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Wow.  It has been 91 days since my last post on this blog, and you know what?  I still do not have any new ideas about what to write about.  I have been thinking every day for the past 91 days about what to write on this blog, and I have gotten nothing, nadda, zilch.  And that makes me really sad.  I have enjoyed writing this blog, but maybe I just have nothing left to say on the subject.

Marketing and the church is a hard subject to discuss because there are many ways to do it wrong and there are many opinions on how much marketing is wrong.  It think that church marketing is a very real subject that churches need to invest time and thought into and maybe even money.

I still believe in church marketing, but I don’t know what else to say about it.

Do you have any ideas to get me rolling?  Any topics you’d like to talk about?  I am, as always, open to suggestions.

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If you do not already get emails from The Barna Group, I would highly suggest it.  About once a month they publish research relevant to the Christian community.  This week they posted on “The Rise of the @Pastor.”  You can find the complete article here.

This article talks about the rise of religious content on social media, and also the rise of churches and pastors on social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook.  In the article, they state that “the Christian community’s voice has become a substantial one in the social, digital space.”  I find that Christian influencers are becoming more and more accessible to people through the use of social media.

Twitter is gradually becoming the dominant social media.  Church leaders included are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.  I found this statistic very interesting:  In the last 24 months, the number of “church-based” users on Twitter has increased by 77%.  Wow.

Check out this infographic from Barna to see the rise in social media.

Social media helps pastors and churches to interact with people where they are.  This used to be in the coffee shops and out in the town, but now it is on the computer.  Churches and pastors need to be where the people are and where the important conversations are happening.  A majority of these conversations are now happening over social media.

If your church does not have a presence on social media, what are you waiting for?

In order for your church to grow, you need to be ready to grow.  One way to do this is to make sure that you are visitor friendly.  I recently heard that the people in a congregation will usually only invite their friends if they think their friends will be able to follow what is going on in the service.

So ask yourself, if a visitor walked into your church, would they be able to follow along?  Would they understand what is happening?  Try to look at your church and the services through the lens of a visitor.  You must over communicate everything.

I would suggest doing it now, so you are ready for those visitors.  Some people in the congregation might not understand the over communication.  They might say, “Why do you have to tell us what we are doing every week?  We already know what is going on.”  They may know what is going on, but maybe a visitor will not.

Also, you need to have some way to connect with visitors, but also give them a way out if they are not comfortable being singled out.  A good way to do this is tell them where the pastor or staff member will be to greet visitors.  That gives them the choice to either go and introduce themselves or sneak out if they are uncomfortable.  The goal should be to make their transition into your church comfortable and painless.

I think you’ll find that you’ll get more visitors when you are prepared for them.  When you are prepared for growth to happen, that is when it is more likely to happen.

Do you think the size of the church should matter as to whether or not a church should have small groups?

Can a church be too big or too small for small groups?

It is my opinion that small groups can be incredibly powerful for any size church.
For big churches, small groups can be a great way for people to feel connected to a church and a community when that might otherwise be hard.  It can be an opportunity to get on the deeper level, which is why I think it is also important for small churches.  In smaller churches, they usually have bigger sunday school classes of all ages because they don’t have as many people to teach, or maybe if they split up the groups would be too small for sunday school.  In smaller churches, small groups can be a good way to break up into age groups or even interest groups.

In any church small groups can be good because it gives people another chance to interact with the gospel.  I currently attend a small church with attendance usually around 50-80 people.  And we do not have small groups, but I wish we did.  I teach the children’s sunday school class, so I miss the opportunity to be fed in a smaller setting than the sunday morning service.  It would be nice to have a time to dig deeper with a smaller group, which I do not get during sunday school because I am teaching.  Therefore, sunday school can give your teachers a chance to get involved with other adults.

This also leads to the question of what the size of the small groups should be, but that is a question for another time.

Do you think the church size matters when it comes to the importance of small groups?

Here are my 8 Tips for the Social Church.  I hope that you find them helpful.

1.  Have a Voice
Even if there is a team of people putting out your social media content, you need to have a unified voice or else it will seem that your church does not know what it wants to be.  In your next social media strategy meeting, and yes, you should be having those, discuss your voice if you have not done so already.

2. Be Authentic
People can tell when you are putting on a show.  You have to be real with your followers.  One way to do this is by sharing things you and your church are passionate about.

3. Be Intentional
You need to have a plan or a strategy or else you are not going anywhere.  You need to have realistic, attainable, measurable goals for yourselves in order to see where you have been and to better focus on where you want to be going.

4. Use Visuals
We are visual people.  Photos catch our attention more than words.  And oftentimes photos communicate and touch us more than words ever could.  We respond to photos.  Photos evoke emotion, which leads to number 5.

5. Be Emotional
In the book Contagious, Jonah Berger says, “When you care, you share.”  Make your followers feel something and they will be more likely to share that post than one that did not make them feel anything.

6. Find your Magic Number
Many churches are trying to find their magic number for how many times they should be posting each week or even each day.  You do not want to post too often because then you will oversaturate your social media and people will start to tune you out.  On the other hand you cannot post too little because your followers will forget about you.  The number of times you should be posting is magic because it will differ for every church and every audience.  You need to practice and see how your audience responds.  Find what is best for you.

7. Engage
Answer questions.  Comment on and share other people’s posts.  Respond to comments.  Build a strong community and create a relationship.  Relationships are power for any company, but for churches in particular.

8. Do Not Delete
If someone says something negative about you, respond to it and try to fix it.  Never just delete it.  People want to be a part of the conversation.  They want to be heard.  If you delete a negative post without addressing it, you have lost an opportunity to reach out to that person and fix the problem.  If you make a mistake in social media, do not delete it.  Apologize, correct it and make it right.  And remember, if you delete, it’s never really gone.  Someone will find it, and covering something up usually makes it worse.

 

What would you add to this list of tips?

Twitter is getting huge!  Twitter currently has 554,750,000 active, registered users (more stats here).  With the popularity of Twitter rising, there has been more buzz about whether or not churches should encourage using Twitter during church.

Some churches will post tweets about their church in the lobby, some will have hashtags encouraging conversations on the sermon topic for the day.  I have recently read a few articles on the subject and I wanted to share some of their thoughts with you.

In this article, the author, Scott Williams, says, “Tweet and Tweet Often!”  These are his top 5 reasons that you should use Twitter during church:

  1. You can share the Pastor’s message on God’s word in real-time
  2. If the pastor says something that has an impact on you, causes you to think, or moves you in some other way, it is likely that one of your Twitter followers will be moved by it as well
  3. The great commission says go into all the world, this can be applied to the Twitter world as well.  You can be tweeting the Gospel!
  4. You will have a storehouse of thought-provoking thoughts
  5. Tweeting great thoughts from the sermon can help cut down on “Sermon Attention Deficit Disorder (SADD)”

Williams closes the article with this thought: “remember God’s Omnipresence applies to Twitter as well.  Get Your Tweet On!”

Another article on the subject, written by Purva Patel, has some other ideas and examples.

Most pastors find that Tweeting during services can make church more interactive and can appeal to the younger demographic.  It can make them feel like they are a part of the message.

One way that the Woodland Church is using Twitter in church is the church staff reviews tweets coming in during the sermon and will post them on a board behind the pastor.  The pastor ignores the tweets during the sermon, but afterwards he will answer questions that came in through Twitter (I think that this is the coolest idea!).

Some people have found that tweeting during services can be distracting.  Craig Hayes, pastor in Fresno, says, “If two people are talking at the same time, somebody’s not listening…You cannot do two things at once and expect you’re not going to miss something.”

There are many pros and cons to using Twitter in church.  I am definitely pro-Twitter in churches.  It can help the congregation feel like an even more important part in the community and the conversation.  I think the idea of having the Pastor answer questions coming in on Twitter is a great idea because it can really help get deeper into the sermon topic.

What do you think of churches utilizing Twitter during services?
Have you seen any examples of churches using Twitter really well?

Churches are like people. 
They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and like people, it’s what is going on in the inside that matters.

The photos came from the following websites:
http://www.christculturenews.com/10-largest-churches-in-america/
http://fineartamerica.com/featured/pioneer-church-at-christmas-time-utah-images.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_Church,_Detroit_MI.jpg

I just finished a book title “Contagious.”  It was written by Jonah Berger and it is all about the power of word of mouth.  Oftentimes word of mouth is more powerful than visual advertising.  Here are some things that really stood out to me from the book.

One example Berger used to illustrate the power of word of mouth is a hot dog diner in New York.  This looks like a regular diner.  In the back corner there is an old-fashioned telephone booth.  If you go in this booth and dial a 2 on the rotary dial phone, the back panel opens and you enter into the “Please Don’t Tell” bar.  This bar has no visual advertising.  You might think that they have no business, but no.  They are reservation only.  They open over the phone at 3:00pm for reservations, first come first served, and they are booked for the evening by 3:30pm.  That’s pretty powerful word of mouth.  How effective are our churches at using word of mouth?  Do we focus on visual advertising too much?

Another important thing to remember:  “When we care, we share.”  If you want your thought or product to be contageous, it must be emtional.  It must make people care.  In a study that Berger did he found that “awe-inspiring article are 30% more likely to make the Most-Emailed list.”  What is more awe-inspiring than the Gospel?  When marketing messages, we should focus on feeling, not information.  It’s like the 180 Second of Vision blog post I reblogged the other day.  Instead of just standing up on Sunday mornings and giving all the information of the announcements, we should tell people why the announcement matters, make them care about it.  Berger goes on to say that “activating emotion is the key to transmission.”  Think of how many more visitors or people you will have attending different events if you make them care about it.  Then they will be more eager to share it and bring more people.

These are just a couple of things that I drew from the book.  It really was a great book to draw practical examples from of how powerful word of mouth can be.

 

Christians have fallen into a trap.  I call it the “you can have it your way trap.”  I succumb to this so often that I named it.  I have this terrible instinct when it comes to churches to run when it gets messy.  If I cannot have it my way, then I am out.  Now, I do not often act on this instinct but I have to admit that it is there.  Where does this idea come from?  When did we as Christians start to think that we could have it our way?  I blame Burger King.

have-it-your-way

But I have news for you…the church is not Burger King.

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This is the problem with a Burger King mentality in church, we are not committed.   If we do not like something that is going on, we leave the church because I suddenly think I should have it my way.  The problem with the Burger King Way is that it makes us selfish, it makes church all about us.  But church is not about us.  It never has been.  Church is all about God.

When you leave a church at the first sign on pickles on your plain cheeseburger, then you make church all about you and what makes you happy.  So I’m here to say, as much as for my own benefit as your own, that the next time you get the “turn and flee” idea planted in your head, ask yourself, “How can my attitude change to make this better?”  See, this way it can still be all about you, but it is now all about you changing your attitude and not changing the church.  It is suddenly how can you better serve the church then how much better the church can meet your needs?

This has been on my heart and mind the past few days and it is something that I get mad at myself about often because somehow in the course of my life this “have it your way” mentality has crept into my mindset about the church.  I have found myself continually tempted to “church shop (a term in itself that encourages people to shop around until they find someplace they can “have it their way”) when I am unhappy when really I should just stay where I am and try my best to make myself better.  Maybe I am the problem, and if that is the case, then I am not going to be happy anywhere.

The point is, this is God’s church, not ours.  We should be more concerned about fixing ourselves and our mindset than fixing the church.

You may be wondering why it has been almost 4 months since I have written anything.

And it’s because I am just plain worn out.

In the last four months I have

1-started and ended a job and started a new one.  You are now looking at Milligan College’s newest Financial Aid Counselor
2-I have become the youth leader at my church and have been busy with Sunday school, youth group, lock-ins, and now the children’s Christmas program coming up in December.
3-My husband has started seminary, so that has been a shift with him being in school and I’m not.
4-I have been reading a lot of fiction and not a lot of church books.

Frankly, I just have not known what to write about.

Now that I am at a smaller church, I am seeing what church marketing works, and does not work, on a smaller population.  My father has also just become the Church Administrator at a church in Lexington, Kentucky and he also has to find out what marketing works for their church in particular.

I think that it is important to remember that Church Marketing is not a formula which can be stuck to for every single church.  What works at the church I am attending, of 60 or so people is not going to work for the church my Dad is serving at, with attendance of around eight or nine hundred.

For example, at my church during our announcement time, which yes, I do consider as part of marketing, (you’re getting your event out there right?) we read all the upcoming events and even have time for the people in the pews to shout out any other announcements.  Now for us, that works.  But if they tried to do that at my Dad’s church, that would be chaotic and would probably take a half hour just to get through the announcements.

Church marketing efforts need to be tailored to the people that you are trying to serve.  If a congregation communicates largely with text messages, Twitter, and Facebook, I’m not going to print off flyers to hand out or even mail to them.  It’s about reaching people where they are and making the message best fit how they want to receive it.