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Communications Basics

Church Communications Introduction

Definitions

If we’re going to explore “Church Communications” we first need to define church and communications on their own.

For the purpose of this article we’ll be looking talking about local churches, not the global Church. The church is not a business and we must not treat it as if it is. A local church is a community of believers commissioned by Jesus Christ to make disciples under the leadership of Biblically qualified elders. This includes both preaching the gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus and the building up the body of believers who are part of the church.

Communication is the means of transferring information from one person to another individual or group of people. Communications is the discipline of using available technologies to effectively and efficiently communicate to large groups of people on behalf of an organization.

The Role of Communications in the Church

So what is the role of communications in the local church? Ultimately what we need to be doing with all our church communications work is aiming at the mission of the local church which is to make disciples.

In reality, we’re doing communications whether we like it or not. If you say “Oh, we don’t believe in church branding so we just have our pastors make everything themselves in Word with clip art.” Well then that’s your communications strategy.

So the question is how can we do it with excellence in a way that best supports the mission of the church. Its a question of signal vs. noise. Let me give you an example that may be helpful: Let’s say there are three churches:

  • Church number one started as a house church and as they grow they move into a larger building and continue to grow in number, eventually it becomes hard for the people in the back to hear, but they refuse to mic the pastor because it wouldn’t feel like a small house church anymore. So signal literally gets lost in the noise (especially when the air conditioning or heating kicks on.)
  • Church number two is a megachurch where the pastor is an incredibly gifted speaker who is well practiced each week, the lighting is beyond perfect—its a show in itself—there are extravagantly produced motion graphics overlaying a live stream video of him up on huge screens, the preaching is overlaid with emotional music, he uses props, video clips and funny stories at perfectly timed intervals to keep people’s attention and of course its all livestreamed over the internet as well. With all the effort put into production value it’s likely that the actual message—the signal—is getting lost in the noise (or not even communicated in the first place for fear of offending or losing attention.) Not to mention the fact that if anything went wrong in this giant complicated signal chain it could be disastrously distracting for all those watching and listening.
  • Church number three is a medium sized church and focuses on expositing the scripture faithfully and making sure that the communications from audio to visual support the message without overshadowing it in high production value.

This example is of course a bit extreme but I think it illustrates the idea that the signal can easily be lost in the noise on both ends of the spectrum of embracing technologies to improve communications. If we refuse to use the technologies available we limit ourselves greatly in our ability to reach larger audiences and if we embrace it to the point where our church service becomes a highly produced live TV show then the message can easily be overshadowed by production value.

So to communicate with excellence we must find the sweet spot where technologies support our mission and message without supplanting it.

Breaking it Down

Excellence in Communications takes strategic planning and it can be helpful to brake it down this way:

  • You have two audiences:
    • Internal (Members and Attenders)
    • External (Those who are considering joining and the friends and family of your members and attenders who are being invited.)
  • You have three primary categories of communications:
    • Content
    • Community Building
    • Promotional
  • You have these channels
    • Website
    • Email
    • SMS Text Messaging
    • Social Media
    • In-Service or at events
      • Videos
      • Verbal Announcements (not recommended to heavily rely on these)
      • Printed Materials
    • Other Printed Materials
    • On-campus signage

And while it can be helpful to brake it down like this, the reality is that there is a lot of overlap with all of these things. But it’s helpful to think through your audience, your categories and your channels is when putting together specific communication pieces. I’m planning to break down these audiences, categories and channels in more detail in later articles.

Partnership in Ministry

I’m part of a church communications group on Facebook and someone recently posted in there asking for “Best tips and tricks when starting in communications in a new church?” Here’s what I commented:

“Been doing this at my church for about 7 years. Here’s what I’ve learned and am learning: Be your pastors best partner… Your church’s leadership is trying to lead the church and you need to earn their trust by pursuing the vision/mission of the church and not just making ‘cool stuff'”

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