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Communications Basics

Building Community

In my introduction to Church Communications article I said I would break down the categories and so I’m starting with Building Community.

A huge part of the mission of the church is to be a community that loves and cares for one another and makes disciples who make more disciples. And church communications, done well, can play a massive role in accomplishing that goal.

In this article we’re going to look at five things your church communications can do to help build community. Each of the five will include what channels will be used and what your primary audience will be.

1. Facebook Group

Channel: Social Media
Audience: Internal

If you’re not in the social media management world you may not even know there is a difference between a Facebook Group and a Facebook Page. Well… there is. And it’s hugely important to understand how to use each. Most of us have probably created Facebook Pages for our church, and this can be useful for blasting out information or content to your audience—but thats exactly the downfall at the same time. Pages are a somewhat like a one-sided conversation. This again, can be helpful but it doesn’t foster community on Facebook nearly as well as a Facebook Group.

A Facebook Group acts as a place where anyone in the group can post and interact and share prayer requests, needs, service opportunities, encouraging content, resources and more! We, at Faith Bible Church, started a group about 2 years ago and it’s been amazing to see how people have engaged with one another there. It’s been a real catalyst for praying as a church and sharing life together! (I’m writing this in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis and it’s been more important and useful now than ever before. And my guess is that it will only continue to grow community even after life gets back to normal.)

Another bonus of a group is that Facebook recently (2018-2019) started more heavily emphasizing group content in their algorithm because they realized its more personal and makes people feel less like they’re just being constantly advertised to on Facebook.

Now this doesn’t mean you abandon your Page—in fact, Facebook has a nice way to tie your page and your group together—they are both important for different reasons. Think of your page as a place for one-to-many communications and a place where newcomers might go to preview your church and see reviews. And think of your group as a place for building community among your members where its a level playing field and no one’s messages are prioritized over another.

Note: Groups also work great for individual ministries within your church and can again be tied back to your church’s page to keep it all connected.

2. Using Pictures of Actual People in Your Church

Channels: Website, Printed Materials, Social
Audience: External

Many churches are tempted to use stock photography on their website, social media and other communication pieces to make their church look more cool, diverse, bigger, or impressive than it really is. Or they may be tempted to use stock photos simply because they don’t have any good photos of people within their church.

If this is that case, find a photographer that attends your church—or even just someone who likes taking pictures on their smartphone and ask them to get some good pictures of the people and ministries in your church as soon as possible! With these photos you can start building an image library that give viewers a true and accurate idea of what your church is like. A low-quality picture of people who are actually part of your church is way better than a great looking stock photo!

For the external audience this is a huge way they can start to feel connected to your community before even visiting, because they can see your community and the people in it instead of some fake generic stock imagery.

3. Storytelling

Channels: All
Audience: Internal & External

If your church is larger than about 100-200 people, chances are that not everyone knows everyone. Story creates connection. When a story is shared, whether its a video, an article, or something else, it creates emotional connection to the people in the story and can foster relationships of mutual encouragement and building up of the body when people who didn’t know each other before are connected through the telling of story.

If someone from outside the church reads, listens to or watches a story of someone in our church, it will help them feel more connected to your church before they even come—making it easier for them to come.

4. Personalize Communications

Channels: Email, Website, Social and More
Audience: Internal & External

Have you ever gotten an email from an organization or company and just had the feeling that it was sent from an automated system to a huge nameless list of emails with no ability for readers to respond and ask further questions. This is exactly the opposite of what communications from the church should feel like. I believe that all church communications (as much as possible) should come from someone specific in the church not from a generic church account.

Email is the easiest place to see the effects. When you send out an email from johnsmith@churchwebsite.org instead of no-reply@churchwebsite.org thats a huge step in the right direction. I also recommend creating email signatures for each person who will be sending out emails on behalf of the church. Here’s a few samples of the signatures that we use at my church.

One of these signatures get’s appended to every email we send out and it makes the reader feel as if the email is actually coming from someone who they know and they could respond (and they d0) rather than coming from a nameless, faceless organization.

This principle can and should be applied to all your communication channels as much as possible. Here are just a few examples:

  • Events on your website should have a specific individual listed as the event organizer.
  • Whenever possible, have individuals on staff share about ministries and events on facebook—in your group or even on their own timeline—rather than posting from the church page.)
  • On flyers for events and ministries, or resources, include a name, and contact information, and even photo of someone who could be contacted for more information.

5. Getting Members Involved in Creating Content

Channels: Web, Social, Events and More
Audience: Internal & External

At Faith Bible Church we publish weekly podcasts, articles, and other resources online, plus, in-person classes, seminars and events. Getting your congregation involved in the creation of this content can make it feel much more like a community project rather than a product created by “us, the staff” for their consumption.

People are also much more excited to share about something that they are involved in creating, so this not only builds internal community but also makes it more likely that your resources can help build external community and encourage unbelievers to think seriously about gospel truths and maybe even visit your church.

Remembering Our Commission

The church is not a business creating products for consumption, it is a community that is commissioned by Jesus to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who… you get the picture. So building community is a vital role of communications and I believe a very attainable goal with current technologies—we just need to think critically and use these technologies in a strategic way.

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