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These days, young people especially want to know if God is for real.

Perry Noble: You Asked for It

Most don't want to know what happened to the goat in Leviticus, they want to know if God is real and if the Bible can be trusted. Find out what sermon topics may of interest to the unchurched. read more

MinOut-Communicate

Information Highway: Communicate How You Communicate

Recently I was visiting a church in the heart of a retirement community. The pastor got up and was astoundingly relevant. “There are five ways we tell you what’s going on here,” he said. He held up his hand and counted on his fingers: “The bulletin, the sign, the website, our mailer and announcements.” 

He paused and then joked, “If you still don’t know what’s going on, then I have a hunch you’re just not with it!”

I don’t know if this was the pastor’s typical practice, but as a guest, it was a huge leg up in knowing where to find the information about how to get involved. read more

MinOut-Churches

Churches That Give It Away

Recently the Table Project, a private social network for your church, announced that it was being acquired by Gateway Church in Dallas. Now Gateway is a big church—one of the fastest-growing in the country, with more than 25,000 people. But a church acquiring a tech company? That’s different. 

I love seeing the church do more than Sunday morning. I love seeing the church do more than VBS or neighborhood outreach. I love seeing the church do more than missions. All of those things are great, but I especially love seeing churches giving back to other churches.  read more

Turning Social Media Into Social Outreach

How to use today’s real-time connectivity and community to extend your church’s reach

Last month was my birthday. Because of social media like Facebook, I got more birthday wishes than I ever got cards in the mail. A few weeks ago a friend of one of my friends was in dire straights. Her husband had been in a motorcycle wreck and lay in a coma in the hospital, yet people instantly began praying for him. 

Because of Facebook and how connected we are today with smartphones and tablets, we can hear about and respond to the burdens and celebrations of life in real time. Gone are the days of hearing about a prayer request for the first time in the Sunday bulletin. read more

3 Things Effective Church Communicators Must Do Every Week

Church communicators are world changers—or at least they should aspire to be, because that’s the heart of the Great Commission. World changers do three things with regularity. Effective church communicators need to do them too:

1) Build. World changers build things. They build programs, business solutions, and church and nonprofit structures. They build themselves professionally and personally. They’ve learned the difference between building and tweaking. At the heart of building, they’re bringing a new (or borrowed) idea into an existence that can live and breathe in their unique organizational model. Tweaking fixes things. Building creates them. Yes, we need communicators who can tweak and maintain what already exists. But whoever is leading your communications needs to be building.

2) Love. Though building comes naturally to many leaders, loving does not. Yet the cream-of-the-crop world-changing leaders have mastered the ability to communicate love not only for what their team members bring to the organization, but for who they are as humans. Loving the people around them comes in the form of encouraging words (email, text, phone calls, hand-written notes), gifts (a gift card to an employee’s favorite restaurant, iTunes downloads, an unexpected financial bonus, a day off) or quality time (taking an employee out to lunch, a 5-minute pop-in to employees’ offices to check how they’re doing).

3) Communicate. Almost everyone I know thinks they’re a clear and accurate communicator.  But just because it makes sense in their mind doesn’t mean it makes sense to everyone else. World changers have learned to clearly express the day-to-day expectations of the people around them.

There are three questions world changers are trying to answer every day in their communications with their people:

  • Do the people around me know what’s expected of them?
  • Do the people around me know (as much as I know) where we’re going?
  • Do the people around me know milestones and deadlines on the calendar?

Not all church communicators can actually communicate well. We know everything there is to know about marketing, but that doesn’t mean it translates to how we work with our team. If you want to be effective, if you want make a lasting impact, you need to communicate properly with your team.

All three of these tasks do not come naturally for anyone. But the implementation of all three is extremely important for everyone. If you don’t build, they won’t feel inspired. If you don’t love, they won’t feel valued. If you don’t communicate, they won’t feel anchored.

World changers are doing all three, increasing in all three and forcing all three. Not just once in a while, but every week. It’s part of their job. It’s part of their routine. As church communicators, you’re working to change the world. If you want to be effective, you need to intentionally build, love and communicate every week.


Article excerpted and adapted with permission from ChurchMarketingSucks.com. read more

Social-media

How to Get Started in Social Media

Recently, Leadership Journal interviewed me about social media, publishing it under the headline: “Not Tweeting? Repent!" So, in light of the fact that I basically called pastors sinners for not being on Twitter, I thought I should share some tips for getting started in social media.

Choose an Outlet

First, you’ll need to consider which social media outlet to use. My recommendation would be to engage in both Twitter and Facebook. The simple reason—you’re more likely to engage men on Twitter and women on Facebook. read more

Justin-Lathrop

3 Things to Help You Receive Criticism Better

One of the best ways to grow is by hearing critiques about yourself from peers and mentors in relationships you trust. But not all criticism is constructive, and even when it is, it can still be hard to receive.

How you do you know which criticism should be taken to heart and which should be dismissed? And how do you respond to each in a way that promotes growth?

I think there are three things to remember when it comes to dealing with criticism in your life. read more

Don’t Forget About the Unplugged

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

  • Designate a central area in your church where all your communication pieces can be found (ie., an information kiosk or visitor center). If this doesn’t already exist somewhere in your space, it’s time to create one.
  • Determine whether the space should be staffed or stand alone by considering the pros and cons of each option. 
  • Place the hub centrally in your space and visible from as many areas as possible.

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.

  • Display the information found on the website on printed cards, recycling web text and adapting the information as needed for an offline audience. Remove the hyperlinks and include any titles of documents to pick up, the name of a person to contact or how to register.
  • For dynamic online content that changes week to week, such as calendars, blog posts, email campaigns and prayer requests, compile a stapled booklet of printed copies and make it available as a weekly or monthly touchpoint.

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.

  • Convince senior leaders of the need to be involved in the communications process, as well as the need to promote and use it.
  • Be sure they are familiar with any systems of recruitment or registration. Do this well in advance.
  • Craft clear objectives for weekend service conversations between staff and congregation members. Make sure they communicate volunteer needs for upcoming church-wide events, event attendance goals and other pertinent important points.

Some Final Cautions:

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. The unplugged typically represent a small percentage of your overall audience. Create a simple, sustainable way for them to have access to the same information the “plugged in” do.
  • Avoid conflicting systems at all costs. Someone will always want to post a sign-up sheet for something, even if you’ve created a thoughtful process for collecting registrations. Conflicting systems only confuse people and weaken the system.

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. read more

joycemeyerbig

Guard Your Mouth With God's Word

I do not believe we can live in victory unless we realize there is power in what we say.

As believers, we need to be trained to understand the soul, which is made up of the intellect, will and emotions. Since it is full of "self" and does not want to submit to the Holy Spirit, it must be purified (see 2 Tim. 2:2).

Because we are free moral agents our own minds tell us what we think, but our thoughts are not necessarily God's thoughts. Our wills dictate what we want, despite what He desires for us. And our emotions govern our feelings, but our hearts should instead be subject to Him. read more

Lower Manhattan

Tough Questions Deserve Well Thought Out Answers

Note: The following is an excerpt from Jack W. Hayford’s recent book, Sharpening Your Leading Edge: Moving From Methods to Mindset. It is the first of a two-part series.

Within hours following the 9-11 events in New York and Washington and through the following two weeks, I served, as did others, in a bittersweet task. It was bitter by reason of the need, and sweet by reason of the opportunity to offer healing truth and prayer. Doors opened across our nation to speak into the lives of many—some only seeking comfort, others seeking some meaning in their torment amid the apparently meaningless tragedy.

I was invited to nearly a dozen radio and TV venues—local, regional and national. Network reporters and talk-show hosts ask hard questions in such moments. I was glad that, in most cases, they were sensitive enough not to require “sound bite”-size answers. read more

d-MinOut-Missions

Raising Up the Timothys

We need to equip young adults to help change their world

I am the product of spiritual genetic engineering. God has placed a passion inside of me to see global change through young people. 

Never in history have we been faced with these demographics—60 percent of young people live in Asia and 90 percent of the world’s youth live in developing nations. These countries are part of what’s known as the 10/40 Window—a geographical region that is the most densely populated and yet the least evangelized. 

Young adults worldwide are facing horrific issues, which we must confront. The average age of human trafficking victims is between 10-18, and 60 percent of those rescued from brothels in South Asia are infected with HIV. Approximately 1 million youth and children are sold into the sex industry annually. read more

d-MinOutreach-Communication

10 Ways to Reach People on a Budget


The other day I started thinking about the constraints that we have as churches given today's current economic conditions. With that in mind, I began to brainstorm ways we can continue to improve how we communicate with the people we are trying to reach without spending any money.

Can it be done, even with no budget? Regardless of your church's size, location or community context, you can use the following ideas to engage the people around you, both inside and outside church walls. read more

Training the Timothys

We need to equip young adults to help change their world


I am the product of spiritual genetic engineering. God has placed a passion inside of me to see global change through young people. 

Never in history have we been faced with these demographics—60 percent of young people live in Asia and 90 percent of the world’s youth live in developing nations. These countries are part of what’s known as the 10/40 Window—a geographical region that is the most densely populated and yet the least evangelized. 

Young adults worldwide are facing horrific issues, which we must confront. The average age of human trafficking victims is between 10-18, and 60 percent of those rescued from brothels in South Asia are infected with HIV. Approximately 1 million youth and children are sold into the sex industry annually.

Those, as young as age 5, are being recruited and forced to serve in combat in nearly 50 wars worldwide. Child labor is another concern in developing countries. Forced labor threatens the physical, emotional and mental well-being, as well as the proper development of a child. The International Labor Organization estimates that 215 million children, as young as age 5, have been forced to work in order to pay off the debts of their parents.  read more

Working With Firms and Freelancers

Tips for hiring creative help

I'm a big believer in tapping into freelancers because hiring them often means matching the best talent to the right project. Full-time creative people are nice to have on the team, but many ministries can't afford the luxury. Here are some things I've learned through the years: read more

Who’s on Your Bus?

Nine keys to building a dynamic team of volunteer communicators

Corporate consultant Jim Collins writes in his book Good to Great about the principle “First Who, Then What” and how it applies to teamwork. When building teams, Collins says, our responsibility as leaders should be to get the right people on the bus—and the right people off the bus—and then determine where the bus is headed.

This is the case when building a church communications team. This group, often powered by volunteers, is central to telling the story of a church community through its weekend services, special events, environmental design, print pieces, community outreach, online sites and more.

Consider these nine principles as foundations that will help you work with and build volunteers for your church’s communication team.

1. Match strengths, not availability. Just because someone is available to help out doesn’t mean it will result in someone helping you out. So what if they know how to use Photoshop. The question is, do they know how to use it in a way that results in outcomes you are expecting? Always look to match the strengths of a volunteer, not the availability of a volunteer.

2. Remember reciprocity. Volunteers are volunteering because they get something in return. It may sound selfish, but it’s just the way we’re wired. Whether it’s in the form of satisfaction, a free meal, kudos, recognition, promotion or just smiles, the concept of reciprocity is alive and well.

Don’t forget this, because when you know what volunteers are looking for, you can better help them obtain it.

3. Realistic expectations. Be realistic about the expectations you have for volunteers. Expect too little and you’ll never cause them to rise to the challenge. Expect too much and they’ll feel like they failed you. Communicate upfront what you’re expecting and give them opportunity to respond.

4. Spend more time on the front end. The more time you spend upfront talking through the project or outcomes, the more the volunteer will feel enfranchised and enabled. The more we sow upfront, the more we reap on the other side.

5. Educate, enfranchise, empower. Educate volunteers on everything you can about your project or expected outcomes. Graft them into the team that, with their help, is part of making this project happen. Give them the tools they need to accomplish your expectations.

6. Seek out the troublemakers. Consider the volunteers who don’t always play by the rules; the ones who test the limits; the ones who color outside the lines; the ones who talk back a little; the ones who require a little extra faith on your part to let go.

7. Hire strength, manage weakness. I employ people for their strengths, knowing I’ll have to manage around their weaknesses. For example, the insane project manager who is not so great with people: I’m hiring her project-management skills, and I know I’ll have to work with and around her deficient people skills. The same goes for volunteers—recruit their strengths and work around their weaknesses.

8. It’s OK to fire them. Isn’t it funny how we often have a harder time firing volunteers than we do paid staff? It’s OK to let volunteers go, to transition them, to move them out.

9. Be thankful (with gifts, cards and more). You never can thank volunteers enough. From throwing them celebration dinners to giving them gifts and cards, go overboard in expressing appreciation for your volunteers.


Brad Abare is the director of communications for the Foursquare denomination, founder of the Center for Church Communication (cfcclabs.org), and president of Personality. read more

Know Your Audience

Nine ways to reach the people you want to reach

I’m embarrassed to admit how often I forget one of the most basic communication principles: Know your audience. It’s easy to take this principle for granted, especially if you communicate to your audience regularly. Here are nine things I’ve learned that may serve as reminders to you.

1. Create people-cards. Ad agencies do this all the time. Profile your audience with by using real data and research, and then create posters or cards for a few of the people who represent the overall audience you’ve profiled. Hang these in front of your writers, designers, creators and others who work on your products so that they always have those people in mind when they communicate.

2. Conduct surveys and polls. This is as easy as using Web sites such as SurveyMonkey.com, PollMonkey.com or MyChurchSurvey.com. These sites make it possible for you to get feedback from different groups of people. The more you know about who you are communicating with, the better you get at communicating.

3. Communicate so the audience will understand. Often when I speak at events, I tell the story of Robert E. Lee, the famous Civil War general. He never sent a communiqué to his generals before first asking a private to read it. The private had to read the letter and then restate in his own words what the call to action was. If the private didn’t get it right, Lee would rewrite it until the communication was perfectly clear.

4. Immerse yourself in your audience. Watch the shows they watch. Play the games they play. Eat what they eat. Read what they read. The more you understand their lives, the better you will know how to connect with their realities. This is not about compromising your character or unique personality but about understanding theirs.

5. Anticipate their future. Don’t get caught up just in what they’re doing now; anticipate where they will be in a few weeks, months and years. When you know where they’re going, you can arrive early and be waiting.

6. Translate accurately. Pay attention to how your message is being translated into other languages. Even popular ad slogans have been translated inappropriately. The famous “Got milk?” phrase was translated in some Latino markets as “Are you lactating?” Perdue Farms ran a campaign years ago that claimed, “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken.” When translated it became, “It takes a sexually aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.” If Coca-Cola can figure out how to communicate to the other side of the world, certainly your church can communicate to the people across the street.

7. Be one of them. Shadow a few people from your profiles (see No. 1). Follow them for a day from morning to night.

8. Observe their behavior. This is the opposite of immersing yourself in what they do. Instead of doing what they do, observe how they interact with what they do. See what makes them cry, what makes them laugh. What scares them? What moves them to action?

9. Direct your communication to the people in the middle. Don’t always aim your communication at the masses by trying to capture or engage everyone. Go for the people in the middle, the largest representation, and target them. When you try to reach everyone, you reach no one. When you try for someone, you can reach many.


Brad Abare is the director of communications for the Foursquare denomination and founder of the Center for Church Communication (cfcclabs.org). read more

When Our Faith Rubs Off

In a skeptical world, authentic worship matters more than you may think

As a young pastor in training, I heard my father-in-law, the late John Osteen, tell an interesting story about a businessman who brought one of his attorney friends to church. The businessman was concerned the worship might be too exuberant for this dignified attorney. Sure enough, the person who worshiped beside them was very expressive. The businessman was certain his friend would be turned off by this.

Yet his friend’s comment after the service took him by surprise: “Please tell me what motivated that man to offer God such passionate praise. If I thought a relationship with God would bring me a reason to praise God like that, then I’d be interested in becoming a Christian.”

My father-in-law’s story both intrigued and inspired me. I knew I wanted to build an authentic church someday that could effectively reach mainstream America. I wanted the church I led to convince everyday people to open their hearts to God’s presence and power.

Yet I knew how skeptical they were. I also knew the answer to their skepticism needed to be more than theological; it had to be experiential too. And I knew that God wanted to do immeasurably more than all I asked or imagined according to His power that was at work in me (see Eph. 3:20).

Even today, I have not lost sight of this two-sided coin. How do we bring everyday people into an authentic relationship with God that inspires passionate praise? In our smaller city, we have found success with two simple concepts: relationship and relevance.

We like to say at Faith Family that “we hope to be the perfect church for people who aren’t.” We want to make it clear to people that God really doesn’t demand righteousness of us; rather, He develops it within us for our own good.

Jesus described God as a wise and merciful Father with arms open wide. But so many in our society don’t see Him that way. Instead, they see Him as the God who points an accusing finger at their weakness.

Fifteen years ago Sylvia came to our church. All we could tell about her initially was she was an attractive, single woman in her late 20s. But behind closed doors, she lived with a broken heart. Later she told me the only reason she stayed in our church the first year was because she loved learning the life-enhancing truths. She never planned on living fully devoted to God as those she saw around her were. After all, she was a lesbian and figured God was upset with her, not in love with her.

As she sat in church that year, something changed in her heart. She began to understand that God is a loving Father. I wept as she explained to me how in her prayer closet one day, she asked God to help her come out of the closet and into His arms. She asked Him to help her become a happy wife and mother. And that’s exactly what she is today: a happy wife and mother of three passionately praising God among us.

She’s also a leader in our church who has helped many people receive healing from a troubled past. She is known for her ability to repair and rebuild people who are seeking God.

As I watch her worshiping in our congregation, I rejoice in the heart of Father God who didn’t say to Adam after his sin, “What have you done?” but rather, “Where are you?” God knew glorious, redemptive blessings follow the understanding that He wants to construct people, not condemn them. Let’s help our world know it!
Jim Graff is the senior pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria, Texas, and founder of Significant Church Network (significantchurch.com). read more
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