For your church communications, we've come a long way since the start of the digital revolution. As we've progressed, more and more of the tasks of communication that were difficult have become easier with the development of resources that enable your church to create cost-effective and professional results, in all areas of church communications.
I've launched this website to help you; I've got lots of resources designed to help you and more will be released on a continuing basis. I trust the information here will give you inspiration and practical training, but overall, again, and again, outside whatever I can provide, my core message is YOU CAN DO IT!
YOU, in your church, with your people can create all the communications you need to reach the people the Lord called you to reach and to grow your congregation to Christian maturity.
The Lord calls and gifts his people to do his work-you may not feel like, you may not want to, but no matter how quickly changing the technology, no matter how old or young you are, no matter where your church is located or how small your budget, you can do all the communications you need to win your community to Jesus and to help your people grow in their faith.
Following are expanded reasons why you can and should do your communications work in-house, in your church, by your church people.
Content is primary and should be personal
In your communication ministry periodically it's important to remind ourselves why we communicate anything at all in the church. We are doing it to fully fulfill the Great Commission given to us by Jesus to go into all the world, preach the gospel, and make disciples. It isn't the technology that we use that is of primary importance, but the content of our message.
Though the core message of every church, salvation in Jesus, is the same for every church, every church will express the gospel in its own unique way and no one can express it better to the audience your church is called to reach than the people in your church.
It's a little bit like falling in love and getting married. There is something universal about love and romance, but every couple has a unique story to tell of their proposal. A young man, wildly in love with the woman of his dreams, always wants his proposal to be like no other. He knows what she likes, what will surprise and delight his future bride. He crafts the proposal to be something she cannot resist and will remember forever.
Imagine though how different it would be if a future groom decided that an individualized proposal was too much work and he decided to hire a professional proposal maker (if there were such a thing) to do the work for him. The message might be the same, "Will you marry me?" but somehow, receiving a message from a professional, who did the same thing over and over, even though he did it with great flare and flourish, just wouldn't have the same impact as a homemade proposal crafted just for her. A potential bride might wonder if the prospective groom didn't care enough to create a proposal just for her, if their future relationship would be a rehash of "professional" messages also.
I think it's like that when churches hire professionally done postcards and other "outreach" pieces. They might look good and be "professionally produced" but people know when they are being marketed to and when they are reached out to by real people. Around Easter, getting the same slick card from three different churches in the same town (as happens every year in our city to our household and I assume to thousands of others), doesn't exactly make the recipient feel special.
You know the people in your neighborhood-pray for them, talk to them. Then create in-house outreach pieces that will speak directly to them. This website provides lots of training to help you. You can do this!
The tools are available that do the hard work for you
Many tools have been created that make it very easy to create your own communications, both in print and on the web. Years ago when you wanted to create a newsletter, you had to set up the columns, decide on typefaces, work hard to modify photos. Today we have software templates in Microsoft Publisher and image editing tools in Picasa that make these tasks simple.
If you want to create very advanced print materials, even the complex programs such as Adobe's Creative Suite make difficult tasks in typesetting and photo manipulation far less complex than they were in the pre-computer days. For websites, we have many online web creation programs and blogging/website programs like WordPress, or programs that provide basic templates and structure that make it simple to create websites.
It is important that you modify the basics available in these programs-you want to make them represent you and your church. Of course, you will add your own content, but the basics, the building blocks of technology that in the past were difficult to master are done for you.
There are many resources to help you learn how to use these tools. One of my favorite teaching sites is www.lynda.comwhere you can get online tutorials for very little cost for MS Publisher, all versions and even the most complex graphic arts programs. This website has an ever-increasing supply training videos, articles, audio files, templates, links to resources and that equip and train church communicators. Many are free and there is a membership option that very inexpensively (starting at $10 a month for an individual, $25 for an entire church, even less for yearly sign-ups) that gives you access to lessons, templates and resources, plus discounts on resources outside this site (one more little note: the membership option may not be in place when you first see this—I'm making the whole site available for free initially).
You do not need experts outside your church to create these communications for you. You can do it!
You owe it to your people to develop and use them first
The Bible clearly tells us that pastors and teachers were given to the church to prepare God's people for works of service (Eph. 4:12). It's interesting that the Greek word used here for "to prepare" is defined by Vines Expository Dictionary as: "a making fit" or "a fitting or preparing fully." I like that because in reality, few people who do church communications come into that job perfectly equipped to do it.
When the church approaches the tasks of church communication, just because people aren't prepared to do it when the need first appears, does not mean they should not be given the job. Leaders need to take responsibility of "fitting and preparing fully." The church secretary that conquered desktop publishing and created fantastic print bulletins might just surprise you with her YouTube video skills or website creation ability if you give her a bit of training.
It is not only a pastoral task but it is a wise stewardship decision to train your own people to do print and web communications. You are investing in your people, not in an outside company. Let's face it, most folks who work in the church are not paid particularly well, especially if they are support staff. Spending money on training them, instead of perhaps hiring a consultant (who may or may not be helpful and may leave behind anger and resentment, even if it isn't expressed out-loud), is a much more lasting solution. When you get your staff training, be sure to allow them practice time and time to implement new skills.
One benefit of the training on www.lynda.com is that the lessons are in small sections so you can easily go back to a skill or two that you might have forgotten. No one becomes an expert in new technology quickly, so be kind and supportive in your church while the learning process is taking place. As said earlier, you may not be paying the person a lot financially, but providing training, encouragement, and time to learn new skills is a wonderful gift as well as a wise investment in your people.
It doesn't take big, extravagant actions or programs to make an impact
Again and again in my ministry and experience with thousands of church communicators has proven that often the communications that are life-changing consist of careful attention and faithfulness to seemingly "little" things. Being sure all the contact information is in place; making certain links work and times are updated on a website; having someone kind answer the phone.
Please read the articles in the STRATEGY section of this website to make sure you have the foundational areas covered. Few schools today prepare people in ministry in the area of communications and because of that people often look to the flashy and expensive to accomplish communication tasks, when in reality it is strategic, consistent implementation of basic principles that gets the job done.
Being attentive to the basics, strategic, consistent implementations, training staff and volunteers in the church and creating your communications in print and online in-house does take time and money, but the results will be communications that will reflect your church and will more effectively reach the audience the Lord has called you to reach. You can do it!