Breaking the Communications Logjam: A Four-part Series

damn traffic jamPart I of IV

The Publications You Need

Before reading the next paragraph, take a minute and write down all the publications that your church produces.

[Sound of clock ticking]

Got it? Good. How many are on the list? Two? Four? Five?

Now think a bit harder. On average, I find that churches have no less than 10 distinct categories of publications they produce:

  1. Church Bulletin
  2. Social Media
  3. Website
  4. Sermons
  5. Audio-visuals for services
  6. Miscellaneous posters/hand-outs related to classes
  7. Print newsletter
  8. Bulletin Inserts
  9. New Member materials
  10. Special publications for special services (Easter, Christmas, funerals, etc)

And within these categories are subcategories. Broken out this way, even small churches can find themselves juggling 15, 20, 30 or more publications every month. That’s a tall order for anyone–it can break the backs of a congregation that depends on volunteers and a limited staff.

Making Choices

Despite how overwhelmed most congregations I visit are, I find it interesting that more times than not, I’m asked how they can add something to the mix–usually, social media.

The first step to getting control of your publications is to limit yourself to the ones that you absolutely must have. Two, three at most.

Of the list of ten given above, one could make the case that they’re all essential. So how do you choose?

Step One: Stop thinking about publications in terms of pieces you need to produce, and begin thinking in terms of the type of information you require. The difference is not semantics. Returning to the list above, we have listed 10 pieces that have to be filled with information. But the types of information required to fill them can be boiled down to three:

  • Educational (teaching information for new members, theological information for sermons, spiritually uplifting materials for newsletters and special events)
  • Audio visual (graphics for Sunday service, photos to place in newsletters [print and electronic], designs for signs)
  • Pragmatic (Details of events, special days [birthdays, anniversaries, etc], and assorted events happening in and around your congregation.

Step Two: Rethink the publications you require. Now that you’ve switched from thinking in terms of publication pieces to types of information required, look anew at what you publish. What two or three tools can capture the types? They may, or may not, be publications the church sees.

Looking at the three types above, a congregation could conceivably gather the majority of this information in a blog, a well-maintained calendar, and a Pinterest account.

Step Three: Start collecting. Writing and collecting, like sermon-writing and visitation, are habits. Begin carving out a set amount of time everyday to collect and write materials that fill the types of information you require. Again, these efforts may or may not lead to publications you put in front of parishoners.

So how does the work of filling the publications get done?

That’s Part II of the series. But this week, give it a try. See if you can name all your publications, and then reduce those communications down to types. Develop your own distinctive writing/collecting methods for gathering the information to fill the types and begin disciplining yourself to use them, daily.

In two weeks, we’ll show how this leads to more-effective publications that require less time, and increase accuracy.

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Chasing Youth: Can You Win?

Face book declineChurch Mag recently released a story that is often imitated in church circles. This story, The Facebook Exodus: Where Are All the Teens Going rattles the cages of congregations desperate to attract young people and families by getting more engaged with their social media tools.”Again,” the writer concludes, “we see that the Church will need to look beyond Facebook to reach this generation of users online.”

Let me spoil it for you. This is an arms race you are not going to win.

Give the article credit for unearthing the newest trend of social networking tools making the rounds among the young. If you have children, most of the new tools will be no surprise to you–your kids are already using them, and you’ve probably seen the icons if you haven’t used them yourself. Certainly, it helps to stay on top of what’s new and developing in this world.

But to think that using these tools will attract youth to your church is akin to thinking that wearing a particular pair of shoes will make you a better athlete. (It’s gotta be the shoes).

Using KIK or SnapChat or Vine is not something you build an outreach program on.

Rather, you build an outreach program on being true to yourself, being clear with others about what you are, and living that essence out in the world around you.

This is not to say that you should be ignorant of new technologies–we’re all for it and encourage it. Nor or we saying don’t use them.

All we’re saying is, don’t confuse the tools for the message.