As president of the ministry my dad, Jimmy Evans, founded, I’ve been serving him for almost a decade. This year, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of MarriageToday, so I’ve been along for a good portion of the ride. From day one, MarriageToday has always focused on equipping the local church to succeed in the area of marriage. My dad, who has been a pastor for 30 years, frequently says, “The local church is the hope of the world.”
We sincerely believe that. We see our broadcast ministry as the “Air Force” in the battle to save marriage and the local church as the “Army,” with its massive supply of ground troops. We absolutely know that we can’t win this war without strategizing with each other.
The rise of the Internet, new media and mobile technology has ushered church communications into a new digital era. As a result, churches have worked hard to create a flawless user experience, engaged social networks and search engine-optimized websites. But while churches are working hard to keep up with the changing digital culture and reach emerging generations, I fear we’ve left behind a large group of people.
Meet the “unplugged.”
Myth: The unplugged are all senior citizens.
Truth:The unplugged are not just those eligible for the AARP. Simply put, the unplugged are those in our churches who are not regularly visiting the Internet or socially engaged online. They think Facebook is a mystery or a joke. They may have an email address, but they rarely access it. They tend to be employed in vocations that don’t require frequent computer use. To label any one age group as the unplugged is a vague generalization that dismisses the idea that everyone needs access to information despite their tech level.
So, how do we keep up our online strategies while still caring for the unplugged? Think hub and spokes.
I look at communications as a bicycle: two wheels move the bicycle forward (online and offline). Just like you use Facebook, Twitter, email and other tools to bring everyone back to key points on your website, use platform announcements, signage, posters, people and other efforts to point the unplugged toward one central hub that hosts all your communication pieces.
Tips for Creating a Central Hub
Begin With the End in Mind
Undoubtedly, you’ve spent much time thinking through and strategically addressing your online audience. If you haven’t already, consider creating content that can translate easily from web to print. Each page on your website exists because it presents valuable information to the curious churchgoer.
Maintain a Simple Event Registration Process
Keep the offline registration process simple, universal and immediate. Rather than coming up with a different way to register every time, create a one-size-fits-all system that people become familiar with, and point them to the same system for every event.
Each time you announce an event from the platform, be sure to have a universal event registration card in the seatback that can be completed and placed in the offering plate.
One church leader recently told me about a huge push they were doing for an event. They had promoted it, then set up stations in their lobby for people to sign up immediatately. A seemingly brilliant idea! The only problem was that all of their stations had MacBook Pros. People wanting to sign up kept looking for a mouse, a click button and couldn’t navigate the “two finger scroll.”
“We walked away knowing that we ‘over-teched’ the process for our audience,” he said.
Use Face Time
Never underestimate the power of a staff member’s personal invite or time spent casting vision for involvement. Communications is every staff member’s job. Full buy-in from your senior leadership is vital for the rest of the staff to jump on board.
Some Final Cautions:
Remember, it takes both wheels spinning together to make the bicycle move forward, and it takes an online and offline system to move the people in your church toward the unique calling God has for them.
Jon Rogers works with numerous organizations, specializing in communications, graphic design and social media. He is a Creative Missions missionary. Adapted and used with permission from churchmarketingsucks.com.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of planting another church. In April 2011, our church-planting team and a core group of believers launched Grace Church outside of Nashville.
The methods of planting may have changed, but the motivation has stayed the same.
Needless to say, I love church planting. Yet church planting is different today than it was 25 years ago when I planted my first church in Buffalo, N.Y. We started that first church plant in Buffalo just going door to door. In other churches, we used direct mail, telemarketing campaigns and just about any other way to get the word out.
Almost any time I mention numbers related to church life, I anticipate some responses about the value of numbers and congregations. In the 1980s, this type of discussion came primarily from more liberal churches that weren’t growing.
Some of these leaders felt that declining membership and attendance were likely a sign of health. The members who really cared about the church were the ones who remained. They could make the biggest difference without the more nominal members remaining as obstacles.
I believe the most overlooked key to growing a church is this: We must love unbelievers the way Jesus did. Without His passion for the lost, we will be unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.
Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties. From the Gospels, it is obvious that Jesus enjoyed being with seekers far more than being with religious leaders. He was called the “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34). How many people would call your church that?
Jesus loved being with people and they felt it. Even little children wanted to be around Jesus, which speaks volumes about what kind of person He was and what kind of pastor He’d be. Children instinctively seem to gravitate toward loving, accepting people.
Books and seminars on leadership dominate pastoral reading. And that is good. The axiom is true that an organization or a church does not rise higher than its leader.
But do leadership and ministry equal the same thing? I do not think so. Ministry includes much more.
When I am looking for an example or prototype for ministry, I first look to Jesus. How did He minister? What kind of a minister was He? If He is the Chief Shepherd (Pastor) and I the undershepherd, what kind of pastor or minister am I to be? If I am to follow in His steps, what were His steps?
Let me lift from His ministry a brief moment that encapsulates Jesus’ pastoral concern. I do not pretend that this pericope represents the totality of truth about Jesus as our model for ministry, but I find in it three essentials that serve as an example for us.