Tag Archives: Religion

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5 reasons why social media isn’t easy

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Church is about fellowship (which by definition is social). And social media is simply a (mostly free) communication channel that has millions of potential followers on it. Because of this, it’s an excellent way to extend your ministry reach while being involved in the daily lives of your members.

So why do many churches struggle with social media? Check out these five requirements that make social media management incredibly complex:

1. It requires followers.

Bonus if they’re engaged! I’m amazed that churches go to the effort of posting when they have very few followers. It’s like a pastor deciding to preach to an empty room.

A church must warrant followers in order to make it worthwhile. Do you struggle with this? Either your content isn’t right or your channel isn’t. Fix this before continuing with the other four requirements!

2. It requires constant content development.

Every social channel has an algorithm that pushes content to SOME of your followers. And they are expecting engaging content when they’re scrolling several times a day, although many are considering doing it less because the content doesn’t feel relevant to them.

In order to engage and have more people see your posts, you either have to pay to boost them… OR create really engaging posts. Once those posts (which could take many minutes to produce) are seen, they’re looking for more from you, and the treadmill continues every hour of everyday!

Relax, though. You don’t have to be posting a ton of content. Instead, it just needs to be consistent. Consistently good, engaging, and timely.

3. It requires 24/7 monitoring.

The most valuable posts have content that your followers want to share, like, or comment on. The more this engagement happens, the more the channel will push your content for free. If no engagement occurs, the post fades and your content stops being pushed.

When true engagement happens on a post, you MUST engage back if possible. If someone takes the time to comment, your church needs to be social and timely with a response. This “refreshes” the post and pushes it again as part of the channel’s algorithm. You don’t have to monitor it continuously, but most channels bonus you if you’re responding quickly.

4. It requires leadership (and not support staff).

Because of the amount of quality content that needs to be created and responded to, it’s almost impossible for leadership to approve everything (and it’s why most senior leadership don’t want the social media job). So, usually, a support person does it.

But support staff need continuous content (see Nos. 2 and 3). For success, this ultimately requires the support person to be elevated to a leadership position — to keep this constant mechanism working properly, and so they can make decisions without constant oversight.

5. It requires a communication strategy.

Every church needs to have a strategy for reaching their congregation and community with ministry information. You also need to quiet some voices and amplify others in this strategy. If not? You’re just creating noise on social media that will be ignored.

These are all difficult to resolve! But they must be overcome in order to engage an audience on social media properly. Social media certainly needs a church voice on every one of its channels!

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Will the safety of houses of worship become a new focus for law enforcement?

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If the past years have seen an increase in mass shootings, the past few months have featured a slew of extremist attacks on houses of worship. One of the latest horrifying attacks was on a congregation of worshippers at a synagogue in California.

Houses of worship have always been synonymous with places of refuge. But these attacks have turned them from sanctuaries in the truest sense of the word to being targets of hate. Some people are now concerned and fearful when worshipping.

We remember the infamous Ku Klux Klan attacks on the 16th Baptist Street Church in Birmingham and other black churches during the civil rights era with shame. Then, there were a series of attacks on synagogues and mosques in the 1990s and following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Since 2016, such hateful attacks have increased and not just in America. Some blame it on the rise in white nationalist violence, but we hear of terrible tragedies that have befallen innocents across the world where there is no or little white supremacist behavior. Even peace-loving New Zealand is not spared, as the terrible attack on the Al Noor mosque demonstrated.

America is not dogged by sectarian violence like some countries, but yet we now have our churches installing security cameras; rabbis and priests getting concealed weapons permits; and clergy members and church staffs training to combat active shooter situations.

Some are also opting for regular target practice along with their congregants. For special events, those who have the budget are even hiring special security agencies. The next generation of active shooter response training needs to keep all these developments in mind.

Following the attacks in New Zealand, American police have stepped up security protocols for houses of worship. In places like Dearborn, Michigan, and Chicago there are increased patrols around mosques so that worshippers feel safe and secure during service.

In areas where white nationalism is on the rise, law enforcement has to work hand in hand with local and federal authorities to halt the process of radicalization and save lives. They can do so by setting up some necessary checks and balances.

These include better, faster and more effective reporting on hate crimes; an increase in staffing; and having departments focus on the prevention of hate crimes. Agencies also need to improve the enforcement of existing hate crime legislation so that they can actively help in stemming the spread of hate.

The FBI has warned the government of the pervasive and persistent threat of white nationalist violence which, if not taken seriously, can reduce our nation into a conflict zone. The bureau us working aggressively to address the increase in targeted attacks, but as always, there are budgets to consider. Patrolling is beefed up for now, but it is not practical to have a uniformed police officer in front of every house of worship 24-7.

Historically, active shooter response begins when officers arrive at the scene of a shooting or crime in progress. They haven’t been as involved in preventive safety measure related to such incidents.

Following these attacks, however, they are revisiting core duties to “protect and serve” so that they can help preserve innocent lives.

New policies and training may include a focus on being proactive instead of reactive, working with the public and educating them about predictable problems. Actions may also include improving the security culture, conducting safety audits of places of worship, enforcing rigorous security protocols, licensing and training responsible adults to carry concealed firearms, and helping them to develop in-house security teams.

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Spring clean your church website communication with these 5 tips

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You’re busy. You juggle a ton of details and maybe even manage a group of chaotic people. And that’s in your personal life!

Then, you duplicate that in your ministry life and it doesn’t leave much time for anything else. On top of that, you know you should keep up with the news cycles, your favorite podcast, that communication book that everyone’s raving about, and all the emails you receive.

HELP! Stop the madness and let me off. The world (your life and your church) has so much going on that we need to prioritize what we have time for or we run out of time!

Perhaps this is why the gym gets left out of most daily routines? Why many ignore most of their emails? Yep. Why? Because the things dropped are perceived as being “not critical.” And we’re all in the same boat. You. Me. Your congregation. Your community.

In fact, in the quest to take it “all” in and remain sane, most people have to edit, half-listen, or ignore. What’s even easier? We gravitate to informational sources that edit for us. We listen more to those who say less but still have great content. Our church websites (and all communication for that matter) need to take heed and spring clean, or we risk being ignored.

Here are five spring cleaning tips:

1. Develop a communication thread.

You’ve heard me say it before: Every brand must know their simplified lane of relevant and beneficial information and then stick to it, weaving it through everything we do.

Our information should be limited to what our audience feels is a solution to their needs or a path to their goals. Then, we become known for the thread and people pursue our content and consider it “needed” in their lives.

2. Remove unnecessary words.

Look through all content and consider how you can say it with less words. People don’t want to tackle content that appears to take too much time. Remove redundancy, use shorter words, and edit so you use bullet points with “just the facts.” Stop wasting people’s time with your long wordy paragraphs.

3. Tell a story with pictures.

It’s worth a 1,000 words, right? So use them. Ensure your pictures tell a story and extend your thread and message. If it doesn’t? Don’t use it — it’s only wasting space.

4. Say it with a short video.

People prefer short (<2 min) informational, shareable videos if they’re packed with information THEY find relevant.

Start videos by naming the audience, discussing their concerns or goals, then end by clearly giving them a reward (a solution!). Make sure you caption your video since most people watch videos with the sound off (think the workplace or bathrooms).

5. Lead to secondary pages.

Every page doesn’t require ALL your content. Instead, use your pages to link them to the page with the full information. This way it doesn’t clutter a page. Rather, it says it briefly and leads to the place with more content (only if someone wants deeper info).

Watch your web metrics (Google Analytics) to see if anyone really cares about the deeper dive (most aren’t as interested as the one who creates the content).

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5 resources to create or update your church’s security plan

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Unfortunately, we continue to see churches and places of worship become victims of violent attacks. While our first and most important tool is prayer, there are several additional steps church leaders can take to protect their congregations.

Deciding when and which doors to lock, how to respond in the event of an emergency, how to collaborate with first responders on emergency response plans, and establishing safety teams are just a few examples. Unless you have someone on your staff who is a security expert, you’ll probably need to connect with outside sources to provide direction on the best course of action for your church.

Below are five resources to consider:

1. Church insurance company

Talk with your church’s insurance agent to see what resources they have available. Some provide free e-books and training; others may have a list of preferred vendors you could contact and more. Most will at least offer guidance on what they require as your insurer.

2. Your church’s denomination

Check with your denomination’s leadership to see if they provide resources regarding safety and security policies. They might have templates and examples of security policies and procedures you could use along with a list of recommended security experts to contact.

3. The Church Network

This should come as no surprise, but The Church Network offers online courses on church security. They also have resources such as a Safety and Security Manual, Emergency Preparedness Response Manual, and more (many are free).

Also, contact your local chapter of The Church Network to see if they plan on addressing security during an upcoming meeting.

4. Church Law & Tax

This part of the Christianity Today organization provides several articles and other resources related to church security. If you go to their online store and search for “security,” you’ll find several e-books you can use as a starting point for your church security procedures.

5. Local first responders

As your church develops or updates the security plan, contact local first responders to see if they’re willing to review the plan and provide input. They’ll be the ones you call on for help should an emergency occur, so having their expert insights on your plan could be extremely valuable.

No one wants to think a violent attack could occur at their church. However, we’ve seen several instances in the news that prove it is possible and that we need to be prepared. By leveraging these and other expert resources, you can create a plan and take action to protect your congregation.

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How to avoid file storage chaos

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With all of the videos, graphics, documents, and other items we use each week for ministry, file storage can be chaotic at best without a good electronic filing system.

Trying to maintain a server for your church staff’s files might not be the best fit for your team. Instead, consider using an online storage option that can grow with your team’s needs.

Option No. 1: Dropbox

With Dropbox, you can save files online and grant access to church staff and volunteers to everything or to specific folders as needed.

  • Basic: Free, single user
  • Standard: $12.50 per user/month, starting at 3 users
  • Advanced: $20 per user/month, starting at 3 users
  • Enterprise: Customizable

Option No. 2: G Suite

Google’s G Suite product includes storage plus the ability to use Google Docs, Sheets, presentations, email, calendars, and more.

  • Basic: $5 per user/month for 30 GB of storage
  • Business: $10 per user/month for unlimited storage
  • Enterprise: $25 per user/month — includes additional controls and capabilities

Option No. 3: OneDrive

Microsoft’s OneDrive includes various options for storing files and photos online. Some plans include Office 365 as well.

  • OneDrive for Business Plan 1: $5 per user/month includes file sharing and OneDrive storage
  • OneDrive for Business Plan 2: $10 per user/month includes file sharing and OneDrive storage plus additional security and compliance features
  • Office365 Business Premium: $12.50 per user/month includes file sharing and OneDrive storage plus Office applications

Simply using an online tool won’t solve all your storage challenges. While this should give you the space you need, if your team continually deals with trying to find specific files you might have an organization issue.

Here are a few online file organization tips:

Require staff and volunteers to save all church-related files on your preferred online storage system. You don’t want Susie Volunteer saving spreadsheets on her personal computer and emailing them to a staff member each month. Instead, have her save those spreadsheets on the church’s online storage system, so everyone with access to that folder has the latest version.

Organize files by ministry department, then by event or program within that department. Some form of standard file structure across departments will make it easier and more efficient to locate that graphic or document you need ASAP.

Archive or purge files periodically. At least annually, have everyone go through their department’s files and delete anything that was a draft and was never used, items that are no longer needed, etc. Make sure you’re following appropriate record retention rules (especially for financial or HR records) but clean up or reorganize periodically to ensure it’s easy to find what you need.

Keeping up with documents and media files can become a significant time-waster for your team. Providing a single location for everyone to save their files and giving them a file structure to use helps everyone be more productive and effective.

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5 tests for an effective communication thread

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Imagine if your church maintained focus on a solution to its community. Something that instantly got the community’s attention and made the church relevant and needed. And then used those content “fences” to make the congregation known for something.

That’s what I call a communication thread. This is a brand promise or brand story that is maintained and controlled so that it unites ministries and tears down the ministry silos within our local churches. Some people call it a tagline, slogan, or positioning statement. But those concepts sound so temporary.

A long-term thread works as long as it’s “effective.” What are those criteria? Here’s a five-question test to prove your thread will work over several years:

1. Does your audience look up?

Your thread must be connected to an audience. In fact, an effective thread will usually be so strongly focused that someone can determine who you’re targeting from it. Geico’s thread “15 minutes could save you 15%” points to their audience: people who don’t have much time and don’t want to overpay for insurance.

Remember, your community will rarely “look up” for something spiritual. So resist threads that scream, “we are a church!” since at least a third of your community typically isn’t interested.

Instead, consider that they’ll look up for something that they deal with daily. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well about water first before turning to spiritual things!

2. Is it unique?

This is important. If every church in your neighborhood uses the same thread (i.e., “Better Together”) it loses its draw. Plus, search engines won’t know who to direct searches to. So try and say it differently with more unique keywords (without getting too odd). If you discover a 2-5 word thread, check to see if you can get the URL — it’s a great read of whether it’s unique. Or at least Google it (with quotes around it) to see how far down the list you’d probably be in results.

3. Easy to remember?

In the quest to get it unique, churches often get too long. Or words that people don’t use regularly. If you do the standard church thread with three things (i.e. Inward. Upward. Outward.), fewer people will remember or use it.

Try to be known for some… THING. Yes, one unique thing will be remembered much longer than two or three. And make sure it rolls off the tongue by your primary audience. If it feels awkward to work it into your daily discussion, it’s the wrong thing. Say it simpler!

4. Does it connect ministries?

Almost every ministry in your church will need to interpret the thread for their specific audience. If your thread is “Better Choices,” you can imagine how the kids’ ministry could use this, as well as the students, adults, and seniors. Used slightly different, but the same words.

This is the power of an effective thread. Unique, causing unity, and actually used. Does this example assume a particular audience? Do you think there are enough people in a community who are trying to make good choices? Absolutely. Imagine how this could roll out for a recovery program!

5. Does it pass the smell test?

Does it sound political? Can it be misinterpreted? Don’t use it. Be careful if your audience could hear something that’s unintended. Pretend to be a preteen boy and ask yourself it could be use inappropriately. Don’t roll out a thread and discover it misses the mark of an effective, beneficial, desired slogan. Or worse, a joke.

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10 church communicator personalities: Check the mirror for yours

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I’ve always been fascinated by people. In fact, my college psychology courses established the understanding that we mostly tend to do similar things while being resistant to changing our ways.

Accountability meetings declare that understanding and recognition are huge steps towards improvement. From decades of working with comms, here are the personalities I see:

1. Juggler.

In a feeble attempt to keep up with all the requests, they start various plates spinning. Their constant “busyness” rarely gives them a sense of accomplishment.

2. Procrastinator.

No matter how busy, “something” always seems to be priority over urgent tasks. “I’ll just check Facebook for 10 mins; THEN, I’ll crank out that content” is regularly internalized.

3. Bulletin Nazi.

People are fearful of this person as they wear a robe of grammar rules, typo spectacles, and deadline alarms. However, they accomplish a ton of things with a long wake of wounded suppliers.

4. Chatty Cathy/Charles.

They feed on interactions and meetings in an attempt to keep up with all that’s going on and understanding the needs of others. Unfortunately, little time is left to accomplish those needs since their time is eaten up by “one more story.”

5. People Pleaser.

There are so many requests and desires by so many people surrounding them. Their treadmill of expectations is set on an unachievable uphill incline. The more given, the more expected.

6. Strategist.

Somehow their workload is managed and prioritized properly with goals set and met. Their level-headedness creates a perfect calm with each interactions. Another name? Communication unicorn.

7. Creative.

They dread doing anything the same way twice; so an attempt is made to be unique in all accomplishments. They discover this is almost impossible to accomplish 100 percent of the time so they divert to procrastination while waiting for a creative spark to overcome them.

8. Dreamer.

Closely akin to a Creative, they love blue-sky thinking while resisting boundaries or standards. They often create houses of brands rather than branded houses and often live in a perpetual “what if” holding pattern.

9. Encourager.

This church comm exhausts themselves trying to model what they’re desiring from their leadership. People enjoy their presence and kindness all while depleting their positive energy.

10. Take-Out Window Operator.

“How can I help you?” is uttered almost as much as “do you want ______ with that?” This personality tends to listen to others more than their inner communication high standard. This blind, service-oriented servant feels like they’re one ketchup packet request from a breakdown.

So, which is you? Perhaps there’s a better description as we prayerfully attempt to communicate to our congregations and communities or maybe you’re a combo special.

No matter who you are, assess whether it’s sustainable and adjust your personality as needed. Either that, or you’ll sadly find yourself a “former communicator.”

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Church communication must show you care: Here’s how

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I recently spoke to a church about effective church communication. In my talk, I reminded the congregation that Jesus told His disciples that we’re to be known for loving those around us.

However, when the world is asked about the Church, most of them know what we’re against (and not for love and caring). We’ve become really good at being salt while our “light” skills haven’t broken through. Dare I say that the church has hidden our lights under a salt-flavored bushel basket? It’s always easier to become known for what we’re against, than it is to be known for something.

This elicited a lot of questions from the congregation as they stayed for an hour after the service asking me questions about how they can be known for love.

Church communication must tackle this since it’s the voice of ministries to our communities (and not just an internal reminder voice to our congregations). The test? Do our nonchurch members in our communities know we care? How about our members? Both must feel it.

Here’s how to truly care for a group (as God’s called us to) using communication:

1. Identify, know, and love your audience.

The best way to do this? Look at your demographic numbers (internally and externally) and get a clear understanding of the groups within your reach.

Which ones are growing and which aren’t represented (but should be). Get to know them. Truly understand their needs, concerns, and goals. The more you know, the more you should want to help them. To love them (as Christ does). Fall in love with the people God’s placed around you.

2. Know how they receive love and caring.

Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages,” defines the ways we receive love from others. Are you attempting to communicate love and caring in all five ways?

Do you give them things, serve them, encourage them, spend time with them, and, for those wanting it, give them a handshake or a hug? We need to have a spectrum of caring.

3. Make communication about them, not you.

Many of us like to talk about what interests us. But that often can feel promotional and boring to others.

Want to engage a group of people and have them wanting more? Make all your communication about them. If the focus feels like you care for them, they’ll receive it willingly.

4. Stop pushing when they should be pulling.

The sign of caring communication? People will reach out for it because they want it. If you feel that your church continuously pushes content and you constantly wonder if it’s being received, then you’re making it too much about your ministries and events and not about the people it’s intended for.

Rework your communication and make sure it clearly identifies who it’s for, what it’s solving, and delivers something in a manner that will be received. And desired!

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The retention secret every volunteer coordinator should know

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We all know how challenging it can be to get and keep volunteers. There are a variety of strategies for how to communicate the need and invite more people to serve.

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7 tips to help your ministry team prevent burnout

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As leaders, sometimes we need to protect our team members from themselves. The individuals who regularly stay late to wrap up a few tasks, who take on the toughest assignments, and practically live at the church need your help.

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