Don't be guilty of bait and switch in your communications wherein you send out some slick, fancy printed piece, or display an over-designed, glitzy website if you're a little church plant meeting in a basement. Big, glossy and professional is not always more appealing—many people are looking for a real, intimate, and honest interaction about God. They might miss you if you come across looking too slick and professional. Worse, if they come expecting a big, fancy church and find you meeting in the church basement, they might assume that if you lied about who you are in your advertising and outreach, you might be presenting a false picture of God, Jesus, or salvation.
This is especially important for church plants. YOU DO NOT need to spend a lot of money on slick advertising. One of the best outreach pieces you can do is a simple business card that describes your church, tells people when you meet, how to get there and that displays your website, and social media info. Give them to your current members and tell them to share with their friends and the people they contact as they go about their daily lives. Every invitation becomes a personal one and is far more effective.
Keep in mind the parable of the talents
Jesus did not expect a person with one talent to do the work of the five talent person, but Jesus expected the one-talent person to make the most of what he or she had. If you are a tiny church with few resources, don't feel you have to create publications or a website like the ones you saw at whatever big church conference the staff most recently attended.
You could be burying your talent in a purchased design because it would not be an honest reflection of your church. Be who YOU are, communicate to your people with the resources you have, and the Lord will bless your efforts.
Variety is standard in professional communication
Contrary to what some communication companies want you to believe, there is no ONE perfect way to create any one communication piece. There is no ONE way to do any communication that is THE PROFESSIONAL way to do it. There is tremendous variety in all professionally created communications depending primarily on the target audience they want to reach with their message.
An excellent example of this is the variety in magazines. Go to your local Barnes and Noble or other big book store and look at the magazines. The design, style, and even the paper used, for example, is very different for Architectural Digest than it is for Car and Driver. Both are professional, well-designed publications, but both serve different audiences and their style reflects that audience, not some absolute, unrealistic standard.
For the editor of Car and Driver to think he'd be more professional or cutting edge if he created an issue of his magazine in the same style as Architectural Digest would make about as much sense as it makes for the pastor of a small neighborhood church pastor of a 250-member church in a farming community to attend a mega-church creativity conference in Dallas, come home and decide the church needs to create publications that look like the ones the mega-church in Dallas created. That is just goofy.
Why conference clones don't make a successful church communications program back home in your church
Goofy or not, the attempt to create communication conference clones happens all the time. I am continually asked by church communicators what to do after their pastor comes home from the big conference with a stack of samples or the notes from some design or web breakout session the pastor attended (usually given by a staff member of the mega-church who has absolutely no concept of the resources and realities of a smaller church or church plant communication ministry). The pastor is thrilled, impressed, and imagines what would happen at their church if they could only create communications that look like this. The pastor might be very excited, but the person asked to create these conference clones is usually a church secretary or communication volunteer who is overwhelmed with her current work and has no idea how to implement what is now asked. In addition, that person often knows that the proposed cloning of communications:
- requires a financial outlay in terms of software, images and reproduction systems that the smaller church cannot afford,
- will create materials that might have worked for the conference-sponsoring mega-church, but are not appropriate for their little local church,
- requires the current communication person possess skills or software and a budget they don't have to create the desired
All of this can result in arguments, misunderstanding, and frustration on both sides. Calm discussion, prayer, and an honest attempt to understand all issues involved is needed.
Buying inappropriate materials is not the answer
The sponsoring church has a way to solve the problem if you are not able to produce communications at your little church like the big host church—you can buy them! The mega-church offers templates, PowerPoint slides, and graphics for sale on their website. To buy them is goofy multiplied.
For a little church, in a different state, with a completely different culture, to suddenly start handing out slick communication clones from a mega-church half a nation away will not automatically make you a big, impressive church. Visitors and spiritual seekers want authentic encounters with real people and purchased PR and communications isn't the way to do it.
Doing our best does not mean imitating someone else
We all want to do the best we can for our churches, but to imitate communications created by a completely different church in a different setting, with totally different resources and target audience, is not the way to do it.
It's easy to forget that the big church currently admired, didn't create the fancy stuff they do now when they were a little church. The fancy, professional, slick communications they do now are not what got them to where they are when they sponsor the conference.
I've seen this reality first-hand. I got my inspiration for The Five Steps from a Saddleback Church conference, many years ago. One other thing I have from that conference is an 8 ½ x 11 manila envelope I purchased at the conference Resource Tent. It is filled with some black and white photocopies of examples of the communications Saddleback Church used to grow the church when it was first starting over twenty years ago. Needless to say, they are all very different from the pieces they use today.
What they used then was appropriate when they were a much smaller growing church; what they use today is appropriate for the mega-church in Southern California they are today. Don't confuse what is appropriate for a church at a different time and place in their growth process with what is appropriate for your church and where you are in the process of becoming what the Lord called your church to be.
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