Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Check List - Check It Twice

Each Christmas churches are filled with Christians looking to celebrate Jesus being born in the little town of Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger of all places.

We know and love that story, but let's be clear, many of the people that will show up at your church for Sunday worship or candlelight services are there purely for the tradition, the warm and fuzzy feelings and a break from all of the busyness of the holiday season. The motives of a lot of attenders will not be pure as the wind driven snow this holiday or any other.

So what are ways that we can try to break through to this cynical group? At Speiro we have put together a short list of things to consider for Christmas to make a good impression on outsiders possibly looking to become insiders. Please read Colossians 4:2-6 before you read this list.

  1. Press releases need to be completed for every activity that the church does! It maybe a little late this year, but do one any way. Press releases are an easy way to tell others about your church. Contact Speiro for a template if you need one.
  2. Make event announcement cards for your church members to pass out to friends and family members. Place the most important event on the front of a half sheet of paper on heavy stock and then list the other events on the back. You cannot promote everything equally! Pick the most important and give it the most space. Most people are looking for a church to go to during the holidays. Make it easy for your members to invite them.
  3. Have warm, friendly greeters outside the door. If you have ever been to a restaurant for the first time and no one opens the door and the hostess stand is empty? You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach not knowing if you walked in the right door or whether you should seat yourself or not. Forever, that feeling can be associated with the business. Avoid giving folks this feeling at your church. They should never wonder if they are walking in the right door. Long-term set up a welcome Ministry Team.
  4. Greeters inside should be both friendly and knowledgeable. This job is more than handing out programs and bulletins. I have manned the door prior to services for years and get a wide variety of questions, from location of the bathroom to "Is the nursery a peanut free zone?". Have helpers nearby to help seat people, show they the way to the nursery and answer questions. Long-term think about common questions and have brochures printed up and made available to assist with frequent questions.
  5. Your bulletin will be what the visitor will be staring at to avoid eye contact with any one else before the service starts. It has to be clean and clearly state who you. Would an unchurched person understand what is going on based on the bulletin? Also, make sure the things you are promoting shed the most positive light on the church. Think about each item. For instance, what does “Last Week’s Giving” tell a visitor? Get rid of churchy words and abbreviations that the unchurched don’t understand. Long-term, think about color, logo, font choice and layout.
  6. If you have a projector and slides, they should walk a person through each step of the church service from the welcome to the invitation. Prior to the start of the service, begin with a friendly welcome slide and then rotate through a total of five more informational slides at most. They should include the welcome, directions to bathrooms or nursery, turn off cell phones and then three more slides that promote church activities that will speak to the visitor. They should be short messages and stay up for just 10 – 15 seconds before they change. You should get through 6 in about a minute. Long-term think about developing a consistent theme.
  7. During the official welcome, let people know how and why to fill out the visitor cards or attendance sheets, first. This will give visitors time to complete the cards. If it is the last thing mentioned during announcements people will miss the chance to fill it out. I have seen people reach for cards when asked and then the music starts and they are asked to stand up. They then put the card down and never fill it out. The other announcements should be about directions for service and three events or programs that you want to mention. These should be the same ones on the slides and in the bulletin. Repetition is effective. Long-term quit winging the announcement time. It is the official introduction of the church to the visitors. A rambling, incoherent, unplanned welcome can turn people away.
  8. Things like communion are foreign to many visitors. During the meditation a short explanation should be on a slide. Also, some time should be taken to explain who can partake, the purpose and the process. The way churches do communion varies even in Christian Churches. Let people know if you hold the emblems and take them together or if the used cups should be placed in racks under the seats, etc. Sometimes it seems like we try to make people uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons. The process should never create anxiety, leave that to the Spirit! Long-term use the slide every week.
  9. The nursery needs to be cleaned, organized and manned. Nothing will run a family out of a church faster than to drop off a child at a dirty, disorganized room with a sixteen year old volunteer in charge with a baby on each hip. There should be a check-in process! Each child should be assigned to a parent. There should be a checkout process. The child can only leave with the person that checked them in. Long-term work out a permanent process with signs and brochures about the nursery and children’s opportunity. 
  10. If your church expects a decision regarding, baptism, prayer or membership at the end of the service make a slide for that. It should appear while the minister is wrapping up the sermon. Again, each church is different so let people know what is going on. Every person should know how to respond to what they have heard. 

This is just a short list of things that can be accomplished at any church. There are several other things to consider, from special parking, signs, website updates, to lighting in the auditorium. I would encourage you to look at your church as a visitor and see what improvements can be made so we can be wise in the way we act towards outsiders and make the most out of every opportunity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Go Ahead Blast Away

One more bullet in your arsenal is the email blast. 
When it comes to internal communication we only have a limited amount of bullets to shoot so we should use all of them in our arsenal. This is because it is often hard to tell which will hit the mark. As a church leader I have seen this first hand as I have given announcements from the pulpit, shown slides with the same announcement and put the very same information in the bulletin. Yet when I ask someone why they didn't come to the event the answer is usually, "I didn't know about it." or "Was that this week?"

I usually stand there incredulous, with my jaw about an inch off the floor. They are either lying or we are still using communication devices that tend to stream in one ear and flow out the other, without stopping in between. I'm not sure which it is, but I can tell you the church is never hurt by using better communication systems available today. So here is one more shot you can fire, the email blast.

If you are going to use the blast as one of your bullets here are some pointers that should help you improve communication:
  1. Get a pure list of all email addresses. This is very important because if you have no list, you can't email people. Pure means that they are current and active. 
  2. Maintain the list. You will get notification when an email is rejected. Just one out of place number or letter and the email will be floating around in cyberspace for eternity. Be vigilant in contacting members as they change addresses or correct mistakes.
  3. Make a template or even use gmail. The only real requirement for the email blast is that the system you choose can house a contact list. After that it depends on how much time and effort you want to devote to the blast. Some template based systems can tell you who opened the email, who clicked on the various links and if they forwarded it etc. Templates rather easy to use. Even a person with limited computer knowledge can fill in the blanks on a template. Most of these template based systems are free depending on volume.
  4. Use the subject line wisely. This is the place where you will peak the recipient's interest. Give them a compelling reason to open the email. 
  5. Determine when you will send the blast out. Once a week would be enough but even a monthly email blast can work. A word of caution, don't over do it with daily announcements. People will start to ignore them. You can break the rules and email more frequently for emergency prayer requests, service cancellations or other important notices.
  6. Remain consistent. Try to always send the email blast out on the same day each week or month even the same hour is a good idea.
  7. Make things fit on one page. People hate to scroll down. This means clear, sharp writing or using links to pages on the website. Start the story in the blast and then finish the info on the website. Important things like who, what, why, when and where for events should be somewhere in the blast. Only more in depth information should be on the external link. 
  8. Encourage members to pass the information along and sign up for social media.
  9. If your system allows it, see who is opening and clicking and who is not. This can be a marker for people that have a deeper interest in church activities. It can also let you know if people are reading what you are sending.
  10. Don't be afraid of feedback. Online or in person ask folks for ways to improve things. After all this is about internal communication make it a two way street whenever possible.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

How Many Logos Do We Need?

The root of "logo" in Greek means to speak, say or tell. That is the purpose of your church logo; to tell others about you through a simple image. Logos are a representation or emblem that identifies your church to your community and because they are an identifier, serious thought needs to be applied before you just pick one. It will become your stamp or image to your community and your church so it should, as clearly as possible, make a statement about who you are and where you are going.

This logo was created for a youth group.
Your church logo should become a part of everything you do. It should not necessarily be overbearing in design, but must be included. The logo should become so much of a statement about who you are that if you were to carry a banner with your logo in a local parade, people five blocks away would know who is coming up the street.

With all that being said and understanding the importance of the logo, how many does a church need? This question has multiple answers so bear with me as I try to help you sort this out.

1. You need one logo. That was simple, I can quit reading right? Not quite yet. Not to restate the introduction, but having a strong logo is important and there should be one for the church as a whole. It is the umbrella that covers all of the church activities and ministries. It should be seen the most in almost all circumstances.

2. You need additional logos depending on "who" you are communicating with. As you look at your church and outreach, you need to look at various ministries broken down by age, possibly gender and other demographics. For instance a youth ministry will have a target demographic a bit different than a quilting bee. As the goal is to communicate effectively a logo should be developed to speak to that group. That does not mean that every class or ministry needs a logo. However, if there are demographics that need to be spoken to in a different way then a logo can be developed for each. Keep in mind that just as much effort needs to be put into each of these logos as the main church logo. Common logos based upon the "who" include: Children Ministries, Youth Ministry (Middle School and High School), Senior Ministry Teams (Senior Saints), Women or Men's Bible Studies.  

3. You need a logo for "what" you are doing. Most often the church logo will do for most special efforts. However, you need to think more broadly if you are partnering with a non-church group or other ministries. A school supply give-a-way may need a special logo. Also, many internal programs and projects probably need to be set apart with a special logo. Common logos based on "what" include: new believer classes, building projects, and some sermon series.

4. You need different logo if you are building a new or different brand. For instance planting a new church or starting a church within a church may need a new logo to communicate to their target. Think of Pepsico. They have one logo for Pepsi, but a totally different set of logos for their other sodas like 7Up and even more for their food brands like Fritolay or Quaker Oats. A different brand even in the same company requires a different logo.

The bottom line is to think through your logo needs and approach the logo creation in a thoughtful careful way. The place to start is with a solid church logo that says what you want it to say. From there branch off to the others keeping your general theme along the way. Rely heavily on your vision and mission statement for guidance for your theme and think about who you are trying to talk to. Don't be afraid to rethink your logo as an update is warranted every five to ten years. With all of this in mind you should be able to create a communication device that will help your church speak to the congregation and the community. Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for help from a professional, just be clear about cost and logo ownership up front.  


Friday, September 4, 2015

The Headache of Promotional Items

How many ink pens can you possibly need? Many churches give them away like candy and other churches hang on to them like they are solid gold. Some churches have a large budget for coffee mugs, tee shirts, key chains and bumper stickers, all with the church logo emblazoned on the item. Other churches don't waste the money on such items. So where is the line between getting the name of the church out with promotional material to the community, and finding another use for the tithes and offerings? Just trying to figure all of this out can give you a headache that aspirin can't cure.

Ministers and ministry volunteers are often faced with a difficult choice of how to best spend the promotional budget. Some church leaders now are thinking, "Promotional budget, what promotional budget?" But if you have one  figuring out what to do with it can be difficult and if you don't have one should you?

Finding the knick-knack or tactic that will give you the biggest bang for your buck is not only difficult to anticipate, but for many churches it seems a lot like "casting lots" instead of a coherent plan. Will a coffee mug or ink pen really remind people to come to church on Sunday? Would a logo-printed flash drive help them choose your church instead of one down the road? Will a fancy tee shirt in the churches colors in the latest design pull in the curious that see it?

Maybe all this junk is just junk and a more traditional advertising plan would be better?  TV, radio, magazines, billboards and direct mail pieces have all been tried but that can be even more costly than coozies or flashlight key chains. Any promotion can fail to generate interest and not matter what you try it will be expensive.

While every church is different, at Speiro in general we recommend that you think long and hard before you invest in a lot of knick-knacks and thing-a-ma-bobs. However there is a place for them.

1. Pens - If you currently buy pens as office supplies you should just order some with your name on them and put them in the pews for people to use. If you get them in lots of 700 or greater they are less expensive than ones from the store in many cases. Don't go cheap! A pen that doesn't write makes your church look bad.
2. Sticky Notes - Same as ink pens. If you are already buying them, get them with your logo on them and give them away in visitor packages. Stick notes are useful and will "stick" around (pun intended) for a long time.
3. Coffee Mugs - Mugs can be used for visitor packages or to celebrate an event as a keep sake. Know how many you need over a long period of time and make sure you have a place to store the surplus. Look at attendance figures and visitor numbers over a two-year period to give you a good idea of how many to order.
4. Tee Shirts and Apparel - These are getting less expensive all the time. Again know how many you need and get a wide variety of sizes. Always use the church logo or theme on the design. Remember some people just don't like tee shirts,  the same with hats. For events (parades, community night out, festivals, etc.) always make sure everyone has a tee shirt to wear and ask them to put it on. Always have a plan to get rid of the surplus as give-a-ways and prizes. These should not be given as a welcome gift in most circumstances, unless they ask for one.
5. Magnets - First of all if possible make your own. You can save lots of money by producing only what you need. Also make it useful like Spiritual Emergency Phone Numbers. Magnets come in different strengths so test them out before you produce them in mass qualities. You test them by taking a pizza delivery menu and sticking it on a fridge door with the magnet. Slam the fridge door a few times. If it holds it is strong enough. If not try again. A magnet that doesn't hold a menu will get tossed in the trash.
6. Other items - Be creative and find fun things that are useful and will stick around for a long time or things that will help you make a point. Think about what you are trying to tell people. For instance luggage tags can be used to promote missions giving. You want to memorable.  

One thing for sure only order what you need and always have a plan for distributing whatever you order. The biggest waste of money is for there to be shelves of all sorts of items that just sit. If you think through the items, make plans and wisely order then they will be a reminder of your church to people.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Church Secretary Under Fire

By Russ Ward
For years we have been driving our church secretaries closer and closer to the edge as the job expands and more demands are made. Even the title "Church Secretary" is an old out of date term. They are no longer keepers of secrets, efficient wordsmiths and typists. They are quite often the backbone of the functioning church and wear more hats than a mannequin in a haberdashery.

My grandmother was a church secretary for years and worked hard everyday to further God's Kingdom in the era of the typewriter, the mimeograph and phones with dials. Even her always pleasant demeanor would be challenged by the requirements of the job today.

Quite often these servants of the church are called to be graphic designers, social media experts, computer technicians and the person in charge of the impossible task of keeping the minister on track. Each in itself a thankless task that no one really understands or appreciates. In reality, they are no longer just secretaries, but they are now communication specialists. Communication specialist that need all the help they can get.

The question quickly becomes how can we help them with a nearly impossible task. Here are some tips to help one of your churches most important people:

  1. Identify Weaknesses - This is hard to do. No one likes to admit they are not "all things to all people". However, if help is to arrive then shortcomings must be understood.   
  2. Find Help within the Church - Once you know where you need help, look at church roster to fill any of the weak spots with committed members. Be careful in assigning these tasks because more harm can be caused than good if it is the wrong person.
  3. Get the right tools. Churches, too often expect, too much while providing, too little support. It turns out that computers and programs are costly, but they are needed for the church to function in today's world. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to paint a Rembrandt with crayons.  
  4. Allow the administrative assistant the opportunity to get some training. If you don't have a graphic designer in your congregation, think about sending them to a course or two. Most colleges have classes you can audit for a very low fee or even free. Check out your local community college for options. 
  5. If you really have no one available and training is out of the question, think about what tasks you could hire to be done. Maybe a pro can create a new template for the newsletter or update the website. Keep in mind, you may have to pay a pretty penny in most circumstances, but that is usually better than finding a new secretary.
  6. Don't get in the way. Believe it or not you are not that easy to work with. Lots of difficulties come from an over involved staff that try to help but ultimately slow up the whole process. I have seen a minister try to help and make changes to the bulletin without mentioning it and when they were printed, the help turned out to be a typo and poor quality photo. Ask before you dive in. 
  7. Get young people or a youth group to help with social media. Many church administrative assistants struggle with social media. Pick some responsible college or high school students to pick up the slack. Set goals. Meet monthly to talk about purpose. 
  8. Show your appreciation. Church secretaries are under appreciated. Be an encouragement.    
These are just some examples to think about. Let's help each other a bit and post other suggestions. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Weird Ways to Impact Communication

No logo, no church wierd is that? 
There are several methods, over the years, that we have used to impact communication and some are less conventional than others. Some are even down right weird but are functional. Here are just a few that have had an impact.

  1. What says Thanksgiving more than John Wayne? - That's right. To promote our annual Thanksgiving meal at church we decided to use an image of John Wayne from the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The words covering the poster were, "Thanksgiving Dinner - Be There Pilgrim". I have never seen such a response to our Thanksgiving effort. People were talking. Some liked it and some complained, but attendance was extremely high. Don't be afraid to go out on a limb, be professional but have fun.
  2. Recently we promoted a Sunday evening church service and fellowship time. On all of the
    Attend or else. 
    materials it said, "Fellowship Mandatory" in an old fashioned circus poster style. Taking the cue from the announcement slide, from the pulpit it was announced that fellowship was mandatory as well. I expected some blow back because in churches we usually ask and rarely tell. A principle that flies in the face of all of the marketing and advertising principles I have ever been taught, but in church you usually use the softer glove. The response was overwhelming and quite successful. Don't be afraid to tell people to do something.  You will be surprised if done with the proper motivation and right event. 
  3. Giving kids video camera and assignments sounds like a dangerous idea. It isn't. It is fun and a way to engage a different group that is looking for a way to contribute.  The youth group was broken into teams and went out with an assigned list of things to do in a video scavenger hunt. (No children or video equipment was damaged in this experiment.) The kids loved it, they got to showcase their talent and love for God and will never forget the experience. Probably because it is on YouTube. Let go and allow others to express themselves. 
  4. Don't claim credit. That's a real stretch and downright weird. You mean we have gone to the trouble of collecting donations, signing up volunteers, bringing out tables and chairs and spent our whole Saturday giving out school supplies to disadvantaged families and we don't hang a banner or hand out pencils with our name on them. That's right. Sometimes even the best intentions, if filled with service times and banners with our logo, come off as pushy to people in need. Sometimes think hard about ministry and less about promotion. 
  5. Quit being scared of stating the truth. In our church blog we cover all sorts of subjects. But none of them has garnered as many views and comments as the blog, "I'm a Christian - Should I Get A Tattoo". The article was a well written piece (I wrote it) about what the Bible says about our bodies and whether we should allow someone to poke holes in it and fill it with ink. The funny thing is as a church we try to reach out in as many ways as possible, but that one weird blog article has more hits from more sources than any other. Don't live in fear of what the Bible says...just say it. Read it here.
This is just a short list of the different ways we have seen success when communicating with others. Feel free to use any of the ideas but, just as importantly tell us what you have done that is a bit out of the box but has worked well. I am looking forward to the response.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5 Things Communications Plans Can't Do

Sometimes we find ourselves shouting at the top of our lungs and it seems that no one pays any attention at all. This can be very frustrating as we expect that when we talk, people listen, but this is not always the case and even the best communication plan can fail or be ignored. This is often because we do not realize there are certain realities that even great communication cannot fix.

Usually you see posts from Speiro on what improved communications plans, both internally and externally, can do for your congregation and church. But, it is also very important to understand what a communication plan cannot do as well. This will alleviate disappointment when expectations are not met and this can also interject some reality into the excitement that many have when beginning a new effort to communicate more effectively. So here is a short list of things improved communication efforts cannot do that might apply to your church.

  1. You can't make people listen. I have seen this with my own eyes. We put an event in the bulletin, the preacher talks about it in a sermon, an elder makes it the focus of the announcement time, posters are made by the dozens and hung around the church, flyers are placed on windshields, a slide was made, a postcard is mailed, it is tweeted, posted and blogged about. Yet when you ask a fellow member why they weren't at the event, they say they weren't told. Let he who has ears let him hear. We can't make people pay attention.  
  2. Communication cannot improve the subject of the effort. Check this mistake as been there, done that. I was in a meeting where a big event was being discussed and it was very important to get the word out. It was to be a huge event with thousands of people expected, tons of activities, great speakers and a tremendous impact. Yet, after all of the promotional effort, one guy shows up with a popup tent, the speakers are terrible and a hundred participants are milling about with no excitement. I see the unfolding disaster and try to find a hole to hide in. If something is a bad idea, poorly planned and poorly executed no amount of publicity can pull it from the fire.   
  3. It cannot make people more spiritual. Communications can enthuse, inspire, entertain and can even persuade in some circumstances. However, if you are looking for people to change their lives spiritually because you have done a great job with the graphics, then you are being unrealistic. This is why Speiro (to sow) is named Speiro. We understand that we are commanded to spread seed, but not in charge of the final outcome.  
  4. You cannot make people as excited as you about your ministry and projects. We have all been there. You get ready for the party, hang the balloons and streamers, bake the cake, get the ice cream and set up all the games and then you sit and wonder, "Is anyone going to show up?" Being a part of the communication team is a lot like that. Often times we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into a project and do our best, most creative thinking and design. But, it seems that no one cares about the event or the hours of thought and preparation that went into it. When you communicate, the hope is that people will take it to heart, apply it to their lives and some how the message will have an impact or they will at least show up! This is not a realistic expectation. It is hard to hear but many people don't think your ministry matters and often will complain about the resources you are using to further the church's communication efforts. Get over it and keep using your talents for God! You can't make people get enthused.   
  5. It will not replace personal evangelism. I hate to say it but a lot of Christians are looking for a way to be a Christian, but not actually have to talk about their faith with anyone. A communication plan can enhance our efforts, by providing videos, brochures, handouts and dozens of other devises. But no slick ad will ever replace personal evangelism. We have to be authentic and live our lives of faith out in the presence of non-Christians. We need to be willing and ready to answer questions in love and have an explanation of our faith. A good communications plan can help but it is no substitute.    
The one thing that being a part of the communications team can do is burn you out. When I was in the news business, I would say to interns that you have to care about the subject of the report. If they got to a location where the story was taking place, and they didn't care, they should sit in the car until they do. This applies to anyone who does the bulletin at a church, distributes flyers, produces videos or does graphic designs for events. When you get into the mode of just knocking out the work, it is time to examine your heart more closely. Because we are in charge of the communication we should care about what we are doing and do it to our utmost. If you find yourself just going through the motions reconnect with God through worship, prayer, fellowship and Bible study.

Just remember that you cannot control everything about your plan. The important thing is that you have one and that you stay faithful to the execution of that plan regardless of things you can't control.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Where Have all the Youth Gone?

Many churches are wringing their hands with worry and there may be a good reason to, as they ask, "Where have all the youth gone? According to a 2014 Pew Research Center Poll overall church attendance in the United States is dropping and one of the leading factors is generational.

According to the poll, current generations are not replacing older generations in church attendance and affiliation. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers.

About a third of older Millennials (adults currently in their late 20s and early 30s) now say they have no religion, up nine percentage points among this cohort since 2007, when the same group was between ages 18 and 26. Nearly a quarter of Generation Xers now say they have no particular religion or describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up four points in seven years.

What this means for churches is that there must be a shift in the way we reach out to the younger generations. That means social media and at least attempting to be more contemporary. I am not talking about music choice but in the overall outlook of the church. To reach this younger group we need to understand their generational traits. They include:

Instant Gratification & Recognition Millennials need to feel like what they are doing is important and that they are on the right track. Yes, it sounds a little needy…and it is. But, many Millennials grew up with constant praise from their Baby Boomer parents. It’s what they know. What this means for you is your church needs to find a spot for them quickly and make sure they know it is important. This generation will not be pew sitters like previous generations. Find them something of value to do and then give them a need a pat on the head often. I am tired of hearing that church don't recognize accomplishments. A little acknowledgement will go a long way.

Millennials want to come and go as they please. Multiple options for services and small groups is a good idea if you are a large enough church. They also want flexibility in the technology offered. Internet throughout the church will help. Be willing to have leadership offer times when they can meet in an informal setting through out the week. This means personal Bible studies.

Millennials are extremely team-oriented and enjoy collaborating and building friendships with colleagues. They will thrive in service projects that benefit the community and the church. Reaching out and working together for a good cause comes naturally to this group.

Millennials have heard every lie and can spot a phony a mile a way. This mean that you must be genuine in all you do and transparent to a fault. Older generations rarely aired their dirty laundry in public but, younger generations see that as authentic. Always be honest and truthful even if you might be uncomfortable. When they have an idea don't sugarcoat your response but be willing to work with them to find a purpose or solution.

Give this generation the up and downside of any dilemma and plenty of feedback.

Future Development
Older generations would often teach the same Sunday School Class for decades. They were happy and satisfied to labor at the same ministry. This sometimes led to a person getting stuck spiritually. Millennials want to know they can grow and change positions if they find something more suited to their abilities. Spiritually they are looking for advancement by deepening their faith. Give plenty of opportunities to grow and try new things.

If you take the time to understand this generation you may find that it will reinvigorate your church's mission and ministry and possibly breath life into your church in ways you least expect. Every church needs to think about what they do and they programs they offer and how it will impact this younger group. We shouldn't be afraid to let some younger Christians take positions of authority with guidance. Just letting a younger group run wild is not the solution.

The harvest is great but the workers are few and if churches don't start reaching into the younger generations there will be even fewer workers in the future.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bulletin Spring Cleaning

A little spruce up is usually needed. 
When communicating an idea we need to remember that it is not just the audible sounds in the form of words that gives us a message. Each of the senses in their own special way are receptors of information that our brain then translates into a message. When talking with your community, casual attenders, or members, we need to remember that all forms of communication need to be considered and refined to communicate as best as possible.

For instance, when I go into the mall, I am hypnotically drawn to the coffee shop. Why? The aroma of freshly brewed coffee pulls me to ordering a cup. Gloria Jean’s Coffee also communicates in other ways, for sure. They have signs, friendly cashiers, and plenty of products lining the shelves. However, the sense of smell is pleasing and communicates best in that situation.

When a visitor first walks into your church, hopefully they are greeted with a smile and then the greeter hands them a small publication that almost every church passes out each and every Sunday, the bulletin. Apart from the smile and the hello, your bulletin is the first thing that communicates who you are to the stranger when entering your building. What does your bulletin say?

Find out how to improve your bulletin here!!! 

Logo Change: The Battle Begins

Opposition can come from unlikely sources. 
By Russ Ward
The church has faced difficulties before; oppression, division, strife and conflict. But none of the previous trials have prepared the church for the impending battle yet to come. That battle is when the leadership decides that a logo update is needed. One of the most difficult times a church must face is when it becomes apparent that the logo is out of date and needs a revision or a total makeover. For some reason the logo, regardless of current iteration, has people of strong conviction landing opposite each other. The only debate that is fiercer is when you are considering a change to your church’s name.

If only all of that pent-up passion could be directed at the lost, the church would really make an impact. But, instead, people tend to quibble over colors and fonts and usually ignore the advice of graphic designers and other communication professionals.

What I find interesting about the controversy is that, often times, the people who do not want a change will say that a logo is “unimportant” and that we “shouldn’t concern ourselves” with making a change. But, when you propose just that, you would think that the world is coming to an end with their negative speaking and you start hearing, “over my dead body.”

So, you should be warned that a change to the logo can be a difficult battle where strong opinions and traditions often trump common sense and modern communication strategies.

How do you avoid what seems to be an inevitable battle?

First, have a reason. If there is no reason to change the logo, then the people complaining may be correct. Always ask yourself “What does our logo say?” If it says nothing to you, or to other people, then a change is necessary. Your logo should state who you are and speak to those you are trying to reach. If it is in an old style font with bold colors, then it will say you are traditional. If it was designed in the 80’s or 90’s it may say that you are stuck in a bad episode of Perfect Strangers or Full House. Keep in mind that very few logos are timeless and even those timeless logos get revisions over time. Look at the history of the Pepsi logo, for example.

Second, when you consider a new logo, it should speak to people. Also, you should be able to defend it based upon the message it communicates and whom it speaks to. You should be looking at four primary parts of the logo design: the colors, the font choice, the shapes, and the layout. What are the meanings of each and what do they say? Are the colors muted or bright? Is the lettering bold and square or rounded? Do you want a “Jesus” fish, a dove, or Bible, or cross, or none of these? For years, a conservative Christian Church had a logo with a dove, and yet they were always perplexed when Spirit filled Charismatics would enquire about attending, or show up on a Sunday morning. Layout styles also communicate, as they have evolved over time. Is the design symmetrical, or is it weighted left or right? These are all important communication devices that should not be ignored and a new logo should be defendable on all of these points.

Third, get some professional help. You may be blessed with a quality graphic designer or artist at your church, but even they will need a second opinion. Usually, you can get free advice regarding design. Speiro can help with that.

Fourth, there is never a design emergency. Avoid the rush to decide. That doesn’t mean that you put off the project due to disorganization or lack of planning. Instead, thoughtfully consider the aspects of the design, because you will be stuck with it for several years.

Fifth, think about spreading the decision out to a small group of people. Let them be a part of the discussions, but also let them be part of the rollout. A word of caution, don’t let that number swell beyond five people. When doing logo design in the secular world, if I worked with a committee over five people, I charged double. All of a sudden, the process took twice as long and the results usually became a mishmash, or, trying to please the people in the room and not the target demographic.

I hate to say it, but most churches need at least a revision of their logo, but many will shy away from the battle and fail to communicate to their target demographic, their community, in an effective way.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dealing with Elder / Minister Conflict

So you have read a few of the articles about improving your communications strategy and you realize that the church needs a new logo, name, website, welcome sign or needs to bring in an expert to give you some ideas and insight as to how to improve how you talk with your community and church. Now you have to talk to the elders and run everything past them. The sweat starts to drip as you imagine the conflict that could occur at the meeting. Your stomach starts to twinge and your head is already hurting and the meeting is in two weeks.

Hopefully, I am being a bit over dramatic. I sure hope so. I have been on the other end of the table hundreds of times as an elder for nearly twenty years. I have seen things handled well and things handled poorly. I understand it can be stressful to try to work with elders or board, especially if it is the first time or trying something totally outside of the box. Once a young youth minister thought of a new way of ministering to high school kids. He was very prepared, but I could tell he was extremely nervous. He began his verbal presentation and his voice got more strained, sweat started trickling down his furrowed brow and redness started to develop in his ears and then spread from forehead to chin. The stress was written all over his face. Hopefully, the tips below can let you know what elders are looking for in proposals and ideas and relieve some of the heartburn. Click here for the list!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Real Thing

By Russ Ward

Coca Cola has made a bit of a stir when it announced that it was changing the way they are going to be marketing their products. For decades it was largely an image campaign where the logo and slogans such as "The Real Thing" or "Things Go Better With Coke" inundated the market.

They built product awareness with huge ad buys on billboards, in magazines and great product placement on grocery store shelves. They produced thirty seconds of the warm and fuzzy with TV ads such as "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." All of this made Coca Cola seem and feel like a product that could add life or even create world peace, if only everyone could get their hands on an ice cold Coke.

But times have changed and even mighty Coca Cola has had to alter its approach to keep up. They simply had to rethink their communication strategy, retool and relaunch. This does not mean that the product will change! That would lead to rebellion against the brand they have built, need I remind you of New Coke? However, the way they are going to communicate to potential customers will change; the change moving towards content marketing. So what does all of this have to do with the way your church communicates? Hopefully, a lot. Find out how this applies to you church here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Help Is Available - Will You Ask?

We can help with communication strategies.
Speiro is reaching out!
A recent advertisement for a preaching minister position reads as follows:

We seek a leader with a compassionate, engaging preaching/teaching style. You must have excellent people skills and be able to apply loving accountability; a desire to fulfill the Great Commission in accordance with the Bible; and a willingness to live in our extreme climate. Responsibilities include partnering with the leadership in developing our strategic plan for the church as a whole, and forming a strategic plan and budget for the Outreach Ministry to help achieve the church’s vision. Candidates should have five to ten years preaching experience in a larger church and a willingness to develop and train a preaching team to assist. Leaping tall buildings in a single bound a plus.

I guess it is a good thing they realize, based on the last sentence, the job description is completely unrealistic. These unrealistic expectations usually continue throughout a minister's tenure with pressure to perform job duties that they have no training in, no God given talent for and precious little desire to perform. And unfortunately the smaller the church and the fewer the resources, the more pressure there can be to preach, teach, instruct, love, train, hold people accountable, write newsletters, update the website, perform funerals and weddings, make hospital visits, talk to visitors, deal with complaints, find new praise team members and most importantly plunge toilets. Click to Read More

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Resurrection Sunday - Tips On Reaching Others

Sample Slide to help visitors understand Communion.
Every Resurrection Sunday churches are filled with Christians looking to celebrate a risen Savior and Lord. But mixed in with all of those Christians are the curious, the invited, the unchurched and the lost. As a long time elder on Easter Sunday, I have seen extended families packed into rows that we have never seen before and people that attend for egg hunts with children in ties and slicked down hair; and pretty dresses and curls.

It is easy to be cynical when attendance swells for just one day. But, that is a tendency we must avoid as church leaders. Regardless of motivation, attendees get to hear the Gospel proclaimed and that is never a bad thing. We must view each person as an opportunity for a Kingdom harvest.

So, what can churches do to help visitors get as much out of the service as possible? At Speiro we have put together a short list of things to consider for Resurrection Sunday to make a good impression on outsiders possibly looking to become insiders. Please read Colossians 4:2-6 before you read this list. Continue Reading!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Speaking to Millenials - Action Steps

First step in reaching Millenials is always prayer. 
This blog stems from speaking with ministers about reaching the Millenial generation (approximately 21 - 35 years of age). It is one of the most discussed issues facing churches today. How do we communicate with the next generation? More specifically, what steps or general plan should be undertaken to improve the way we communicate. Most of the ministers I have spoke to have little resources and little training in communication strategies, so understanding where to start and what steps to take are a challenge because times have changed.

There was a time when a person would leave the high school youth group, flounder through the college years and then when they started to make adult decisions they would recognize the folly of their ways and return to church. Not so anymore. Click here for the action steps.

Contact us at or contact us directly at 618.201.1534.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sign of the TImes - Does Your Community Know Where You Are?

Maybe it was the location after all? 
By Russ Ward
At Speiro Communications we are constantly looking at ways churches can improve their communication strategies and challenge conventional thinking so they can become an alternative for God in their community. We look at ways to borrow from other models and apply them when it makes sense as long as the strategy does not violate Christian principles and morals.

The "borrowing" I am talking about is from retail stores. One of the basic principles that often gets overlooked by church leaders when putting together a communication strategy is the role that location and signs play in the way that the local church communicates with their community. When it comes to retail, why do we shop where we shop? A lot of that decision often has to do with the communication value of location and the physical appearance (signs). To demonstrate this...Click here for the entire article.

For more information about Speiro Communication go to or email us at


Monday, February 2, 2015

10 Signs the Barn Needs Paint

Does your barn need some paint? Find out below. 
In case you didn't notice, the title of this post is a punchline to the old joke about women wearing makeup in church. That joke has pretty much run its course when it comes to makeup. But, it can lead to other questions about the local church. When was the last time that you put on a fresh coat of paint?

Let's be clear, I am not talking about brushes and buckets, but the overall message that your current name, logo, bulletin, monthly newsletter, ink pens, website and other identity materials give about your church. Whether we like it or not the look and feel of everything in the church speaks to the visitor and the unsaved about who we are and what we are saying. So how do you know if it is time for a fresh coat? Below are some signs that you need to do some thinking about what your image is in your community.

  1. Your logo was designed by Methuselah. In all seriousness if you are still using imaging designed in the last century you may want a new look or update. 
  2. If your church name is Bethlehem Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas (real church) or if you can't fit it on an ink pen or if your church name can be misconstrued like the Flippin Church of God (real church). Its a bad sign if people are laughing at you and not with you.  
  3. If asked "What are the colors in your churches design pallet?" and you say, "I didn't know a church was supposed to have colors in a design pallet."
  4. You are still using a mimeograph machine or a two color Riso for most of your printing. 
  5. The church website was designed over 5 years ago, by a church member.
  6. The church bulletin hasn't changed since the old secretary retired (10 years ago).
  7. The church sign contains the church name and a place for a cheesy sermon title or is on wheels. 
  8. Your church newsletter features "Family Circus" cartoons or mostly regurgitated material.
  9. Every time you take a job to a printer you get a new logo.  
  10. Nothing in the church matches. The website, bulletin, newsletter, signs, offering envelopes and identity materials all look different and without looking at the name, each could be from a different church.
In all seriousness we need to understand everything that affects the senses has an impact on how a community or individuals feel about the church. We live in a different time. I grew up with no air-conditioning, no children's program and hardwood pews in church, but you would be hard pressed to find even the most devoted in a church without those amenities. The current generation makes judgements about eternal questions based on the superficial, yet we need to reach this generation. If we are to be smart in the way we deal with those outside the church we probably need a fresh coat of paint. 

If you have questions about Speiro Communications or how we can help you, contact us at or visit our website at     

Please Release Me - Tips on Sending Out Press Releases

Print may be dead, but churches can use it to spread the good news. 
By Russ Ward
Print is dead or at least on life-support. It's true, when you look at circulation rates for local, regional and national newspapers. As an example, the top ten national newspapers' Sunday edition circulation has dropped 47.5% in ten years. Total revenue reveals an even more devastating trend. In 2000, the advertising revenue for newspapers in the US was 65.5 billion; by 2013 that number dropped to 17.3 billion.

So if print is dead why should a church waste the time to send out a press release?

Because that lost revenue will allow you to tell your story more effectively and then communicate about your church through social media. This is based on the total decline of news reporters. Only 38,000 full-time jobs now exist in print media in the United States and that number is down 33.2% from its 1989 peak of 56,900, according to the annual census of the American Society of News Editors. This has led to many newsrooms to quickly peruse submitted releases and then publish them as they are sent. The result is you get to set the tone and tell your church's story the way you want.

In my career I have witnessed this decline. Fifteen years ago when sending a press release my client or myself would often receive a follow up call with questions. Now, the phone never rings and the vast majority of times the press releases are printed without a change. Keep in mind that editors still have to fill papers and without a full staff of reporters, so they use more press releases to fill the columns.

But if people don't read the newspaper why should we care? Because the purpose of a press release is not to have it seen in the paper. It seems like an odd contradiction, but the printing of the article in the paper is only an ancillary benefit. The real benefits are to use the paper to create an opportunity for social media to spread the word, use the newspaper's online presence and lastly, use the printed story as a way to reach other media outlets. So send out a press release.

Also, keep in mind that the newspaper is not the only media outlet. Local radio, television and other outlets form media today.

Below are some tips on sending out a press release:

How often?
Press releases should be sent out weekly to monthly. More than once a week and they will start to get ignored by much of the media. Less than once a month and the press will forget who you are. An additional benefit of consistent releases is that your church will become the "experts" on church matters and social questions. You will be called when reporters have a question about a story in the news about faith or God. Take advantage of this relationship by working with the media and be mindful of their needs and deadlines. Consistent press releases are a great opportunity to build rapport with influencers.

Who should I send a release to?
Everyone. We don't need stamps or a FAX machine so don't be stingy with your story. All newspapers, radio stations, television stations, magazines, media services and online outlets, should be sent a release; but not only just locally. If you are in Missouri, you should be sending your releases to the media in both Kansas City and St. Louis plus nearby medium sized markets. Even some national news outlets should get the release. If your media list is less than 50 email addresses, then you are not sending it out to enough people.

What should I say?
The release can be about a variety of subjects: A new sermon series, VBS, happy 100th birthday, a holiday program, community outreach, mission trips, pastor appreciation festivities, Superbowl alternatives, and much more. One of the more successful press releases I have sent out for a church was about them not serving doughnuts for Sunday School anymore. It would be easier to list what you shouldn't send. Just remember to tell the story in a way  that reflects your congregation and the love they have for the community.

How long should it be?
Most press releases should cover one typed, single space page or less, including the contact information and title. Very few press releases should be multiple pages, however the most important thing is to give all of the information.

How should it be worded?
Press releases are not an opportunity to gloat or brag! It is a way to let people know who you are and what you do. Write it in that fashion. Most media outlets now have an online component, so those that publish your release will be putting it online as well. People searching for information about your church will be the audience. Write for them. Always be completely honest and clear. If you are expecting 100 people for a special program say that. Don't use the "deacon count" (count the cars in the parking lot and multiply by four).

I find the best way to write is to compile a list of all of the important facts. You know these as the "who, what, why, when, where and how come" of journalism 101. Then just put them in a reasonable order from most important to least important and fill in the blanks by joining the fact together as a story. It is also a good idea to quote someone in the church associated with the program you are touting. Lastly, have someone proofread it. It is always better to look like an idiot to a friend or fellow christian than to everyone that reads the paper.

Also, there is a specific format expected. You can find samples on line or contact me at and I will email you one.

Lastly, have fun and involve others in telling the story about your church!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

5 Steps to Help Churches Plug Into Social Media

The challenge is plugging in the right people in the right place.
By Rachelle Ward
At the church I go to, the auditorium doubles for both worship services and a meeting space for meals and special programs. So when we have a dinner after services the congregation jumps in and starts moving chairs, rolling out tables and putting out place settings. The 200 seat auditorium becomes a hall set up for food service in less than a half an hour because, many hands make light work and everyone knows their job.

As the minister you may have wanted to start communicating in a better way to your community and you realize that social media may be the answer. You have lots of ideas buzzing around your head, but there is just no time to get it all done. How is this conundrum any different than setting up tables and chairs? The same philosophy applies. Many hands make light work.

The key is to plug in the right people in the right way to your plan for reaching outside of your walls. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Have a Plan - No communication effort needs to take place before you have a plan in place. Run some general thoughts by other leaders at the church and peers and get their input. Think about which social media outlets you wish to participate in, then put goals and objectives in writing. An example of an objective could be complete a Facebook page by a certain date. A goal could be an actual number of "Likes" by a certain date. Use other churches in similar sized communities for help with numbers. In your plan write down the purpose for each social media venue you wish to engage in. Some could be informative for the congregation others may be specifically outreach. 
  • Plug People In - Throw a way all of your preconceived notions. In our church over 10% of all of our likes come from women over 65 years of age that's ten times the Facebook average. They don't set up tables for fellowship dinners but they post to Facebook like crazy. Try to find someone from each demographic in your church if possible. Keep your team limited to core members. Fringe attenders could raise problems by not accurately depicting your church to the community. 
  • Provide Guidelines - No rules or laws please. This has to be a fluid experience for the participants with general rails to guide the team. Suggested guidelines could include frequency of posts, who is allowed to be an administrator, the process of posting official church information, who can help with proof reading or technical questions or how to handle negative comments.    
  • Let Go and Support - This could be the most difficult step for some ministers, but this will not work if you have to see everything before it is posted. Trust the team that is in place. As minister your job is to provide some content, monitor, general guidance and "Likes" and "retweets". You should also be the biggest cheerleader, reminding people on Sunday and at every opportunity to help the social media team.    
  • Check Goals Quarterly - Have a meeting to celebrate and brain storm. Ask your group why you hit one goal but missed another? Maybe you need to drop one effort to promote another better. Goal revision is often needed and out of the box thinking is a must. 
With the right plan and execution you can increase your relevancy in your community. This will also equip the congregation with one more tool that they can use to let their friends know about God. 

If you have any questions or need help getting social media started in your church please contact Speiro Communications at We are here to help! You can also find out about our ministry at

Friday, January 9, 2015

Marketing - The Church's 4 Letter Word

Watch what you say!
Christianity has its own specific language that you don't find in many places. Terms like justification, grace and sanctification all have their specific meanings that only the "elect" know. But more than that, the church often shuns terms amd some concepts that the world understands and takes for granted. These terms become "four letter" words to the church as there is a negative connotation associated with them.

One of those terms is "marketing". Yes, I know it has more than four letters, but it is still forbidden in some circles of Christendom. I guess that it is understandable. For years it was marketing that drove millions to smoke, drink and engage in all forms of sinful behavior. But, when you look at the definition of the term you come away with a different perspective.

Marketing, according to the American Marketing Association is simply the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

With that definition in mind it should broaden our view of the purpose and how the church has and continues to market, whether we like the term or not.

Consider the Gospels. Four books that all tell the same story. But, if it is the same story, why are they so different. From the perspective of a seasoned marketing professional it is as plain as the nose on my face (get ready to be mad). The answer is marketing. Matthew was written to a Jewish target demographic, Mark to Roman readers, Luke to the Greek market and John to the broadest audience.

This is not saying that each version of the Gospels cannot speak to everyone!!! They do!!! What it does mean is that the intended audience was able to get more out of the specific book because it was "communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings" better suited to their perspective.

For instance in Matthew there are around 50 quotes from the Old Testament. Also, there are 75 indirect or passing references to things that happened in the Old Testament and Jesus is called the "son of David" nine times. That kind of writing would have reached the Jewish readers more effectively.

Mark on the other hand only refers to the Old Testament nineteen times. He also goes into detail about the Jewish custom of washing hands in Chapter 7 because his intended audience would not necessarily understand. Terms are also translated out of the Greek into Roman when talking about money or distance. 

These are just a few examples of how many books of the Bible are written for specific audiences in specific times to communicate specific ideas. Pure genius to the professional marketer. Even more astounding is that the Bible continues to speak depending on circumstance, need or background. We have all seen this in our lives countless times. The Bible speaks to us and cuts us to the heart as we read a certain passage and other words seem to just pass us by. But, then our lives change and the Bible speaks to us differently than it did before. There is no new revelation, the Bible did not change, but we did and the verses become new to us in a different way. 

Back to the point of marketing and the church. I know that it can sometimes be distasteful to admit that we need to market, but are we not to "be wise in the way you act towards outsiders." (Colossians 4:5)? Also, we must realize we are marketing right now anyway. When the un-churched see your logo what does it say about you to that lost soul? If your location can't be found with a simple search on a smart phone how can you reach them? It only strengths the local church when we fortify personal evangelism with good consistent marketing.

At Speiro Communications we feel that it is time to take marketing back and start using it to reach others by speaking to them in a way that they understand and will respond to.

To find out more contact us at or visit our website at