Resources for Communicators

Start with these four questions.

Who are we? [Identity]

The purpose of church communications is to build up relationships between our church and the people God is calling to be part of it.

When we have a strong sense of who we are, and pride in the gifts God has given us to share with our community, we are ready to enter into new relationships.

And we know that new relationships will change who we are.

Resources for articulating our congregation’s identity:
With whom is God calling us to be in relationship? [Audience]

God has placed our church here, in this place, at this time, among these people for a reason.

Let’s listen and learn to our neighbors. Who are they? What matters to them? How might our church meet them and support them?

Resources for getting to know our neighbors:
What do we hope our neighbors will do because we're reaching out?

Good communication will offer people something that is valuable to them, prompting them to take action that builds a relationship. Every time we communicate, we can have in mind an action we hope people will take as a result of the communication. For example, we might hope they will:

  • Read a prayer on social media and feel encouraged;
  • Pick up groceries for their family at our food pantry;
  • Visit our church on Easter;
  • Visit our church this Sunday;
  • Bring their pet for a blessing on St. Francis Day;
  • Attend a morning prayer service;
  • Watch a sermon online;
  • …What else?

The things we hope folks will do come out of  our understanding of what matters to them (based on our listening and learning in question 2) and what difference a relationship with our church might make in their lives (based on our listening and learning in question 1).

What are the tools/resources God has given us to build these relationships?

When we know 1) who we are, 2) who God is bringing into our lives, and 3) what difference we hope that relationship will make, then we are ready to start choosing and using our communications tools.

Consider the resources the church has for communications: time, money, skills and technical know-how. Often, it’s wise to start with just one or two tools.

Consider, too, the preferences of your audience. How do they want to get information from your church? Where are they most likely to engage with your church?

  • Website (primarily for newcomers/external audience);
  • Facebook (page and/or group usually for “insiders;” boosted posts and targeted ads for external audience);
  • Other social media;
  • Printed worship bulletin (internal audience);
  • Email and/or print newsletter (internal audience);
  • Local television, radio, and newspaper (external audience).

Please view the resources on this page for more details about these tools!

Communications in the small church: Tips for your sanity

Pray

O Lord, open my lips,
   and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51)

In a small church, communicators are often volunteers or clergy or staff juggling many responsibilities and learning new skills without formal training. We may be working as hard as we can, yet feel like the gifts we are offering are not enough.

If you’re a church communicator, take refuge in prayer! Trust that God sees you and loves you just as you are. And dare to imagine that God can take your efforts and through them do infinitely more than you could have asked or imagined.

 

Prayers for communicators:

Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common prayer, p. 827: For those who Influence Public Opinion)

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 832: Prayer for Guidance)

More Prayers for Communicators by the Rev. Kyle Oliver (page takes time to load)

Scriptures for Communicators:

Romans 10:13-15 “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Ephesians 3:14-21 “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine…”

Keep your website simple so you can keep it up

Your website is the hub of all your communications, and a simple website that your church can keep up-to-date is better than a complex, impressive website that’s full of old content.

Start with 3-5 pages covering the basics:

  • a few great images of your people and one of your building;
  • a brief identity statement (see question #1, “Who Are We?,” above
  • service times;
  • contact information;
  • how to find the church, where to park, and what to expect at a typical service;
  • information about nursery care and children’s programs…

Make sure there’s always at least two people that know how to manage your website, and make sure that the church maintains all website access records (username and password) so you don’t lose your website when your volunteer webmaster moves to Florida.

For more church website tips, see our Ten Church Website Commandments.

If you need a new website, check out our diocesan website-building program.

Not ready for a website yet? Update your church’s information on the Episcopal Asset Map! Find your church, click “More Details,” then “Update This Place.” The information you provide, once approved by the diocesan administrator, will show up in search results, on the website of The Episcopal Church, and on this website.

Actually, keep everything simple!

Start where you can, and build slowly, so that your church can communicate consistently and reliably.

For instance, if your church has a Facebook page, try setting a goal of posting once a week, or three times a week, with a weekly plan. Get consistent with this before you try another social media channel like Twitter or Instagram (or vice versa).

On the topic of simplicity, think about language, too. Remember that you’re trying to build relationships, so use words that folks who aren’t church “insiders” can understand. If you can’t eliminate fancy words (narthex instead of lobby, anyone?) and abbreviations (BCP! LEVAS! OMG!), make sure to clearly explain them.

Have a plan

Communications is full of tiny, important details. Give your brain a break and make a plan! You might use a wall calendar, a spreadsheet, or a few pages in a notebook. You might plan by the year, by the month, or by the liturgical season.

Things to include in your plan:

  • Big events in the church: Holiday dinner, rummage sale, community forum, concerts, etc. …
  • Major holidays & liturgical seasons: Easter, Christmas, Ash Wednesday…
  • Other stories we want to tell/messages we want to spread…

As you plan, think about:

  • Who are we trying to reach? [Audience]
  • What do we hope will happen as a result of our communication? [Goal]
  • What communications tools/channels are best suited to achieving this goal?  (i.e. newspaper ad? social media posts?)

As big events or seasons happen, you may want to take note of the major communications tasks you completed—and ideas for the future. If you do this all year, you’ll have a complete action plan for next year!

Planning resources:

You will not make everyone happy!

But God loves you (and your critics). See pray, above.

Communications Tools & Resources

I’m a church communicator in the Diocese of Central New York. How can the Diocese help me in my work?

We’re so glad you asked!

  1. Someone to talk to. You can call or email Meredith any time, whether you want advice or need to bounce some ideas around.
  2. Creative borrowing. You can use content and images from any diocesan communications, including our website and email newsletter, in your own church’s communications, as long as you provide appropriate credit and a link back to the original post.
  3. Promotion around the holidays. For big events like Christmas, Easter and Holy Week, and Ash Wednesday, we typically collect information about services from every congregation, create a web page with a map of those services [example here], and run a social media ad campaign to help your neighbors find your church.
  4. Workshops and webinars. Subscribe to our email newsletter or check the diocesan calendar to keep apprised of upcoming communications classes!
  5. Personalized training. In some cases, we can come to your church and give your team a customized tutorial on a communications tool like Facebook or Mailchimp.
  6. Website design. Need a website? Learn about our free diocesan website-building program.
  7. Consulting. We can meet with your communications or leadership team to help you develop a communications strategy for your church.
That’s great. And how can I give back to my diocesan community?
  1. Share your parish events. Promote your parish events through our parish events calendar.
  2. Share your stories. Learn how your photo, article, or story can be featured in diocesan communications.
  3. Share your talents. If you have a gift you’d like to share, want experience in developing a new skill, or just want to connect with faithful people in your wider church community, we are always looking for volunteers including photographers, videographers, video editors, writers, technology gurus, folks who can teach skills to others, and more. Get in touch with Meredith!
  4. Spread the word about diocesan events. We email digital promotion packets that make it easy for you to share diocesan events in your church. These packets include graphics, flyers, bulletin inserts and more. If you’re not getting these and you wish you were, email Meredith.
Staff Contact

Meredith Kadet Sanderson

(315) 474-6596 x130 (office)

Send an e-mail

Church Communications, in general

START HERE: Caffeinated Church (Diocese of Colorado): great collection of resources organized by topic; workshops over live video-conference

Church Communications: resources, articles, and podcasts

Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices, topic: Communications

Episcopal Church Foundation Vestry Papers, July 2018, “Creative Communications

Fishhook: a church-focused marketing company with a helpful collection of resources organized by topic

Geeks for God (Diocese of Newark): advice for parish communicators with a focus on technology

Connect with other communicators: 

Church Communications: ecumenical group on Facebook, a great place to catch cutting-edge church communications discussions

Episcopal Communicators: membership organization with annual conference and an email listserv for dues-paying members and a free, friendly group on Facebook

Communications Plan

Before You Say A Word: Developing Your Church Communications Plan” this one-hour webinar is a perfect “Church Communications 101” from experienced Episcopal Church communicators

Photography and images

Idea: hire a photographer once a year on Christmas, Easter, or another “big day” at your church. Ask them to capture photos you can use year-round: closeups of people’s hands; clergy at the altar; people taking communion; children’s program…

Have parents/guardians sign a photo release annually for minors; never identify a child by name in any communication

Designate one place, such as a Google Drive folder, to store image files that you can use in print and digital publications

Check out these sites for royalty-free stock images: unsplash.com; pixabay.com; pexels.com

Social Media

Having trouble keeping up with your church’s Facebook page? Try a weekly plan.

Need content ideas? Google “church social media content ideas” and you will get lots of ideas! Here’s an example: 21 Social Media Post Ideas for Churches

Website

Have a website? Check out our Ten Church Website Commandments.

Need a website? Learn about our diocesan website-building program.

Not ready for a website yet? Update your church’s information on the Episcopal Asset Map! Find your church, click “More Details,” then “Update This Place.” The information you provide, once approved by the diocesan administrator, will show up in search results, on the website of The Episcopal Church, and on this website.

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