SUMMARY: The Effective Church Communication ministry from Yvon Prehn provides inspiration, training, and resources to help your church create communications that fully fulfill the Great Commission. It focuses on Bible-based and timeless principles and strategies that work no matter what digital or print channel you use to create your communications. The site has links to many free TEMPLATES and other resources, plus links to free TRAINING VIDEOS, and a RESOURCE LIBRARY for church communicators.
Click on the titles below to go directly to the various sections.
- About Yvon Prehn, founder of Effective Church Communications and primary content creator of this site
- Professional background on Yvon Prehn
- Yvon Prehn's church background
- My biblical foundation—the North Star of Effective Church Communications
- What makes the Effective Church Communications site different
- There are NO advertising or Affiliate links on this website and here's why (this is very important)
- Why I don't do advertising or affiliate marketing
- About the stories I tell on this website/blog
- About my audience, who this site is for
- My primary audience
- My secondary audience
- Copyright, reprint, and usage guidelines
About Yvon Prehn, founder of Effective Church Communications and primary content creator of this site
Hi, I'm Yvon Prehn, the founder and primary content creator for this website. After over twenty years of writing about church communications and traveling all over North America leading seminars to help churches communicate more effectively, I now work out of my home in Ventura, CA creating the content for this website, my podcasts, and the free church communication courses on my YouTube channel.
Please feel free to email me personally with any questions about this site or if you have questions about church communications, need help with something (many of the resources on the site were created in response to requests), or would like an article, interview, class materials (my materials are used in a variety of teaching settings), or any other question about church communications.
To contact me:
email: firstname.lastname@example.org—if you want to talk, please set up a phone appointment through email first
address: 36 Whitman Ct., Ventura, CA 93003
Below is a formal bio about me. It is written in the third person because I find it so weird to talk about myself.
Professional background on Yvon Prehn
As the daughter of an Army Drill Sergeant, Yvon grew up all over the U.S. Her father retired in Colorado Springs, the home of many Christian organizations and a great place for an aspiring Christian writer to grow up. Yvon had her first article nationally published when she was 16 and went on to write for many of the Christian organizations in Colorado Springs and for national Christian publications. At the same time, for nine years she was a newspaper reporter, religion and feature writer for the Colorado Springs SUN newspaper. This led to freelance writing for a number of Christian publications.
After years of free-lance writing work, Yvon was hired as Senior Editor for Compassion International and then as Senior Editor for Young Life International. It was when she was at Young Life that desktop publishing was invented. Yvon had one of the first MacPlus computers produced (it was hand-signed inside the case by everyone who worked on it) and was an early user of Aldus PageMaker (later to become the Adobe PageMaker and most recently InDesign ). Though her training had been in traditional typesetting, design, and publication production, she immediately realized that desktop publishing would change everything in Christian communications. Churches now had the ability to create communications that in the past required the resources of complete advertising agencies and years of study in design and publication creation.
Yvon also realized that though churches had the technology to create the communications, they didn’t have the training to be able to actually do them and do them well. So, once she learned how to use the tools and technology, Yvon immediately began to teach others how to do effective church communications integrating her experience in writing, design, and publication creation. In the early days of this new technology, she was hired and became a top-rated, national trainer in desktop publishing for Padgett/Thompson, the nation's largest one-day seminar company, where she traveled around the U.S. teaching communicators to a variety of audiences from major corporations to churches in how to create effective communications using the new tools of desktop publishing.
With what she felt was the Lord's leading, she left a very lucrative career as a secular seminar presenter and decided to focus on training the church to use these tools. She left Padgett/Thompson and started her own Christian communications ministry, The Lion’s Voice (which later became Effective Church Communications). She taught classes and worked as a communications consultant for many Christian ministries in Colorado Springs including the Navigators, Christian Booksellers Association, Focus on the Family, Greater European Mission, and many others.
As her ministry expanded, Yvon traveled all over North America for over 20 years teaching seminars on church communications. The seminars were sponsored by a variety of groups, but for over 15 years she had a wonderful sponsoring relationship with the RISO Corporation. RISO makes printing equipment that works well for churches. Yvon had complete control over the content of her full-day seminars; church people could attend for free (and got a nice lunch) and they could look at the equipment at breaks and lunch. Thousands of people all over North America attended these seminars and left equipped and inspired. It was a great win/win time for everyone involved.
As the economy and technology evolved, Yvon shifted her teaching from traveling to teach the seminars to now working and the creation of training materials for online delivery from her home in Ventura, CA. This enables her to reach an international audience in ways not possible with the limitations (and costs) of physical travel.
Yvon realized that though she loved the name of her ministry—the Lion’s Voice, inspired by Amos 3:8 (NIV & NLT), “The lion has roared—who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken—so who can refuse to proclaim his message?” it didn’t mean a lot to search engines and didn't make sense to anyone not personally familiar with her. Realizing this, she changed the name of her ministry to Effective Church Communications (www.effectivechurchcom.com).
She created the www.effectivechurchcom.com site as a resource for church communicators for strategy and inspiration, resources, and practical, ready-to-use church communications templates. The goal of the site is to enable churches to create a comprehensive, progressive communication ministry that will enable their church to fully fulfill the Great Commission, in other words, to help people come to know Jesus as Savior and to grow to mature disciples.
After writing the first book on desktop publishing in the church, The Desktop Publishing Remedy (under the name Yvon York, her name before she married Paul Prehn), which was later republished as Better Newsletters, Bulletins and More! by Yvon Prehn, she continued to write books on church communications including: Ministry Marketing Made Easy, The Five Steps of Effective Church Communications and Marketing, Devotions for Church Communicators, Church Connection Cards, and many other books. She has written for many of the major Christian magazines including Christianity Today, Discipleship Journal, Today's Christian Woman, Youthworker Journal, Ministries Today, Computing Today, Clergy Journal, Church Office Computing, Pulpit Helps, and Your Church and she now writes for a variety of online publications. She has been the communication columnist for Christian Computing Magazine, then Ministry Tech for over 20 years.
Yvon has degrees in English, Education, a master's degree in Church History, and has done additional graduate work in theology and communications. She taught high school English and was an adjunct professor in church history at Regis University.
In addition to her formal experience in these areas, Yvon gets the opportunity to practice church communications in very practical ways. She and her husband Paul (for many years a bi-vocational pastor) have worked in varied areas of ministry in the church, especially in single adult ministry, adult education, and small group ministry wherein Yvon has taught and created many church communications and marketing materials to support these ministries.
The latest project for Yvon Prehn and Effective Church Communications is reorganizing the Effective Church Communications website to make the many years of content easier to access and to develop courses on YouTube with a focus on training Church Communicators to teach specific strategies and skills needed by church communicators. The classes can be taken by individuals, shared with church secretary groups, or used in Bible schools or other ministry training programs. This development was also created in response to the realization that though technology keeps progressing, there has been little progress in the availability of basic training in design, writing, communication vision, planning. and management of church communication ministries. The goal of the online courses is to answer that need and to continue to equip churches to create communications that will fully fulfill the Great Commission.
Yvon Prehn's church background
My mother was Mennonite and my father was Catholic. As I said above, we were a military family and at that time they moved us every year. We would then attend whatever church was closest but my mother (who made those decisions) seemed to gravitate to the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, with occasional visits to the Catholic church with my father and his family. When we settled in Colorado Springs, we joined the Presbyterian Church. Later in my life, I attended the Methodist Church (where my ministry in communications started). I taught at both a Catholic High School and at a Jesuit University and my husband started as a Baptist minister and then as a bi-vocational pastor at a Baptist and then a non-denominational church. We now attend a non denominal Church though I periodically attend the Episcopal and Catholic church to satisfy my love of the liturgy. With my Master's degree in Church History and having attended seminary, in addition to the various churches I attended throughout my life, I sometimes refer to myself as "a walking ecumenical council."
Seriously, I love the church of Jesus Christ and I am so appreciative of the varied background I have in various churches. One of the things I loved about my seminars and this ministry is the coming together of all the different denominations all of whom have the same challenges in church communications. I don't create my materials with any particular church denomination in mind and people of many different backgrounds have found them helpful.
I imagine when we all get to heaven we will laugh at what we thought were such critical differences in the way we worshiped our Lord during this pilgrimage.
My biblical foundation—the North Star of Effective Church Communications
It might be helpful to clarify the North Star of Effective Church Communications and this website, which is:
How to create communications that will help your church fully fulfill the Great Commission.
This is the one goal around which everything I do revolves. This time-lapse image of how all the stars revolve around the North Star instead of every star going in a different direction illustrates what I am trying to do. I want to help churches chose a North Star and intentionally revolve all their communications around it.
This North Star was chosen in obedience to the Great Commission Jesus gave us in Matt: 28:18-20 when he said:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Fully fulfilling the Great Commission means that in addition to helping people come to know Jesus as Savior, your church helps believers become mature disciples of Jesus.
In terms of church communications this means:
Our communications don't stop at bringing people to the church service, but also that they work hard to involve people in all the additional ministries of the church that will help them grow to mature disciples.
This requires a progression of communication steps and a variety of communications illustrated in our Five Steps of Effective Church Communication and Marketing which are:
Though not always obvious or explicit—an invitational postcard or social media post doesn’t say “This is Step 1 and we are inviting you to an event where you can consider Jesus” and a clear podcast and notes on How we got our Bible and why we can trust it doesn’t say, “This is Step 4 and you are being instructed in the Christian faith so you will become a mature disciple” through each of these steps and all the materials we create, we keep in mind our North Star, the goal of fulfilling the Great Commission as the fixed point around which everything on our website, in this book, and in our ministry takes its direction.
This is needed in the church at large
Many Christian churches around the world are losing ground and I feel that part of the reason is that many churches fall short in the communication goal of fully fulfilling the Great Commission. Their communications are characterized by either a primary emphasis on outreach and initial communications only or by an assortment of unrelated (though often impressive) communications without purpose or overall goal.
To be clear, I'm not diminishing the hard work of church communicators or the good that many current church communications accomplish in print and online, but we could do so much more with a clear vision, an ever-present North Star for all we do. People's eternal destiny is at stake and we need to keep that in mind and in prayer in every communication project we do.
Additional implications of fully fulfilling the Great Commission as our North Star
Because of the eternal importance of the Great Commission, I encourage consistently evaluating and measuring the results of your communications—not only in numerical response but in the changed lives of the people receiving them. No matter what they look like, no matter the latest technology or social media involved, if people are not taking steps towards coming to know Jesus as Savior and growing as disciples, your communications are not ultimately successful.
Because of this emphasis, though design, trends, and tools are important and I teach and offer resources in all these areas, I realize they are not of primary importance. I strive to make much of my content and training timeless because though design trends, social media, and our computer creation tools will all change, the purpose and goal of our church communications, fully fulfilling the Great Commission, won't.
Because "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45)" I also believe out of the abundance of the heart the computer creates and there is a lot of emphasis on this site on the importance of the spiritual life of the church communicator. I believe you must be strong in the Lord and grounded in His Word to carry out the eternally significant work you are called to do. You must believe in the importance of fully fulfilling the Great Commission before it can permeate your work.
Having said that, I realize that no one comes into church communication ministry a perfect and mature disciple of Jesus and I most certainly have not arrived at that place. We are all on pilgrimage and my goal is to help you in every way I can to not only help your church create communications that fully fulfill the Great Commission but that as you do that, that you also will grow into the mature disciple Jesus wants you to be.
I trust this website and all of my ministry resources will expand your vision, explain the process, and challenge your church to make fully fulfilling the Great Commission the North Star of your church communications ministry.
What makes the Effective Church Communications site different
There are many fine websites and resources today for church communicators and churches benefit greatly from these varied resources. In this mix, I thought it might be useful to clarify what makes this site different from many of the sites for church communicators today. Following are sections that explain more about the site in probably more detail than most of you will want to read, but overall here are some key differences in this site:
It's primarily the creation of one person, for better or for worse, me, Yvon Prehn.
On some of what follows and in the site itself, I refer to the creation of material using plural pronouns, "we" "our." I do that because I hate always referring to my work or comments with "I" all the time and know none of this takes place without the Lord's help and the input of the thousands of church communicators I have interacted with all over the world for the many years I've been doing this. But I don't do that to deceive or to make you think Effective Church Communications is some big, well-financed ministry. The content comes from me; I work another job to support it though I am praying in 2021 for it to become self-supporting, so I can focus more time on it.
I work hard to make the site timeless, not a trend-chaser. One of the benefits of being around the church communication revolution from before computers were invented, through the internet and to today (and I pray many more years to come), is that I no longer believe any ONE, BIG THING will make the difference in how we communicate in our churches or how we reach the world for Jesus. So much on the web today in church communications seems so loud and pushy. Every new idea (and many are not so new at all) or technology that comes along promises so much—that is until the NEXT BIG thing comes along.
Though I do talk about and encourage using every tool possible ("all things to all people to win some"), more and more I'm working on making what I share timeless so that what I share with you will be of benefit no matter what new tool you use to implement it.
As much as is possible, the foundation of this site, its guiding vision, and standard is a biblical one. Recently, someone commented on a short piece of training I did saying, "There is too much Bible stuff here, I just want training in this area." Be forewarned—there will be a lot of "Bible stuff" on this site and in the training. There are many useful secular training sites and resources I access many myself and will refer to them when useful. However, what makes this site and the my training, podcasts, and eBooks different is an intentional Biblical foundation. I'll constantly remind you how this or that communication will help you introduce people to Jesus, live like His representative before your community, and help your church grow people spiritually, in other words, my primary goal in all is to help your communications fully fulfill the Great Commission. The "Bible stuff" is not the primary focus of this site (I have another site and podcast, www.Bible805.com, where it is), but I trust a Biblical vision permeates this ministry.
I want this site to be one of refreshment and peace for you. I truly want to serve you, equip you, encourage you. I get a headache from some communication resources that seem to do a lot of yelling or are overly excited and pushy about everything. Part of the reason for peace will be on this site you will not find any advertising other than my various ministry resources and NO affiliate marketing links.
When you come to this site, breathe. Relax in Jesus and find what is useful to you to serve your people. I'm not going to yell or tell you that any ONE thing is what will make you successful because the bottom line for any success in church communication ministry is never what we do, but "not by might or power, but by His Spirit" that anything of lasting worth is done.
There are NO advertising or Affiliate links on this website and here's why (this is very important)
It is important to clarify the stand of Effective Church Communications on recommendations, advertising, and affiliate marketing in part because my position in these areas is very different from most websites, including Christian ones. Please know I am not judging the practices and motives of other sites by what is written following. We all serve the same Lord and He has many ways to work and we are all accountable to our Lord for our decisions.
That being said, though there are many ways to interact with vendors and ministries and following, is what I feel the Lord wants for Effective Church Communications:
Effective Church Communications does not take any paid advertising, nor do we swap advertising, or take part in any affiliate programs. The only items advertised and sold on our sites are those we produce, e.g. books, videos, training materials. In our RESOURCES section, any recommendations given or lists of or links to useful resources are totally at our discretion and may be modified or removed at any time.
To clarify and expand this position please read the following materials.
What we do in regards to vendors and other ministries
Because I don't take advertising doesn't mean I work in total isolation or think Effective Church Communications is the only resource you need.
Far from it, I work hard to research and tell you about sites and services of benefit to church communicators. Sometimes I find a deal, resource, or something that is interesting and that might be useful to other church communicators. I have hesitated to share some of these before I clarified my no advertising or affiliate policy because I didn't want people to have the wrong idea of why I was recommending something.
Whether everyone reads this explanation or not, I will go ahead with the hopes that sometime (if it matters to them) that they do, so here goes:
If something is a time-sensitive special offer that may be useful or a resource that needs some checking out, but at first view appears helpful, I will put links to resources like these and comments on them on social media, primarily at present on the Effective Church Communications Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/EffectiveChurchCommunications/) or if warranted on this website. PLEASE go to the Facebook Page and let me know your comments and resources or if you've had experience with what I mention.
If I am able to research something in more depth, try things out, I will then do an article, review, and sometimes a video or video series on the item. This is simply because I like or use the product or service. New programs are always coming up that I like to try and if they seem to work, I'll pass on information to you about them.
Part of the work I attempt to do for church communicators is to not only curate the many, many resources out there but to thoughtfully show how these resources will be useful specifically to church communicators, especially churches with limited resources. There are many fine products out there that may more useful to the church with a little modification, editing, emphasizing some features, downplaying others—these are the issues I work on when deciding what to share on the site.
***ALSO, I think it is very important to review things and not simply give lists of "500 resources for fee whatever it is." I don't think lists like that are helpful because you spend too much time separating the junk from the good materials. I'll go through lists like this for you and review in more detail what I think may be useful. If I give a list, my current plan is to link it to a longer video review.
Again, remember that when I do recommend something, there is no hidden agenda, no advertising money or links, or affiliate income exchanged.
Sometimes I ask a company to write an article about their product or service. This sometimes happens when a company approaches me; I like what they do and feel it may be of value, but I don't have time to review their product or write about their product in-depth, which I've done in the past with church directory or phone services. I always keep the right to edit the article and always make it very clear who the company is, that it is their content, not a paid advertisement, but may be useful. This doesn't happen very often, but I like to do it when it is appropriate.
One more note on this. In the past, the RISO Corporation sponsored church seminars for me and I really loved their printing equipment and have recommended it over the years. But neither when they sponsored my seminars or at any time since then have I ever had any commission or income tied to the sales of their products. The printing industry has changed significantly over the years and my best recommendation at this time is that you find a good office equipment company (there are many fine ones out there) and have their church communication consultant recommend the best equipment for your print production needs.
Why I don't do advertising or affiliate marketing
What follows is totally optional reading but I've included it if you are interested.
First, about advertising
Financial considerations aside, advertising particularly advertising on the web with moving parts, has become a distracting, irritating insect crawling across the pages of websites that can't be avoided and refuses to die. It saddens me that even sites like the http://www.biblegateway.com, which I used to love and use often in preparing Bible teaching, allows some of the tasteless and distracting advertising they do on their site. When the site started as a non-profit entity it was a rich resource for Bible study. When it was sold at first the ads were tasteful; lately, it seems no one is monitoring what is served up. I just jumped on the site and was served up ads from Zulily which is a clothing line, Meritage Homes, and most distracting of all, HUM vehicle diagnostics (with lots of moving images) all in large ads directly to the left of my field of vision. Not exactly conducive to my study of Ephesians when I was preparing my lesson to teach it.
They have now started a "Premium version" which removes the ads, but good grief, the site is owned by Zondervan and they shamelessly advertise all their merchandise on the site continuously; I would assume that is enough to support it, but apparently not. (Tip: you can get rid of the distracting advertising when looking up verses by having 2 versions open—that pushes the really bad ads off the page.)
In addition to the visual distractions, I don't like the truth distortion of advertising.
I know I will step on some toes here and again, I want to emphasize this is my conclusion, based I believe on my weak and sinful nature, not a judgment or conclusion for anyone else.
I have worked in the communications world for a very long time and though some publishing executives may be able to do this, perhaps I am simply too much of a people pleaser, I could not take advertising for any publication or ministry I run and not have it influence my writing. In very large news organizations where editorial and advertising are totally separate there may be editorial freedom; in much Christian publishing there often simply isn't the space for this to be the case.
A life-changing turning point for me in coming to this conclusion took place many years ago when I was asked to do a review of certain Christian products for a well-known Christian magazine (both shall remain unnamed). After diligent research, I turned in my article. I was then asked to change some of the results because the magazine had received a large advertising account from one of the companies. I declined to do that and that ended my writing assignments from them.
I was not personally profiting from this interaction, but it upset me deeply. Since then I have been asked many, many times to "look at" a product or service, write about it, etc. in exchange for advertising, payment, etc. I always turn them down. Others may be stronger than I am to be objective. Again, perhaps I'm too much of a people pleaser; I want to make people happy: I don't like to be disagreeable and tell someone their product is inferior. I'm not strong enough to take money and then be brutal if necessary in a review and so it is simply easier for me to not take advertising.
Advertising can be useful to inform us about products or services, but there is a fine line of crossing over into recommendation. My stand in this is the old-fashioned saying (a few of you may remember this as it applied to many questionable areas of Christian conduct): "Others can; I cannot."
Second, Affiliate marketing
Years ago I described the Affiliate system as a kudzu vine, entwining itself all over the web and it seems to be a sadly continuing description today it continues to grow and choke the life out of honest discourse. Even worse (again, this is my opinion only, many would disagree) there are numerous sites that strongly promote this system as a way for Christians to make money. I trust my explanation below will show why this is a concern to me.
Some of you reading this may not even be aware of this system or how it works, so first I will explain what it is, what I consider the dangers of it, and why my ministry will not take part in it, the Lord willing, EVER.
The Affiliate system explained
The Affiliate system is where the creator of either a product or service sets up an “affiliate program” as a way to generate income for people who recommend or advertise their product. If another website endorses or advertises the product or service and someone reading that site clicks on the endorsement or advertisement and makes a purchase, the owner of the website that made the recommendation will receive a commission from the creator of the Affiliate program. If you have a website (or big email list which is how many are promoted today) and want to make money, you simply need to sign up for Affiliate programs, recommend the products or show ads and wait for the money to come in. The tracking is all done by affiliate software; it is largely invisible to the purchaser. Though you may hear or see a brief phrase along the lines of "if you click on the links on my site I may a little commission on them." It seems like such a great idea—a really easy, harmless way to make money. You become an "Affiliate Marketer."
Over the years the production and nurture of sites whose primary income is Affiliate dollars have become a HUGE web industry. There are multitudes of sites and gurus who do little but recommend how to make money in this way. The Christian web is not immune to this, in fact as mentioned earlier, since I first wrote this a number of promoters of the system have appeared.
There were laws written to prevent the worst abuses and the token compliance of these laws are the statements you see on sites that state something like "I may receive some small compensation from some of the links on this site, but trust me, I have used all these products and would never recommend anything that I didn't really believe in." Maybe some people who post those things believe what they say. I'm sure that's true for some people and products, but overall to honestly say that and mean it would be challenging.
Maybe I'm just really slow, but for me it takes a LOT of time to carefully look at sites and products, to try them, to dig below the splash page and see if a product truly does as advertised and even more if it is useful to a church audience. I wish I had more time to evaluate new products, resources, etc., but I only put up what I have worked with for a time or feel I have a good sense of. When I get an email that has lots of links and the statements along the lines of how wonderful and useful they are and similar emails come every few days, I question how genuinely useful the recommendation can be. How much time is the person recommending the "incredible program or software or webinar" really spending to test the product when they pump out emails every few days with new offers? How can they be an expert on any and all the products even vaguely related to the church?
The costs to me to share these concerns
What I am sharing is not done lightly. I have been tempted to become part of this system (a ministry like this is costly to run) and have had many people urge me to do so, but after much time in prayer and consideration, I have decided not to do this. This is in spite of the reality that I know I could make a lot of money by participating in affiliate programs—people and a lot of them, tend to check out and buy what I recommend. Effective Church Communications could certainly use a source of easy income—but I don't believe that is the Lord's way for us.
Recently (2021) I have even been recruited to be an "influencer" with my pick of products to promote. I was briefly flattered and then upset with myself for feeling that way.
What I am sharing is what I believe the Lord has impressed on my heart, for my ministry. Again, I cannot presume to speak for anyone else participating in these programs or advertising in general, but the following are my reasons and concerns why I don’t participate in Affiliate programs:
Why I don’t participate:
My responsibility to my readers
I take my position as a teacher and encourager of church communicators extremely seriously. I spend a lot of time in prayer and study of God’s Word seeking discernment and a biblical viewpoint for all I do. I may be too weak, but I find that if I participated in the affiliate programs of different products, just like with not taking advertising, I could not help but be influenced by the ones that pay large amounts. I can’t honestly say I’d promote one over another or competing ones without paying attention to the money involved. Because I am not strong enough, I have to avoid them.
The affiliate relationship is not immediately clear on websites or the emails sent out promoting them
In many, many web endorsements and promotional emails, it is not clear that the person recommending a product or software is receiving money from it. The laws are hazy and the disclaimer I mentioned above is often not part of the pitch or all the links to the product. Because of that, a naïve reader can make a decision to buy a product for the wrong reasons—believing an honest endorsement that was a marketing pitch. Or links can be clicked before the unsuspecting reader gets to the bottom of the email where the Affiliate disclaimer is.
I felt victimized from this situation early on in the development of this system. I purchased a website template (and finances were incredibly tight and I agonized over spending the money) because I thought if I learned how to use it, that it would tremendously help church communicators. It was only after wrestling with it for a couple of weeks that I realized that what had been so gushingly endorsed by several different sites about this particular template system, did not make it helpful. The whole thing, though it looked great, was merely non-standard with little to no support and was incredibly difficult to use. I'm fairly web-savvy and I couldn't figure it out (I build and manage all my sites) and I certainly couldn't recommend it to anyone else.
But the site paid BIG affiliate bonuses. I would not have made the purchase if I realized what was going on initially. The research I later did revealed that the glowing endorsements were made by “affiliates” of this software and many people complained about these sites when they also realized that the gushing comments could not be trusted because they were made by people interested more in making money than in giving honest evaluations.
That opened my eyes and since then I see site after site, recommendation after recommendation based, it seems, primarily on affiliate income potential.
I've learned to be especially careful when people mention something on their site that is only marginally related to the topic of their site. If a product, template, or service doesn't seem related at all to the core ministry of what the person recommending it is doing, it is probably an affiliate link.
Big money and price inflation
I’m not talking about people getting small change for this, which is a dishonest statement in most disclaimers about affiliate income. ("I may receive a small commission from the links here.") Affiliate payment rates range from 5% up to 40% of the asking price for the item. In some of the software packages of moderate-to-low pricing ($45-$90) it would not be uncommon for the companies to give affiliate rates of 30% or more. That kind of money ($15-$30) for one little click and a mention is extraordinarily tempting.
However, the harm it can do in integrity to the person making the affiliate recommendation is only one danger of this system. It also causes price inflation. The person buying the product isn’t just paying for the product, they are paying the commission to the affiliate. YOU pay the commission.
I’ve had many people ask me for an affiliate program for them to refer people to my materials and for them to sell my materials. I turned them down because that would mean that I would have to sell my materials for much more than I do to afford their affiliate commission. I have had many people tell me I sell my materials for way too little and I ought to get with the system, raise my prices, and recruit affiliates. I won’t do that. I try to price my materials so anyone can buy them for Kingdom work. I try to set a fair markup for my work and market considerations, (Note about money or pricing because I can certainly miss the mark on this: if you are a missionary, church plant, or anyone else working for the Kingdom, have no money and want something I offer, e-book, templates, the membership option for anything I offer—email me, I'll give it to you for free, no questions asked, totally free. Email email@example.com)
I won’t raise prices to fund what I consider a pernicious pricing system.
I’m also starting to greatly resent purchasing anything from a vendor who has an affiliate system in place. I resent having to pay for the commissions in addition to the product. If I’ve come into the site from a search engine, not via an affiliate link, I’d like to get the real price of the item without the affiliate markup—but that isn’t possible.
Costs beyond money
Our time is precious. We only have limited hours on this earth to work for the Kingdom and to do our part in fully fulfilling the Great Commission. Setting up affiliate relationships, creating ads, and endorsements, following up, all that sort of thing takes time.
As I’ve considered all the Affiliate options I have to evaluate the reality that I have only a limited number of hours in my day. I want to create a training resource for church communicators and I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all I want to do. Even if I didn't have all the previous objections, I don’t have time for the Affiliate game.
Just avoiding these systems is becoming difficult. In working on setting up this site, I signed up to learn how to do it from two groups that I thought were reputable and respected. Though much of their advice has been helpful, I have been disappointed that on both, a high priority has been (actually #2 item for one system) to “Set up your affiliate program.” This was recommended even before putting up content that would be useful to churches. This same site is sending me continuous “opportunities” e.g. buy something from one of his Affiliate buddies, to make my site better. I did not sign up for that.
I choose to spend my time creating the content and structure of a site that will be useful. For anything I review or recommend, I promise you NOT ONE resource will be paying me any commission, advertising, or affiliate income to list them. There will only be ones created by my ministry or people and resources I honestly feel would be useful to church communications. I would feel remiss not to tell you about some of the fine companies, people, resources I like and that's why I'm working on that.
Eye pollution and mind messing
Many sites today have become a mire of advertisements, flashing images, and visual junk. When desktop publishing was first invented we talked about the ransom note school of design where every available piece of clip art and five different typefaces were crammed onto a page. Many website communications today truly are ransom notes because you have to look past and navigate around Google ad placements, flashing sidebars, intrusive videos, and tacky headlines to read anything of value.
I am so tired of this. I try hard to keep my images simple and pleasing I want you to come on my site, take a deep breath, and be at peace. I'm trying hard to keep my site simple and yet let you know all that might be useful to you, what we have to offer, and how to support our ministry.
Pushing affiliate purchases is not conducive to a quiet and peaceful site and I don’t want to contribute to eye pollution.
So how are sites supposed to make money? How does this site make money?
I am not opposed to commerce or to payment for goods and services on it. The worker is worthy of their hire and as much as I would love to give everything away for free, the ministry has significant costs and needs to support itself. However, I think any money that comes in should be for honest work or products, not incorrect, insincere or unthinking recommendations to buy a price-inflated product based on affiliate marketing schemes.
Sometimes, giving things away for free seems to be the right thing to do and I give away the Templates on this site for free. I will continue to do that.
I'm also taking a BIG leap of faith this year and moving all my training to YouTube and making it all free. The various sites (and I've tried quite a few of them) and put together "schools" cost so much to use and so few people wanted to pay for them I've lost thousands of dollars trying.
YouTube does get material out there and reaches more people than I can on my own. They do pay creators if you get many hundreds of thousands of views, but I'm not counting on that. The important thing is that the training will get out there and as practical matter I won't be spending lots of money sharing without it covering the costs to do that.
Effective Church Communications will be selling my eBooks, books, and printables in an online shop I'm setting up. I've found one that doesn't cost anything up front and I'll share much more about it in the future.
My needs are few and my expenses not excessive and I'm trusting this will take care of them.
My opinions are nothing special, but I own them
Finally, my opinions on software, products, or services are mine alone and I know I am far from perfect or objective in my opinions. Though I have decades of experience in church communications and work hard to test and review the things I talk about, I don’t see or know all there is to know about any area of communications and I invite you to correct, challenge, and interact with me and add your comments on all I write and instruct my shortcomings—please do that on my Facebook Page or on comments in the articles that mention a product or service, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Though I cannot claim perfection, I can promise you honesty and integrity. If I tell you I like or use or am excited about something, it is because I am—not because somebody paid me to or will pay me to be excited.
In conclusion, three things
One, be careful of affiliate programs. Read any recommendations with an eye out for them. If something unrelated to the primary ministry of the author says: “Click here to go to this or that product,” that usually means it is an affiliate situation. Some sites and email lists will tell you they are what they are and that’s great, but just because they are honest about their relationship does not mean their recommendations are untainted. The bottom line is to check out the recommended products before you buy them. Look them up on Google—do a search for reviews. If you find lots of glowing recommendations, and links, especially ones with "Special offers expiring soon!" be very careful. If a product is good, word gets around. A current example of this is Canva, an absolutely fantastic image creation program. It is widely known, growing in use, and has NO affiliate programs associated with it.
Two, my site and ministry exists only because of your support. If these resources are useful to you, first of all and most important of all, pray for me for wisdom, strength, and discernment as I create materials to equip and encourage church communicators.
Also, consider buying my books either on my upcoming store site or on Amazon. Passing on an eBook or paperback book may help to convince a staff member who is not frequently online to change or to try something new in church communications.
Three, please tell your friends about www.effectivechurchcom.com and my Youtube Channel. Let the ministry groups you are involved in know about my ministry, link to it, share quotes or articles, templates, or tips (you have my permission to do that). I am working hard to make churches more effective communicators and I need your help to let churches know this resource exists.
My commitment to church communicators is to continue to spend my time creating blogs, products, templates, tips and training and to not waste any of it entwining myself in the kudzu web of affiliate marketing. Keep out of it and keep communicating to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God!
Interesting related articles:
Affiliate marketing recognized as a national problem
I briefly mentioned the national rules for Affiliate Marketing and the link below goes to the FTC federal rulings that should keep the affiliate system and curbs some of the most serious errors. Below is a link to the FTC ruling information, plus some more blogs on the topic.
The government site:
** I love this lady's comments on this blog. Just substitute "church communicators" for "mommybloggers" and I could agree completely with her thoughts:
One more; if you want more, just google "affiliate marketing" and there will be lots of this:
About the stories I tell on this website/blog
This is difficult because I want to share true stories, but I do not want to embarrass or make any member of the body of Christ, or any church communicator who is doing the best they can, to feel badly by my use of something they did to show what not to do.
So here is what I try to do:
- I tell true stories. If they are not true, I will stay something like "imagine if....."
- Though true, I will try to disguise details so that the story will not point to any specific church or embarrass any one person.
- I often start out negative examples with "sad, but true" because I don't think anyone intentionally tries to create ineffective communications.
Be assured, if you are reading an entry and you think it is about you, it most likely is not.
Do remember I've traveled all over North America doing my seminars in the past and currently see the materials from churches all over the world; I look at printed materials, websites, videos, all sorts of things. It is amazing how many churches make similar errors and every negative example I give always has the purpose to help all of us be more effective communicators of the gospel message.
About my audience, who this site is for
There is so much that can be said about church communication, but I thought it might be helpful if I clarify the audience that I have in mind as I create this site. What I have to share won't be useful to everyone, so allow me to clarify in the interests of saving time and avoiding unfulfilled expectations.
The short version:
My primary audience is church communicators in small churches, but from any size church people who want to learn about the ministry of church communications, people who perhaps have not had professional design, writing, or communication production training (though I have found people with professional training may know little about the spiritual aspects of church communication).
The audience I picture as I create this site includes the pastors, church planters, church secretaries, and administrative assistants and volunteers primarily from small to medium churches; people who have computers, a heart for ministry, and who passionately want to share Jesus through their church communications, but who need help to do that.
The long version:
Though anyone and everyone associated with church communications is welcome to read the materials and use my resources when I create materials for my ministry I have several audiences in mind as I write and create materials. The groups that I distinguish in my mind's eye as I work on this site are:
- My primary audience includes church people, no matter what their job, who want and need what I offer to make their communication ministries more effective and who know they have a lot to learn in church communications.
- A secondary audience: people who may find parts of what I share useful, but that do not need all of them because of either the skills they already have or the setting they work in, for example, a very large church that may outsource some of its communication work.
Allow me to clarify each group in more detail:
My primary audience
I have emphasized that this group of people are those who know they need training.
They can be leaders who make decisions about church communications: pastors, church business administrators, church office administrators, assistants, church office professionals, church secretaries, church planters, lay members involved in church communications. This group is often composed of people who make decisions affecting church communications but who have never created any and truth be told, know little about what that involves to be successful. I have many articles and resources for you to help you develop a strategy for more effective church communications.
In addition to those who decide the strategy for church communications, my primary audience also consists of people who are creating church communications and who know they need help in doing that. Though in most churches, the church secretary or administrative assistant, or communications specialist is the one creating church communications, because many people in the church have a computer, many people are involved in creating church communications. Strategy is important, but without practical tips on how to create communications, nothing becomes real. The Template section will be particularly helpful to you as it will save you many hours of time in creating effective church communications.
In the practical creation areas, the audience I keep in mind consists of church planters, church secretaries, people without a design background. I try very hard in my ministry to not make assumptions about prior design or technology knowledge. I realize most people who work for a church did not choose the church work setting so they could sit in front of a computer all day long. Nor do most people who come to work for a ministry come with a design or technology background in place.
I try very hard to share resources, training, and tips that will be helpful to beginners. I also keep in mind as I share my materials that people who are working in a church setting and who do not have the time to focus all their time and energy on computers and communication. You do all of these things in the midst of a busy ministry life. I never want to take your focus away from first of all being a faithful servant of Jesus.
Because of the beginner nature of my primary audience and the time and financial constraints involved for all of them, I am a fan of MS Publisher, and more currently Canva, and other inexpensive software and communication creation tools. Though that is not the only software I use and I do comment on and provide resources about other software, MS Publisher is the one used most in churches and so it is the one that I use to create the TEMPLATES on this site. Again, Canva is really gaining ground in this area and I'll be doing more and more with it.
In the website arena, I am a huge fan of blog/website creation software WordPress. This is what I have created this website with and I love its ease of use. This subject of software usage leads to a clarification of the group that may find parts of what I do useful but not all of it, that group is:
My secondary audience
Church communicators who work in very large churches, whose job is totally communications, who have formal design training, who primarily use Adobe software: for many in this category, much of my practical advice (e.g. lots of information on MS Publisher and WordPress) may not be helpful to you personally.
However, for this audience, I encourage them to consider using the more basic information as training for your communication volunteers. The material on this website will give them a biblical basis, strategic advice, and I trust, encourage them in their work.
In my seminars, this audience often comments to me that though they use, for example, Abobe Creative Suite or Photoshop or other high-end graphics software to create their communications, that my training helped them to see church communications as a ministry, no matter what software they use. My approach encouraged them to do it as a servant endeavor, to get encouragement for their work from the Bible, and to perhaps enlist the skills of others to expand the communications ministry of their churches even though they may not have extensive formal training.
In addition, in spite of knowing the technical skills of high-end software, I have found that many people in this audience do not know the basics of design, how to use grids, and about excellence in typography that those of us trained in design in the pre-computer days had to learn. I had the privilege of learning design from Jan White and his basics of design in the early days of desktop publishing have served me well. There is very little beginner material on these topics for church communicators and one of my ministry goals is to create more resources in these foundational design areas no matter how sophisticated the technology you use. I'm in the process of putting this training on my YouTube channel. Please be sure you are signed up for our newsletter so you get updates on the courses as they are added.
Copyright, reprint, and usage guidelines
Material on this website
For church leaders, reviewers, or those who train church communicators or who train and inspire church leaders, you may copy individual articles and reuse them with the following citation and a link back to this site. You don't have to notify me of this. If you want to excerpt material on a regular basis, you can do that.
From Yvon Prehn, www.effectivechurchcom.com.
If your publication has room for a longer author bio, please use this:
Yvon Prehn is the primary content creator of the training site for church communicators: www.effectivechurchcom.com, a website that provides simple, practical training in print and digital communications to help churches fully fulfill the Great Commission. Yvon has worked in communication ministry for over 25 years for Christian organizations and churches, and as a newspaper and magazine columnist, book author, and seminar trainer in person and on-line.
For printed books and e-books
Standard copyright laws apply. If you want to publish an excerpt from any of my books, into any online or print publication that will serve churches, you have my permission to do so with either of the citations above.
You can buy my books in print through amazon.com and other book outlets.
If you want to have a special edition printed for your organization or business, or if you'd like very low bulk pricing for conferences, contact me at: email@example.com.
For interviews, longer reprint permission, whatever or any questions:
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org