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.