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Avoiding Church Calendar Overload

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?

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