Communication in a Small Church Setting

Bryan Haley

Hear from a real-life church communication leader from a small church. What's different about communications in small churches? What can you learn from other churches, regardless of the size of your congregation?

Show Notes

Summary

In this episode, hear from a real-life church communication leader from a small church. What's different about communications in small churches? What can you learn from other churches, regardless of the size of your congregation?

Today's guest

Ahna Ziegler | Discovery Church
Church Juice Insider's Facebook Group

Transcript

Jeanette:

We've all seen the live stream of a mega church. You've probably viewed the Instagram story from a church you admire. But how much should your small church aspire to be like those larger churches? If you are a smaller church, where should you place your emphasis in communications and marketing? How can you achieve that same great product without that same large budget? We're talking about communications in a small church setting today on the podcast.

Bryan:

Hey, church communicator. Welcome to The Church Juice Podcast. I'm Bryan Haley, the producer of Church Juice, and I'm joined with my cohost, Jeanette Yates. We are here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

Yes, Bryan, we are. And today, I am honored to welcome Ahna Ziegler. She is the digital content manager at Discovery Church. Absolutely. Ahna, welcome to the show.

Ahna:

Thanks.

Bryan:

Why don't you just take a moment, introduce yourself, introduce your church, and tell us kind of more of what you do.

Ahna:

Well, I'm from Grand Rapids. Discovery Church is a small church on the south side of Grand Rapids. I started working there, part-time, a couple of years ago. So, I really just do a few hours a week and try to cram in as much as I can in a few hours. So, I kind of created the job for myself, and I'm happy that they decided to make it a job for me, so.

Bryan:

That's awesome. So, what does your job actually entail?

Ahna:

I manage the website, and communicate with our website administrator, who we hire out, and then, I create all of our content for Facebook and Instagram, and any other digital content we need.

Bryan:

That's great.

Jeanette:

That sounds like a lot for a little bit of time. Congratulations for you to be able to stick to a certain number of hours, I'm already impressed.

Bryan:

Absolutely. Great.

Jeanette:

So, I'm going to actually go ahead and jump into these questions, here, that we have for you today. We were, I kind of mentioned in the introduction, that we all, as church communicators, have that larger church that we look at and are like, "Oh, their stuff is so awesome." And, I'm sure you keep your eyes on the Instagram feeds from larger churches, for example. When you're viewing or engaging with those other churches, how do you take the concepts you see in larger churches, and apply them to your own context? How do you do that?

Ahna:

Yeah, I think, first, I had to get to a point of realizing that I don't need to compete with larger churches. You know, we're not trying to steal members from other churches either, right? So, we don't need to compete. A lot of times, what I see from larger churches just doesn't fit who we are as a small church. So, I might think more design-wise, like, "Oh, I like the style they're using. I need a refresh in my graphic design brain", or, just getting content ideas for, "You know, I haven't shown people's faces for a while." And that just reminds me like, oh, here's a different content thing, I've kind of been in a rut. So, it might just be more general ideas instead of saying, oh, I want to do this exact campaign that they're doing, which wouldn't make sense in our context.

Bryan:

So, can you tell us a little bit more about the context of your church, kind of some of the demographics and kind of what your target is?

Ahna:

Yeah, so I think we have... Probably about 50 people showing up on Sunday mornings. We have been meeting outside, as long as the weather is nice, and we get a lot more people outside. And so, our livestream really only has like five to ten households viewing right now. During the winter, when we were inside, we had a much larger split, right? A lot more people watching online, instead of coming in. But it's still pretty small attendance. We have people from, kind of all over the city, coming, who just have been coming for a long time. And we really engage with our neighborhood, in Cutlerville, to try to get our neighbors to come and be a neighborhood church. So, there's not a lot of racial diversity, but there is a lot of socioeconomic diversity.

Bryan:

Okay.

Ahna:

So I think we would like to have more racial diversity, but that's a different conversation, probably.

Jeanette:

So, you mentioned live streaming as something that you do at your church and, going back to the pandemic time, that was a big thing for your church, a big part of how you did church, but, livestreaming can sound kind of, fancy and expensive. Can you talk a little bit about, in a setting like yours at Discovery, how streaming works, and how you're doing that and how you've adapted over the year, as the needs have changed?

Ahna:

Yeah. So we started out... Way back when everything shut down, we were just meeting over Zoom. And then, as the weather got nicer, we met outside, and our livestream was just a tablet on Zoom, showing it. So, it was not great quality, but it was enough to get people connected. And then, as the colder weather started coming back, we actually... A friend who used to attend, and is at Ada Bible, he actually, they basically hire him out to churches to help set up livestreams. So, that was huge for us, that he could consult with us, and kind of look at the range of, here's the range that I could help you set up, where do you want to be? So, I knew that one camera would be enough for us, for now. So, our aim was to spend about $1500. So, it was a big deal for us, but we decided it's not just for pandemic, we're going to keep doing it. So it will be worth it. So, we have one camera, and we have an ATEM Mini Switcher, and we upgraded our internet. And I think that was the main thing. So, now we can just drag the camera outside and livestream when we're outside and drag it back in when we're inside, so.

Bryan:

So, you talked a little bit about how you made this investment, or the church made this investment, because you plan to keep the live stream post-pandemic. What do you think that's going to look like?

Ahna:

I mean, I think it will look pretty much like it does now, that people who are too sick to come to church, people who maybe are even on vacation, can log in. We have some older members who just can't drive all the time, especially during the winter. And so, I think they'll love having that option to stay connected and not have to decide, do I drive on the roads, to see my friends, or do I just stay on the live stream? So, I think those are things we didn't think about before. I think Jeanette, you've talked before about, live stream was important before this and we didn't realize it.

Jeanette:

Right.

Ahna:

That was an attitude shift for us.

Jeanette:

Well, and I think you bring up something that I feel very passionate about, because, you talk about, there are people that are ill, or, elderly, and they've not been safe coming to church, for a long time.

Bryan:

Right.

Ahna:

Right.

Jeanette:

My mother is someone who's home bound, and, she's like, when the pandemic hit and everybody, all the churches started going online, She's like, "I think this is great. Everyone is finally understanding what I've been going through for the past decade," or however long it had been. And so, I think that's one of the areas that's been really great for me to see, personally, is how churches are saying, "Oh, this is something that we can take into the post-pandemic time, because we see how there are so... It's not just this one time thing, there's other people that can benefit." And, like you said, even people on vacation, you know? It's not... So, I love that. But you mentioned, when we were talking about, as communicators, keeping our eyes on the fancy churches, and you mentioned design, as something that you kind of pull from, a little bit, but, obviously, when you're thinking about design and you're looking at those bigger churches, they have, probably a whole team, who knows?

Ahna:

Right. Yeah.

Bryan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeanette:

And many, many church communicators, including you, don't have that. So, how can you get inspiration through that design work, but also have great design for your own church, with less people, lot less, and a lot less budget? How do you get that done?

Bryan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ahna:

Yeah, well, I do have a background in some design; a lot of it's self-taught. So, there is a lot of it, is being my own interest to learn it and do it well. I do have access to Adobe products, which I think helped me get started. I use Adobe Spark, now, more than I use Photoshop, because I can just keep the same elements there, and have like, a, oh, this is my template for sharing a quote, and I don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. So, when I see things that I like from other churches, or other spaces, sometimes, it's just looking back at my templates and saying, I think I need a refresh on this, because this feels old and stale. So, what do I like about this other church? You know, it's not usually changing fonts, because I want to stick with our branding fonts. And I obviously want to keep our colors and our logo there, but, just a different way of presenting how the text lays on this image, or what kind of images we use. Trying to break it down into practicals.

Bryan:

That's really great.

Ahna:

Was that helpful at all?

Bryan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Ahna:

Okay.

Bryan:

I was trying to see where we were in our outline.

Jeanette:

I was like, "Okay,"

Bryan:

...and got distracted, I'm sorry. So, as we kind of wrap up, what is one piece of advice that you would give to someone listening today?

Ahna:

I think I'm going to have to give the advice that I always hated hearing. Because, I always want someone to tell me, practically, exactly, "Here's what you can... Here's what you should post this week." Right? Or, "Here's a post that you can make without having to spend time on it." But, I do think the best advice is to know who your church is, who you're trying to reach, and just have that so ingrained that you have the gut for, here's something that I should put out and here's what will fit us. So, sometimes, when I'm stuck in a rut, or I don't have time to create a post, I don't feel like I have the time to do that.

Bryan:

Yeah, totally.

Ahna:

But if I don't do that, then I'm never going to post anything that's appropriate, so.

Jeanette:

I think that's something that we can all relate to. And, I think that's the number one question every church communicator should ask, before doing anything, is like, who's your audience for this post, or this email, or this website page, or whatever. So, Ahna, I really enjoyed talking to you today. If someone else wants to reach out to you, maybe has more questions, or maybe wants to get some of those design tricks that you were sharing, what is the best way to get in contact with you?

Ahna:

Well, I am in the Church Juice Facebook group, the Church Juice Insiders. So, it would be pretty easy to find me there. I'm pretty attentive to Facebook Messenger and I-

Bryan:

And you're pretty active in it, too.

Ahna:

...yes, I am pretty active in it. So, you can find me there and we can always move over to email, too.

Bryan:

Okay. That's awesome. Thank you for joining us today.

Ahna:

Yeah, thank you.

Bryan:

We love being able to talk with church communicators from all over the place, and we believe that every church, and every communicator story, is unique and valuable. This week, we'll be continuing today's discussion in the Church Juice's Insiders Facebook group, like Ahna just mentioned. You can join the Insiders group, as well as get today's show notes and a discussion guide, by going to church juice.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.