How to Build Relationships

Bryan Haley

What does relationship building look like in 2021 and beyond? Today we talk about how to use those same tools we’ve created to broadcast our messaging to shift to building deeper relationships with your audience.

Show Notes

Summary

We’ve spent a lot of time and effort figuring out new ways to broadcast our message. In an effort to make sure everyone still feels connected, we’ve gotten wide with our communication—but is it time to go deeper in building relationships? What does relationship building look like in 2021 and beyond? In this episode, we talk about how to use those same tools we’ve created to broadcast our messaging to shift to building deeper relationships with your audience.

Today's guest

Brandi Jones | @iambrandijo
Women's Missionary Union of Texas

In this episode

Fellowship Church in Grand Junction, CO

Valleydale Church in Birmingham, AL

Transcript

Jeanette:

Over the last year, we've spent a lot of time and effort figuring out new ways to broadcast our message. In an effort to make sure everyone still feels connected, we've gotten wide with our communication. But is it time to go deeper in building relationships? What does relationship-building look like in 2021 and beyond? Today, we talk about how to use those same tools we've created to broadcast our messaging to shift to building deeper relationships with your audience.

Bryan:

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

Jeanette:

Yes, we are. And I am so excited to welcome one of my favorite, very energetic people, Brandi Jones to the podcast today. Brandi is the marketing specialist for Women's Missionary Union of Texas. Did I get that right, Brandi?

Brandi:

That is a mouthful, right? Yes.

Bryan:

And you're the social media specialist at your church, right?

Brandi:

Yeah. I'm the marketing specialist for WMU of Texas, a lot shorter. And I'm also that social media manager for Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville, Texas. It's a fun job. In my full-time job, I get to help tell the story of WMU of Texas because we've been around for over 133 years, but our statewide ministry has seen a decline in the last few years. So we're trying to breathe some new life into it and share a light on the mission work that is happening across the state and how can be a part of that. Pretty cool.

Brandi:

So WMU, if you don't know what that is, because I know a lot of people are like, "What?" We're about empowering people to participate in missions and how to live a missional lifestyle. And we actually have groups that you could do at your church for preschool and children and students and young adults and adults. We help you create these local groups in your church that are missions-focused, and it's a pretty awesome organization. So I'm excited to be a part of it.

Bryan:

How long have you been there?

Brandi:

Not long. So I started a week before the shelter-in-place orders. Yeah. My goal was to get in there and learn for about a year about the organization. And yeah, I got in there in a week into the job. They're like, "Hey, we're not online. So help us do that. We're not on social."

Jeanette:

Yeah. Well, speaking of social, you do spend a lot of time on social media for both of your jobs. One of the things I want to ask you is how has Facebook and Instagram made an impact on the role of your ministry? So thinking about it from the WMU perspective, but also in your work with just your church, how has maybe getting WMU on social media, how has that made an impact in your ministry?

Brandi:

Yeah, that's a great question because it reconnected us to our community. I think pre-COVID, we were very one-way, just about, "Let us send you an email about what we're working on, and then come to our event twice a year. We have this huge event. That's where 700 people come." And that's where they can have that relationships. They can connect with one other, fellowship.

Brandi:

But when COVID happened, we used Facebook and Instagram to say one, "You're not alone. We're still here. So let's connect. Let's see what you're doing," Because we had no idea what the ministries across the state at our 5,300 churches were doing. So we created like a space in Facebook groups and that allowed us to do live together 24-7. Even though we're not able to meet, we can still check in on one another. So that's been a wonderful experience, and I'm actually trying to do the same with our church as well.

Bryan:

How's that going?

Brandi:

It's going. No. So I've been a member at this church for a year, but I just joined the social media ministry in the last month or about a month and a half now. So it's been trying to change the mindset of... Because we only used our platform to communicate that we had a Sunday service coming up, and "Oh, by the way, we also have a Wednesday service coming up." So we're moving from just letting people know that that's happening to, "Okay. Let's provide some value here. What concerns are you facing in life? How can we make our content speak to that?"

Bryan:

Absolutely. So you talked a little bit about how when you started at WMU just over a year ago, they really didn't have a social media presence and you guys started that. I think a lot of churches are in the same boat either. Either they didn't have online streaming before COVID or they didn't really have an online presence and suddenly everything is shut down. And so we have to have an online presence. So what would you say to those churches who have expanded into new ways to broaden their message, but now they're trying to figure out how to make it manageable and how to make it more sustainable? What would you say to those churches?

Brandi:

I would say be intentional with how you're using the platform. A lot of times, a manager starts with a social media presence and they don't really know what to do so they're all over the place. What's worked for us is to say we know exactly what we're going to be posting because we've created this content template. We know exactly how we're going to use our Facebook platform. That's going to be our platform to build relationships. Our Instagram platform is going to be the one to share the stories of our members and what we're doing as a church. And during my full-time job at WMU, it's our platform to share how we're doing missions across the state.

Brandi:

So knowing exactly how we're using our platform and then doing that, the goals that we set forth, that's made our job easier and it allows us to keep it going in the future. I would also say that we need to remember that our platforms are an extension of our ministry. We see social media as a tool and I'm like, "No, no, no. It is a tool, but it's also a ministry. How can we use it to disciple one another? How can we use it to connect and build relationships?" So just remembering that and being intentional with your use, I think will help you at least in the next few years as we figure this out.

Bryan:

Absolutely. That's great.

Jeanette:

And a lot of times, I see this in the social media marketing space, that social media isn't the strategy. It's the tool to help you use your strategy. You have to go ahead and develop the strategy, to your point, to develop the content for the strategy, and then using social media to execute it. One of the things I want to dive into now though is, I mean, you're never going to not broadcast an event, tell people that there's an event.

Jeanette:

Now, you might stop telling people that there's church every single Sunday. Maybe that's just on a place on your Facebook page, for example, or in your highlights on Instagram. But when something big is happening, you're going to broadcast that information. Yes. But there's also what we're talking about today, which is that building relationship. And I would love for you to tell our listeners, what does that look like practically? How might that look on a church Instagram? Or you can even talk about it from the WMU account as well, but how does that look like for a church? How do they balance that, "We need to tell you that something is happening, but also we want to show you what God is doing in and through the people of our church." What does that look like practically?

Brandi:

When I started at WMU, I wanted to make sure that yes, we promoted. We have these events and our state offering that we want you to contribute and participate with. But also, our account isn't just here to just talk at you. We also want to know what's happening in your life. We want to know what's happening in your ministries. So one of the ways that for WMU, what we did is we created a Facebook group, which allowed us to have two-way communication. That worked really well for the church. That's a little bit different ministry versus a statement ministry. One of the things that we did is that we went from, on our live stream, very simple task. We went from just putting it out there, not talking in the live stream to actually engaging with our members.

Brandi:

And that has blown up. We went from 20 comments and now we have over 300 comments in our live stream each Sunday. On Wednesdays, we have around 100 asking people to tell us how their week is going and how can we pray for you. And my favorite, just welcoming you and saying, "Hey, Sister Sally, welcome back." That makes people feel like, "We're not just a follower. We're not just a member. We're actually someone that you have a human connection with." We also ask questions, which that was for us to change our content a little bit from, again, just broadcasting to, "What's going on with you this week?" Or just a general question like, "What's the best place to go out to eat after church on Sunday?" We just want to have some fun with you, and actually, it's allowed us to have some more information about our audience so we can actually provide content that's a little bit more catered to them.

Brandi:

But then now, I know also, if I want to do a giveaway, where to get a gift card. We're using that data to learn. And messaging. Messaging has been really great for us using the DMs to say "Hey, we prayed for you last week. How's everything going?" And our messaging has doubled throughout the last couple of months because now, people are like, "Oh, they want to know. I want to go and tell the church what's happening in my life." We love that connection that we're building.

Jeanette:

I really like how you're using, like you said, the DMs or the Messenger inside the Facebook platform. That really does show a shift that's happening, I think, in communication because we went from no social media to social media, then everything communicating out big, big, big, and now the trend is coming back to that more smaller, in the groups, in the DMs, in the Messenger. And I think that's because people are craving that more personal connection. I know my kids use social media all the time, but if you were to pull up their public profile, you would see nothing on there because everything is happening in the DMS. For the younger generations also, that personal connection is very, very important.

Brandi:

We're seeing that. We're starting to see our members talk more, which tells me that they want that connection. So instead of ignoring that trend, let's hop on it and let's cultivate it and let's see where that goes. And we've only met twice in the past year as a congregation. So I'm really excited to see as we build these relationships online, how is that going to translate to when we do get back in service? We know it's not going to be the same. We know we're going to have the in-person and we're going to have a live stream component to it. But I really think people are going to be like, "Westside really cares about us. I want to definitely get back into church and get more involved." So hopefully.

Bryan:

Absolutely. So for a church who's just getting started, maybe even a smaller church, so they don't have the full team right now or a staff that's devoted to social media or even to communication, how would you encourage them to make this transition from broadcasting to building relationships? I mean, we talked about obviously groups and messages, but practically speaking, how do we make that transition? What does that transition even look like?

Brandi:

I mean, it starts with just being intentional, right? Going back, I'm always going to focus on that, being intentional with your content and your engagement. So I think the very first thing you can do is just start having conversations online. That's easy. Any church in Texas, you probably have a live stream right now, and live streams have the chat feature on YouTube, and I don't know, maybe on your website or in your app or on Facebook. We'll just start asking people, "How's it going?" and start welcoming them. And that's an easy way to start. When I speak with churches around the state, I always ask them, "When's your live stream? I want to hop on on Sunday." And every single time I do that, the church is not talking to anyone in that live stream.

Brandi:

So I'm like, "That's a great opportunity for you just to do live with someone, at least for an hour on Sunday." The other thing I would do is say, "Make room in your content schedule to again, ask a question or just start engaging with people." If you're the manager of a social media page and someone posts something publicly, see if you can swap your profile to the church and respond back to that person if they're celebrating an anniversary, or maybe their child just did something great in sports or at school. As a church, you're like, "Hey, we just wanted to say congratulations, and we have something for you when we get back together on Sunday." That's just you being intentional about seeking out those relationships.

Brandi:

And then one thing that you can do right now... and I don't see a lot of churches doing this... is we're actually responding to people who comment on their content. So many times, we'll put out something, a post, and then someone will actually stop scrolling, read the posts, and then comment. That's a lot of effort, right, on social media?

Bryan:

Right.

Brandi:

And then we won't as a brand or the church say anything in return. I'm like, we're just [crosstalk 00:13:31]-

Bryan:

It just sits there.

Brandi:

Yeah. It just sits there. I'm like, "You're telling me that person you don't value them." And I don't know how anyone else feels. When I interact with brands like Southwest Airlines or whatever, I get upset when they don't respond. So I know it's probably the same.

Bryan:

That's valid. Yeah.

Jeanette:

And you also feel very cool when they do respond. You're like, "Oh my God, listen, guys. I shared on Twitter the other day that one of my favorite Italian dishes is tortellini alla panna and I mentioned that it had Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the cheese followed me back. The cheese."

Bryan:

That's awesome.

Jeanette:

And I was like, a cheese has followed me on Twitter. I was very excited. So-

Bryan:

How cool are you, Jeanette.

Jeanette:

But yeah, I mean, I think obviously that's a silly example, but that is the type... We get that feeling when... Yes, we'd love it when the pastor or the church secretary or the youth leader comments on our post personally, but it is also cool to have the church speak into whatever is going on that we're celebrating on social media or something like that. So that's really cool.

Brandi:

I know. Something else, now that you brought up the whole cheese thing like, "They saw me. They acknowledged me." One of the things that we're playing around with now is as we go out there as a manager and our social media team, we go out there and we look for what's happening in our members' lives and our followers' lives. And if we come across a post as appropriate to share, something great that's happened, we share that to our public page, and our members really love that content. And now, because we're starting to do that, now they want to share, right? They're DM-ing us like, "So-and-so happened. Can you share it to the page?" So [crosstalk 00:15:15]-

Bryan:

That's really great.

Jeanette:

That happened to me when I was working at my church. You have the Women's Missionary Union. We have United Methodist Women at my church, and they were mostly a group of senior citizens. And they would have a couple of events a year, and I would go and take pictures, and I posted one on social media. And I got several emails and a couple of phone calls that were like, "I would also like to see my picture profile on the main page. Thank you." And so they do love when they get... and especially this group, because they were sometimes feeling less acknowledged because they're not the youth going on a mission trip or whatever, but being able to share about what they were doing, they were very excited for that. So two reasons to share.

Bryan:

For sure.

Brandi:

I love it.

Jeanette:

Brandi, you shared the answer to this on your Instagram earlier this week or last week, but what are some of the churches that are doing things well? If you could just give us a church building relationships really well online, and then just tell us what they're doing.

Brandi:

So this is going to sound crazy, but I'm always looking for churches and I'm like, "Okay. I haven't really found a bunch of churches that are doing relationships well that I can see from the front end." They could be doing a ton behind the scenes. Two that I love are Fellowship Church in Grand Junction, Colorado. And actually, let me add another one, Valleydale Church in Birmingham. Those two churches are really great about asking questions, getting to know their followers, and they actually spend the time to respond, but they don't just respond like, "Okay, that's great." Right? They ask open-ended questions. So they keep the conversation going.

Brandi:

And if you're a social media marketer, you know that algorithms love conversations in the thread. So that's going to keep your posts alive a little bit longer. So I love what they're doing, but they also provide value-added content. They know who their target audience is. They know what their pain points are, their challenges, their celebrations, all of that, and they're providing content that speaks to that. And that's what's going to stop the scroll, that content that has you thinking, "They're in my mind," that makes you feel, "I was just going through that. I needed to see this post."

Bryan:

So what's an example of value-added content? Because I think that's definitely a marketing term. I think if you're in marketing, secular world, that makes sense. But if you're in ministry, you may not understand what value-added content actually is. So can you give us an example of what that looks like?

Brandi:

Yeah. I tell people, "You have to know who your audience is and you have to know what they're going through in life. What are they experiencing right now?" A great example of this is I go to a African-American church, and this last year has been rough just with everything that's going on in the world. So instead of not acknowledging that, not putting any type of content out there, we decided to talk about it. How does what's happening in the world and making you feel right now? That's value added. It's acknowledging that you're going through something, and we see that, and we want to one, maybe put out something encouraging to give you hope during this time, or maybe ask you a question so we can just see where your heart's at.

Brandi:

And then that information is evaluated on two points. One, you're building that relationship with your followers. But two, it tells us as ministry leaders, "Okay, this is where we need to work on. If we know that our congregation is struggling and we know that they're struggling in this aspect, maybe we need to focus our Wednesday night Bible study on this topic or maybe we need to get the pastor to do a video talking about this, or maybe do a Zoom call offline and have those conversations." So like I said, it's value added on both fronts. So that's one example, but it's just knowing your audience and what they're going through, providing content.

Bryan:

That's helpful, I think. Yeah, absolutely. You talked earlier about how at your church, you guys have really only met, I think, did you say twice in the last year? So when we talk about building relationships online, what do you think that's going to look like when it's both online and in person? How do you bridge that? What do you think that's going to look like in the future?

Brandi:

That's a great question, and those are conversations that we're having behind the scenes right now because we don't know. We're actually trying to figure out right now at church how can we meet in person whenever we do come back together later this year, but also make sure that our relationships and congregation or the members online that we built this past year, they still feel heard and everything?

Brandi:

So one of the things that we're doing... and we've actually done this in the past few months... is that we use our pulpit... Because we do have some people in the church when we record. We're not just talking to you in the building. We make sure that the pastor and the worship leader actually talk to the people watching online, and they do a great job. Our minister of music, he's always right before worship starts, "Hey, talk to us in a chat. Let us know what's going..." Or, "Type this in the chat if you completely feel me," and our pastor asks questions in the chat. He's intentional about acknowledging that people online. So that's one thing we do know we're going to continue going forward to make sure people in the building and online.

Bryan:

I think that's really helpful. So one last question. If you could say one thing to a church to help them make this shift from broadcasting a message to building relationships, what would that one thing be?

Brandi:

Can I go back to what I've already said?

Bryan:

Absolutely.

Brandi:

Be intentional about how you're using your platform. If you decide, "Today, April 30th, I want to start building relationships," well then, be intentional about doing that. What does that look like? And if you're not really sure, just start with a conversation starter. Get the conversation flowing on whatever platform you're using.

Jeanette:

And I think what you're saying... And I'm going to throw out another marketing term, but it's pretty obvious what it means, but we can talk about it for just a second before we wrap up. What you're talking about, Brandi, is going from saying something to somebody to listening to what they have to say. And so a conversation means you might start the conversation by asking a question, but then you really need to listen to what they're saying. And then of course, you also mentioned that "market research" where you're actually paying attention to what they are posting, what's going on in their lives, how they're responding, and then using that to generate more content to keep the conversation going or dive deeper into things that they're concerned about. So I think that that is the next step most churches, if not all... They got on board with live stream. They got on board with broadcasting. We're now moving into that. Let's take this to a deeper level of building relationships, discipleship, all that stuff.

Jeanette:

And then part of that is learning how to listen, just like you would if you were only meeting in person, there's no TV, there's no automobiles, there's no nothing, and you're just walking around on the roads. You're listening to each other, talking. You're engaging. I've mentioned your Instagram. I haven't mentioned your handle yet, but I know that's one of my favorite places to follow you, but I want you to let the listeners know if they want to see the content that you're sharing for churches, where can they find that and where can they reach out to you if they have more questions?

Brandi:

You can reach out to me on all the platforms. I'm a little sad to say that. I am Brandi Jo, and yeah, just feel free to follow and really just feel free to interact. I value that. Let's chat about what's going on. You can also reach me... I have a website, although it's a little outdated, so no judging. I need to work on getting it updated, but I am brandijo.com. And if you have any questions about just what WMU is, I definitely want you to check that out as well. And you can go to wmutx.org to learn more about our organization or just to see how we're using social media to build relationships there. So thank you so much, guys.

Bryan:

That's awesome. Thanks for joining us today.

Jeanette:

Yeah. Thank you.

Brandi:

Fun. I love it.

Bryan:

Well, we love being able to talk with church communicators from across the globe, and we believe that every church and every church communicator's story is unique and valuable. So this week, we'll be continuing today's discussion on Church Juices insiders Facebook group. You can join the insiders group as well as get today's show notes and a discussion guide for leading your own team talk by going to 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.