Yes, Friday is here and you know what that means. It’s time for Flashback Friday, where I search deep within our archives to shine light on an article that really just hits the spot. This is a great article we posted almost 2 years ago and the message still rings true. Now, you may look at the title and think that this only applies to preachers and teachers, but I encourage you to check it out. There are some great tips on how you can use your creative side to play a vital role in this process. I hope you enjoy!
Church communications ideas, tips, and thoughts from Christian leaders. Learn about church marketing and outreach ideas to help your ministry communicate effectively.
Did I really say “Throwback Thursday”? Well I meant to say “Flashback Friday”. Ha! Let’s give it a shot for a while. Each Friday, I will pull an article from our archives that is inspiring, encouraging, applicable, or just downright interesting. This week I found an article from Angela Bainter on common marketing mistakes churches are making. It’s a great article with some super practical tips! I hope you enjoy it.
No one likes to talk about church giving, it’s like the first rule of Fight Club—you don’t talk about it. Even I tried to procrastinate writing this article. However, I think the reason we struggle to talk about giving is that we—if we’re being really honest—don’t frame giving appropriately. We never cast the proper vision needed to prompt people to want to give. Instead, we structure out loose theological frameworks in hopes that someone will agree with our hermeneutical understanding of Levitical law.
I would suggest, that if you really want to see giving increased in your church, you need to do a few things.
- Practice what you preach.
If we’re asking people to join and participate in giving to your organization or church, you need to make sure that you as an individual–and as an organization–are giving sacrificially. It’s impossible to articulate giving when you yourself don’t understand the spiritual significance of generosity. Pastors and leaders of organizations that depend on people’s sacrifice should be sacrificing themselves. I highly recommend finding some strategic partners within your community (NGOs, non-profits, shelters, social programs, schools, ministries) that you can donate a percentage of both your salary and what you have coming into the church. There is no better message about giving than giving yourself and sharing about the joys.
- Frame the “why” in giving
Framing the why can be a challenge. I think it’s easy for leaders to miss out on including our parishioners in what is actually being done with the money. I would suggest that you use your time of worship, particularly the offering, as an opportunity to share exactly how the money is being used. Show how your church or organization has its fingers stretched throughout your town, city, and the world. There is nothing more compelling than seeing your generosity be used in positive ways. People of my generation, I’m on the cusp between millennial and Generation X, will give– shocking I know–but you have to give us a compelling reason why. It has to hit our altruistic buttons. Having a few Bible verses and a small phrase that is regurgitated weekly isn’t enough. I went to a church the other day, and the pastor LITERALLY said that it pays their salary; that doesn’t compel me to give. We want to see our worship of giving be impactful and meaningful. Lastly, be enthusiastic and have energy. There is nothing worse than someone pitching an idea that they aren’t even excited about. I mean come on, we’re talking about transformation here–get fired up! Yes, people should just give to God because God has blessed them—but the reality is that there are lots of other ways to give to God that are not the church. So make sure that your church is giving people a reason to give.
- Make it easy to give.
I totally get that for some of the pastors out there, online giving is a theological hurdle. Some of you are leery giving away a percentage to a company that is 3rd party handler. I totally get it and this is a decision that you will have to navigate through prayer and guidance of those above you. But, I want to encourage you to be mindful of patterns that are being played out in culture. More and more people are using websites to conduct daily life needs. In fact, most people my age neglect to carry cash—much less use checks to make payments. Everything is being done online, through routing numbers.
For people, like me, who didn’t grow up using cash or checks, you want to eliminate as many barriers as possible for them to be able to give. There are two essential ways to remove barriers.
(a) Online Giving
There are lots of services that take a percentage for online giving. Again, I realize that this could be a theological challenge for some. However, I recommend finding one that fits your budget and needs. Be mindful that this is, in fact, God’s money being used for Kingdom Transformation. So you want to find a service that fits your needs. We will link to a few services at the end of the blog to make it easier for you. Here is why I think online giving is important. Online giving makes it easy for people to schedule regular giving to organizations. I find it helpful because I can set it up to automatically withdraw, and I don’t have to remember to bring a check to church (which I never carry). It also ensures that you’re receiving more regular donations because more people will be inclined to set up recurring gifts. Online giving seems like a natural pathway for me to give as part of my weekly worship and participation with God.
Chew on this quick stat,
“The Millennial Impact, a report that looks at the way the 18-to-32 age generation gives, found that nearly half of all millennials follow between one and five nonprofit organizations on social media. More than 65% of survey respondents receive emails from one to five different nonprofits. Most Millennials say they would give via mobile phone, and 8% have given via social media.”
(b) Less is more
Okay, once you’ve decided on online giving. Make sure it’s incredibly easy for me to find and give. Lots of services offer SMS (TEXT MESSAGE) giving or apps; you will want to have those. Also, make sure on your website that it’s only one click to give. There is nothing more discouraging than making multiple clicks in order to give. You want to have several links on your web page that instruct people on how to give and will also want to have multiple ways to give, (IE: online, recurring online, check, cash, stocks, bonds, ECT. ) The fewer obstacles you can create for people to give, the more likely they will give.
LINKS TO ONLINE GIVING RESOURCES:
ONLINE GIVING COMPANIES:
 Warren Bird, “New Innovations in Online Giving,” July 14, 14, accessed October 5, 2015,http://leadnet.org/new-innovations-in-online-giving/.
Good news, I’ve been approved as a Church Planter with the Evangelical Covenant Church. I’m so excited about the future of creating a space for people to be known and loved, a place where people have a seat at the table regardless of who they are, or where they’ve been. Someone asked me the other day, after finishing seminary and being approved as a church planter, “are you super idealistic now?” I simply answered, “yes.” I am idealistic—I really believe that God wants to do BIG things through the church. I really believe that the church can harness all of its gifts, talents and resources to see a tremendous change in our world. This is why I’ve been called to plant here in Richmond, VA. This is also why it’s incredibly important to harness your voice and brand because it–quite literally–expands your reach.
Part of the process of planting, as some of you may know, is coming up with an identity. While this may seem like an easy task, let me tell you—it’s not. There is so much you have to think about, the voice of the church, the logo, the typeface (font), the color schematics, website, church décor, handouts, templates, so on and so forth. It can be a whirlwind and a headache for one person to attempt to navigate. It’s incredibly important, to think about identity and branding. I realize that this brand is going to carry with the church I’ve been called to plant for years to come. Further, note, branding communicates the vision of the church. Churches and leaders should carefully determine the mission and craft branding accordingly. I’ve been gathering proposals from a few different branding companies, so I figured I’d give a few tips to help you with branding. I hope this is helpful for those of you rebranding your organization or if you’re starting a new church.
I sound like a broken record because I feel like I’m always talking about vision and mission in my previous blog posts. It is important to over clarify that this is step one in the process of branding, or any movement in a church. Your brand identity should reflect your mission and values. If you want to reach predominantly “unchurched” or “de-churched” people you may not want to have a brand identity that is overly Christianese. So be aware of the goals of your organization and how you want to change lives. Filter every single proposal through the mission statement and if it doesn’t match up, go back to the drawing board.
Have an idea of whom you want to reach with this rebrand or your new brand strategy. Thinking through your audience will help your team or those you hire to solidify your brand come up with a clear and concise voice. Sit down and think to yourself, “what is the goal of my church; who am I speaking to?” If you’re hoping to have a multi-cultural church, your brand should incorporate a multi-cultural vibe. If you’re predominantly in an affluent neighborhood, your brand should reflect that.
Hire the right people and consult with experts. I’m going to be honest; it’s easy to cut corners on brand. For example, you can hire someone to come up with a logo, but not pay for the typeface, color palette, environment, and website. However, the reality is you’re not doing yourself–or the future of your church–any favors. You will in essence be fragmenting your voice so much that it will become convoluted and more confusing than anything else will. Hire a design firm that will handle all aspects of your brand. If you’re a church plant, like I’m doing, and money is an issue—I would recommend doing a staged rollout. We’re first hiring someone for the logo, typeface, voice, and color scheme and later we will be going to phase two and three which includes website, print collateral, and environment (décor). Be strategic and be wise with your income.
Voice: The expression of your church or organization’s brand through words and prose.
Typeface: The font or design of a particular type. This will be the font you will pick to use in all print and digital media.
Logo: A symbol or design that will be adopted by the organization as a standard. The logo will bring awareness in lieu of, or along side of, the name of the church or organization.
I was having a conversation with my friend last night about the power of pop music. Pop music has an uncanny way of making its way into our brains and sticking there for a long, long time. You don’t even have to know all the lyrics, you just have to know the melody of a chorus and it’s stuck. What’s that you say, you’re not a fan of 1-D (One Direction) and JT (Justin Timberlake)? Come on, there is much to be gained from taking a few cues from our pop-star-friends.
- Filter everything through the chorus.
The chorus is the moment where you hit your listener with a dopamine kick. I have found it helpful to clearly lay out a bottom line and filter every, single, word through my bottom line. The bottom line is that one takeaway that you want your audience to leave thinking. By clearly laying out the bottom line, it helps maintain a clear, consistent voice throughout your sermon. Pop stars—and their writers—know exactly what they’re going to convey and exactly the right time to hit that chorus home. This is why it gets stuck in our head because the writers have thought through the “voice” of a song. What song are you singing in your sermon? Is your audience leaving with a catchy tune stuck in their head, or are they leaving bored and confused?
- Make it sticky.
I’m not a huge fan of a three-point sermon; I’m not going to lie. I’m not sure if it’s too traditional or if I’ve seen countless, speakers rely too heavily on it. Sure, I think it’s helpful to structure your sermon, but there are ways to do that without saying the inevitable, “Which leads me to my next point, Jesus love Grace.” Pop Artists know the right combination of words to make something stick. Instead of using points, I have found it helpful to craft sticky statements, here are a few examples:
“What you say is whom you portray.”
“Wonder in the ordinary leads to the extraordinary.”
“Creating a home brings people home.”
“Don’t just say it, display it.” (when talking about faith)
Sticky statements are great, for me, because it moves away from points and it acts as a natural transition that people know exactly that you’re moving on from your previous statement. It’s freeing to not have to use three points. You should try it, artist are always rethinking the chorus and how to make it stickier.
- Structure it.
Gosh, I love that Coldplay song, “Fix You.” That song makes me want to spread my fingers outside of a moving car’s window and sing at the top of my lungs. I feel like Jack from the Titanic standing at the bow of the ship saying, “I CAN FLYYYYYY.” It’s so catchy and so emotive you can’t help but like it. Well, it’s because it was structured well.
It is important for something to stick that you have to structure it in a way that people can understand. With every sticky statement and bottom line, I have a structure I follow with most sermons (of course there are a few outliers). Here is what I do in each section.
ME (How I’ve experienced the point, maybe an anecdote)
YOU (How you might experience the point or struggled)
GOD (Point back to the verse and reveal God’s truth)
WE (How we then apply it to our life).
Point back to the bottom line.
You should find a structure that works for you, it doesn’t have to be articulated the same way I have articulated. It just helps me to see what I’m doing and where I’m going with each section. I highly recommend having a look at how other communicators structure their sermons and come up with your own style and structure that works for you. There are many helpful resources for discovering what other communicators are doing. I frequently look at sites, like SERMON SEARCH.COM to see what others are doing with their structure and how they’re harnessing their voice.
What song are you singing to your listeners, are you singing a hot mess or have you thought through what you’re communicating so your audience gets your bottom lines stuck in their head? God has called you and I to be compelling communicators of the gospel, let’s do it to the best of our ability.