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Avoiding Church Calendar Overload

Here are four steps to a communications strategy for promoting events at your church…

At Church by the Bridge we've started planning the calendar of events for next year (yes, in August!).

And as with most churches, there are a lot of events – all of them worth going to! For example:

  • Prayer meetings,
  • Carols under the Bridge,
  • Annual Vestry Meeting,
  • Women's events,
  • Anglicare Winter Appeal,
  • Weekend Away,
  • Connect Groups,
  • PowerPoint training,
  • Worship leader training,
  • and many more!

As we prepare the calendar, three considerations come to mind:

  1. We want to promote the events, without making church members feel overwhelmed by all that's happening or obligated to come to everything,
  2. There are some events that we'd really like people to prioritise, while others are good, but less essential, and
  3. Some events are relevant to everyone (e.g. church weekend away), while other events are relevant to smaller groups (e.g. women's event, or newcomers dinners).

I've been thinking about how to communicate these events most effectively, keeping the above considerations in mind, throughout the course of the year.

Here are four steps to a communications strategy for promoting events – I'd love your feedback on what your church does, and how this process could work better.

Step 1 – Identify communication channels

We've got quite a number of communications channels at Church by the Bridge:

  • church news during services
  • printed newsletter distributed at services
  • printed quarterly calendar (example)
  • weekly e-news
  • website news
  • website calendar
  • Facebook page
  • Facebook events
  • Facebook advertising
  • Event-based minisites (e.g. www.iheartkirribilli.com)
  • Twitter account
  • phone
  • face-to-face
  • Connect Groups
  • meetings (i.e. communicating to people to a select group of people face-to-face)
  • emails to all of church/groups within the church
  • A6 postcards (mainly to promote events to people outside the church, e.g. I Heart Kirribilli)
  • letterbox drops
  • noticeboard (housing A3 posters)
  • A1 posters (positioned in frame against the wall outside the church)
  • community newsletter (example – though we haven't printed a second edition!)
  • community noticeboards

There are other communications channels available too – for example text messaging isn't something we've explored, but I know of churches using FrontlineSMS for group messaging. Other channels that come to mind are online platforms like On The City, and video messaging (e.g. facilitated by TokBox).

Can you think of any other useful communication channels?

Step 2 – Identify audiences these communication channels engage most effectively with. For example, announcing an event in church will communicate with everyone who is in the service (and listening!), but miss anyone who wasn't at church that week. Similarly, the church noticeboard, community newsletter, A1 posters, A6 posters are all primarily targeted at people who don't currently attend the church.

Step 3. Categorise the events. The events can be categorised in (at least) six ways:

  1. by type (e.g. training, church service, outreach),
  2. by primary audience (i.e. church members, church members and local community)
  3. by broad audience (e.g. men, women, everyone at church, local community, parents, Connect Leaders, etc), and
  4. by importance – this category is to help members of the church if they need to decide between two events. For example, church services and the weekend away fit into the ‘essential' category, whereas everyone doesn't need to come to every outreach event that's run throughout the year.
  5. by regularity (e.g. weekly – church, quarterly, annually, one-off – weddings!)
  6. by necessity (e.g. child protection training is essential for anyone working with kids)

By this stage, you've got a list of all events, communications channels, the audiences for each channel, and the six categorisations of each event. It's sounding complex, but I think the clearer the planning, the better the communication to the people who need to hear about the events.

Step 4. At this point, I think a matrix would come in handy. I played around with several formats for this, and decided on a form. It's rough and there's information missing, but it should give you an idea what I'm thinking of. Check out the Calendar Communication Matrix. I'm thinking that events could then be entered into the form, one at a time, with each of the fields completed along the way. One of the many advantages of creating this form in Wufoo is that all the information can easily be exported out into other formats.

Once events had been entered, you could look at the spreadsheet and plan how each event will be communicated throughout the year, based on all the elements supplied in the form.

What do you think about this strategy? Would it be helpful? Is it far too complicated? How could it be improved?

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Steve Fogg

    August 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I would add preaching as a communications channel. We are getting into the zone of ‘preaching the highest priority announcements’ which means the highest mission prioirities are preached rather than advertised which sends a totally different signal and message.

    Preaching the announcements means that instead of advertising a Baptism class your preach about the importance/Biblical basis of Baptism and offer a practical application of a baptism class.

    We preached about biblical community a year back for 4 weeks with the practical application of joining a life group. 46 new groups were formed, hundred’s of new ppl in groups for the first time and every group had a new leader. good stuff.

  2. Steve Fogg

    August 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Oh and there is a great maxim out there for Sunday services.

    The more you announce the less people hear.

    I believe in that principle. Struggle to live it out though!

  3. Adam Wygle

    August 21, 2010 at 4:14 am

    Hey Steven,

    This is a great list for churches. Glad to see The City on their, too. I would recommend having one place that has everything, from events to prayers to discussions. That way you get your church body used to looking in one direction for things instead of trying to remember where to go to find the information. “Was that on Facebook or was it on the blog?”

    Anyway, feel free to contact me if you’ve got any questions.

  4. Andrew Goodall

    August 22, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    @Adam: Would it not work to communicate via many mediums and enable people to hear through the channels they choose to subscribe to?

  5. Michael Hardy

    August 23, 2010 at 6:19 am

    @Adam: One of the great things is when people can’t remember WHERE they saw or heard, but that they REMEMBER it. I am with @Andrew, the more media the better.

    @Steven: One word of warning – keep the messages simple and uncomplicated. Draft them, have target audience review them and THEN send them. Sounds like you have an awesome mechanism for getting messages out. However, if the messages are hard to understand, verbose, contain conflciting info, then you just have a great channel to distribute junk.

    We once proposed a mechanism at a church of 450, where we would take an audit of HOW people wanted to be communicated with… primary and secondary. Then we would build the whole comms system around the needs. That would allow us to push info (permission marketing) and not just rely upon pull (target audiences grabbing the info from wherever we left it).

    Example: Need = telling everyone in the church that the building will be closed this weekend and meetings moved off-site. Solution = SMS 142, email 285, call 23. Use technology for SMS and email, have a team of 6 calling 4 people each for voice calls. Outcome = all have comms needs met in way THEY need/want. Minimal cost, minimal effort, maximum impact.

  6. Andrew Goodall

    August 24, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    @Michael: Love it!! We need to get that going and so much more at our church. 🙂

  7. Steven Kryger

    August 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    These are really great insights – they’ve formed the basis of some good discussion with members of the ministry team at Church by the Bridge. Thanks for helping me think this through.

    @Michael – I’m interested in the concept of a communications audit. Do you have a sample form that you used to gather this information? I might do one at my church!

  8. Calum Henderson

    August 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I like the thoroughness of step 1. I’m involved with (and have been advertised to by) a number of ministries that control various methods of communication, such as emails and flyers, but that don’t control other methods of advertising such as Facebook.

    It sounds like it’s definitely a good idea to consciously name each advertising channel.

  9. Steven Kryger

    August 30, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I’ve just put a survey together that I’ll be sending out to church – would appreciate your feedback. What’s missing? What could be clearer?

    https://churchbythebridge.wufoo.com/forms/church-communication-survey/

  10. Greg McTaggart

    November 9, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    @communicatejesus:disqus thanks for the link!

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