An ordinary American is exposed to 4,000-10,000 ads per day. However, humans naturally filter out irrelevant or unstimulating data to process just 100 past the attention wall. Your church communication plan should facilitate communications that help you make it to this top 100.
In this post, we look at how to create such a plan for church communications with the objective of:
- Getting positive attention from your target audience.
- Giving them meaningful content.
- Nurturing your audience through these communications to increase engagement.
Let’s get started.
Crafting a church communication plan
Your church communications should be such that you capture the right audience, intrigue them with your mission and work, and nurture them to engage with your institution. A blueprint of your strategies helps you lay out the structure, timeline, and expectations from your communications, so you save time and utilize it instead in furthering your church’s mission.
A church communication plan follows these steps:
- Identification of the mission statement.
- Writing goals and objectives.
- Defining the target community.
- Understanding their preferred communication channels.
- Creating journey maps to nurture members.
- Crafting coordinated communication plans that direct to a single point.
Let’s have a detailed look at each step.
Identify your mission statement
Every church serves the Lord, but narrowing down your mission and cause further can help you establish your mission statement. This defines the who, what and why of your church and provides a baseline for your daily operations.
The mission statement can then act as a base for all your communications– it can inform the way you phrase messages or be the highlight of your messaging.
Examples of types of church and how they dictate communication are:
|Church type||Mission Statement||Messaging|
|Authoritative church||To study the Word of God and adhere to it.||Related to the Holy Scripture and its relevance in our lives.|
|Missional church||To engage others with the gospel message as well as thinking, behavior in accordance with God’s message.||Personal experiences, crisis solving, and the nudge to visit the faculty.|
|Relational church||Providing necessities and care to community members in times of need.||Community bonds, work, and impact, relation dynamics.|
|Seeker church||To combine the traditional evangelical tenets with more modern forms of services and organization.||Pertaining to the interests of skeptics or unchurched attendees.|
|Social center||To provide service to vulnerable groups and communities.||Work and impact, the role of the church in uplifting communities, and ways to join in the noble cause.|
Write down your goals and objectives
The goal is always based on your mission statement and is your church communication plan’s overarching aim.
Objectives are shorter, tangible targets that work towards or build upon one another to achieve your goals.
While the goal may or may not be directly related to the church’s communications aspect, the objectives are always directly related to it.
For instance, a goal can be to increase footfall in the Sunday Mass gatherings. Under it, objectives can be to:
- Increase the number of SMS opt-ins (to x members)
- Get members to spread the word among x peers
- Knock on x doors to speak about your mission, etc.
Setting your goals at the start of drafting a communications plan helps your church understand the target audience, communication channels and to create journey maps that connect segregated objectives with the primary goal.
Define who your target community is
If an ordinary person is bombarded with thousands of ads every day, they will pick and choose (consciously or subconsciously) just those that seem most relevant to them. To make sure that your church’s communication is one of those chosen items, you must define your target community and audience.
From the myriad of marketing messages, people only pick those that are relevant and meaningful to them.
Setting a fixed target community informs your outreach methods and messaging, ensuring that your communications are both relevant and valuable to your audience. Your primary target group is further divided into segments, categorized by different engagement levels, preferences, and capabilities.
Your messaging and method of communication are tailored differently to suit each group. Communications that are personalized, relevant, meaningful, and valuable have more chances of being acknowledged and responded to.
For instance, say your target audience is every churched adult in a 5km radius of your church. This large group is further divided into:
- Age groups. (e.g., a millennial’s choice of communication is vastly different from older generations.)
- Level of engagement: Whether they attend church, how regularly, and if they have served you in any way, etc.
- First-time, repeat, and lapsed attendees.
Related Reading: How to develop a good church communication strategy?
Understand where you can reach them
Imagine sending emails to a regular member only to discover they rarely check their inbox. You have lost a big opportunity to engage them further with your church only because you knocked on the wrong door of the right house.
This is why understanding the preferred mode of communication with your members and prospects is essential.
A simple way to know this is to ask members where they wish to be approached from your list of available communication channels. Text messages are usually an excellent place to get these answers because they have a 98% open rate and 45% response rate.
How to know the preferred mode of communication for:
|Member status||Collecting information|
|Members whose contact information you already have.||Contact them using existing information (e.g., a broadcast text to all who have given mobile numbers) and ask them to choose a preferred channel (from a list of available options) for future communication.|
|New members.||Ask for their preferred channel when they sign up or attend church. E.g., Display an SMS shortcode and keyword that folks can use to opt-in to your church communications.|
|Members whose contact information you do not have.||Church organizers can request visitors and members to opt-in to emails or SMS broadcasts directly. Or they can collect information about their preferred channels and corresponding contact details (eg., email ID if they prefer email communications).|
If you are starting from scratch, a good way of doing this is to form a focus group of your engaged members, asking them about their preferences. Make a list of all selections, enable the channels (e.g., subscribe to relevant software, purchase hardware.), and then give the same options to other members to choose from.
Chances are, church members will not reach a consensus of their preferred communication channels. The choices depend on a variety of factors, including access and comfort with communication devices. To ensure you don’t alienate any member, a church needs to develop a multi-channel communication approach and segment members according to their choice.
Some of the most widely used church communication channels are:
- Social media
- Phone calls
- Direct mail
- Media relations and PR.
Related Reading: Top 10 church communication best practices for a healthy church
Create journey maps to nurture prospects
It’s not enough to segment members by their preferred mode of communication. You also need to segment lists by their current engagement level and use messaging to nurture them to the next level.
Here is an ideal progression of an individual from prospect to engaged member:
Communications change as per the engagement levels of an individual. This includes the messaging, appeals, and even frequency and channels of communication.
For instance, if you message a visitor too many times a week, they may get frustrated and decide to opt-out. On the other hand, if you are still sending the message of “opt-in to get the Lord’s message on your phone, anytime” to an engaged member, you show them that your message is not personalized to their relationship with you.
Creating journey maps for nurturing prospects helps you send the right message via the proper channel and with appropriate regularity to each member.
Here’s how a typical journey progresses:
- Get the pool of prospects and divide them by their preferred mode of communication.
- Send them messages on these channels, appealing for a small ask (e.g., completing a form seeking personal information, sermon or mass invitations, etc.)
- A fraction of these prospects will abide by the request. Congratulations, you have hooked them in!
- Segment these people into the next level. Send them more personalized messages, extra information about your work, and higher appeals. Continue sending lower-barrier requests to people who haven’t yet progressed to the second stage.
- Continue sending more and more personalized messages and exclusive information as a person progresses through the member journey. At the same time, send appeals appropriate for the existing levels to those who haven’t moved from their stage.
Pro-Tip: You can request engaged and active members to help you spread the word about your church as well as to nurture non-progressing prospects to the next stage of the journey map. While this helps low-engaged members progress in the relationship, it also nurtures already engaged members to get more involved with your church.
Craft coordinated communication plans directed to a single point
A multi-channel approach does not have to mean scattered communication sources. Crafting a church communication plan also entails coordinating various channels and connecting them to a single, most crucial point of your objective(s).
For instance, say your objective is to increase newsletter subscribers. Now, you are approaching people in various ways (social media, email broadcasts to members, text messages, etc.).
To ensure that people from near (engaged members) and far (prospects and visitors) are effectively directed to the newsletter subscription CTA, you need a coordinated communication plan that:
- Covers the various communication channels you have adopted.
- Caters to different engagement levels.
- Leads to a single point– the final communication point that fulfills your objectives.
This stands true for other objectives such as fundraising (donation page as the ultimate point of contact), increasing website traffic, and more.
A coordinated communication plan leading to the main point of contact.
Crafting a church communication plan is to understand your audience and strategize the timing, messaging, and communication format intelligently. Making the plan requires more effort than just diving into the deep end. However, the efforts are worth it if you want to tie together all your efforts, ensure better response rates and work in tandem towards a common goal.
After creating a church communication plan, the next step is to map a calendar for all important events and related communications. Here’s a guide to get you started: How to Effectively Plan a Nonprofit Communications Calendar (Template Included!).
Feature Image Source: krakenimages/Unsplash.