We serve a great God—the creator of heaven and earth. We have a great salvation—paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and freely offered to all who believe in him.
We have extraordinary tools to communicate this message with computers in church offices today that are more powerful than NASA had when they put a man on the moon. We have incredible people creating church communications in print and online.
So why is the church losing ground?
Not a week goes by without another study or national news story about the declining of attendance in Christian churches, the growth of the numbers of people who don’t believe anything, and the celebration of aggressive atheists whose books attack the Christian faith. Even more discouraging are the studies that show many Christians no longer believe Jesus is the only way to God, that the Bible is not a source of objective truth, and whose lives are little different in their moral practices than those of the world around them.
Maybe the church deserves this.
If all we communicate is that the Christian faith is about attending a multi-media production on Sunday morning designed to make you feel good about yourself and teach you how to live your best life now; if its primary concern is the health and wealth of its members as it ignores a world of pain and desperate need,if all trusting Christ means is a get out of hell because you said a quick prayer and then go on to live however you want, maybe it ought to fade.
But that is not what the church is about.
The church is the Body of Christ, the risen Savior and returning Lord. The church was left with the mission to share the true, uncompromising message that Jesus, by his resurrection from the dead, proved he is the only way to God. Jesus left his church with the command to share this message and to make disciples who live it. Jesus is with us right here, right now, not just waiting to meet us when we die, to empower and encourage us as we do his work.
That is the message of the church. To help you communicate it clearly and effectively is what this website is about. We can reverse the decline—we can grow our churches in numbers and our people in maturity. We won't do it with only a scattered collection of communications: a contemporary bulletin, a flashy website, the latest social media, no matter how great they look, if they aren't created without being an intentional part of fully fulfilling the Great Commission. To enable you to do that, Effective Church Communications has created the Five Steps of Effective Church Communication and Marketing. Following is an overview of the Five Steps.
The Five Steps gives churches an all-encompassing communication plan to enable them to fully fulfill the Great Commission
Jesus told us what and how to communicate and how to measure success in our communication ministry 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." Matthew 28:18-20
This is our Great Commission. this is what all our communications should be about. Please notice that it isn’t an either/or statement. We are to “go” AND “ make disciples” AND “baptize them” AND “teach them to obey everything” Jesus commanded. It isn’t until we do all these things that we’ve fully fulfilled the Great Commission. For purposes of simplification, throughout the website, I’ve combined terms and define fully fulfilling the Great Commission as these two actions:
- To go into all the world, or to introduce people to Jesus
- Make disciples, or to grow believers to Christian maturity
These two statements are the goal and measure for success of The Five Steps. To introduce people to Jesus and to grow them to Christian maturity should be the foundation of a measure for success in your church communications ministry.
Helping you do these two things through your church communications is what this website and the ministry of Effective Church Communications is all about. Let's make this practical.
Make fully fulfilling the Great Commission as your primary communication goal
Good looks, expert use of current technology, cutting-edge design are all tools subservient to this one goal. A flashy, great looking church outreach piece, the envy of all your peers that brings people in on Sunday, is not the ultimate goal. A web site that takes advantage of every new technology and social networking links is not the ultimate goal. These communication projects might be part of it, but success in one communication piece does not make an effective church communication program.
An effective church communication program is an overall refocusing of the entire communication program of the church to not only accomplish one goal such as creating a successful piece to bring people into the church, but structuring the entire communication program to create sequential, intentional communications that help meet Jesus and then grow to Christian maturity, to become disciples.
Don’t worry—this is not a pitch for an expensive, complex system of communications. Effective Church Communications can be accomplished with almost no or very little money. It works for church plants, mega-churches, and everything in-between.
As you’ll see as you study this plan, it has much more to do with cumulative faithfulness in the little things of many prayerfully and thoughtfully created communication pieces in a variety of formats, in print and online, than in the difficult or expensive creation of one or two showy or cutting-edge technology projects.
Effective Church Communication goes beyond Sunday morning
This a radically different approach to church communications because many churches, when they realize that they need to do more in reaching their world, (setting aside discipleship goals for the moment) focus primarily on creating or buying marketing-oriented materials that are designed to get people to come to church on Sunday or to a special event at the church. The colorful, glossy, mass-produced postcards that many churches send out are an example of this. These can be useful, but in only a limited way.
Their help is limited because they only help a church start to obey the Great Commission. Through colorful PR campaigns, targeted mailing lists, and encouraging members to share them, they do bring folks in on Sunday mornings. It might seem like this is THE successful way to do outreach—they do produce some new visitors. But attracting even a large number of visitors on Sunday or to a holiday event does not fully fulfill the Great Commission, which has at its core, the command to make disciples and teach them to obey all Jesus commanded. Jesus did not allow for incomplete evangelism, for the far-too-often church practice of satisfaction with Sunday attendance and expecting nothing more from the majority of attendees.
There is a plethora of books out recently that bemoan the lack of discipleship in the church and there are an equal number of methods to change this and all of them can work. But regardless of what system you follow to grow disciples (and your choice depends primarily on your audience, location, local church and neighborhood culture for success more than any innate value of one over another), whatever system you choose, you have to create lots more print and digital communications in a logical, sequential, measurable way to support growing disciples.
The Five Steps goes beyond adapting the latest technology
There are many reasons why your church may or may not want to adopt a certain technology, but effective communication and marketing that fully fulfills the Great Commission isn't dependent upon any technology for success. It makes the most of every one available, while realizing again that no matter how revolutionary and essential something seems today, it will quickly be replaced by something that seems even more revolutionary and essential. This is never an excuse to become cynical or drop out of innovation, but to hold our tools loosely.
At one time printed books were a radical way to share the gospel message. Few people could read and fewer still could afford a book or Bible of their own. Television was both a huge mission tool and an abomination. Radio was revolutionary and then not so useful, and now is bursting back as an extraordinary church communication tool with podcasting. Social networking is all the rage today, but keeping up with formats is a shifting challenge. Just when some churches get most of the congregation on an email list, they realize that many of their congregation never look at their email and if they don't get a text about something,or post it on Facebook, it isn't happening. We know the Apostle Paul encouraged us to “be all things to all people that we might win some” (I Cor. 9:22). But we wonder how well he'd manage blogging and tweeting from a prison cell.
The Five Steps is useful no matter what technology is used. We can be certain that what is the latest and greatest tech tool today will be outdated shortly. Because of that to focus too intensely on one technology and to think that this new, great technology will be the communication salvation of your church is not a wise approach.
I recently read a book that stated that every church must use Twitter and must do it on an iPhone. I’m not certain where the author lived, but in the farming community I live in, I’m not sure how many folks my church is trying to reach have iPhones and how many of them are desperately seeking spiritual advice with them. It’s not that the technology might not work for some churches in some locations, but I imagine that even for those who do rush to it, they will find it has limited success as the one and only communication solution for the church.
A focus on fully fulfilling the Great Commission and using whatever tools you have available is a better approach. If you apply what I’ll teach you in this ministry in a consistent and thoughtful way, you won’t experience the roller-coaster ride many churches are on where “This is the great technology that will reach people!” and then the next year (or month or week) it’s, “No! This is what will bring young families into our church!” Focus on the task; pick up and lay down tools as needed.
The Five Steps are only one part of fully fulfilling the Great Commission
There are many factors that contribute to churches not fully fulfilling the Great Commission. The Five Steps and the lessons related to church communications are only one part of fully filling the Great Commission.
Even well-produced communications can’t help if the people in your church don’t want to grow the church in numbers or themselves in personal discipleship. Some pastors have shared with me that their churches really don't want new people or that they don't seem to see the need to grow in their faith as disciples. If that's the case perhaps some study on the Great Commission, our responsibility to unsaved friends and family, the New Testament emphasis on intentional growth as disciples so we become like Jesus, plus lots of prayer may need to lay a foundation for communication changes.
But if you and your people want your church to grow in numbers overall and personally as disciples, an expanded view of the place of church communications and a plan to put them to use is essential for your success. You can’t grow a church in numbers without effective communication and without an effective plan you'll waste time, money, and effort.
Also, without good communication disciple-making is impossible to do once a person commits to Jesus as savior
Disciple-making requires a large amount of tangible information be communicated in a sequential way. Disciple-making takes time. Disciple-making takes repetition. Few churches today are intentional about creating communications in print and online that build believers in the faith and consistently communicate a process to develop disciples.
Even churches that spend large amounts of money on outreach materials seldom spend the time and communications work needed to get people into maturity-producing programs. The lack of maturity of the average Christian in the pew is evidence of the lack of disciple-building communications.
We can’t stop in our communication process until we have developed mature disciples who are able to share their faith, live their faith, and lead others to Jesus.
For a PDF chart that summarizes and give you an overview of The Five Steps, you can either click here or on the image.