Celebrating Gospel Impact

Human beings seem to be wired to focus on what has not gone well or what needs improvement while giving scant attention to what has gone well.  This happens in every organization including the local church.

yay-12595754Celebrating the win in the church is important to testifying to the power of God working in the midst of the congregation and it helps the church see how its mission is being lived out.  In both leading churches myself and in visiting many local churches, I have found that churches do not celebrate nearly enough the Gospel Impact occurring in the church.

Bryan Rose, writing about leading change in the church, writes

Effective church leaders tell stories of Gospel impact and Christ-centered transformation, while pointing ahead to the next sunrise God is preparing.

Telling the stories of Gospel impact and Christ-centered transformation are critical to casting a compelling vision for the church and keeping the church aligned to such a vision.  A story about a husband who lost his wife and was left raising three kids on his own but discovered Christ and community at your church is a story of Gospel transformation.  A video testimony from three youth that went on the youth mission trip and how they were changed in the midst of such a mission is a story of Christ-centered transformation.  The person who moved this year from tipping to tithing, the person who found strength to deal with an addiction because of their small group, or the family who successfully transitioned from living in a motel to living in permanent housing all represent stories of Gospel impact and Christ-centered transformation.

Telling these stories with creativity testifies to the power and work of Christ in the world, the community and your church.  When people see the difference Jesus makes and the difference that followers of Jesus can make then they volunteer more, they give more, they invite their neighbors more, they participate more.

How are you telling stories of Gospel impact and Christ-centered transformation to point ahead to the next sunrise God is preparing?

5 Benefits to Utilizing an HTML Email

One great way for churches to keep lines of communication open with those who attend regularly is by utilizing an HTML email.  HTML emails allow for graphics, vibrant colors, videos and links and an overall better design than a plain text email.  HTML emails are easy to do week in and week out and do not require huge amounts of time once they are set up.  You don’t need to know any code.  As long as you can cut and paste you are good to go.yay-7595576

There are a number of benefits to utilizing an HTML.  Here are five of them.

  1. The first benefit to an HTML email is its cheap.  Most companies that you will use to set up your HTML email will give you up to 500 free email addresses before they start charging you.  If you are able to replace your printed newsletter with an HTML email you will save on paper, on stamps, on bulk rate permit costs, and volunteer time.
  2. The HTML email offers more opportunities for persons to engage.  Let’s say you are starting a new class.  You can easily write about the new class in your HTML email and put a link in to a sign up so persons can sign up from the comfort of their computer or mobile device.  You can link to free sign up sheets from Google.
  3. The HTML email keeps people connected.  Let’s say someone misses on Sunday.  On Monday they receive an email from the church with up to the moment news, with a link to Sunday’s sermon, and with an opportunity to give through online giving.  The HTML email helps to prevent people from falling through the cracks.
  4. The HTML email list can also be used to highlight other special events or ministries.  Snow cancellations, church picnic, or Easter Egg hunts are great to send out under a separate cover.  Be careful here to use the list wisely.  You do not want to go and send too many emails and needlessly fill up peoples’ inboxes.
  5. Lastly, and probably most importantly use of the HTML email enhances communication.  It is one more way to communicate.  Some people can read it in the church bulletin and get it.  Some can hear it in an announcement and get it.  This is just one more way for people to “get it” and create a way for people to be “in the know.”

In my experience, I have used both Constant Contact and MailChimp to generate HTML emails.  They were both great.  Just do a Google search for “HTML Templates” and you will find plenty of companies.

Church Announcements 101

It is funny how making announcements becomes a contentious issue in the church.  Some people wonder whether there should even be announcements.  Others can’t stand when the announcements go on for 10 minutes.  Still others find the placement of the announcements within the worship service is disruptive.

announcementsWhen it comes to whether or not there should be announcements in the church, then answer is it depends.  It depends on the style of worship you use, the size of your church, and what other means of communication you use to let people know what is happening at the church.

I have been to many small churches where the announcements are folksy, from announcing next Saturday’s Ice Cream Social to announcing the BBQ and Gospel Sing at the Ruritans in a few weekends.  There is nothing wrong with this and the guest is not turned off when they come to church and hear these announcements.  In many of these places church is still an important part of the community.

For a large church with many things going in it might be impractical to rely on announcements from the pulpit to communicate church and community happenings.  If a church is new and never had announcements, why start now?  Again, it is important to find an alternative way to communicate.

Church announcements, despite what some people think, are not the holy grail of communication nirvana.  I have heard many a church member say “If we can just get the pastor to announce it on Sunday!”  This is lazy and chances are persons are not listening especially well anyways during the announcements.  Send an email to your group and stop putting all your eggs in one basket relying on the pulpit announcement!

If you do have to make announcements in church, limit them to a warm welcome from the pastor and two major announcements that apply to the whole church. Don’t make announcements that pertain to the ten women in the United Methodist Women or the six couples in the Sunday night small group.  Ensure they are church-wide announcements.  Believe me, you will not make friends if this has not been the practice of the church.  But for the sake of the guest and flow of worship you must institute such a rule and be consistent.

Call me a control freak but I always think the Pastor should make the announcements.  I never wanted someone wandering down a rabbit hole when they made an announcement, giving a sermon, or not talking loud enough for people to hear.  It is also one of those things, once you let one person do it you open the floodgates.

Lastly, don’t ever say, no matter how small your church, “see Mary Jane who is collecting orders for pie if you want to order a pie.”  Not everyone knows who Mary Jane is- don’t assume they do.  Always have some type of written announcement with contact info.

What are some of the worst announcement practices you have seen?  What are some of the best?

One Simple Communication Rule- Contact Info

Many churches publish written materials to keep their members and guests informed about different events, opportunities to be in a small group, or opportunities to serve.  This might be in a bulletin, in a bulletin insert, in a newsletter or even an electronic HTML newsletter.  Often times, there is a person’s name associated with the event, class or service opportunity.

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Too many times though I have seen churches put these persons’ names in the bulletin and say something like “For more information contact Sally Smith.”  And, that is it.  No phone number.  No email address.  No nothing, except a name.  I am quite sure this communication miscue is done without thinking.  The assumption on the part of people who print such announcements is that everyone knows Sally Smith of course.  However, there are people in the church, both guests and those who may have only been coming to the church for a short time who do not know Sally Smith from Smith Wigglesworth.  In a medium to large sized church this is even more true as everybody does not know everybody as is assumed in a smaller church.

In the case where there is no contact I always suggest to include the church office phone number or email.  Every printed announcement should have a name, phone number and email attached to it to make it easy for people.  This is just a small act of Christian hospitality that recognizes not everyone knows everyone.  Just as something is proofed for spelling errors so too you might want to proof for this simple communication rule.

Look in your church bulletin, newsletter or HTML email- does your church forget to add contact info?

How to Get More Likes for Your Church’s Facebook Page

If your church has a Facebook Page then one way to increase your engagement with persons and get more “likes” is to include a Facebook Like Box on your website.

facebook-custom-like-box-3What is a Facebook Like Box?  A Facebook Like Box is a small box usually placed in the upper right hand corner of a website that visitors to the website can click on to “like” that organization’s Facebook page.  Simply by clicking the Facebook Like Box on the website the “like” registers on the organization’s Facebook page and the visitor to the website never has to go to Facebook and thus never leaves the organization’s website.

The Facebook Like Box can be set up in a few different formats according to your preference for color, size and layout.  You can also direct it to show the Facebook friends of your visitor who have already liked the organization’s page.  If none of their friends have liked the page it will just show the profile pictures of others who have liked your Facebook page.

There are at least three clear advantages to using the Facebook Like Box Widget.

  1. Persons do not have to leave your page to like your Facebook page.  Why give Facebook more visitors (they have enough already) and why tempt your website visitor to be allured away to Facebook quickly forgetting your site.
  2. By including the Facebook Like Box Widget on your site you will enhance your credibility through social proof.  Persons will perhaps see they have friends who have liked your page and they will be more apt to like your page.
  3. You will increase the number of likes for your Facebook page thereby increasing the level of engagement with members and potential guests at your church.

To learn more about the Facebook Like Box Widget or to download it for your WordPress site then go here.

3 Benefits to Waiting Before Responding

If you are in any kind of leadership position in the church you will at some point find yourself confronted with some type of hot button issue.  It might be that someone levels some criticism at you for a decision you made or some words you spoke.  It might be that someone sends a letter to you about all the reasons they are leaving the church.  It may be that someone calls and leaves a five minute message on the voice mail decrying the decision by the Church Council to move forward with the building project.  There are plenty of confrontations, criticisms, and hot button issues to go around in the church to which church leaders must respond. 

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In my time in parish ministry, I found it best if at all possible to wait at least twenty four hours before I responded to any of it.  There are three benefits to waiting to respond to controversies, criticisms and the like.

  1. Waiting 24 hours gives you perspective.  Oftentimes the confrontations, criticisms, and hot button issues get us worked up.  We may get angry at unfair criticism.  We might be incredulous at the letter or email.  We might be saddened by the message left in the voice mail.  Our emotions are at their height when faced with controversy, criticism and hot button issues.  Waiting 24 hours allows us sleep on it.  And by God’s grace, we gain some perspective and our emotions are not running so high.
  2. Waiting 24 hours allows us time to pray.  Asking God to be part of the equation of our response is always a good idea.  You might also ask God to help you see things from the other person’s perspective.  You might ask God to help you find any nuggets of truth in what the other person has said.  You might ask God to help you in your response to be as wise as the serpent and gentle as the dove.
  3. Waiting 24 hours sets an important leadership precedent.  When you as a leader do not respond right away it lets the other person implicitly know that you are not going to be a person who rushes to respond to them every time they have a complaint, a concern or a question.  I am not saying not to respond.  I am saying when you wait to respond you are sending the message that you will not be responding immediately and they should not expect such a response the next time.

Do you have any practices that help you to respond to confrontation, criticism, and hot button issues?

{Podcast 001} Creating a Culture of Invitation

It is a well known statistic that over 80% of people (or higher) come to the church for the first time on the arm of a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbor.  If this is true, then our churches and their leaders must be doing their best to instill a culture of invitation.  In this episode of the ChurchIngenuity.Com Podcast, I share five ways churches can begin to instill such a culture of invitation.

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These five ways are as follows:

1. Model It!
Pastor, staff and church leaders must themselves invite and tell their stories of how they invited.

2. Give your folks something to give out.
This could be message series specific invite cards or general invite cards to your church or CDs.

3. Link invitation to prayer.
Prayer is an integral part of creating a culture of invitation.

4. Spread some word of mouse.
Utilize Facebook, Twitter and HTML emails to help people invite.

5. Don’t Disappoint.
If your lay people are sticking their neck out to invite, make sure you are providing a quality worship experience.

Feedback

If you have an idea for a podcast you would like to see or a question about an upcoming episode, please contact me.

Should Your Church be in Church Newspaper Directory?

When one opens the Saturday newspaper (for daily newspapers) or the Wednesday edition (for weekly newspapers) they will come across a page listing many of the churches in the area.  Big churches, small churches, different flavors of churches all in different sized ads.  This page might be a half a page or a full page depending on the locale.  Most newspapers charge for this service as a way to generate ad revenue and the cost of the ad is based on size and maybe even placement.

iStock_000001054567XSmallBy and large, I have come to experience in my ministry that these newspaper ads in the newspaper church directory are a waste of time and money.  There are two kinds of people read the church directory in the newspaper- other Christians from other churches in your community and persons new to your community.

Most of the readers will be other Christians from your community.  They want to see what is going on in the church world.  Most persons who are not connected to the church aren’t going to even open that section.  They will not find a church in the newspaper and more likely will go to the Internet to search for a church.  This being said, you may be able to reach some new persons who have moved to the area through this church ad, but I imagine very few.  You would be better of investing the advertising money you would use in the newspaper in a new neighbor outreach program where you are sending letters or dropping off gift bags to new neighbors in your community.

If you “have to” advertise in the newspaper, you might be better off in advertising on the most read page of the newspaper (the obituaries).  If you cannot do that you might advertise in the section of your newspaper that you think most women will read as the woman in the family is the primary force that decides for a family to attend church.

One caveat.  Every locality is different and I would be remiss to make a pronouncement that advertising in the church directory of the newspaper is a waste of time and money.  Perhaps in some community it is the most effective and cost effective.

Is newspaper advertising for churches effective in your mission field (community)? 

{New Article} Moving Toward Excellence

A church that wants to do its best for Jesus and reach persons not yet a part of the church and wishes to move toward vitality and fruitfulness must seek to create a culture of excellence in all facets of ministry.  Creating a culture of excellence is not the latest church growth gimmick or even an effort to be “better” than the church down the street.

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This new article at ChurchIngenuity.Com explores why the church should bother with excellence, how creating a culture of excellence finds it basis in God’s excellent nature and contrasts two experiences- one with excellence and one with something less than excellent.

Read the article hereVisit the ChurchIngenuity.Com “Articles” page here.