Few church offices have enough time or people to get done all the communications they know they need to do to adequately inform and instruct their congregation and to get them involved in ministry activities that will help them grow to Christian maturity. Rather than complain or cut back on communications, one solution is to train a team of volunteers to help. That suggestion can be terrifying, but in what follows I’ll share strategy and tools that make it possible. Not easy, but possible.
First divide your communication ministry into two levels
Before we discuss the specifics of training tools it’s important to divide your church communication ministry into two levels because one of the greatest concerns churches have is that volunteers won’t do an acceptable job or won’t meet the overall standards expected by the church.
This is a valid concern, but it can be solved by dividing your communication ministry into:
#1 The PR Level
#2 The Production Level
The PR Level is the top level that encompasses the communications that define the church: the website, the church bulletin, the overall newsletter. This level has the strictest guidelines in quality and because of that, the work done by church staff.
The Production Level varies in communications, but it has items such as postcards, flyers, misc. communications from individual ministries within the church. This level can vary in quality (be realistic, you don’t need the same care for the postcard reminding the men’s ministry of a workday as you do the Sunday morning bulletin. There are lots of communications that are important to get people involved in ministries, that remind, educate, and encourage, and these are ideal projects for volunteers.
Prepare Guidelines and Templates
Two more things need to be in place before you launch your training program.
You need Guidelines for what is acceptable in your church communications. This can be as simple or as complex as you want and will no doubt evolve over time. Some starter things to include:
What programs volunteers are expected to use. MS Word and MS Publisher are two that many people in the church already have. If they need training in these programs, www.lynda.com has inexpensive and very good online classes. Canva.com is another highly recommended site/software.
What artwork they can use. You don’t want volunteers randomly pulling images off the internet and putting artwork that is not legal for them to use in your communications. If your church has a subscription to some of the Christian artwork companies, check on your license to see if volunteers can access your images. In addition, three companies that are free and have fantastic collections of images are: www.pixabay.com, www.pexels.com, and www.unsplash.com. I’ll share more in a minute how to help people use these sites.
Some basic style guidelines that include what colors you use for the church overall in the logo, etc., if various ministries have logos, colors, etc., what are the proper titles for church leaders, officers, ministries, etc., deadlines for submission and who proofs what and when. When all these things are written down and both published in a booklet and on the website, it can make things go much more smoothly.
***Be sure to give out these guidelines and go over them with your volunteers and communication team before they get started. It isn’t kind to say to someone, “Oh we NEVER use that color for the Women’s ministry,” or “NO, no, no—that is not how you refer to the Leadership board.”
Remember what you may not even think of because you’ve been following unwritten guidelines for years isn’t obvious to people who have not worked in the church office as yet.
Create basic Templates for repeating communications. For example, if the children’s ministry puts out a monthly newsletter/flyer to parents, do up the basic design, but then the volunteer can add new content and images each month. My ministry has lots of Templates churches can modify (go to: http://www.effectivechurchcom.com/templates to check them out).
Now we get to the actual process of training people in church communications. I’ve done quite a bit of this over the years and I’m going to share the process and programs I use. If you want to see examples of this, go to: www.youtube.com/yvonprehn. Many of the classes on my YouTube channel are a few years old, but they are still useful to many and show the basic process.
#1 Outline the topic
I use PowerPoint to outline my topic. On the use of PowerPoint, I disagree with many trainers today (keeping in mind that everybody has their own style) who use only one or two words or one flashy image per slide. When I’m training people, I write out most of what I want people to learn.
If you are teaching a volunteer how to work in a template you created, or you have a procedure for how to send in a PDF to get it printed, you don’t want to leave anything out. You don’t want to have them scrambling to take notes while also looking at what you are demonstrating. I’d rather have too much detail in training than leave out an essential step.
Often, I’ll go over something in a PowerPoint slide and then demonstrate it and that takes us to:
#2 Demonstrate and record what you want to teach
Here is where it gets a little bit complex. I do all my training at this step with Camtasia (www.techsmith.com) Camtasia is an incredible program that records both what you are doing with your computer and your voice describing it and turns it into a video you can share.
Camtasia costs $249 and is available for PC and Mac.
Along with Camtasia, I use an inexpensive Logitech headset with a microphone for the voice input.
Camtasia is the perfect tool to demonstrate everything you want to teach a communication volunteer (all my training videos are done with it). You can go over your PowerPoint, then into MS Publisher, pull up a template you created and show them how to change it. You can go to the image websites I mentioned earlier and show them how to search and download images.
After you record these things, you can then go into Camtasia and edit your training and save the video you can share on YouTube or upload to Dropbox or something similar for your volunteers to access as they need it. They can go over training at their speed and repeat as often as they need to.
#3 Distribute your training
As mentioned above, you can share your training videos after you make them on YouTube, but if you want to do more you can use an online course creation program like Teachable. Go to: www.teachable.com where they have a great free course creation booklet on their site if you sign up for their emails. I’ve tried many programs over many years and I like this one the best. They have a free version that would work well for many churches.
This is the program I'm using for the Church Communicators Training School. You can check out what I’m doing at: http://www.churchcomtraining.com.
With Teachable you can break your training into lectures, have notes and other media to go with individual videos and put a selection of materials into a format that makes it easy for a student to keep track of their progress. I'll still creating courses for the Training School, but so far I really like this program.
This method works for many ministry areas
I’ve use this system:
- Outline in PowerPoint
- Record & edit in Camtasia
- Share on YouTube, websites, Teachable
for a variety of ministry uses in addition to church communications training: for how to use online Bible study tools, for how to study the Bible, for lots of Bible training classes. Not only do my adult Sunday School members like it, but they can share the materials with family and friends.
I started out as a teacher using flannel graphs (anyone remember them?) to teach little children about Jesus. Today we have incredible tools of technology to share the timeless words of eternal life—let’s make the most of them.