Church Communications in 2022

Bryan Haley

How are you focusing your communications this year? Here are our thoughts on what ought to be at the forefront of your church communication plan.

Show Notes

Episode Summary

We're well into the new year, so what are some things your communications ministry ought to focus on in 2022? Here are our thoughts.

Mentioned in this episode

Transcript

Jeanette:

The way we communicate has seen a massive shift over the last couple of decades, and those changes have been accelerated throughout the pandemic. So what do we think communicators ought to focus on in 2022? Today we're talking about church communication shifts, alignments, and priorities for the year ahead.

Bryan:

Welcome to The Church Juice Podcast. We are here energizing church communications. I'm Bryan Haley.

Jeanette:

And I'm Jeanette Yates. Okay Bryan, I have a question for you.

Bryan:

Yeah?

Jeanette:

I think last episode I was talking a lot about TV, so this time I'm asking you, what is the last thing you watched on TV?

Bryan:

So you mentioned beforehand, we don't really watch anything on TV. It's all streaming. We just started season three, I think, of Yellowstone.

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

Yeah. So, we've been watching through that. That's our evening time, I guess, watching through the latest season. It's been so long since we watched the first couple seasons, I can't remember what's happening. So, I think we might have to go back and watch them again. How about you?

Jeanette:

Yeah. Well, we just finished the season finale of season four of Yellowstone.

Bryan:

Oh, okay. That's where we are, season four. Whatever. You know what I meant.

Jeanette:

This latest season, right? Isn't that season four?

Bryan:

I really have no idea.

Jeanette:

The latest season. Like you say, I think in the year when we're waiting for of the next season to come out, we do a lot of re-watches here in the family. But the last thing I watched on TV was last night, we finally commandeered the remotes from our older son who does not watch any TV except for sports. My husband and I, and our younger son watched the The Book of Boba Fett.

Bryan:

Oh.

Jeanette:

The Book of Boba Fett, let me say that slower.

Bryan:

So I assume then you guys have watched all of The Mandalorian.

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

Okay. Awesome. Mandalorian has been on my list. Usually I have a list of shows that I know my wife doesn't want to watch, so I save it for when I'm traveling or whenever I'm alone, but since Mandalorian has come out, I haven't traveled anywhere. So it's just been sitting in my watch list, unwatched. People talk about it all the time and I'm like, I don't know. I haven't been following along.

Jeanette:

Yeah, it's great for fans of that whole universe and they're short episodes, so you can knock one out here and there. You don't have to invest an evening.

Bryan:

Right. Nice. All right. So let's dive in. Let's talk about communications this year. Completely related to what we watched on TV.

Jeanette:

Well, it's communications.

Bryan:

Yeah, it is. So we laid out four areas, basically, that church communicators ought to place priority on. Is that a good way of putting it?

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

This year, hopefully as we figure out what life looks like beyond the pandemic and just realizing the shifts that our people, as a church, as a congregation have made or are making and changes in how we communicate and changes in technology and social media and those things. So this first one we're going to talk about was actually your idea. So I'm going to let you introduce it.

Jeanette:

Okay. Based on what I have been reading and seeing and trends throughout, I spend a lot of time on Twitter, hanging out in the marketing Twitter universe and all of those things. And so I see a lot about his particular medium, which is audio. We are doing a podcast and I'm like, have we actually encouraged our audience to do a podcast? One of the reasons audio, I think, is continuing to be a popular way to get content out. And I think it's only growing even more so. We had things like Clubhouse Popup right before the pandemic and it frittered away, but what didn't go away is Twitter's version of that, which is Twitter spaces.

Jeanette:

I've seen more and more church leaders and people using Twitter spaces. It's almost like doing a podcast, which I'm going to get to in a minute, but it's even easier because you're just having a conversation, it's not just you or you and your co-host. It could be the two of us and we can invite people listening into the conversation and you can control it just like you would a Zoom call or anything else, where you're allowing people to speak and then muting them if you need to, so you can still have control over it, but it does invite that more intimate conversation, which I think is important and something we're going to talk about later in the episode, in creating those like intimate conversations, intimate chances to connect.

Jeanette:

And so don't sleep on audio content, but of course, another form of audio content that's been around a long time and you may think yeah, yeah, yeah, we already do this, but I'm going to touch a little bit on some ways to think about it in 2022, is podcasting. So at the bare minimum, again, this is something we're going to talk about, but your sermons should be available in an audio format. You can call it a podcast if you want, or you can just call it audio sermons. But that is an accessible way for people to get discipled, to get teaching, to hear the sermon. And one of the great things about podcasting, and I'm a podcast advocate ...

Bryan:

Enthusiast?

Jeanette:

Podcast enthusiast, podcastan, I don't know what all the words. I love podcasting. I listen to podcasts. When I'm not making a podcast, I'm listening to a podcast. I listen to it to educate myself. I listen to them for fun. I listen to them to relax. I listen to podcasts. One of the things that's really great about podcasting and what I've read recently, is that podcasting, yes, it's popular now. Guess what? It's going to become even more popular. By 2023, what was the stat I was telling you, 164 million people are going to be listening to podcasts?

Bryan:

Basically half of the US population. Yeah.

Jeanette:

I was just thinking about this when we were doing the intro, because we were talking about why audio, really? And hear me out on this. This is what I really honed down on. Why is podcasting getting even more popular than it was maybe even two years ago, three years ago? Because they've been around a while. First of all, they're easy to do. They're getting even easier than they were 10 years ago or whatever. They're easy to do. You can do them without having to look at a screen. You can listen to them without having to look at a screen.

Jeanette:

So think about over the last couple years, the whole screen fatigue, Zoom fatigue thing, whereas you might have wanted to sit down and watch something after work. Now maybe you're like, I don't, I want to go for a walk, I'm going to listen to a podcast. See what I'm saying? I don't know. That's just my ...

Bryan:

Yeah. Well, I was also going to add in because of, you just mentioned this, but because of things like Zoom fatigue or being on video all the time, video is still important, but we see I think Twitter spaces can fill this void a little bit, but also in places like Slack and other areas, they have created tools to just have huddles that are audio only because they realize that not everything needs to be a Zoom call and people get ... There's psychological factors that go into that. You know, there's a lot that goes into it. So focusing on how we are, as a church, creating audio content or maybe not even just creating, but repurposing video content to be audio, like your sermons. But you were just talking about how easy it is to create podcasts. For sure you should have your sermon as a podcast. In a lot of ways, podcasting is still kind of the Wild West a little bit.

Bryan:

There's no one like real leader. Apple is not the podcast leader. Anyone can make a podcast. You don't have to spend a ton of time and money on it. You can download an app and it'll basically do it all for you. You just talk to it, talk to your phone. There's a lot of ways that you can create content and focusing on audio, meet people where they're at. Like you were just talking about like on a walk, it's so much easier to listen to a podcast than watch a show. So focusing on that I think is a good move for many churches, for sure.

Jeanette:

And you don't have to just do sermons. You can do children's story time. You can do talking to local ministries in your area. There's a lot of different things you can do, but I think definitely looking into what your church does well, what ministry is a focus for you, what do you want to highlight? And do something based on that, I think is a great idea for 2022.

Bryan:

Yeah. What is the mission of your church? How do you accomplish that with a podcast? How can you further your mission? Absolutely. All right. So we've talked about audio. Video is still an important part of what we do beyond just sermons, but let's talk about video for social media a little bit.

Jeanette:

So with the pandemic happening, TikTok blew up.

Bryan:

Did you see it's now the number one website? Taken over Google.

Jeanette:

One of my favorite, I can't even think of the name. I don't know. I'm old, but one of the things I like to watch is this 85-year-old couple that do all the dances, but whatever is trending, they learn it and do it. It's great.

Jeanette:

But don't worry. I'm not telling you you need to go on TikTok. I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just saying you don't have to, baby steps. But because of TikTok's explosion, Instagram recently came out basically saying, we're doubling down on all of our reels efforts. Every component of their video features in Instagram is going to be centering around reels. And as we know from Meta, used to be Facebook, now Meta. Whenever they decide they want to have a new feature or highlight a new feature, it is in the best interest of your account to use it. So I highly encourage churches to think about using reals, especially if you're already on Instagram, to do that. Think about what short video content, because that's essentially what a reel is, it's a short video content vertically recorded, please, that tells a story, that shares an idea, that shares helpful tips, shares encouragement, inspiration, things like that. Churches are really good at sharing encouragement and inspiration.

Bryan:

Don't use it for ads.

Jeanette:

You know [crosstalk 00:11:24] dance? But you can. But you don't have to. And one of the people I think is really good doing the, Dave Adamson has done the same type of content for years where he is teaching you about Hebrew and how the Hebrew language, the Hebrew bible, words and their importance and their meaning. He used to do only Instagram posts. Then he did live videos. Now he's doing a lot of reels. And so something you do well at your church, I highly recommend you think about doing some short video content in the form of reels.

Bryan:

Yeah. If you are focusing on one platform, then you should be all in on that platform. So you don't need to do everything. You don't need to add TikTok and all of these other platforms, but what you're doing, do it really well. If Instagram is your platform, you're like, that's your number one platform. When Instagram introduces a new feature, start using it, because that will help you. It will help you learn how to use it and grow and how you use it. But it'll also help people engage and explore and find the stories that you're sharing, the message that you're trying to convey there.

Jeanette:

Yeah. And especially with reels, people are going to see that content, whether they follow you or not. Definitely.

Bryan:

Right. Absolutely.

Jeanette:

Yeah.

Bryan:

The cool thing about reels is you just keep scrolling, and same with TikTok. You just keep scrolling and you find stuff that you like, why else would you ever find this video other than it's in this little platform? So people will find it that have no connection to you, and it's a good way to share your message, which also means it's not a good way to use it just for church ads. So don't just share what's happening this Sunday. Be creative in what you're using it for, use it well, I think that's great.

Bryan:

And also going with the video idea, but create platform specific content, don't just post your sermon, create content that is specifically curated or repurposed for Facebook or for Instagram or for whatever. You have a lot of content, find ways to repurpose it and reuse it for those platforms, those social media uses.

Jeanette:

I agree.

Bryan:

Does that make sense?

Jeanette:

And I think too, if you wanted to do your sermon, your pastor sermons, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, whatever it is, then you can just do a 30-second version right after the service, have him say like, the number one thing I need you to know today is that God is with you all the time. He will not give up on you. Hear the full sermon, we're dropping it in our podcast. Boom.

Bryan:

That's a really good idea. Nice. Look at you.

Jeanette:

You like that? You like how I just looped it back to number one?

Bryan:

Yeah. So the third thing that I believe churches ought to either realize or focus on, is that what we keep calling hybrid church. So in person and online, that's the new normal. So it is just going to become church. Carey Nieuwhof talked about this in his article, Twelve Disruptive Trends that Will Rule 2022. He talks about basically the same idea. Hybrid church is here to stay. So how can we adapt? How can we make sure that we are incorporating both online and in person worship experiences to unify it as much as possible.

Bryan:

So this year I would challenge you as a church to think through how do we incorporate more of the online viewers into our regular gathering? What does that look like? How do we engage people better? How does it just become church rather than thinking of it as a secondary service or as something that's in many ways, I think we think of a live stream or online service as kind of a lesser than, or like a secondary option, but it's here to stay as long as your church is embracing that. So how do you create ways to engage those hybrid elements and make it a unified experience for everybody?

Jeanette:

Yeah. I think this is definitely something that churches, we want to give everybody a lot of credit for doing what needed it to get done at the time. And that was a Herculean task for many churches and they did it very well. But we've been saying this, all last year too, was okay, it's now time to think about both your online and in-person worship experiences being ... We want the experience to be specific to the people watching it online and in person, but also want, so that we're all in one community, which is kind of a hard thing to think about. But when you're just putting up a camera and you say you're inviting people in, but you're not, you're just letting them observe.

Bryan:

Yeah. Right. Right.

Jeanette:

What's happening in person, that's not the same as having a hybrid worship service. This is really a tending to the needs of, and helping those online worshipers worship as well as in person worship. I have already mentioned his name once in this episode, but I just highly recommend that you keep your eye on what Dave Adamson is working on. He has been talking a lot in his Twitter and in different places on his Instagram about this idea of this meta church. And he, he was saying meta church before Meta, before Facebook changed. But this idea of, it's not just this hybrid, but we've got to bring it all around, and we're all using the digital space to work together, to bring people together.

Jeanette:

I think he's coming out with another book. I don't know if it's coming out in 2022 or not. He's in Australia, and so by the time I was thinking about this this morning, I was like, probably can't text him right this second. So anyway, I highly recommend that we keep an eye on that. Whatever he talks about in the digital space is going to be relevant.

Bryan:

Yeah. And there's lots of ways that we can do that. But I think another trend that we see is that the church is a lot less location-specific than it used to be. So here in Michigan, we have people, a lot of people, older retired people who go to the South for the winter. Well, now it's a lot easier for them to remain connected to their church family. And so realizing that the way we do church is shifting, so let's create experiences that are both in person and online, but are one together. And how do we do that?

Bryan:

It's definitely a challenge but I think something that forward thinking churches are going to try to work through this year, I guess. So along with that would be a strategy shift. This is our fourth point, a strategy shift in how we are communicating this year. I see more information moving online and making more in person focus on the relationship itself.

Jeanette:

Yeah. Can you talk a little bit more about that, information moves online and relationship is more in person. Because we discussed this a few minutes ago too, this idea, like we've been telling people ... In my head, when you say online, I think of social media, but of course online is also email, your website, things like that. And so I think we want to clarify, we're not saying go back to just making your social media channels a bulletin board of information.

Bryan:

Please do not do that.

Jeanette:

Right. But what does that mean to information moves online, and then how do we make that information accessible?

Bryan:

Yeah. What I see happening in churches and what I have seen over the last couple years is the realization, first of all, that even before the pandemic, people were attending church in person less frequently. So I think the national average before the pandemic was once a month, one out of every four weeks, someone was attending church. So people were already attending in person less often. The problem with that is that churches historically have still focused on the in-person in print communication.

Bryan:

So the way that we are conveying and the way that we are communicating next steps, ways to get connected, of course upcoming events or whatever, but the way that we were doing that was still highly centered on being there in person. So if we are moving toward hybrid church becoming just church, and if we realize that people may not be in our area, they may be staying online. They may be coming even less frequently than before. Then the way that we communicate needs to adapt to that as well.

Bryan:

So our communication as a church needs to be in online, primarily platforms. So your website, we talk a lot about your central hub. That should be a digital place, your email communication, the way that you use social media, the way that we're communicating, should be online. The way that we are conveying presenting information should be online. The reason is because then people can connect to you. People can get the information no matter where they're at, no matter when they are looking for it, but they know where to go. They know when they can go there, whatever. It's not reliant on the bulletin anymore.

Bryan:

What that then does, I hope, is when people are in person, it frees us up to focus on those relationships because so much of what the church is, is community. So let's focus on that. Let's focus less on making sure that you know, that women's Bible study is happening on Tuesday afternoon. Let's focus on the relationships. And that's where I believe a strategy needs to shift, in person relationship, online information.

Jeanette:

And making it as easy to find as you can, get those email addresses, send good emails.

Bryan:

Yeah. And of course we talked about that in the fall. There are plenty of ways for you to communicate well using the tools that are available. So let's do it. Let's make that shift and let's free us up to focus on the community and the relationship when we actually are together, let's focus on those important things. Have anything else to add? Any last comments?

Jeanette:

What I loved about this episode is we just kind of opened the door a little bit to, these are the things to pay attention to in 2022. And I think as we go through this year, we're going to keep coming back to these particular things. And you know what I would love to do is share how some of the churches that have started implementing some of these, how they're doing it, what they see is working, maybe what's not working very well, is we're talking about conversations and connections. Let's keep that going. Because one of the things that as church communicators we need to do is we need to be willing to try the new thing, and I'm not talking about the shiny object syndrome. I know that we don't have to try every new thing because a lot of us wasted a lot of time getting our clubhouse for nothing.

Jeanette:

But we want to be willing to try a thing, willing to try a different strategy, willing to try a different tool, willing to try a different medium, to further our mission. And that's always the goal, is to share the message of the gospel with as many people as we can. And so that is what we want to do and that's where the focus has to be, but we need to be all about innovating and trying old things in new ways. Audio's been around.

Bryan:

Absolutely. Yeah. That's a good point.

Jeanette:

Yeah.

Bryan:

All right. Thank you for listening to the podcast today. If you haven't already, make sure that you subscribe wherever you're listening today, and then you will never miss a future episode. And if you are listening on Apple Podcast, it would really mean a lot if you took the time to leave us a review. That helps other church leaders find the podcast as well. And we will continue today's discussion in our Facebook group, so you can find a link to that group along with all of today's show notes and links and all of those things on our website at churchjuice.com/podcast.

Jeanette:

Church Juice's podcast is a listener supported production of Reframe Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Brian Haley with post-production by audio engineer Nate Morris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com for more information on Reframe Ministries and our family of programs, visit reframeministries.org.