One of the biggest challenges to effective church communications is the falsely democratic idea that all ministries and all ministries events should be promoted equally. If you give three months of promotion to VBS which draws 500 new families to the church, then you should also give equal support to the men’s weekly prayer breakfast which draws the same 10 men every week.
While the concept seems “fair”, it really isn’t a biblical, or even a realistic business practice. Jesus didn’t divide his time (resources) equally between everyone he met. He spent much more time with the twelve than with the masses, and even more time with the three than the twelve. With finite resources, you must strategically prioritize where you spend your time and money.
How to Prioritize
How do you prioritize the thousands of events and activities that happen every year? How do you decide who gets top pulpit announcements, or on the marque in front of the building? We look at three factors to “rank” ministry events for promotion: mission, involvement, community.
Mission – does this event support a strategic mission of the church? If your church identifies as an outreach church, then outreach-related events will rank higher. If your mission in the community is to support families, then youth and children’s events will rank higher.
Involvement – this is pretty easy, based on past years, which events received the most involvement from the congregation? Events that draw large numbers of volunteers and resources naturally rank higher.
Community – last, but possibly most importantly, how much impact does the event have on the community. Events that bring in non-members and serve the community will rank higher than events that only serve members. Hence the Vacation Bible School program that brought dozens of new families to the church will need/require/deserve more promotion than a recurring event that serves a few members but affect anyone else.
An easy way to visualize this is to categorize your events into ABC Levels.
A Level events are large mission supporting events that draw considerable involvement from the membership and draw large attendance from the community (or provide a significant impact to the community). Example A Level events are Christmas programs, Easter events, and other large events that draw outside visitors. A medium sized church will only have a few A level events. These receive the majority of the communications resources.
B Level events are similar to A level events, but often occur at a ministry level instead of an all-church level. The big summer youth mission trip is probably a B event. Vacation Bible School would typically be a B level event since it only targets children and families, however since many churches use VBS as a community outreach ministry, the all-church involvement pushes it up an A level event. B level events receive less promotion than A level events, but they still receive significant communications support.
C Level events are the remaining events, typically produced at the ministry level. These events serve smaller groups, require less resources, and are less likely to bring in visitors. Small group and Sunday school class events usually fall in C Level. They still receive calendar space and mentions on the website and social media, but usually don’t receive many other resources from the communications budget.
Who Sets Priorities?
Ideally, the communications staff will be helping senior leadership define the A and B level events. It is not the job of communications to set priorities, but to use the priorities to make best use of the time and money available. You don’t want individual ministries feeling that you are arbitrarily deciding who gets precious pulpit announcements and front page website coverage.
By identifying A and B level events for the next year, you can prepare a rough promotional budget a year in advance to estimate both the money and time resources required to support these events.
Terrell Sanders is the founder of Main Street Enterprises, a web development and consulting organization specializing in churches and non-profits. Terrell can be reached tsanders@MainStreetOpen.com.