Tag Archives: Church

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Channel preference: How most want communication content

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Imagine establishing a restaurant. You’re aware that most in your community like hamburgers. But you decide to offer only hot dogs instead. Think they’ll understand? It’s difficult to keep people happy if you don’t provide what they’re looking for.

Your congregation and community consume communication content a certain way (a channel). Over time, it’s become their preference even though they devoured it another way previously. Everyone’s changing! Our communication role? Ensure we’re delivering content the way “most” prefer.

So, how do most prefer to consume information? 3,000 consumers (from U.S., Mexico, Germany, and Colombia) were asked by Hubspot to indicate their preference for consuming communication. Here’s their preferences:

  • Videos: 54%
  • Emails/Newsletters: 46%
  • Social Images: 41%
  • Social Videos: 34%
  • Blog Articles: 18%
  • PDF Downloads: 17%

How does this data affect your church communication?

Here are three things you must do in order to keep your community and congregation happy. Well, on the communication side at least.

1. Get on the video “hub” bandwagon.

Video is king. Start considering how to develop videos first (as the primary) and then consider how other channels can repurpose the video content. This is the sure way to keep most people happy.

2. Hire video editors.

All communication content requires editing by someone who advocates for the audience’s needs and wants. One thing we know? Audiences (especially younger generations) prefer to have all unnecessary content removed. If there’s too much time getting to great content, they skip over it.

Video editors must understand how to create engaging short videos that educate, entertain, and/or equip. This takes more time than you’d think but it’s necessary. Long-form sermons should be reduced to short snippets based on various topics.

3. Retire PDF downloads and shift from blogs being the center of your communication.

Rarely does anyone prefer to download and keep a PDF anymore. Why? Because the digitally minded (again, the younger generations even more so) don’t save files that we can find again. And we mostly trust that good content is stored on your website; or even better, in a great edited video. Simply, stop posting PDFs. And don’t rely heavily on blog articles.

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How listening can help your staff stay strong throughout COVID-19

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This year has been full of challenges. It’s been a difficult season for everyone — but many look to church leaders and staff for help and reassurance. Since it appears we’re stuck dealing with COVID-19 for a while, we need to focus some energy on ensuring our leaders and staff stay healthy (and not just physically healthy).

First off, if you’re the pastor, please take some time to rest and recharge yourself each week. Your loved ones, staff, and congregation need you to be healthy. Next, invest some effort to check on your team.

Take the pulse of your team by initiating a conversation. Whether it’s via a video conference or in-person, talk one-on-one with each team member. Consider asking the following:

  1. What do you love about your job?
  2. What changes or improvements do you suggest we make?
  3. What resources would make your job easier or more efficient?
  4. How does your family feel about your work and the church?
  5. How many nights a week do you make it home for dinner (or to the dinner table with family if they’re working at home)?
  6. How often are you able to attend a service (without being interrupted to work)?
  7. Who are your key volunteer leaders? (Hint: If a staff member can’t name any that could be a red flag.)
  8. Is there anything I’m doing that you wish I would stop? If so, what?
  9. Is there anything I’m not doing that you wish I would start? If so, what?
  10. Has your experience through this pandemic impacted how you feel about your job? If so, how?

If you’re not sure that your team will answer candidly, consider sending out a survey they can complete anonymously. An online tool like SurveyMonkey.com can work well for this purpose.

Whether it’s one-on-one or an anonymous survey, let your team know you want them to be completely honest with their answers. They might be afraid of how you may respond or won’t want to “rock the boat.” Here’s the key: Only ask these questions if you truly want to know the answers and are prepared to do something with what you learn.

Once you’ve received their feedback, take action:

  • Compile a list of improvements or changes they requested and work with the team to determine how to make those adjustments. Ask for their suggestions on how to fix any issues.
  • Note what they’d like for you to stop or start doing and proceed as appropriate.
  • Go home (or shut down your computer) on time as often as possible and encourage your staff to do so. Your team might be stuck in a routine of continually checking email just in case you send a note at 9 p.m. If you decide to draft an email after hours (and it’s not urgent), schedule it to go out the next morning.

As you seek their input, listen carefully, and make changes based on their feedback, your team will feel appreciated and valued. That’s important at any time, but especially now, with so many stressors hitting them at once.

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Getting started with project management

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Have you ever participated in an effort to select, buy, and implement a new ChMS? What about completing an overhaul of the church’s HR policies? Or perhaps you’re working on reopening plans amid COVID-19. Those are a few examples of projects you may face.

A great deal of time, money, and work is expended to complete these projects. One way to make that process less expensive and time-consuming (and more successful) is to use a project management process.

After leading many projects in various corporate and church environments, I’ve found that the following steps are effective for church projects:

Step No. 1: Clarify the Vision

What does the church want to achieve with this project? What goals are within the scope of the project? You’ll also want to determine the budget and approximate timeline for the project.

During this step, go ahead and assign a staff member to be the project manager. The individual in this role should be responsible for developing the plan, keeping the team on track, and providing general oversight.

Step No. 2: Develop the Project Plan

A key aspect of the project manager’s role is to create the project plan. This plan is a collection of all the tasks the team must complete to finish the project. It should also include due dates and who is responsible for each task. The project manager should meet with each team member to gather information about what tasks are necessary for the project, along with potential assignments and deadlines.

Step No. 3: Assemble the Project Team

At this point, you’ll need to determine who should be on the project team to make decisions or complete tasks. This may include staff members and volunteers. Clearly define each team member’s role, including any decision-making authority, budget approval ability, and specific responsibilities.

Step No. 4: Work the Plan

This is where the team starts completing tasks from the project plan. Most people want to skip directly to this step since it’s where you actually see progress.

However, if you skip the other steps, you’ll have to plan the project as you work. That’s like trying to build a plane while it’s in flight. Instead, invest the time to complete the first three steps, making planning mistakes on paper instead of in real life. You’ll save time and money when you plan carefully.

Step No. 5: Monitor & Report Progress

Church leadership will want periodic updates to know how the project is coming along. One easy way to keep them updated is with a weekly progress report or dashboard. The project manager can use an online planning tool such as Asana, Trello, or Basecamp to assign tasks and receive updates from the team. From there, he/she can update church leadership on the team’s progress.

Step No. 6: Finish the Project

This is the most satisfying part of the project. It’s where the team’s hard work results in a finished product.

Step No. 7: Lead Post-Project Activities

While the new system or process may be in place, you’re not finished yet. Before you wrap up this project, make sure you do the following:

  • Celebrate the win: Enjoy the moment and celebrate as a team.
  • Conduct a lessons learned meeting: Meet with the team to discuss what went well and what to improve for future projects.
  • Create a project notebook: Compile documents and information the team developed for this project to make future projects easier. This could include the project plan, vendor contracts, lessons learned, training materials, and other documents.

Using a standard process for managing projects might be new to your church. If so, introduce these ideas gradually. Project management isn’t something we immediately think of when it comes to ministry. It may take a bit of convincing to get people on board with a new, more structured process. However, using these steps can support ministry more efficiently and effectively.

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Are you happy with your online giving provider?

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If your church didn’t offer an online giving option before COVID-19, it likely does now. Hundreds (if not thousands) of churches had to quickly establish an online giving capability or risk a significant drop in donations due to people not attending services in-person.

You may have had to make that online giving vendor decision fairly quickly. If so, now is a good time to reevaluate the vendor you chose to determine if it’s the best fit (and best value) for your church.

Here are a few things to consider as you evaluate your current online giving provider:

1. What is the fee structure?

The fees each online giving provider varies, and it’s not always obvious what they’re charging you if you’re not familiar with their fee structure.

There are three types of fees you can expect to pay:

Fee Type No. 1: Monthly Fee

Some vendors charge a flat rate for their services to be available to your church. This fee may not be impacted by how much you receive in online giving, the number of transactions, or the size of your church.

Fee Type No. 2: Processing Fee

A processing fee is based on a percentage of each transaction. For example, if John Smith donated $100 and the processing fee is 3%, the fee on that transaction would be $3.

Fee Type No. 3: Transaction Fee

Some providers charge a fee per transaction. This is usually in addition to the processing fee and is likely a flat rate, such as $0.25.

It’s worth taking a few minutes to review recent invoices and confirm what fees your vendor charges the church. If it isn’t clear, talk with the vendor to get a full understanding of the fees.

2. Are you getting a good value for the cost?

Some vendors are simply payment processors. They handle the transaction securely and get the money into the church’s account as promised. No more…no less. That’s not your only option, however.

Some vendors work exclusively (or mostly) with churches, understand the unique nature of what churches need, and are passionate about serving church leaders. These vendors tend to offer more training, advise introducing online giving to a congregation, and more.

3. Are donors happy with the online giving experience?

If givers aren’t confident that their online transaction is secure or if the process of giving is difficult, they may stop giving online. Contact a few people who’ve recently started giving online and ask about their experience. Make sure you talk with a few people who are tech-savvy and a few who aren’t. You could even conduct an online survey of the congregation to get their feedback about online giving.

Once you’ve gathered some feedback, you might talk with your online giving provider to see if they can help alleviate concerns.

4. Is your accounting team happy with the online giving vendor?

This might be a conversation with yourself (and maybe a few staff members). Unfortunately, the accounting team tends to be the last group considered when selecting a new vendor or software. However, it’s vital that an online giving provider offers a service that supports accurate accounting and doesn’t make it more complicated.

Here are a few questions to discuss:

  • Is the process of importing card transactions into the church’s accounting software or ChMS fairly simple?
  • Are you able to get sufficient data so you have up-to-date donation records?
  • Are you also able to get data into your accounting software to make month-end reconciliations with the bank statement straightforward?

If you think it might be time to find a new vendor, use these evaluation tips to research other options:

  • Ask about their onboarding process and if they offer sample emails, slides, and other communication tips for rolling out online giving to the congregation.
  • Find out if they solely serve the church market.
  • Request a demo of their online portal for the accounting team.
  • Ask about the process of migrating from your current vendor to a new vendor.
  • Get a detailed explanation of their fees.

Online giving is an excellent tool to enable people to give faithfully even when they’re unable to attend church in-person. Even as you’re able to resume in-person services, online giving makes it easier (and contactless) to receive the offering.

Invest the time to evaluate your current online giving provider and compare it against a few of its competitors. Make sure your church is getting a good value for the fees it’s incurring. Don’t settle for just a payment method — find a vendor who will partner with your church to make online giving a success.

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Building a website? Don’t forget this surprising thing

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We live in an online world. According to research by USC Annenberg, average internet consumption has jumped from 9.4 hours per week in 2000 to 23.6 hours currently. Most of this increase is because of our insatiable urge to not miss out. Plus, the fact we have mobile devices constantly near us. According to the same study, the average time spent on mobile (as compared to desktop) has skyrocketed to 84%!

Therefore, your church must have a solid online presence. But the problem is that your website is in the middle of about 400 million active websites. On the internet, there’s something for everyone. Is your website important to your congregation? Do they spend any of their time on your URL each week?

The one critical thing you need to remember when building a website: it needs to be full of content your audience is pursuing. Sure, the look and the experience are important, but people will overlook those things and put up with issues only if the content is needed and relevant to them.

It’s up to you to make sure this happens. Creating the right content will make (or break) your online presence. Here are three ways to get your content right:

Start with your audience.

Content can’t be about you. Instead, concentrate of what they’re looking for. Deliver relevant and needed info in a quick manner (since most want to consume it on a mobile device). Seek out and understand their needs and goals and become an expert to unique solutions from your Biblical vantage point.

Become known for something.

That unique solution (a thread) must be woven throughout your content. Ensure it’s something your audience would perceive as necessary. Reinforce that perception constantly!

The uniqueness of this offering must also be stressed consistently and restricted to certain keywords so that it answers the question: “Why do you consume this content?” This controlled language builds SEO (search engine optimization) value.

Good content must be added regularly.

Based on your thread, you must develop ways to build a library of exceptional content that’s desirable to your audience. Anything that doesn’t fit has to be eliminated or changed in such a way that it’s perceived as associated with your thread. This critical editing process must be applied to all content.

Do you occasionally get content wrong or inconsistent? It’ll be endured — for a while. But they’ll learn to ignore the content they don’t want. (This is a scary thing!)

Since most churches meet in person (or will soon), those services should augment your online presence since your audience spends much more of their time online. The potential is huge if you can get them to visit your website regularly. Good content will do that.

Just ensure your online thread is evident when they walk through the doors (like it is on your website)!

This thread is your content. And it’s your brand. Ensure it is consistently exceptional material that your audience doesn’t want to miss out on.

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3 tips for winning with communication goals

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I confess, I love setting goals. It grounds and focuses me — and lets me know if I’m winning. It’s the difference between practicing a golf swing without a ball or without a hole.

Imagine if TopGolf didn’t have targets or if a driving range didn’t have markers indicating distance. We all like and need to have an objective to know if the effort is worth it.

In church communication today, many churches have no goals. They don’t know what they’re attempting to achieve, and in their busyness, they’re discouraged because they have no idea if they’re winning.

Want to feel like a winner in communication? Here are three tips for establishing comm goals that are reasonable, achievable, and effective. Once you follow them, you’ll start winning:

1. Benchmark.

Decide what your measurement is. For each aspect/channel/event (attendance, social media, website, groups, etc.), decide what is important to analyze. Which is best?

Often you just have to decide what’s important to your leadership or what directly corresponds to mission wins. But, CLEARLY decide what the rules are and what metrics to follow.

For example, digital attendance? Perhaps it’s the combined viewers on your webpage and YouTube who watched for five-plus minutes during the first three days after posting/streaming. Yes, be that specific and make sure it’s measurable.

Want to measure engagement for social media? You must first know what that means. Perhaps it’s based on the number of post comments or it could be the amount of likes. Just decide. And sure, you may find that you need to tweak your benchmark descriptions as you progress. But if someone asks what success looks like? You’ll know what you’re measuring.

2. Compare.

Everyone likes to feel successful. The human spirit tends to do that by comparing your achievements to another’s: “My golf drive is farther than everyone else in my foursome!” Or, “My ball is closer to the hole than everyone else’s.”

In church communication, comparisons to other churches (who have different benchmarks, goals, challenges, and audiences) prove to be discouraging. Instead, compare yourself mainly to yourself; to a track record you’ve established.

Perhaps it would be wise to compare metrics to similar time frames in the past. For example: Our social media sharing on edited sermon video snippets is up 20% when posting on Thursdays at 10 a.m. instead of Mondays at 10 a.m. Or attendance in June this year to last June.

Why does self-comparison work? Because you’ll understand the variables better and the goal is to get better.

3. Check.

Someone (a communication person) needs to have an approved, written grid of benchmarks they are checking regularly, with an area that describes variables and (controlled/uncontrolled) situations that affected the metrics.

This is the only way to know you’re winning! It’s also the easiest way to unify the entire leadership team for what they’re trying to achieve.

If, along the way, your benchmarks and goals aren’t achievable; discuss this with leadership and adjust the plan. As a communication professional, it’s your duty to report these numbers and keep everyone focused on the prize.

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5 tips to improve volunteer communication

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As your church reopens amid COVID-19, you may find that you need more volunteers. All the extra sanitizing, helping people adhere to social distancing guidelines, and more will require additional people to make services run smoothly.

You may also need more volunteers to host online services, follow-up with online prayer requests, and to contact members who might need assistance during this time.

Communicating effectively with volunteers is always essential to success. However, when we have a completely new situation (i.e., a global pandemic) to contend with that makes communication even more crucial. People who volunteer want to do a great job. However, without consistent and clear communication, they may not have the information they need to succeed.

Here are a few tips for improving communication with your volunteer teams:

Tip No. 1: Establish clear expectations

When someone expresses interest in volunteering, let them know what kind of commitment you need from them. How often? How many hours? What will they need to do? Why is this volunteer role needed? If they know what they’re signing up for, then they’re more likely to be committed and consistent in serving.

Tip No. 2: Provide training

Once they’ve committed, conduct a training session. To keep in-person contact to a minimum, you could send a pre-recorded training video along with a short document for them to read. Whatever method you choose, the key is to make sure you equip volunteers with the information they need to succeed in their new role.

Tip No. 3: Be consistent

Establish a pattern of how often and through what medium you’re going to communicate important information to your teams. This could be a weekly email, text messages, or a quick meeting before a service.

If you decide to send out a weekly email to all volunteers, then pick the same day to send it out each week. Make sure your volunteers know what to expect and where to go for information.

Tip No. 4: Invite feedback

Especially as you’re dealing with so much rapid change, you’ll need to ask volunteers if they understand what you’ve asked of them. Ask your volunteers how things are going and if they have suggestions for improvement.

Tip No. 5: Appreciate

Say “thank you,” a lot. Send hand-written thank you cards to volunteers who’ve gone the extra mile. Mention how much you appreciate their ability to be flexible as things keep changing with COVID-19 guidelines.

Share some of the stories you’ve heard recently of volunteers making an impact and changing lives. Even receiving these notes woven into a weekly update email will encourage and energize volunteers.

Navigating the impacts of a global pandemic certainly wasn’t on anyone’s 2020 plans. However, as your church works to safely reopen, you’ll need more people on the team to make services run smoothly. Your volunteers want to serve and help you as you’re serving others. Your commitment to consistent, clear communication is key to their success.

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7 warning signs your church needs branding help now

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“You mean our church logo, right?” No. Your brand is more than a logo. It’s the emotional aftertaste of an offered product or service. What you’re known for. Something that’ll bring a particular audience back. Sure, your logo is a visual representation of that promise but it’s not your brand.

Does your church have a brand? Or do you need branding help?

In order to have a successful brand, you must clearly know who you’re targeting, discover a unique thread (a beneficial reason that you’re known for), have it woven through all ministries, and have a simple, controlled logo, colors, and fonts that remind people of why you exist. It’s the foundation to your communication strategy.

Companies have spoiled us to expect brands to be professional, well-designed, and representative of us (since we want to adopt them). And most importantly? Your brand needs to be relevant and needed, or another brand will move in and become part of my life. Perhaps that church near you?

Here are seven telling moments that say, “our church brand needs help!”

1. “Why do you attend?” is answered with random answers.

A solid brand controls messaging and keywords. It consistently and clearly tells a group that you are a solution for what they need. If you leave it to your audience to answer, they’ll have a ton of reasons rather than one that builds your brand. You’ll never be known for many random things. You need to be known for something.

2. Your community lost interest in your ministries years ago.

If you stopped someone in your local mall, would they know who your church is? What you offer them? A brand is built on being a value to the people within reach.

3. Branded tees aren’t worn in public.

People who’ve adopted your brand should be proud of your logo and want to wear it at places other than the gym or mowing the lawn.

4. Your social media channels lack engagement.

If your social media feels one-sided, you don’t have a good brand. It’s simply a promotional tool. A solid brand is interactive and two-way.

5. A random member can’t sketch your logo from memory.

Current, professional logos are simple and easy to remember. A middle schooler should be able to draw it from memory if it’s used regularly and consistently. You can sketch the logo of who made your phone, right?

6. Ministry silos shout for attention.

Many church sub-brands will constantly compete to be heard. A solid church brand represents all your ministries well without needing sub-brands. Together you’re messaging for your church, not just a ministry. Competition? You need a brand strategy.

7. Your website layout and function hasn’t changed in the last 5 years.

If you haven’t invested money and time into improving online presence (more than adding online services because of COVID-19), then you’re missing out. There have been many ways in the last few months to effectively take your church brand online and give your community what they’re pursuing on your website.

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3 unlikely but essential ways to communicate generosity

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God demonstrates unlikely generosity in scripture. In 1 Kings, we enter Elijah’s world that was being punished with drought; the perfect time for God to shine since He loves to provide in a time of need.

Instead of God doing a miracle Himself, He introduces His prophet. God loves to use His people.

God tells Elijah to go to a distant town — out of his comfort zone. Yep. He often leads His servants there! Then the scene shifts to a widow who’s gathering sticks to make a final fire for her to cook on. And then die. What a dire situation. But this is how God wants to sustain His prophet.

In this grand scheme, He’s going to prove Himself to the widow and the prophet.

God tells Elijah that she will feed him. Now that’s unlikely for Elijah. And can you imagine what the widow thought when she was asked to provide. Such an impossible situation.

From her final handful of flour and the end of a jug of oil, Elijah asks her to make him food. And with crazy faith, she trusts that God will replenish. And willingly gives. Of all she has.

That’s the generosity that God demands. He often puts us in a crazy situation and demands trust.

Perhaps you’re like Elijah and God’s given you a vision of what He wants to accomplish through seemingly impossible giving. Maybe your audience is like the widow and has nothing but a small reserve. God wants us to trust.

I’ve learned people won’t give to a God-sized vision if they’re not aware. Effective communication plays an important role in accomplishing God’s work. Here’s how to do it well:

1. Cast an unlikely vision that only God can accomplish.

How do you know a God-sized vision? It can’t be done without His intervention. Stop looking at what is and start imagining what could be! Prayerfully cast the vision (prove the need). Not because you’ll look good, but because HE will.

2. Describe unlikely methods from unlikely sources.

Be specific and give ways for people to act. Ensure digital and old-school ways. Just eliminate barriers to action and suggest that your audience reach out of their comfort zones and actively trust in God’s provision.

3. Share unlikely stories of God’s unlikely purposes.

Along the way, use others to tell the story of what God’s doing. Make God the hero of the provision and invite others to jump into the cast of characters that He’ll use. As the leader, keep their eyes fixed on God’s purposes and continuously stretch people to rely on God to write their story.

Wait. I didn’t finish the Biblical story of the Widow! God blessed her as she fed God’s prophet. The flour never disappeared nor did the oil run dry as she baked. It was supernaturally extended. That’s the unlikely outcome of generosity.

It started by requiring her to act before a miracle could happen. Let’s communicate that!

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5 ways to avoid category exhaustion at your church

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An attractive church brand is known for something that’s beneficial. Of course, a church is needed because it speaks to our spiritual deficits. Plus, it’s a fellowship of Christ-followers who wrestle with similar issues all while loving neighbors as Christ loved us. But everyone doesn’t know that.

Jesus said we’d be known for having love one towards another. That’s quite a brand! Different communities have different needs and interpret love differently. That’s how churches can develop different brands and still feel uniquely different. It always comes down to defining your audience.

Being known for a thread — that thing that sets you apart as a church — requires consistency of messaging, keywords, and vision. If you’re not controlling them, you don’t have a brand. Your controlled thread IS your brand. It should engage people so you can connect them to Jesus.

The biggest issue that occurs on a branded path is boredom. Be careful that your brand doesn’t stay in such a narrow lane for an extended period of time or you’ll experience category exhaustion.

Here are five ways to avoid category exhaustion:

1. Make sure your thread is big enough.

The broadness (ambiguity) of your thread should reach outside of several categories.

For example: A thread like “Life. Discovered.” can speak into many categories (like employment, spirituality, friendship, etc.). It’s fairly broad and makes it interesting as you uncover new horizons.

2. Make sure your thread is needed.

An effective thread corresponds to several groups AND connects to several needs or goals. A thread (tagline) should evoke a need in your community.

For example: “Life. Discovered.” says your community is seeking something bigger. Perhaps it’s a research community with many scientists, professors, or medical personnel. They’d be attracted to the idea of discovery. And it also connects to our spiritual predicament with a solution.

3. Make sure secondary issues are connected to your thread.

When something outside of your thread drastically affects your community (i.e., COVID-19) then you’ll want to address it under the umbrella of your thread.

For example: “3 ways to discover life when socially distanced.” This feels like you’re an expert in discovering life (your brand), rather than a virus expert.

4. Make sure secondary issues don’t obscure your thread.

Your audience leads your brand and communication. THEY determine your thread. Secondary issues may affect them, but your thread must start the discussion (and not the other way around).

For example: “Discover family life under quarantine” rather than “How our church is dealing with the quarantine.”

5. Make sure you’re monitoring your audience’s needs regularly.

People are quick to feel overwhelmed. In fact, if “everyone” is adding a voice to a secondary issue, it can become exhausting.

For example, after months of COVID-19 talk, a sermon series on “Social Distancing” or “Staying Healthy” will be tuned out from a virus-weary audience. Look around, it may be refreshing to do another topic. Give your people a break (but stay in your thread).

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