Tag Archives: Religion

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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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5 things I wish I knew when I graduated from college

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I was interviewed for a college webinar about church communication. After a lively discussion with the integrated marketing communication professor, he made me pause with his final question:

“Many college students are listening to you. What do you wish you knew then that you know now?”

Here are the five things that came to mind:

1. Insatiably learn so you can pivot quickly.

Sadly, at college, I only studied to pass tests. Once I graduated, I struggled to understand the need to be a lifelong student. Then I read “Who Moved My Cheese” and realized that life was about pivoting to the next big thing. The only way to identify those paths? Read, research, listen, and learn.

I moved from a (noncomputer) graphic design degree to working in information technology and training people on the internet. Then, I pivoted to run a national agency for churches in a foreign country (I’m Canadian). Then, I led regional and national organizations as a speaker and bestselling author about church communication.

Studying leads to pivoting; and that’s allowed me to find an audience and a relevant message.

2. Be open to all opportunities but only say yes to some.

There are SO many opportunities that present themselves if you’re willing. But through prayer, only pursue some to the point of accepting them.

It’s better to be open to many possibilities than to shut down an unexpected opportunity. But also learn how to say no kindly if something doesn’t make sense. Everything can’t be a good path.

3. Make everyone around you a hero; and become their sought-after guide.

It seems many contacts will end up circling around in your life. Creating healthy relationships is essential. Which ones? You don’t know who you’ll need in the future. So, elevate every person you meet to a hero. Make them feel your respect. Offer guidance but never try to become the hero!

4. Know what you want to be known for; and plan your steps through God’s guidance.

God’s uniquely created you with skills and experiences that become a formula for the place He’s going to use you. Based on what you know now; and knowing God wants to use you to do His work, prayerfully dream about what you want an audience to know you for.

Then seek out the audience and create the message they need. Fill the resume holes with more study and seal it all with prayer. Discovering God’s calling early will guide you to Godly contentment along the journey.

5. Embrace your uniqueness and sell it to a willing audience.

Wow, there are few people like you. Embrace the uniqueness of your experience, your personality, and your flaws. Consider how those oddities can attract an audience when you authentically accept them. I found myself as a Canadian in an American college and God used that uniqueness to allow me to stand out.

Then, He used my American degree from a Christian college to open doors for my first job back in Canada. You never know what small aspect will be the foundation of your personal brand. Many brands are based on a unique selling proposition!

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Reopening church: 5 strategic tips to communicate properly

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First of all: Church never closed. Sure, your building had restrictions but the Church (the Christ-followers in your local fellowship) didn’t close down. In fact, the virus only decentralized your Church for a relatively short time.

Now governments are permitting larger gatherings (with apprehension), but are you ready? I’m sure you’re considering disinfecting and socially distancing, along with many other tactical necessities.

I certainly hope each of your ministries is soberly looking at how people have been affected and how opinions have changed during this time. Understand that everyone isn’t feeling the same way!

That’s why an effective communication strategy is essential. Instead of a shotgun approach, you need a systematic strategy that pushes to a process of changes. Here are five strategic tips:

1. Thread: know your church’s brand.

Your congregation is attracted to your local church for a beneficial reason. You must know and control the language around that one thing that “most” would say you’re known for. Even before your return, consistently emphasize why they love your ministries and why they will return to you (why your thread must be unique). This IS your brand.

2. Understand: your ministry probably shifted.

During the conversion to online-only worship and offline ministries, discuss with staff and key members if you became something different (even in perception)? Were the changes needed? Do they fit with your thread? Perhaps a ministry realignment is required to your vision, mission, and measures.

3. Survey: discover their perception.

Your members are critical. Ministries and communication are for THEM; not for you. Using a digital tool (like SurveyMonkey) or having volunteers call, ask questions that will help you understand how they’re feeling. Now is the time to do this.

Don’t ask too many questions. Just enough to: 1) know how they expect the church to be upon return and 2) how you expect them to be when they return. Make it anonymous (if possible). Do what’s required to get a large sampling of your congregation. This survey says you truly care and want to listen. So, listen before acting.

4. Options: know where you’re headed.

Your congregation may feel differently than you. The survey helps you understand how your communication needs to proceed: it may need to be convincing, educating, and/or supportive. Your leadership role is to lead.

Establish where most of your congregation is and where your leadership team wants them to be in the future. Decide the amount of steps required to get them there! Create timeline options based on government phase options and timing. Be careful with assumptions.

5. Communicate: have a controlled plan.

Create a plan of how to keep everyone well-informed and motivated as you move towards reopening. Walk the required steps in No. 4. Use all communication tools and channels that they already trust. Don’t overdo the communication. Push info on the back of entertainment (edutainment). Edit. Edit. Edit. Use only critical words and concepts.

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What does an executive pastor do?

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The role of an Executive Pastor (or XP) can be difficult to define. It’s not a new role, but it tends to look different based on the culture and structure of each church. Sometimes, the XP role goes by a different title altogether, such as Operations Pastor, Administrative Pastor, or Director of Operations.

Whatever your church decides to call it, this individual usually oversees human resources, facilities, insurance, finances, and making sure everything behind-the-scenes runs smoothly. This frees up the Senior Pastor to provide overall vision, church direction, and sermon preparation.

I’ve seen a lot of requests lately in my Church Executive Administration & Operations Facebook Group to provide an executive pastor’s job description. Since this role varies by church, there are a handful of resources to check out to find a definition that works for your situation.

If you’re wanting to define your church’s XP role, check out these sources below:

No. 1: XPastor

XPastor, a resource for training executive church staff, offers several sample job descriptions from churches across the country. Filter by “Executive Pastor” to view. It’s founder, David Fletcher, also has a great post here regarding the history of the XP role and the various types of Executive Pastors.

No. 2: Executive Pastor Online

Here’s a preview of the Executive Pastor Online’s XP definition: “The Executive Pastor is responsible for the overall leadership and direction of church staff, leading all functional areas in the accomplishment of the church’s mission.” To learn more from Executive Pastor Kevin Stone on the XP’s essential job functions, keep reading.

No. 3: Unseminary

Unseminary presents helpful tips and the value of job descriptions in this 2014 post, “9 Lessons on Effective Church Job Descriptions (& 59 FREE Samples!)” First, it answers why you should have job descriptions, and second, how to write them well.

No. 4: 12Stone Church Resources

As the XP at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Dan Reiland has years of experience in the duties of Executive Pastor. View his personal job description here and visit his blog for knowledge on developing great church leaders.

An Executive Pastor can play a pivotal role in helping a church successfully fulfill its mission. If you’re thinking of adding this key position to your church staff, these four resources will give you a good starting point in developing your church’s XP job description.

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Avoiding ministry burnout in the midst of COVID-19

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Have you ever run a marathon or other long-distance race? If so, you know how tempting it is to run a fast pace initially. Between the extra adrenaline pumping and energy from the crowd, it’s easy to blast off from the starting line.

That can work for a few miles, perhaps, but it will catch up to you. Pretty soon, you’re slowing way down, wondering if you’ll have enough energy to finish the race.

Are you feeling that right now? When the impacts of the pandemic started to hit, church teams scrambled to get online services up and running, set up online giving, and figure out how to stay connected with their congregations.

We’re past the initial sprint and past the adrenaline rush of “we have to get this done now.” In most areas, churches still aren’t allowed to meet and won’t be for possibly another month or more. Even where churches can start meeting, there are strict guidelines in place for reduced attendance at each service, additional sanitizing, and other mitigation steps.

As we enter the next phase of dealing with COVID-19, it’s easy to see this situation is a marathon…not a sprint. In light of that, please take care of your health as well. You’ve been focused on everyone else and may have had to pull some long days to make services happen. However, you won’t last long if you continue to run a marathon at a sprinter’s pace.

Your congregation probably doesn’t need 10 Facebook Live broadcasts every week. They don’t need 50 social media posts per day or a ton of curriculum for their children (they’re already overloaded dealing with schoolwork at home). However, they do need their church leaders around for the long haul. Here are a few simple ways to ensure you have the endurance needed for this long race.

Tip No. 1: Find out what’s working

Did you start posting several videos each week for various segments of the congregation (kids, youth, young marrieds, etc.)? If so, check the statistics on these videos. Is anyone watching? If so, talk with a few people in the congregation to see if those videos are helpful and what content they’d like to see moving forward.

If you’re running lots of posts on social media, check the statistics on those as well. If you’re getting lots of engagement and conversation, that’s great! If not, consider running fewer posts per day to see if that focuses more meaningful interaction into limited posts.

The idea here is to figure out what content is truly helping people, then focus down on those items. Don’t waste energy on activity that isn’t connecting.

Tip No. 2: Learn from other churches

Since we’re all dealing with this unique situation, there are plenty of churches to talk with or observe.

  • Call pastors or church business administrators from churches in your area. Ask how they’ve pivoted recently and what’s working well for them.
  • Watch webinars and read articles on how other churches are planning for the next phase in this pandemic.
  • Also, look for groups of church leaders online to learn how they’re handling this situation. One such group is the Facebook Group for Executive Pastors and Church Business Administrators (full disclosure: I manage this group).

The bottom line here is you don’t have to figure this out on your own. That’s a quick way to burn yourself out. Instead, ask for help, ideas, and insights from others.

Tip No. 3: Get organized

Now that the dust has settled a bit, this is a great time to establish a new weekly routine. Set up a schedule for your team to develop the sermon message, shoot/produce the video, promote the sermon online and via email, handle the usual weekly/monthly tasks, etc.

Since you’re not in the office with your team, consider using an online project management tool such as Basecamp, Asana, or Monday (there are a ton out there…many with free trials available). These steps can streamline your workload so you can work a reasonable number of hours and have time for your loved ones and yourself.

Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll have to deal with COVID-19 for a long time to come. As you run this marathon, act now to set a more realistic pace for yourself and your team. Your family and your congregation need you to stay healthy (mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally) for the long haul.

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5 tips for communicating when tired

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What a year. What a Sunday. What an event. Today, many of you are waking up and wondering what hit you. Adrenalin has a way of masking exhaustion. The excitement of getting things done before a deadline tends to feed us.

Then it’s over. And the creative communicator discovers a chasm that they easily fall into. If the event is a mountaintop, you tumble into the valley. Or perhaps the mountain you envisioned was barely a hill. The valley probably feels even deeper.

You’re totally tired.

Scripture has many characters who struggled after the “big deal.” David, Elijah, Jonah, Job, Moses, and Jeremiah all seemed to deal with self-doubt, exhaustion, and feeling down afterwards. They are human just like we are.

Here are five tips for dealing with the tired spirit, because the work must go on.

1. Take a breath. Treat yourself.

We know God uses all things for good. And He allowed everything to happen as it did. So breathe. Relax in what happened, be thankful, and recognize if you dropped the ball. You can’t fix the past.

Treat yourself to something you know you need. A date with your wife. A sundae. A Netflix binge. Something your schedule hasn’t allowed you to do for a while.

2. Remember they’re tired, too.

As a leader, you’re often tempted to believe you’re alone in your feelings. Consider your audience and what they’re experiencing too. Many people are exhausted. Your volunteers just came through the flurry of activity too. The best way to get over your “down” time? Think of others. Reach out to them and listen. Be the person you need.

3. Look back at the engagement.

Take a 10,000-foot view of the event. Details don’t make as much difference, do they? Look at social media engagement and see what connected. Use their interactions to help you understand your audience more.

Congratulate yourself for the wins that happened. Reach out to a trusted person and ask them to tell you about their vantage point. Use it as a mini focus group — listening for ways to improve and connect to others.

4. Look forward with them in mind.

Slowly, start focusing on the next upcoming event. Use the things you’ve heard from others and lessons learned. Start to envision what the “next” could look like. Stay at 10,000 feet and consider what you want to feel after it. Maybe you need more prep time. Perhaps more volunteers to help. Start to plan. Take steps forward.

5. Ask for help.

Start with asking God to use you again. And understand that you’re a willing participant in His plan: you can only do what you can do.

Finally, if you find yourself beyond the usual valley or falling deeper into an emotional rut that lasts longer than you know it should, please seek professional help. Especially if your loved ones are concern for you and start to ask if you’re OK. You’re not in this alone. Don’t do it alone.

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Infographic: Giving during a pandemic

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As houses of worship sit empty, parishioners are still able to connect with their faith through live streams, television, radio, and more. This infographic outlines the economic impact social distancing is having on giving back and how we can still give back during these difficult times.

Infographic courtesy Tithe.ly

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Post-Easter activities to accomplish during the pandemic

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We just wrapped up the first virtual Easter. Let that sink in for a moment. Your team spent hundreds of hours planning, preparing, and setting up services in a way you never thought you’d need to just a few short weeks ago.

So, first off — excellent work! The willingness to pivot and the ingenuity of church teams has been incredible to behold. That’s something to celebrate. As your team recovers from a whirlwind of activity, here are a few actions to take in the coming days.

No. 1: Rest

Jesus’ work on the cross is finished. He did the hard part (to put it mildly). Your job is to plant seeds and water them. Trust God to give the increase.

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” — 1 Corinthians 3:5-6

I’m not trying to downplay your efforts or the amount of work you put into Easter services — especially considering the obstacles to overcome this year. However, I encourage you to rest in the fact that this isn’t all on you. Remember that even God rested on the seventh day.

Take a day (or two) off, relax, get some sleep, and recharge. The battle against COVID-19 isn’t over, so church will still be different for a bit longer. You’ll need your energy and creativity for that, so rest up now.

No. 2: Celebrate

Share stories amongst your staff of how many people attended online services, rejoice that people indicated they wanted to turn their lives over to Jesus, and more.

Take a few moments to celebrate what God has done in and through your team this Easter.

No. 3: Follow Up

Hopefully, you were able to collect contact information via digital connect cards from online guests. If so, here are a few ways to follow up with them:

·Send a mass email to all Easter guests inviting them to attend a virtual service next Sunday. This is also a good opportunity to highlight other online programming your church is offering or how they can get into an online discipleship program.

·Send a mass text message inviting them to attend an online service next Sunday for a new series entitled, “<insert title here>.”

·Consider following up with a phone call. Start by asking if they need anything, then find out if they have any questions about faith or the church. Provide information about upcoming online services and share how excited you are to meet them in-person once that’s a possibility again. Ask if they have any prayer requests and offer to pray with them over the phone.

No. 4: Pray for Your Guests

People are scared amid this pandemic. They’re afraid of getting the virus, many have lost their jobs or businesses (or know that’s a real possibility), and they’re wondering when life will get back to normal.

Pray that they would feel God’s presence and peace. Pray that they would have a desire to watch next week’s services. Pray that you’ll have the opportunity to water the seeds planted on Easter Sunday.

No. 5: Learn

Get together as a team (virtually, of course) and discuss how Easter weekend went this year. Were there any hiccups or issues that came up? If so, is there anything you can do to prevent those next week?

Document these lessons learned and use the information for future online services and even for next Easter. We certainly expect to meet in-person next Easter, but there are still lessons you can apply from this year should you choose to broadcast services online once social distancing is a thing of the past.

Appreciate and celebrate that your team hosted an online Easter during a pandemic. That’s one for the history books. Hopefully, we’ll be back to meeting in-person very soon, but there’s much we can glean from our experiences this Easter as we move forward.

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Will your church be ready when the crisis ends?

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The language of COVID-19 is here and probably won’t vanish when the last case ends. Social distancing, elbow-bumping, and cough-cringing are all going to live in our collective psyche for years to come. We’re going to have a generation affected by this.

A few days ago, I approached a neighbor who was washing his car. We awkwardly walked close, half-extended hands in greeting, before laughing and backing away. It’s difficult to express Christian love or even friendliness in light of COVID-19. Even after the crisis has ended, we’ll be different people.

That goes for our houses of worship, too. Here are seven tips how to prepare for the crisis’ end — and how to communicate differently when we (finally) invite people back to our pews:

1. Follow the CDC for restrictions.

Don’t move too quickly thinking you know more than what’s being talked about in the media. It’s a battle that’s not worth risking. Don’t dabble in politics unless it involves Biblical truths (that’s your lane).

2. Disinfect surfaces.

The campus is empty and viruses won’t live on surfaces much more than a few days. But clean so you can let people know. It’ll add to the confidence of returning. We’re in a hyper-sensitive time. Broadcast it on social media and on your website prior to welcoming people back. Tell them you’re anticipating their arrival!

3. Establish contact rules with Guest Services.

Prepare volunteers about keeping a healthy distance. Have ways to creatively love on people without touching (for a while). Communicate this in a fun way (if that’s your brand). Or, kindly tell people to respect each other’s space.

Handshake welcome times should get a pause for a while — maybe forever. Instead give ways to welcome without physical contact — in the long run, it’ll be more valuable to your church. “I don’t think we’ve met!” or “Remind me of your name” or “I’m glad you’re here today!” goes very far.

4. Treat everyone like a new guest.

Everyone will feel different when they arrive back. Plus, the community that met you online during quarantine will arrive too. Ensure everyone feels welcome. Perhaps welcome gifts for everyone! It’s one time when everyone needs to feel valued.

5. Stay online and embrace it.

Don’t forget your online service. Congratulations! You now have an online campus (maintain staff support and focus). Boost social posts and promote ads to increase audience. Who knows?! You may reach more online than you can in a service. That’s your goal!

6. Discover your thread.

All ministries took a pause. Be careful about restoring everything quickly. This may be the perfect time to identify what you do with excellence and create a brand around it (what you’ll be known for). Staying in a narrow lane. You don’t have to do it all!

7. Monitor your community’s headspace.

Through focus groups, get the pulse of the average congregation and community member and make sure you start there.

If they want to talk about what just happened, do it through your church’s lens. If they want to move past it, take them there. Make them the hero of your story and guide them to great things. Stop trying to be the hero!

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How to serve your congregation online

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With social distancing becoming our new, temporary, norm, many churches have moved to online services only. The potential for even Easter services to be online-only is a real possibility. In light of these challenging circumstances, how do you serve a remote congregation? Here are a few things to consider:

No. 1: Use Digital Connect Cards

As part of your online services, ask first-time guests to fill out a card online so you’ll have their contact information (just like you would for in-person guests). If you haven’t done this before, talk with your church management software provider to see if they offer this functionality.

No. 2: Leverage Your ChMS

Once you receive a guest’s information, get it into your church management software for follow up. Create a series of emails that are automatically sent to someone tagged in the system as a new guest.

Under the pandemic situation, emails asking if they need special assistance would be appropriate. If you have small groups, include an email that helps guests connect to one. The key here is to follow-up with guests right away. Help them feel connected to your congregation even without being able to attend an in-person service.

No. 3: Make Connections

Some people may need help finding child care or would benefit from someone picking up groceries for them. Leverage your existing care team and look to expand it to meet these needs.

Most ChMS tools have the functionality to create tasks and remind people to follow-up on requests. That can make coordinating efforts much more manageable.

No. 4: Continue Small Groups

Small groups might still be able to meet in-person (guidance is continually changing on this). However, it’s wise to go ahead and make plans to help small group members meet virtually. Consider using a video conference tool like Zoom to facilitate these meetings.

Host an initial video conference with your small group leaders to train them on how to use the tool and offer tips on how to lead a virtual meeting. Ask them to take attendance just like they would in-person and record that in your ChMS. This will help you quickly see which group members didn’t attend so you can try contacting them to make sure they’re okay.

This is an unprecedented situation but one in which the church can serve and thrive. By leveraging technology, we can continue to help those in need, spread the Gospel, and faithfully serve our communities.

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