeowners/residents a welcome letter? And are you giving your people a "welcome basket" from your church to give their new neighbors?

    What do you think? Ideas?
  • Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Thinking Things Through

    A while back I was driving along and pulled up behind a minivan. The back window advertised one of our local auto dealers, but what caught my eye was the web address: www.oneillauto.com. Of course, the business name is O'Neill Auto, but what I saw was "one ill auto." That was probably not the impression they were looking to leave.

    Too often marketing managers move forward on a marketing objective or strategy without fully thinking things through. Never run with your gut reaction without giving it careful consideration. Think through the uses of the message; think through any alternate meanings; think through ways that your message could be cluttered by lack of clarity; think through any ways that your message, tagline, logo or image used could be turned against you.

    It's hard to reel the beast back in once you've let it out of the cage. Pre-planning will save the day.

    Thursday, July 06, 2006

    Flash Made Easy

    I've been using Vertical Moon's Swf 'n Slide for a while now, and find that it's a great web tool. It's an easy to use program that simulates flash elements on your web pages. It's limited in its features compared to Macromedia, but it's a fraction of the price and super simple for those who lack the time to learn Flash. The only disadvantage I've found with it is that the Shockwave files it creates don't seem to translate on Macs well. I'm still working on finding a way around that.

    See how we've used it here, here or here.

    Monday, July 03, 2006

    Capitalize on Your Strengths

    Over the weekend, I bought "Now, Discover Your Strengths," the best-selling book based on a huge research project by Gallup.

    It was incredibly enlightening as well as confirming to say the least.

    I've taken the Myers-Briggs test (one of my favorites) and others, but this one rocks. It focuses on your strengths rather than your weaknesses (obviously).

    The premise is: All of us have a core set of strenghts -- things we consistently excel at -- and we should therefore major on those things. These are also the areas you derive the most satisfaction from.

    The authors tell us we should find opportunities that play to our strengths, that allow you to focus on the things you do excellently without much effort.

    I found my top five strengths were:

  • Learner -- why I have 8 books on my nightstand and five others around the house, and constantly have to be reading something
  • Individualization -- recognizing others strengths
  • Maximizer -- taking good to great
  • Futuristic -- vision casting; seeing "over the horizon"
  • Intellection -- always thinking

    Here are some other links:

  • The author -- good audio and video clips, along with free PDF downloads
  • Gallup's Book Center for "Discover Your Strength -- more free articles

    Amazon has the book for $18 ... it includes a serial number in the book cover for the online test. It takes about 40 minutes and you have a report ready for you at the end detailing your top five strengths.

    If you buy it and take the test, please share your strengths with me (and us)!
  • Friday, June 30, 2006

    The Falwell Formula

    I was on my way to work this morning with my radio tuned to NPR, as it normally is. A story about Jerry Falwell was on the air. I don't listen too closely when Jerry Falwell speaks, but my ears perked up when I heard him say, "A pastor needs to be media saavy if he's going to reach everybody." From that point on in the interview I tuned in.

    Falwell talked about how he first realized the power of the media. "The brash statements aren't on [the air] by chance," he said. In 1985, Falwell visited South Africa where he saw Bishop Desmond Tutu. At that time, Falwell continued, Bishop Tutu was a highly respected figure. Falwell's strategy was: if you want to get in every newspaper in America, say something about Bishop Tutu. So, he called him a phoney. Two days later he was on Nightline for a hour-long interview.

    Falwell went on to confirm for the reporter his strategy for church growth:

    Outrageous Remarks = Media Attention = A Bigger Church

    With no disrespect intended, as a church communications professional I have to wonder if that's the best formula for media strategy. I have heard it said in marketing circles that any media attention is better than no attention at all. However, I would argue that a more effective approach to media attention is to herald your story and focus on the message a seeker needs to hear in order to consider your church a possible place of worship, rather than speaking out in order to offend and garner media coverage for your outrageousness. Is the latter more likely to pick up coverage? Yes. But the former is more likely to pick up coverage that benefits your church.

    Perhaps this difference of opinion is the difference between the traditional conservative church seeking to reach their tried and true audience, and the emerging churches seeking to reach an audience of postmoderns and seekers suspicious of high church politics, predispositions and pipe organs.

    [Side note: When asked why he thought his church had grown to such a large congregation, Falwell said that one of the reasons was that he always tries to use the newest technology available. That, I think, is great advice for church growth and relevancy.]

    Listen to the whole NPR story here. It particularly gets interesting and relevant to church communications after about the six minute mark.

    Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me why.

    Wednesday, June 28, 2006

    A Few Words on PR Crisis Management

    It could happen to you, are you ready? The news crew shows up at 4:15 p.m. ready to make the 5:00 p.m. broadcast. "Do you have a comment?" they ask. "A comment about what!?" You're in a panic. Ambush!

    One of the most important tools in a church's PR arsenal is a crisis management plan. A well-thought-out plan of action is a lifesaver in the midst of a crisis - whether that crisis is a sex scandal, a tragic accident on church property, or neighbors upset about your new building program.

    Global PR Blogweek offers seven elements your crisis management plan should include:

    1. Identify the members of your crisis management team.
    2. Identify a spokesperson and make sure that each member of the crisis management team has key contact info.
    3. Prepare fact sheets on your organization that can quickly be duplicated.
    4. Prepare biographies on key staff.
    5. Have copies of your press release format, logos and key signatures on file.
    6. Think through crisis scenarios and develop pre-written statements that could serve as a foundation for a first response.
    7. Compile contact information for your media contacts.

    If you've never created a plan, try here or here for instructions and tips on how to do it.

    This past spring, the group Opus Dei received a lot of publicity with the release of The Da Vinci Code.* While I don't agree with or support their take on theology or religion, I did find comments from the group's Director of Communications very interesting. With the publicity surrounding the book and movie, the group was faced with dipictions of their practices that were not representative of who they are. They were faced with this negative publicity on a national, and even global, scale. How did they approach their PR crisis?

    First, they turned the publicity into a "proselytizing opportunity." They took the unique opportunity of massive press interest and tried to use it in their favor. They told stories of real Opus Dei members and their lives of piety. “We can either weep, or we can sing our song,” said Juan Manuel Mora, Director of Communications for Opus Dei.

    Second, they reached out for allies. They sought support from others sympathetic to their practices and had public affirmations from well-known and well-respected people and institutions. This, in some measure, helped to re-establish their credibility.

    Third, they avoided becoming defensive, and instead approached publicity with an open attitude and a willingness to play the media game. They honed their message. “Any aggressive tone would have played into [their hand],” said Mora.

    It's good advice. Turn the attention in your favor, get support from other organizations, and be accessible to the media with a carefully crafted message. Take the time to preplan for a PR crisis. By doing so, you'll help ensure that your organization will come out the other end unscathed.

    [* Source: Van Biema, David. “The Ways of Opus Dei,” Time Magazine, April 24, 2006.]

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Stanley's 7 Practices for Effective Ministry

    North Point pastor Andy Stanley, along with sidekicks Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones, talk about their seven best practices for ministry at PracticallySpeaking.org.

    This free podcast (get iTunes here) is loaded with tons of great practical advice loaded into concise 30-minute episodes. Get them while they’re up and free.

    Here are the seven practices with the podcast descriptions provided by them in quotes:

    Practice No. 1: Clarify the win – “Even the best team can't score if they can't find home plate. In this conversation we'll discuss the importance of clearly defining a win at every level of your organization.”

    My two cents:
    A focused and clear goal gets everyone pointing in the same direction, working toward the same end. This is about clarity of purpose.

    Practice No. 2: Think steps, not programs – “Before you start anything, make sure it takes you where you want to go. In this conversation we'll discuss the importance of a clear ministry strategy.”

    My two cents: This made me really rethink the "process."

    Practice No. 3: Narrow the focus – “The longer a ministry operates the more complex it can become. In order to maintain a winning organization we must continually face the challenge of narrowing its focus.”

    My two cents: Too often we get wrapped up in doing things that are "We've-Always-Done-It" events and programs. It's easy to get sidetracked on those things on the fringe.

    Practice No. 4: Teach less for more –
    “People are bombarded by thousands of messages every week. If the local church is going to be effective it must cut through the noise. It must learn to say only what needs to be said to the people who need to hear it.”

    My two cents:
    It's hard to swallow advice, but good. Stanley is undoubtedly one of the best young communicators in the church today. As for the communications ministry in specific, I am seeking to direct my church to focus on the "big five" things that need to be communicated each week. Fellowship Church has their "Fellowship Five." In communicating, we must prioritize and focus on those essentials.

    Practice No. 5: Listen to outsiders – “Why don't the unchurched people in your area go to church? Could it be because you're focusing on who you're trying to keep instead of who you're trying to reach?”

    My two cents: How true is this! Use surveys whenever you get a chance. Send out surveys to new residents in your community. Include one in your welcome letter to new members. Use informal surveys when going to the convenience store ... ask them if they attend a church, why not ... ask what they have heard about your church.

    Practice No. 6: Replace yourself – “We all get replaced eventually. The wisest leader will extend his or her influence by finding and mentoring their replacement.”

    My two cents:
    Ouch! How often I have neglected this. Prepare the person to take your place. Mentor, disciple, coach.

    Practice No. 7: Work on it – “All of us work in ministry every day, but is that enough? Working on your ministry requires time to evaluate your work and to celebrate your wins.”

    My two cents:
    Constantly be reviewing, improving, getting better. I think he mentions getting away on the beach for a staff retreat. Excellent idea.

    WHAT'S YOUR TWO CENTS WORTH? Make a comment and tell us.

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    Smooth Operator

    Today I received my annual call from our friendly telephone book ad salesperson. This time of year always puts me in a dilemma. Is telephone book advertising really worth the investment? The rates are high and the exposure is questionable, and yet there's always the fear of being under-represented in a mass listing of churches. We want to stand out. We want our listing to scream, "Come, visit us!" However, I'm not convinced that there are many people listening via this medium.

    The disadvantage, of course, is that the pricing structure of phone book advertising is such that once you lock in a contracted plan, reducing your ads in subsequent years drives the price up. It's nearly impossible to reduce the total cost of your contract without losing your discounts and value deals. Instead, reducing your ads typically drives your contract beyond what you were paying before.

    Slick.

    I think that the internet has completely transformed how people hear about us. Twenty years ago, the phone book was a great resource. Today, however, I would bet that the majority of people - particularly those of the younger generation whom we are trying to attract - will Google keywords to find us. I think a better investment of my time (and budget) is to focus on enhancing the likelihood that when certain keywords are Googled our listing is right there at the top.

    Goodbye phone book, hello virutal reality.

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    Getting on Board

    The April 3, 2006 issue of Time Magazine ran an article entitled, "Getting on Board." The article focused on how billboards and outdoor advertising are reinventing themselves in the digital age. The medium's rebirth has everything to do with the emergence of the digital billboard. Digital billboards not only allow outdoor advertising companies to increase their profit margins (since the ads rotate and can accomodate more advertisers), but they also provide an evaluation tool for the advertisers to assess how effective their outdoor advertising really is.

    This new medium allows advertisers to incorporate interactivity into their ads, allows them to track the "hits" their interactivity produces, and provides a baseline measurement for the effectiveness of their billboard. For example, the article sited a campaign in Britain for the movie Alien vs. Predator. The advertiser incorporated a poll into its advertising - people could text message who they thought would win. During a two-week period measuring 50 interactive ads in the city's rail terminals, 500,000 riders voted on who they thought would win the battle.

    What does this mean for the mainline church who may not be able to play on the same budget as Hollywood studios or Fortune 500 companies? The key is to get creative about your advertising. The encouragement is to find ways to measure your ad's impact. Is there a way to incorporate a coupon into your print ad - perhaps for a free cup of coffee at your church's cafe or for a free devotional book? Is there a way to incorporate a pressing question on your billboard and then encourage them to go to your church's website for the answer? What if someone could download directions and service times onto their cell phone after seeing a text message number on a bus?

    Soon the days of invite cards and phone trees will be gone. Interactivity is the wave of the future. Take it for a ride.

    "It's easier to generate buzz when what you're doing is genuinely cool." - Dody Tsiantar, "Getting on Board" (Time, April 3, 2006, p. A2-A5)

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Monitor News About Your Church, Ministry with Google Alerts

    Google has the 21st century version of the old press clipping service, called Google Alerts.

    Put in your church name, maybe even your pastor's name, and set it to search the "New & Web" "as-it-happens." This is an excellent service I've used for a while now to track mentions on the web about my place of service. It sure beats search the printed ink!

    Finding Balance

    Have you ever seen a creative commercial only to be left wondering, "Well, who was it for?" Or, perhaps you have driven by a billboard whose image peeked your interest, but whose sponsor went unnoticed. While some may believe that such campaigns are effective for driving curiosity and momentum, it is more likely that these campaigns leave your target market confused and your organization with minimal results to show for its advertising investment. [read more here].

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Thoughts on Using Video Well

    In the past two churches I have served, it seems many people are enamored with using video in church services (and not just as sermon illustrations). I always cringe because most people do not understand the time it takes to do video well.

    I've heard the standard time it takes to develop a video is one hour for every minute of finished video -- and that's without actual production.

    To make matters worse, we're competing with ESPN, ABC, etc., etc. And frankly, I don't know many churches that could play in the same field as them -- with exception to maybe LifeChurch and Lakewood.

    BUT ... here's what I've found: Make it funny (borderline hokey) and people will LOVE it.

    This, of course, depends on your congregation and audience ... but I've found just being humorous makes up for a lot.

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    Godbit Project

    I stumbled upon this little ditty while surfing for some design ideas. Their mission is to help the church catch up with the world by better utilizing the web for marketing. Included on the site is a list of featured sites that have some great design elements incorporated.

    Check it out at Godbit Project.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Beeson's 6 Steps for Designing a Worship Service

    Pastor Mark Beeson of Granger Community Church gives six steps for designing a worship service, including planning, communicating, promoting ... it's all here and more.

    In the article, he gives you their outline of the planning process, a series outline, a promotional postcard they did for their "Lost" series, and great video clips showing them doing it all.

    I appreciated these quotes:

  • "Our churches aren't trying to create some new thing. When we innovate, we're simply coming back to the same source, the same Jesus, and we're drinking that water."

  • "The Arts Team should share the mission, vision, and values of the senior leaders."

  • Re: promotional postcards: "We mail the cards to neighbors one week in advance. Our congregation receives the cards in the bulletin, and they invite other people." I really like the idea of giving the postcards to your congregation in the bulletin!

  • "If you let people know what you're trying to do, let them use their time and talents for the cause, and give them enough lead time, they can do it."

  • "I've learned to hand the ball to people. Give them parameters and get out of their way. You don't want under-challenged leaders. If you let them serve without you, you'll be amazed how far they can go." Refreshing!

  • "When you lift up Jesus, people will be drawn to him and want to help because they love him."
  • Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Creating and Managing the 'Experience'

    Here are 10 ways to "create and manage experiences" that could be useful when thinking through everything from Web site redesigns to worship services ...

    I'm helping my church go through a Web site redesign right now and I want to create a good and memorable experience for both our guests and members.

    Cool Church Web Site No. 3

    A megachurch ministering in an affluent area of Kansas City ... oh, and this is their hip site.

    Giving Attenders Just 5 Top Things to Remember

    FellowshipChurch.com describes a great feature of their "worship guide" -- it's called "Fellowship Five," and gives the top five things their attenders need to know.

    What a great way to prioritize the message and not drown people with information.

    Relabel Offering Boxes as 'Joy Boxes'

    At Rob Bell's Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Mich., they call their "offering boxes" "joy boxes."

    Great approach to what should be the heart motivation of giving.

    Article link via Steve McCoy

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    Marketing on the Cheap -- The Bootstrapper's Bible

    Get Seth Godin's The Bootstrapper's Bible while you can on ChangeThis!

    Great read, great tips as usual.

    Graphic Design Tips Like a Pro -- For $24

    For $24 a year, you can get this outstanding graphic design magazine in PDF.

    Chock full of ideas, tips, ways to design mundane stuff and more.

    Launching an IdeaVirus

    Download Seth Godin's IdeaVirus ... read and learn.

    Cool Church Web Site No. 4

    Simple, clean, effective home page. The ministry areas aren't listed on the front though.

    Use an Online Form for Events Too!

    As a comm. director, I've been frustrated by the lack of information submitted by different ministry areas ... Gene Mason is a genius.

    Here's his online event information form.

    Upload a Web Site Feedback Form

    Get comments on your Web site's effectiveness, reports on broken links, ideas and more with a Web Site Feedback Form like Brook Hills.

    Visitor or Guest?

    So many churches use the term "visitor" in their publications, Web sites, and in their speech to others.

    When you invite someone into your home, do you call them a visitor or guest?

    Which one is warm? Which one is cold and distancing?

    Invite guests into your church family's gatherings, not one-time visitors.

    (I first heard this, I think, from Elmer Towns at a Sunday school conference where he chided us all for using the term "visitor" to refer to our "guests.")

    Fellowship's 'Evite'

    Check out Fellowshipchurch.com's "evite" function on their Web site. Be sure to "preview" the evite so you can see what they do.

    The evite includes:

  • Sermon series
  • Worship service times
  • Map
  • Mission Statements or Mantras?

    Guy Kawasaki, famed for his "evangelistic" work for Apple's Macintosh computer, writes in his book "Art of the Start" (actually I read this in a PDF condensed version at ChangeThis!) that instead of writing complex mission statements that are usually dusty, forgotten and full of complicated jargon, companies (and I would submit, churches as well) should "make mantra" instead.

    He includes a chart of several well-known companies, listing both their official mission statements and his "hypothetical mantra" version. Here are a couple I thought were especially poignant:

  • Red Cross -- "Stop suffering."
  • Southwest Airlines -- "Better than driving."
  • Coca-Cola -- "Refresh the world."

    How many times have you seen a church mission statement that was the equivalent of a high school English essay exam answer, when it could have easily been stated in a simpler, easy-to-remember format that gets to the gist of it all?

    Kawasaki advises making them "short and sweet." The idea is to give your congregation a takeaway vision of what you are leading your church to embody in your community.

    Send your statements -- ah, rather "mantras" -- to me, I'd love to check them out!
  • Batterson's 7 Steps to Sermon Branding™

    TheaterChurch.com pastor Mark Batterson lists seven steps for branding your sermons here.

    Briefly, they are:

    1. "Come up with a series title" -- Rick Warren is one of the best at this; Also check out FellowshipChurch.com's Ed Young
    2. "Create a series logo" -- I did this for my church, see a sample here.
    3. "Design a series evite and invite" -- An evite is an electronic invitation via email
    4. "Brainstorm Big Ideas"
    5. "Shoot a Series Trailer™" -- LifeChurch.tv's Craig Groeschell does this really well
    6. "Add Sermon Props" -- Mars Hills pastor Rob Bell is reknown for this; he loves interactivity and wants the congregation to experience Scripture and the sermon, even handing out Play-Do for a message
    7. "Add Sermon Staging" -- One church in Kansas City I visited installed real grass and built a mini-house structure for their "Home Improvement" series.

    Check out the articles posted by Batterson at BuzzConference.com.

    Send Your Members to 'Digital Photography School'

    Train your congregation to take good photos ... by sending them to the Digital Photography School Blog.

    This Web site is an excellent resource for teaching your church staff and congregation how to take good photos. It's packed with tips on composition, taking photos while traveling (i.e. good for mission trip participants before they go), and much more.

    At one church I served at, one of our members volunteered to take photos of all our events. He had recently bought a nice digital camera and this allowed him a practical way to serve the church. And he thoroughly enjoyed doing so through photography.

    Recruit a member in your church to do the same, give them a little training, and set them loose (within certain parameters, of course).

    How To Create, Edit, Publish Your Own Podcast

    Great article on how to "podcast" from a pioneer in Internet design.

    Using Blogs as Communications Tools for Ministry Areas

    Veteran church communications guru Gene Mason has led his church -- Brooks Hills in Alabama -- to start several "team blogs" to communicate better ... check them out.

  • College/Career Blog
  • Missions Blog
  • BH Jam Blog

    What ministry areas in your church could use a blog like this to communicate better?

    Brook Hills so far as one for young singles, missions, and music.

    One Key for Success: Make sure the "team" is trusted and posts accurate information on a regular schedule.