Communications

7 Rules Of Church Communications Strategy [Policy Template]

Brady Shearer
August 18, 2020 16 min read

You are about to learn the seven rules of church communications.

And together, these seven rules are meant to form your church comms policy.

Here’s what you can expect once you’ve formalized this policy at your church:

  • Eliminate the problem of people coming up to you and saying “Hey, I didn’t even know that event was happening!” (even though you’ve been announcing it for six weeks)
  • Avoid personal tension between ministries and leaders that all want their own promotions
  • Free up your emails, social posts, and announcements to *do* ministry and not just *promote* ministry
  • Discover a sustainable pace for your church’s communications – even under the increased pressure of a global pandemic

Let’s dive in.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The 7 Rules Of Church Communications Strategy [Policy Template] – share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page

The 7 rules of church communications strategy

Many of us are thrust into the world of church comms without any formal training or expertise – because someone’s gotta do it. Such is church life.

The result?

We find ourselves drifting. Being pulled back and forth by different demands and ideas.

Because here’s the truth:

If you can’t make formal policy yourself, informal policy will be made for you.

But this is a miserable way to manage a ministry. And it also doesn’t translate to effective communications.

So not only are we suffering – but our churches are suffering. Because the bottom line is this:

No one reaches their desired destination because they drifted there.

When you’re out in the ocean drifting, the ocean will take you where it pleases.

If you care to reach your desired destination – you need intention.

As if that’s not enough, the global pandemic has put increased pressure on church communications. Now, ministry that used to exist offline must be facilitated online.

So you’re not alone if your church’s informal comms structures are beginning to buckle under this increased weight.

We’re gonna figure this out. I promise. Let’s start with rule number one…

Rule #1: The barometer we use to measure effectiveness is ‘next steps’

NOTE: Last week, I published a post called The New Rules For Church Growth In A Post-Pandemic World. In many ways, *this* post you’re reading now is a follow-up to that. And if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of next steps and how to accurately track them – it’s crucial you read that post.

In my experience, the seeds of conflict and personal tension are planted when leaders have different expectations.

This is why it’s imperative for us to kick off our church communications policy by getting everyone on the same page as to how we evaluate the effectiveness of our church’s efforts.

The bottom line?

Attendance is not an accurate barometer for life change. Rarely is it even a predictable indicator.

Now you might be wondering…

“Why do we need to measure the effectiveness of our churches anyway?”

To which I would say, “Because the stakes are too high!”

We, as churches, exist to affect life change – which has Heaven and Earth consequences. Plus, our efforts are only made possible by people freely giving us the money that they worked for. So we have a responsibility to make sure we’re not wasting these resources.

And the first step to ensuring this is to define an accurate model of evaluation.

(and again, I explore this idea in depth in the first post of this series – The New Rules For Church Growth In A Post-Pandemic World)

The last thing I’ll say about Rule #1 is that it’s paramount for your whole organization to embrace it.

Because just as no one gets to where they want to go by drifting – you also can’t reach a desired destination if everyone in the boat wants to go to different places.

Free Bonus: Click here to download The 7 Rules Of Church Communications Strategy [Policy Template] – share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page

Rule #2: Every next step in our church happens through ‘The Central Hub’

Now that we’ve established ‘next steps’ as our measuring stick for evaluation – how do we track them? And how do we facilitate them?

That’s what The Central Hub is for.

The Central Hub is the single destination for every next step in your church.

The Central Hub is a crucial component in our comms policy because most churches confuse their congregations with chaotic messaging.

What do I mean by that?

Here’s a list of destinations churches frequently use for next steps:

  • Check the bulletin
  • Call the church
  • Talk to a pastor
  • Visit the table in the lobby
  • Download the app
  • Hit up the website
  • Email a ministry leader

And then we wonder why people come up to us asking about event details! You would to if you had to keep up with this kind of chaos.

The worst part? Messy communication like this results in fewer next steps.

Not to mention, we as ministry leaders must maintain all of these different platforms – needlessly costing us extra time and money (resources we all know are scarce).

Knowing this, The Central Hub in your church must abide by a few defining principles for it to succeed:

#1. The Central Hub needs to be accessible 24/7/365

Think about it this way, your week has 168 hours. If Sunday service is just 1 hour (on average) – how is your church reaching people in the other 167?

Never has this been more important than it is now as many of our churches are still not meeting in person as we normally would because of a global pandemic.

And even when we do return to in-person gatherings, not everyone will feel comfortable returning at the same time – and there’s still so much uncertainty ahead of us.

This is why using bulletins or your church lobby for next steps isn’t advisable. Sure, it works on Sundays – but about the other 6 days of the week? What about the other 167 hours? What about a global pandemic?

This is why The Central Hub at your church needs to be available at all times. We want people taking next steps all throughout the week – whenever they’re inspired to do so. Here’s what this looks like:

The Central Hub can facilitate next steps throughout the entire week
The Central Hub can facilitate next steps throughout the entire week

#2. The Central Hub must be accessible from every device

This means phones, tablets, desktops, and everything in-between.

And this is why we never recommend using a downloadable mobile app for your church’s central hub. Because an app is only accessible after downloading it – plus, you can’t access it from laptops or desktop computers!

And lastly, principle number three…

#3. The Central Hub must be able to capture, store, and distribute information

Remember, the purpose of The Central Hub is next steps. This means people in your church taking action:

  • Joining a small group
  • Signing up to be baptized
  • Giving of tithes and offerings
  • Submitting a prayer request
  • Etc.

And every next step requires a certain amount of submitted information that often needs to be routed to a ministry leader or database.

The problem?

Most churches still use what I call a ‘Yellow Pages’ website. The website displays information about the church – but it’s not exactly dynamic. Nor can it facilitate next steps. What you want instead is a ‘Central Hub’ website.

Now, if you’re wondering what kind of software you might need for this, that’s what we built Nucleus for – the world’s first central hub website software.

It can replace your existing website. And you can swap out a ‘Yellow Pages’ site for a ‘Central Hub’ website. If you do want to try out Nucleus, we make it easy, there’s a 30-day free trial – no credit card required.

The Central Hub Setup Guide

This is just a small introduction to The Central Hub. If you want to see what real church Central Hubs look like, and how transformative they truly are, here’s a link to our full Central Hub setup guide with success stories from real churches.

Rule #3: Every call-to-action must use the same script

For The Central Hub to work as intended, it needs to be the only destination where you send your church.

Because if you also tell people to check the bulletin, if you also tell people to check the app – your entire strategy will fall apart before it can ever get off the ground.

And for this to be adopted church-wide, you must provide people with a script to use repeatedly as the single call to action.

So here’s what that script looks like (just replace the URL you see below with your own church’s website domain name):

“Head to lifeabundant.info or visit the lifeabundant.info kiosk in the lobby.”

An important note:

Never say, “go to our website.” I see churches do this a lot.

You know what your church’s website URL is. You have it memorized. A new person will not. And many people in your church may not.

So whenever you refer to your website, call it by its domain name (Example: “Head to lifeabundant.info” instead of “head to our website”).

Now, you might be wondering: what’s the lifeabundant.info kiosk?

Simply stated, this is the physical version of your Central Hub that lives in your church’s lobby.

It’s incredibly easy to make something like this with a cheap tablet and stand – here’s a full walkthrough guide on how to do it.

And here’s why creating a physical version of your Central Hub to live in your lobby is so important:

  1. Ensure every next step goes through your Central Hub: Now, whether a person takes a next step offline *or* online, it goes through the same portal and lands in the same database (this is key for accurate tracking and results in fewer headaches).
  2. Train your congregation how to use your Central Hub: Perhaps there are people in your congregation that will need to be shown how to use your Central Hub for the first couple of times – but once they see how easy and convenient it is, they’re empowered to take next steps independent from Sunday morning.
  3. Provide for those that don’t have reliable Internet access: The world is becoming increasingly digital. But we don’t want to marginalize those that don’t have an Internet-connected device of their own. The Central Hub kiosk in your lobby provides a path for everyone to take next steps (still all using the same portal), even if they don’t have their own reliable Internet access.
The Central Hub kiosk
The Central Hub kiosk

Rule #4: The 50% Rule

Here’s The 50% Rule defined:

If a promotion does not apply to at least 50% of your congregation – it does not warrant a church-wide social post, announcement, or email

The 50% Rule works wonders for cutting down on the volume of church-wide promos and requests. And it frees up your church comms for what truly matters.

And ignore The 50% Rule at your own peril. Because consider this…

If your church is sharing multiple announcements/social posts/emails every week that don’t apply to the majority of your congregation – you’re conditioning your church to ignore your promotions, simply because most of them don’t apply to most of the people listening.

So again, this is one of those rules that benefits both the church comm leader and the congregation.

Moreover, The 50% Rule will cut down considerably on personal tension.

Because now, if another ministry or leader comes to you and says, “Hey, I need a social post/email/announcement for [insert their promotion here].”

Now it’s no longer up to you and your discretion on if this promo happens. Instead, you just hold up the request to The 50% Rule. And now the rule is the bad guy. Not you.

And this is why a formalized policy is so important. And getting everyone to agree on it when it’s implemented. Because without it, personal tension and conflict run rampant as you are the arbitrator of what does and does not go through.

Of course, you’re probably wondering – how do we promote ministries and events that don’t pass The 50% Rule?

More on that a bit later.

But this is where private online entities play a role in your overall strategy. Here are a few examples:

  • Facebook Groups
  • Instagram chat groups
  • Email segments
  • Group text
  • WhatsApp
  • Slack
  • Discord
  • There are so many different options to explore here…

Rule #5: The “1-in-5” Rule

Here’s The “1-in-5” Rule defined:

No more than 20% of your social posts or emails should be promotional in nature

Churches often ask me to review their social accounts.

They say to me, “We just can’t seem to generate momentum. Our content gets ignored. Our congregation just won’t engage on social.”

So I go to their pages and count it up. And what do I see?

50%…60%…70%+ of their posts promoting.

Promos for an upcoming series. An upcoming event. A new blog post or podcast they just dropped. A weekend service.

Using social to promote ministry – instead of using social to do ministry.

So I tell them:

“Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me people aren’t engaging with your content. Your congregation probably isn’t even seeing your good posts – because long ago the algorithm determined that your posts and page weren’t relevant to your audience.”

Bottom line:

People just don’t engage with promotional content like they do with organic content.

Now, does this mean you should never use social to promote?

No.

And this is why The “1-in-5” Rule is so important.

Because guess what? Social algorithms reward relevance. And people don’t check Facebook and Instagram to see promos.

So if you continually take up real estate on their feeds with promos – eventually the algorithm just won’t give you that real estate anymore.

The “1-in-5” Rule is the sweet spot for ensuring you don’t get penalized for being overly promotional – while still giving you space to promote what’s truly important.

Rule #6: Sprint & Sprinkle

If you are able to implement the preceding five rules in this church comms policy – your church will be in a great place.

But, you might still be thinking:

“This isn’t realistic for me. There’d still be too much pressure to promote. Not everything could fit perfectly within this plan. And then once one exception is made, it’ll just revert back to how it was before.”

I hear you loud and clear. This is why Rule #6 exists.

Rule #6 is basically our contingency plan. For the outliers. When you just need to bend the rules.

Do it this way…

Sprint Promotions

Sprint Promotions are church-wide promo campaigns – run 2-4 times per year – each lasting 1-2 weeks total.

By definition, Sprint Promotions cannot last indefinitely. They’re all-out promotional sprints that last for a short period of time.

During Sprint Promotions, you can ignore The “1-in-5” Rule and The 50% Rule.

Here’s what you need to know about a Sprint Promotion…

It will come at a cost.

Your social engagement will dip for a bit. Your email open rates will decline. And by the time the campaign nears its end, people will have tired of it.

But…as long as Sprint Promotions are run infrequently (2-4 times per year at a maximum), your engagement rates will always bounce back – those dips won’t be permanent.

The problem?

Most of our churches are running Sprint Promotions non-stop!

So it’s no wonder our comms teams and congregations are worn out.

To use Sprint Promotions most effectively, save them for your biggest yearly church happenings (Example: Christmas, Easter, Fall Festival, etc.). And ensure proper gaps between each so we can all recover.

Sprinkle Promotions

Sprinkle Promotions are for those “in-between” church happenings that don’t quite fit perfectly into our policy.

Sprinkle Promotions allow you to promote something without breaking The 50% Rule or The “1-in-5” Rule. They’re the exception. The workaround.

Sprinkle Promotions are not the substance of the content you create – they’re just the sprinkle at the end.

Perhaps the best way to define a Sprinkle Promotion is to show you an example.

Below you’ll find a carousel post from my Instagram profile @bradyshearer. And in this content, I’m breaking down a new kind of social media post idea for churches – step-by-step.

And the first five slides of this carousel post contain zero promotional content whatsoever.

But then, on the sixth slide, there’s a promo for Nucleus. Our software product. This is a Sprinkle Promotion.

The promotion isn’t the substance of the post. It’s the sprinkle at the end.

Sprinkle Promotions are going to be your best friend. Because now, you can promote anything you want – whenever you want. But you’ll avoid the negative consequences that come from being overly promotional.

Because a post like the one above is not promotional – it’s just a good post. With a sprinkle at the end 😉

Rule #7: The Church Promo Formula

Here is the ultimate framework for all church promotions:

1 Story + 1 Next Step

For event promotions, your single next step should always be your next step script from Rule #3: “Head to lifeabundant.info or the lifeabundant.info kiosk in the lobby.”

This is your call-to-action that comes at the end of your promotion. But the bulk of your promo should be your story.

What does this actually look like?

Let me show you an example of me using this formula in a church announcement for baptisms:

But this isn’t just for church announcements.

Take a look at the email posted below that one of our mentorship students sent out to her church:

The Church Promo formula applied to a church-wide email
The Church Promo formula applied to a church-wide email

The results from this email?

The last time I heard from this student, she had received twenty-one replies to this email where people in the church were sharing their stories of life change.

And now, with permission, those twenty-one stories are being turned into future social posts for this church.

This is what happens when you treat communications how it’s meant to be treated.

It creates a snowball effect where engagement begets more engagementnext steps begets more next steps.

How to actually make this all work

This post began with a promise:

That we could forever eliminate the issue of people coming up to us and asking for event details and information because as much as we communicated it they still seemed to miss it.

Now, if you can relate to this problem – you are not alone. Because this is incredibly common in churches.

And it’s a symptom of a much greater issue – a broken communication strategy.

Because here’s the truth:

You can promote an event for weeks on end – across every single promotional channel your church has at its disposal – and people will still miss it.

And normally, when something like this happens, our church’s immediate response is to just promote more.

We think to ourselves, “If people aren’t getting the info they need – it must be because we’re not sharing it enough.”

But this could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

Because your responsibility as a communicator is to ensure your congregation has all the information available to them. But it’s not your responsibility to communicate all that information on an ongoing basis.

Consider this:

When you go to the movies, prior to the feature presentation the theater will show trailers for upcoming films.

And how will the studios behind these films promote them to you? They’ll cut together 1-2 minutes of action-packed sequences into a trailer and use that to inspire you to see the movie.

And at the end of the trailer, you might see something like “Coming this fall.”

But that will be the extent of the information given to you.

Now, can you imagine sitting through a 2-minute trailer where the theater just overlays upcoming showtimes on top of scenes from the movie?

That would be ridiculous.

And yet, that’s how we promote in church. We prioritize information over inspiration. But it needs to be the opposite: inspiration over information.

That’s how to communicate effectively.

And this is where The Central Hub again comes into play – where we flip the script on how we promote in church.

We put the responsibility on the congregation and empower them to gather the info they need when they need it – rather than endlessly trying to spoon-feed them the information.

Because guess what?

You will never be able to construct a communications strategy where you’re able to share all the info you need to every person that needs it in your church. Such a strategy does not exist.

As if that’s not enough, everyone suffers when we try to communicate like this.

  • You, the communicator, suffer as you try to please everyone (an impossible task).
  • Your congregation suffers because they feel helpless to find the information they need themselves – and so they miss out on events and opportunities.
  • And further down the chain, social suffers, email suffers, and announcements suffer. Because with this dysfunctional communications plan, we begin to use these other outlets as a crutch to promote – hoping that people will finally get all the info they need if we just talk enough about it.

This is a hopeless approach to comms.

But now, with these seven rules, you have everything you need to formalize an effective and sustainable policy in your church.

And listen, I get it…it’s not easy to make such a huge culture shift like this. And it won’t happen overnight. So don’t expect it to. This kind of change will probably take at least a year to get its footing.

But here’s what you can look forward to after implementing this:

  • More next steps and engagement across your church
  • Less stress as a communicator – because you’ll no longer be trying to solve an unsolvable problem
  • Freedom to focus on inspiration in what you communicate – instead of being a servant to information
  • And you’ll now have a comms calendar free of unnecessary promotions – giving you space to start using comms *for* ministry, instead of to just *promote* ministry

Download this policy as a written document below

Below you’ll find a link to a Google Doc where this entire policy is written down – rule by rule.

So make sure to download that and formalize it in your own church. It’s freely available to you so you can share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page.

And remember, this is just one of four posts in this series on policy and building a church comms ministry from scratch. Make sure you read through the other three posts – each is linked below:

  1. The New Rules For Church Growth In A Post-Pandemic World
  2. Social Media Policy For Churches: The Definitive Guide
  3. How To Write Better Church Email Newsletters (7 Rules)

Free Bonus: Click here to download The 7 Rules Of Church Communications Strategy [Policy Template] – share it with leadership and get everyone on the same page

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