Keeping your church and visitors informed is challenging.
Every day, they swim in a sea of information.
From phone calls and emails to social media and television, they hear and see a ton of messages.
Over the years, churches have used printed bulletins to let people know what’s going on. But, with the introduction and proliferation of new technology—in particular, mobile phones—you may wonder if printing a bulletin is still helpful. It can feel like everyone istuning out your church announcements.
First, let’s agree on one thing:
Keeping people informed in your church is essential.
No one is going to figure out anything by osmosis.
Besides, think about it like this:
Often when you attend an event—say a concert, gala, or game—you receive a program that informs you of the layout and tells you what to expect.
Today, if anything, the idea of church bulletins have become reimagined—not obsolete.
Below, I’m going to share with you four alternatives to a printed church bulletin. But first, there are three things you should consider before trashing your bulletin.
3 ways you can adapt your printed bulletin
Before casting your church bulletin into an eternal abyss, here are three things you can try:
Reduce the size
Print in black and white
Print monthly, not weekly
Is your church bulletin ginormous?
Is it full of a tremendous amount of info?
Before ending your church bulletin, the first thing you can do is reduce the size. To accomplish this goal, really think through the purpose of your bulletin. What is its point?
When you answer this question, filter everything you usually include in the bulletin through this lens to see what does and doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, then don’t include whatever it is—even if it is a promotion for Aunt Betty’s long-standing quilting ministry.
Do you print your bulletin in color?
If so, then consider printing your bulletin in black and white. If you go this route, you may have to remove images and colorful designs. But it will save you printing costs in the long run.
Finally, another option to consider is to print only one bulletin per month.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should print the same amount of bulletins every week. Instead, for this tactic to work, you’ll need to limit what you share, avoid sharing potentially canceled events, and reduce the number of copies you print per month.
This option will save you both time and money.
Have you tried these ideas? Or are you convinced you need to can your printed bulletin?
If so, let’s take a look at four alternatives you can pursue.
#1- Video announcements
Do you have the ability to share a video during your worship service?
Is your church open to the usage of video during the worship service?
If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, sharing announcements via video may be a viable option.
Before trodding down this path, you’ll need to consider how to go about making videos. There are two options:
Produce videos in-house
To record video announcements, you can produce them in-house. To pull this off, you’ll need video equipment, someone overseeing production, and a deadline.
To produce your video announcements, you’ll need to delegate responsibility and authority. Someone will need to be in charge of ensuring everything is produced on time and ready to share during your worship service.
Talking about deadlines, one thing that can quickly derail your production is not setting and adhering to a strict guideline. For example, if you don’t have a drop-dead date for announcement submissions, then your video announcement will barely be ready by Sunday morning, since you’ll have to make changes constantly.
This is a recipe for disaster and burnout.
The next option you have is to outsource production.
If you outsource your videos, be prepared to submit your announcements in a timely fashion, and be sure whomever you work with can provide consistent production. You’d hate to get into a situation where the style and tone is constantly in flux.
Ready to produce videos?
There’s one caveat you need to know:
The amount of information you can convey in an announcement is less than what you can share in print.
The medium (video) is simply limited by how many words you can share.
Think about it.
The average novel is 80,000–150,000 words, whereas the average word count for a movie script is 7,500—20,000.
What’s the point?
The amount of information you can share in a video announcement is less than what you can share in a printed bulletin. So, whatever you share needs to be clear and laser-focused.
#2- Email newsletters
Know what church members are continually checking?
If you’re not already, you can send your weekly announcements to your church via email.
With email, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
Don’t include everything
Send weekly emails
Include links (if applicable)
Write a captivating subject line
Regarding the first point above, you’ll be tempted to share everything, which makes sense. It’s a digital format, and you’re not limited by the number of pages or margins as in a print bulletin.
Don’t do this.
When you send a weekly newsletter to your entire church, most of what you share needs to apply to everyone. If you need to send a message for your music ministry or children’s ministry volunteers, then send this group a separate message. This small pivot in your communication strategy will vastly improve the effectiveness of your communication.
#3- Church apps
A church app can easily replace your printed bulletin.
I know you may not be a fan of an app.
But there are some important tidbits you need to know.
With a church app, you can:
Share content—e.g., sermons, blog posts
Provide sermon notes
Include social media
Send push notifications
Share prayer requests
Encourage mobile giving
In short, a church app is one destination you can promote for your church members to stay in the know.
Thankfully, today, church apps are affordable. So, you won’t have to take out a second mortgage on your church facility to pay the bill.
After building an app, the only thing you’ll need to do on the regular is to encourage your church to download it and ensure notifications are enabled (they should be by default).
#4- Church website
A mobile website can also do many of the same things a church app can accomplish.
If you want to use your website to replace your printed bulletin, then here’s what you need to know:
Simplify your website
Make things easy to find
Promote your website
There’s one thing to keep in mind with your website:
Today, church websites tend to be the front door for potential visitors, and it may not be the best way to share information with your church community—especially personal info, like prayer requests.
Does this mean you can’t use a website to replace your printed bulletin?
Time change is coming soon and you’ll be reminding people to “spring forward.” Nobody will be excited about losing that hour of sleep, but this is a great opportunity to have some fun and flex your creative muscle. Here's 3 ways to sound the alarm, and some extra funny additions.
1. “Punny” Social Media Posts
This method is by far the “punniest” way of staying on top of the clock. A play on words implies you don't take yourselves too seriously, a nod towards the grace your congregation will need when a few of them inevitably still miss the message. If your church has a social media presence, try sharing your message on Facebook or Twitter and inviting your followers to share the post! Not only is this a great way to spread the news about setting the clock, but it's also a free advertisement. So, be sure to include your Church's name and service times in the post.
2. Word of Mouth … Sent from your Children's Ministry!
No visuals here, this is all a trick of the verbal trade. Have a children's ministry running while the adults are in the sanctuary? Send the message home with those K-5th graders! When mom and dad ask “what did you learn today?”, after sharing the Gospel, your tiniest church members can say “We learned what daylight savings is!”. Cuteness overload so deep, parents might just miss the fact that they'll be missing an hour of Z's… well, in theory.
3. Meme-Friendly Emails
Sending your congregation weekly updates via email is always better when they have something to laugh at. For this week's time conscious email, jazz it up with a funny “Gif” or meme and everyone reading will thank you! Here are some of our favorites.
And, Some More Inspiration. Happy Daylight Savings!
Houston, let's look at the bright side of things: for those of you that worship with us on Sunday mornings at one of our campuses, we get to see you an hour earlier than normal!! #perspective #Sundaynaps #setthoseclocks #ifyouhaveonelikethat #letsdothis
Let’s face it, selfies and social media go hand-in-hand, literally! With the rise of Instagram worthy photo trends, you have the unique opportunity to use social media and selfies to your church’s advantage. A great way to capitalize on this mainstream pastime is to create space in your church where all selfies are welcome! Here are some creative ideas for photo stations in your church.
Photo Booth Walls for Events and Holidays
These creative ideas are sure to be a hit in any congregation.
Don't Forget to Share it on Social!
Post, Tweet, Love.
Sunday’s are always crazy busy but yesterday I was able to take a picture with Becky at our @bpbc #ChristmasJoy photo wall. So thankful for my wife and ministry partner! A joy for us to serve the wonderful BP church family. pic.twitter.com/h80zseZMew
First, your church is called to reach new people in your community.
You have received marching orders from Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations—starting with people in your own backyard (Matt 28:18–20).
Now, after you reach new people, your second challenge is to retain those people.
As you know, it’s one thing to connect with new people, and it’s an entirely different ball game to get them to stick around.
Here’s one essential key to encouraging your first-time guests to return:
Follow up with your visitors.
This isn’t rocket science or earth-shattering advice, but it makes a significant difference in whether or not someone will return. From making phone calls to mailing letters, there are several ways you can follow up with your first-time guests. But there’s one tactic you can’t afford to miss: email automation.
Here's everything you need to know about email automation.
Here we go!
What is email automation?
There’s not too much to understanding email automation.
Here’s what you need to know:
Email automation is when you send pre-written and pre-designed emails automatically to people who take specific actions.
Before you write off email automation as robotic and impersonal, take a moment to consider how many types of these emails you already receive. There’s a good chance you receive daily or weekly automated email messages from a variety of people and organizations.
Think about it.
Did you sign up online for a discount with your favorite retailer?
If so, you likely received an automatic email with a coupon code.
Do you have an upcoming doctor’s appointment?
You may receive an automatic email notification with the details.
Do you have an upcoming bill to pay?
You may get an automatic email reminder.
What’s the moral of the story?
Email automation—if done right—can provide your church with several benefits, which leads us to my next point.
5 benefits of email automation
Email automation does so much more than improve your efficiency (although that is a nice benefit). It also provides your church with five real, tangible benefits.
Let’s check them out.
#1- People read emails
Most people regularly check their emails.
According to one study, 34 percent of Americans check their email throughout the day, and 39 percent of the people surveyed check their email 1 to 3 times per day.
Do you want to get someone’s attention?
Sending him or her an email is still one of the best options available.
Someone may not open your email, but at least he or she sees your name and message, which leads me to the next benefit.
#2- Keeps your church top of mind
Staying in touch with someone—especially first-time guests—will cement your church in their mind. In the business industry, this is what’s called top-of-mind awareness.
What does this have to do with your church?
Let me put it like this:
If your church is the first church your guests think about when they think about church, then they’ll be more inclined to revisit your church.
By creating an email automation, you can deepen the connection with your first-time guests and keep your church top of mind.
#3- Emails can be personal
The emails you send in your automation shouldn’t sound like a robot wrote them.
You want to send personalized emails.
You can make emails feel personal by doing four things:
Write the email as if you’re talking to one (fictional) person
Use the receiver’s first name
Use second-person pronouns—e.g., you and yours
Have the emails sent from a pastor or staff member’s email address
These tips will make every automatic email you send feel like someone just sat down to write the message that morning.
#4- Saves your church time
I don’t have to be a magician to know you spend a lot of time on email.
So, do you want to make sure you get a hold of people?
Make sure you send them an email—among other things.
3 steps to effective email automation
There are two doors in your church you need to open and close.
First, you need to open your church’s front door.
In other words, you need to connect with people in your community and lead them to participate in the life of your church. I’m not sure what this looks like in your church. But it does involve evangelism, community events, and promotion (e.g., social media ads, word-of-mouth, direct mail).
Regardless of what tactic you use to reach out to your community, your goal is to create awareness of your church and lead people to take one step toward getting involved.
In short, you need to lead them through whatever you designate as the front door of your church.
Second, you need to close your church’s backdoor.
After you lead someone through your church’s front door, your next goal is to compel first-time guests to get involved in your church—tohelp them get connected.
There are a ton of ways you can connect people to your church. Arguably one of the most essential things you need to do with a first-time guest is to get their contact information.
To obtain the contact information of first-time guests, many churches use what are commonly calledconnection cards. There’s not much to connection cards. They’re just a card, piece of paper, or online form you encourage first-time guests to fill out with their contact information (you can obtain additional information, but we encourage churches to make these cards really simple).
For the sake of following up with guests using email automation, the two most essential pieces of information you need to know is your visitor's first name and email address. Sure, you can get away with only an email address. But having someone’s first name will enable you to make your emails more personal (more on this in a bit).
We know that getting a visitor to fill out a connection card is easier said than done, so we wrote this helpful resource:
There are pros and cons to every one of these tools. I suggest taking the time to research, ask your friends what they recommend, and test them for yourself to see what meets your needs and church budget.
Getting started with email automation
Do you have an email marketing provider in mind?
Then let’s talk about an email automation plan for first-time guests.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take:
Plan a sequence
Create your emails
Now let’s take a look at the nitty-gritty details.
#1- Plan a sequence
The first step you’ll need to take is to plan a sequence.
Let me show you what I'm talking about, and then we’ll dig into the details:
Collect first-time guests’ contact information
Add first-time guest to an email list
First-time guest receives emails
As I mentioned above, you need to collect first-time guests’ contact information. This is the foundation to your first-time guest email automation. Without, you cannot take the remaining steps.
After you’ve collected someone’s contact information, you have to add his or her email to your first-time guest email list. This step will technically look different depending on what email marketing tool you chose.
Regardless of what email marketing provider you work with, you’ll need to make sure that all of your new first-time guests are added to the right email list or sequence in your account. This way they’ll start receiving the right messages.
Here’s one more point to make:
If you physically collect contact information, then you’ll have to have someone add this information in your email marketing. If this information is collected with an online form, then this process will be done automatically.
“Should I only use online forms to collect contact information?”
Nah, we don’t think this is a good idea.
It’s best to provide multiple ways for first-time guests to share their contact information. Some people prefer to fill out a connection card during announcements while others will be more inclined to complete a connection card on their phone, computer, or tablet. The main takeaway is to provide multiple ways for first-time guests to share their contact information.
One final point about collecting first-time guest contact information:
Make sure you have someone responsible for managing physical connection cards and adding contact information to your email automation. It’d be a shame to collect a bundle of new connection cards, and then fail to follow up with your visitors afterward.
“This is great, but what emails should I send first-time guests?”
This is a great question, and it leads us to the next point.
#2- Create your emails
There are a variety of emails you can include in your first-time guest email automation.
But here are a few suggestions to consider:
Meet the pastor
About your church
There are more emails you can add to this list, and you don’t have to include everyone.
Regardless of what emails you include, be sure to include a “thank you” and “next steps” email in your automation.
The “thank you” message needs to be sent the day after your worship service, and this email is arguably the most important one you’ll send.
In this message, the only thing you really need to include is an expression of thanks.
You don’t want to ask someone to …
Place their faith in Jesus
Join a group
All of these things can come later.
The only thing you need to do at first is to let your first-time guests know you appreciate their attendance and that they should expect a few follow up messages. That’s it.
The second most important email you need to send (not necessarily the next email after your “thank you” message) is a “next steps” email. In this email, your goal is to let people know the next step they need to take to get further involved with your church.
What is the next step you want people to take in your church?
Do you want them to join a small group?
Do you want them to consider volunteering?
Do you want them to participate in Sunday school?
Whatever your church defines as the next step you’d like first-time guests to take, focus on that message in the “next steps” email. Don’t crowd your email with several different choices. Just laser-focus on the one step you’d like them to take.
As for the other three essential emails you need to include in your first-time guest email automation, they’re fairly self-explanatory:
Meet the pastor
About your church
In these emails, the goal is to always focus on the one thing you want to share.
Introducing people to your pastor? Primarily talk about him or her, and let people know how they can meet.
Sharing your church’s values and beliefs? Let visitors know what you’re all about, and encourage them to visit again. Be sure to include how they can get in touch with you.
For these emails, feel free to adapt content you already have written elsewhere—like on your website.The content doesn’t have to be long, so don’t feel like you need to write a thesis paper. Just give people the meat and potatoes.
Need help scheduling these emails?
Here’s a suggested template:
Day 1: Thank you
Day 3: Follow up
Day 5: Follow up
Day 8: Next steps
Day 12: Follow up
Still not sure what emails you should write? Here are two free templates you can review:
You will have to cross a ton of hurdles to encourage people to join a small group.
The people in your church are probably thinking:
Will I get along with anyone?
Why should I join a small group?
Is this the right thing to do?
In all of the challenges you’ll face in your small group ministry, one of the most significant is figuring out what you’ll do for childcare. Not having childcare figured out ahead of time can cause your ministry to falter or fail.
When parents or guardians join a small group, the first thing they need to figure out is childcare. If you can take care of this concern for them, then you’re well on your way to creating a solid foundation.
3 small group childcare guiding principles
Before sharing different childcare options, I’d like to talk about a few principles.
1 – Childcare doesn’t mean any children
Providing childcare for your small group doesn’t mean you can’t welcome children.
It’s a good idea to invite children to participate at different times.
In general, it’s beneficial for children to see their parents or guardians in community—to experience a taste of life in Christ. From having children join your group for opening prayers to leading an integrated family meeting a few times a year, find ways to include children in your group.
2 – Childcare should be in a different room
It’s ideal to have children in a different room during the small group meeting.
I’m not talking about infants or breastfeeding babies—but more of a general rule of thumb.
If children are visible, it's difficult for group members to focus on what’s being discussed and the nature of your conversations will be limited. By having children in a different room or part of the house, you’ll be able to create an environment for your members to relax and talk.
3 – Be safe
As a small group leader, you’ll need to follow your church’s policies for children safety.
Have at least two people with kids—preferably not a married couple
Make sure the area is safe
Randomly check on the kids every 15–30 minutes
Provide childcare training
Provide background checks—if possible
Be aware of allergies among the children
Share contact information
With these three guiding principles in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more popular childcare options for small groups.
#1 – Get a babysitter
Providing a babysitter for your small group is one of the easiest ways to handle childcare.
A reputable and reliable babysitter will help the members of your group feel comfortable, be present, and to focus on what’s going on.
When finding a babysitter, start with your church first. There’s a chance your church has a list of preferred babysitters.
Does your church not have a list or referrals?
Connect with the members of your small group to pool together a list of potential babysitters. Whoever you choose, just make sure they’re able to handle a crowd of kids and that they are reliable.
Speaking of reliability, be sure to check if your babysitters have transportation or if a member of your small group needs to give them a ride.
To ensure your babysitter is attentive, it’s best to pay him or her for their services. As a group, you can share the cost or ask a few members to pitch in more to help out other members who may be in financial need (again, you don’t want childcare to be a burden).
If the small group is a church ministry, see if your church is open to reimbursing childcare expenses. For your church to do this, it’s best if they set a weekly limit and make it easy.
Here are three examples of this practice from different churches:
Give the members of your group the flexibility to find their own babysitters. Many parents and guardians are comfortable with their own babysitters for different reasons. Make sure they have this option.
#2 – Rotate group members
Your small group can take turns providing childcare.
There are a few pros to this option:
It gives members an opportunity to serve
It provides an opportunity for adults to build relationships with children
To do this, all you need to do is create a schedule, let people pick dates, and be flexible. As you know, with children, plans can easily change when someone is sick or a school or athletic event comes up. So, you’ll need to be flexible.
If you can, have at least two men or two women help out in the same evening. As I shared above, this is not only safe—it also helps members share the load and build relationships with each other.
#3 – Alternate weeks
Another unique idea to consider is to schedule alternate weeks your group meets.
Let me explain.
During the course of the month, you can schedule a time for everyone to be together and another time for the men and women of the group to meet separately. So your schedule would look something like this:
Week 1: Everyone
Week 2: Men
Week 3: Women
Week 4: Break
During the evening when only the men or women meet, the idea is that their spouses will watch their children when the other is attending.
This model provides an opportunity for the men and women to explore topics in-depth, and it can lead to forming deeper relationships.
But, if you noticed, this still creates a need for childcare when everyone is in attendance. So you're back to the drawing board with finding a babysitter or rotating childcare.
How do you provide childcare?
There you have it.
Three popular ways you can provide childcare for your small group:
Get a babysitter
Rotate group members
Has your small group used one of these options? Is there a different option you’ve found to be successful? Share your experience in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Knowing what to share on social media can feel overwhelming.
Every time you open your social media accounts, you’re encouraged to share something:
Facebook asks: What’s on your mind?
Twitter’s wondering: What’s happening?
LinkedIn’s requesting: Share an article, photo, video or idea
It doesn’t matter what social media platform your church uses.
All of them are on 24–7–365, and they are always asking for you to share something.
(This makes me feel a bit anxious just thinking about it.)
Before moving on, take a deep breath.
Even though social media platforms are vying for your attention, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by their constant demands. There’s a way your church—even if it's “small”—can effectively engage your congregation and reach new people without breaking down in the process.
Below I’m going to share with you three social media principles your church should live by. Before we dive in, let’s take a moment for a public service announcement.
Social media platforms and principles
Here’s what you need to know about social media:
The platforms are different, but the principles remain the same.
Every social media platform differs in some way.
From Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat, the social media platforms influence what you share and how you interact with other people.
For example, on Twitter, your tweets are limited to 280 characters—news breaks faster, and engagement is near instantaneous. Whereas Facebook’s user base makes it ideal to engage with your church and connect with people in your community. When it comes to posting on Facebook, unlike Twitter and Instagram, it’s best not to use a ton of hashtags.
Here’s the deal:
The social media platform you use will determine how your church should use it.
In other words, what posts work well on Twitter or Instagram may not work as well on Facebook or Snapchat.
So you’re probably wondering:
What works well on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.?
Technically, there are ways you can optimize what you share on every social media platform. But I’m not going to walk you through the weeds of details today.
Instead, I want to share three social media principles that will influence how your church engages in social media. By building your social media strategy on these principles, in time, you’ll increase your engagement and reach more people in your community.
#1 – Share life in your church
Life in your church doesn’t start on Sunday, and it doesn’t end by lunch.
Assuming your worship service lasts for 1 hour, every member of your church still has another 167 hours of life to live throughout the week.
Know where they're spending their time?
If you guessed social media, you’re right.
According toSocial Media Today, the average person in the United States spends 2 hours per day on social media. Here’s a breakdown of these eye-opening statistics:
Facebook: 35 minutes
YouTube: 40 minutes
Snapchat: 25 minutes
Instagram: 15 minutes
Twitter: 1 minute
Don’t lose sight of the importance of leading people to have face-to-face conversations. As a church leader, you want to ensure that people in your church are building relationships with other people in your church. This is what being the church is all about.
Here’s one thing you also don’t want to overlook:
People spend a lot of time on social media.
This isn’t a judgment, just an observation.
So, if you want to engage with your church and reach people in your community, you need to go where they’re spending time—and that’s on social media.
One of the best ways to do this is to share what life in your church looks like. From church activities to the everyday life of your pastor, staff, and volunteers, be purposeful to share what’s going on.
Remember, social media is about being social. Sharing the life of your church isn’t about promoting your church per se. It’s more about sharing material that will engage your church and be seen by people in your community, which will lead them to check out who you are and see what you’re all about.
#2 – Celebrate life in your church
Jesus is alive!
He is building his Church (Matt. 16:18), and he is at work in your church and community.
Think practically about this for a moment.
In your church, God is doing a lot of work:
He is giving people new life in Christ
He is restoring broken marriages
He is delivering people from crippling anxiety and depression
He is building a loving Christian community
He is giving people purpose
He is growing people in their faith
He is leading people to be generous with their time and money
What’s the bottom line?
There’s a lot for your church to celebrate.
Be prepared to capture these celebratory moments. Make a plan to share what’s going on.
Sidenote: If the nature of the story is personal, make sure you also obtain permission to share.
Here are celebratory examples for many churches:
Commitments to Jesus
Service in your community
To share the everyday life of your church, be prepared ahead of time by having a staff member or volunteer take pictures or shoot videos of an upcoming event.
During the event itself, get someone else (staff or volunteer) ready to share photos and videos on social media. It's ideal to share on social media what’s going on as it’s going on—this is all about being social.
#3 – Share your church’s worship service
In your church, you have an endless amount of material you can share—especially content from your weekly worship service.
There are a variety of benefits to sharing your worship services on social media, such as:
Inviting people to participate
Giving people a taste of life in your church
Reaching new people
Connecting with absentees
Speaking of reaching new people, sharing your worship services on social media or online for others to see will helpfirst-time guests feel more comfortable.
Think about it.
It’s intimidating for first-time guests to visit your church’s worship service—even if a close friend personally invited them.
They’re entering foreign territory.
They don’t know what to expect.
They’re not sure how they’ll fit in.
The burden of “what if’s” can be crushing for potential visitors. But you can answer many objections, and help first-time guests feel more comfortable by sharing your weekend worship services on social media.
There are many ways you can share your worship service. Consider posting:
Service times and information
Sermon audio or videos
Behind the scenes
Church life updates or upcoming events
Again, it’s best to share life in your church as it’s taking place.
During your worship service, prepare your staff or volunteers to capture photos or videos of your worship service and have another person ready to share the goods on social media.
Over to you
If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be this:
Social media is all about social.
Everything you share doesn’t have to be professionally produced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good idea to share high-quality material. But it’s essential to capture the daily moments of life in your church as they’re taking place.
Don’t overly stress about the quality of what you share. Instead, focus on being social and connecting your church—building relationships and reaching your community.