One easy way to improve your ministry communications at no cost

An open letter to pastors and ministry leaders:

For almost two decades, I have helped churches across the US and Canada with communications consulting and training. I work with churches that have incredibly effective communications, and others that struggle to publish the sermon notes each week. From this experience, I have discovered one easy, free technique that is guaranteed to improve the quality and effectiveness of your church communications. Here it is:

Give your communications team at least two weeks lead time.

That’s the distinguishing factor between churches with great communications, and churches with poor communications. Teams that regularly get to work on promotions at least two weeks in advance almost always have better results. The number of people on your staff or the amount of money in your budget doesn’t affect quality as much as lead time. A mediocre volunteer with two weeks lead time can outperform a talented artist who is only given a couple hours.

With two weeks of lead time a creative person can do incredible work, but even if your team isn’t super creative, with two weeks lead time they can research other churches and steal good ideas from them. Even in the commercial world, many of the best marketing campaigns are “borrowed” from others and reskinned for a new client.

With two weeks of lead time your communications team can collect all the details and creative elements they need to properly promote the event. They have time to find great stock photos (often free), instead of using old, dated clip art. They can dig up photos from last year’s event – which are often the best way to visually tell the story. They have time to get a writer to craft some catchy copy and titles.

With two weeks of lead time they can brainstorm new and creative ways to promote your event. They can play with other ideas – signs, banners, postcards, email, social media graphics. These are all inexpensive and highly effective, but take time to do properly.

With two weeks of lead time they can prepare multiple communications resources. Not just a bulletin announcement, but also some nice posters, a story on the website, and event announcement and photos on the Facebook page. By using multiple media you reach more people, and repetition makes the message stick better than one impression. Most of these aren’t expensive, and none of these require extreme creative talent. They just take time.

If you come in on Thursday afternoon and need a new promotion piece for the weekend, you have already seriously limited the effectiveness of the promotion. I’m sure your team will do their best, but many of their best options are already impossible.

I challenge you to try this test:

Pick an event at least three weeks away. Spend a week locking down all the details you can (you can let your communications team listen in, they may have good ideas). Then brief them on the event – purpose, audience, details, theme, etc. (We have a worksheet you can use to make sure you have all the details they need.) Now give them two weeks to brainstorm, research and develop some effective ways to promote your event. I think you will be amazed at the results.

The church is tasked with communicating the most important message in the world. It seems that we should do everything possible to communicate that message as effectively as possible.

Terrell Sanders

Terrell is president of Main Street Enterprises, a web development and consulting firm that specializes in church communications. He is also founder of MinistryCOM.org, a free resource site for church communications professionals. He can be reached at tsanders@MainStreetOpen.com.