Small Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Church Communications in the New Year

Bryan Haley

Want to make some communication improvements? Here is some low-hanging fruit to help you get a fresh start for 2022.

Show Notes

Episode Summary

A lot of people make resolutions for the new year. And while these aren’t always practical, the foundational principle is that a fresh start, with the turn of the calendar, is a great time to evaluate, set goals, and find ways to improve. Here are some easy things you can do between now and the end of the year to help give yourself a fresh start in 2022.

Mentioned in This Episode

Transcript

Jeanette:

As we close out the year on 2021, it's a great time to think ahead about what you can do to communicate better in the new year.

Jeanette:

Lots of people make resolutions for the new year and while these aren't always practical, the foundational principle is that a fresh start with the turn of the calendar is a great time to evaluate, set goals and find ways to improve.

Jeanette:

Today we're talking about practical things you can do to improve your church communications in the new year.

Bryan:

Hey, church communicator. Welcome to the Church Juice podcast. I'm Bryan Haley, the producer, and I'm joined, as always, by Jeanette Yates. We are here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

Yes, oh my goodness. I cannot believe we're getting ready to wrap up ...

Bryan:

I know.

Jeanette:

... another year. It's been a blur.

Bryan:

Yeah, I think I said in a couple episodes ago, it feels like 2020 extended.

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

This all just feels like one really long year.

Jeanette:

Well, okay. And so, speaking of this being really like 2020 extended ...

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

... New Year's resolutions, I love a New Year's resolu... It really is not a resolution, but I love like setting goals of the new year.

Bryan:

Yeah, right. I do the same.

Jeanette:

I can't even tell you what my goals were, at this point. I don't even know what ... I need to go find them.

Bryan:

I don't even know where I wrote them down, to be completely honest.

Jeanette:

Yeah, well I do because I have my, I do my full focus planner. I got to go dig through the first quarter and see like where did it all go wrong? What happened?

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

I think I was going to write a book this year.

Bryan:

Oh man.

Jeanette:

Yeah.

Bryan:

Lofty goals.

Jeanette:

Well, I mean, I have a book in my brain. It's just a matter of putting it out in the world. But anyway, so resolutions and all that kind of stuff, it's just been a blur this year too. But we're optimistic that in 2022 we can get back on track. And so we want to help churches today to get that process started.

Bryan:

That's right.

Jeanette:

By just doing some like really basic things, as they steamroll through December.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

And hit January. We want to make sure they stop in January, and not just run straight through to February. We want to get some things done in those first couple weeks.

Bryan:

Absolutely. We want to give you guys as listeners, just low hanging fruit basically. Simple things that you can do, that you can take, five minutes, an hour and do some of these things because we realize, it's the holidays.

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

And everyone's busy, but January is right around the corner.

Jeanette:

Yeah. So all of these things are really quick. They're not super intense. All these kind of things, but they are things that you will forget in the whirlwind of all of the stuff that you're doing for your church, for your family, for the holidays. And so just making sure, we want you to just put a pin in these things, set up a reminder on your phone to like, I need to make sure we do this today.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

And now make your new year communications start off on the right foot.

Bryan:

You're just getting ahead a little bit too.

Jeanette:

Right, right.

Bryan:

Right. And I think the next episode, we're going to talk about more kind of evaluating. So we talked a little bit about goals and resolutions, but the end of the year, beginning of the year, is a great time to spend time evaluating and doing a deep dive. So we'll talk about that in a little bit, but today we want to just give you easy things that you can do in middle of Christmas and everything else that's happening, to get yourself on the right foot as we head into 2022.

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

I'll be honest, I can't remember which year it is at this point, because I've been working on next year's stuff in this year, and it feels like last year. So let's dive in. What is the first you think that a church communicator could do, this week, or this month, to quickly improve their communication?

Jeanette:

This actually has a specific date and time that you want to think about, the first two things. So the first thing is to just update your images on your website.

Bryan:

Mm hmm (affirmative).

Jeanette:

And you can begin that before the calendar flips to 2022. You can start that process. So it doesn't, and maybe not even every page on your website. Just the ones that people go to. You know how to check your analytics, hopefully. We can dive deeper with that, but you know what pages are getting seen the most. Just update those images and then of course, if you're doing any type of print media, maybe kind of get another pick in that flyer or in that postcard, right?

Bryan:

Right. But it's also good to think through seasonally too, right?

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

Like if you are in the north, like I am, you probably don't want pictures of kids outside in the summer, because it's going to be snowing. So you want to make sure that your images are fresh and that, if you have images of kids, kids change and grow, and their looks change. So make sure that you're updating those just so that they're fresh and relevant.

Jeanette:

That's so funny that you mentioned that because I did not even think about that, because we have no seasons ...

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

... where I am, so thank you for bringing that up.

Bryan:

It's hot, and less hot.

Jeanette:

Yeah, so we're, it's fine. Yeah, so I think that's a very easy thing you can do. It's something you can do kind of gradually as you have a couple of minutes here and there, refreshing. And then the second one is the one that really, to me has, there's a couple things you can do ahead of time, but then there's a specific day and I'm going to tell you.

Bryan:

Okay.

Jeanette:

So the second thing to do is refresh the content. So now this, we said everything takes five minutes. Obviously rewriting all of the content on your website and any print media would take a lot of time. But sometimes there's things, and I know this is true because I have been in your shoes, church communicator, and I know that I might be doing things in the weekly bulletin and constantly changing things or changing that certain event's page on the website all the time.

Bryan:

Mm hmm (affirmative).

Jeanette:

But then there's like other places that don't get a lot of attention. And so the language becomes stale or just kind of, maybe you all, at our church our mission hasn't changed obviously, but the way we communicate it has changed. And so for example, the front of our bulletin, we needed to change what it said on the front of it.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

Reflect our new way of telling what our mission was, for example. But that's not something I dealt with because I was on the inside of the bulletin, back in the day, this is back in the days ...

Bryan:

Interesting.

Jeanette:

... paper bulletins. And the same thing goes for your website. Is there any place that kind of, in addition to having like an image that might need to be replaced, is there a different way that your church is communicating your mission, your vision, your values?

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

Is there a way that you can kind of refresh that? But the number one way to refresh your content this holiday season, is to make sure your Christmas services are not still listed on the front page of your website the day after Christmas.

Bryan:

That's true.

Jeanette:

That happened to me almost every year where I would be in the middle of my Christmas morning and realize it still had the, link here to attend Christmas Eve, or something like that.

Bryan:

Yeah, right.

Jeanette:

And so just having a reminder. Maybe you don't need to do it on Christmas Day because nobody's searching for your website on Christmas Day, probably, but make sure it's on the top list of things to do, is to get that off of there.

Bryan:

Yeah. This time of year, it's very easy for stuff to get outdated. We have so much happening with Thanksgiving over the last couple months and whatever you're doing through the holiday season, Christmas Eve, everything that's happening. So it's very easy for us to miss those things. So keep an eye out, make sure that you're refreshing that content. I think that's good. And that makes a lot of sense too. You don't need to do a complete rewrite right now, but just make sure it's fresh and not stale, like you said.

Jeanette:

Right.

Bryan:

That's good.

Jeanette:

Yeah, because depending on, maybe you are planning on taking the whole week off after Christmas, that's your vacation time.

Bryan:

Yeah, yeah.

Jeanette:

Just make sure someone else can go do that for you. You don't have to do it, but just have it scheduled for whoever is taking care of your odds and ends. That doesn't stay up until you get back. Just being aware of little things like that make a big difference because people might, they're trying to make their New Year's resolutions too. And a lot of times it's like, okay, we're going to be doing better about going to church.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

So let's go to our church website or go find a new church, or whatever, and they're searching. And then you want that content to be front and center, to be fresh and pointing them towards 2022.

Bryan:

That's true.

Jeanette:

Not hearkening back to Christmas 2021.

Bryan:

Yeah, absolutely. It's interesting too, just kind of a tangent, to see ... I know in my previous church, we saw a significant bump at the beginning of January in attendance because people, that is their resolution or something that they realize as important, whether because of the holidays or New Year, or whatever, it's good to have consistently updated content there.

Bryan:

So let's branch out a little bit or take maybe a more bird's eye view for a second. Looking at the calendar, I think now is a good time to look at the calendar and think ahead. What do you think that looks like?

Jeanette:

Speaking to specifically the church communicator here, when you're listening to this, your church may have already done their annual planning meeting, in which case, hopefully you already have a calendar in place, or at least a rough outline. But let's say, like many churches, this has not happened yet.

Bryan:

Mm hmm (affirmative).

Jeanette:

And you're like, well how do I plan? How do I look at a bird's eye view of something we haven't really even planned? So, two things. If you already have a calendar, go ahead and look at it and see what's already there. And you can already start dreaming and strategizing. But let's say you haven't had that meeting, or in that meeting, there was a ton of ideas, but we don't have anything.

Bryan:

Yeah, no decisions.

Jeanette:

One of the things that I did that was always really helpful, even before we had our annual meeting or we had our annual planning or quarterly planning, was, after I worked there a couple years, I knew the basics of what was going to happen. I knew the big events that were going to happen, and I generally knew when they were going to happen. So I might not know the specific dates, but I know that VBS is going to be the first week in June, around that. So I would go block out those dates. Easter, the time of Easter changes every year, but you can Google that and find out when that is and find out when the Lenten season starts and find out when Holy Week is and Easter Sunday, and block out those dates. Even block out the Christmas of 2022 for next year. And then if your church does any other big community events, Fall Festival, that's typically around the same time. Our Pumpkin Patch always starts on September 30th and goes to October 31st.

Jeanette:

I knew those things ahead of time. I blocked them out and then I could already start to plan, okay, this is when this is happening. How far out do I need to go to start promoting these specific things?

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

Then I was able to kind of shade those calendars out, and then that let me see where there was space to create and build more from that. But it really helped me not to be so overwhelmed. Like I've got 365 days to try to plan.

Bryan:

Until next Christmas, yeah.

Jeanette:

Right. But I really didn't because we had these things that we were going to be promoting in a fairly similar way. The timeline was going to be fairly much the same and so I was able to kind of whittle that down to be more manageable, bite size chunks for myself. So I highly recommend doing that as you're looking into 2022.

Bryan:

I know that I've seen, it's so easy, especially in the last year or two, it's so easy to get caught into the immediate or the urgent, that we don't ever have time to look ahead as a communicator. So just taking a moment to think through, yeah, we know that Easter's coming in the middle of April, so what can we be doing right now to plan ahead for that? What kind of steps do we need to take? What meetings do we need to set up to make sure that we're thinking through these things, rather than waiting till the end of March to think about Easter Sunday, right?

Jeanette:

Well, and it really helped me too, to be able to say, I need to start asking this person about their ministry event, January 15th, because it's coming. And so I was able to mark on my calendar even like when to start reaching out to the different ministries for their information and for what I needed to do my job. And so I think that was helpful too, where some things were going to be happening sooner than I thought, by the time I planned out the events happening here, we need to start promoting here, which means I need to have all the information.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

So that was really helpful.

Bryan:

Maybe in a future episode, we can talk about this. But one thing that I have found to be really helpful is to be more proactive on the communication or on the media side, so that we are initiating those conversations rather than creating a form and hoping that people fill it out, and getting upset when they don't, and those kinds of things. So take a look at the calendar. This is a good time to think through just, hey, we know these big events are coming. What can we be doing now? Or when should we be thinking about those things? So is a great time to do that. Absolutely.

Bryan:

Next, is social media. And I don't know if you've noticed this, but I also added in Google. Google my business, right? This is a good time to be updating those things, first for holiday hours, but also your description. Why don't you talk about that a little bit?

Jeanette:

Right. So it's very important to make sure that that, when someone searches you on Google, the first thing that will show up is your Google ... I don't know ...?

Bryan:

Business listing.

Jeanette:

We don't know the term. They keep changing it, you guys. But that will show up first and so you want to make sure that's been, first of all, connected to your website, and that it has appropriate hours and an updated picture, and things like that. And then of course, leading into the holidays, you want to make sure that that reflects that information. There's also, and this is another, we could probably have a whole episode on this, but you can post blog posts and stuff over there.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

You can actually do quite a bit, but ...

Bryan:

An event and all sorts of things.

Jeanette:

Yeah, we're keeping it simple. So just make sure you know ...

Bryan:

Make sure your hours are updated, if nothing else.

Jeanette:

Yeah, jut make sure hours and the phone number is there and, yeah, that kind of stuff. Similar to what we talked about with the website, make sure that any kind of holiday themed thing that you did in your cover photo, profile, thing like that, that you've updated that. If you had hours listed, update those. Again, do it up for Christmas, but then make sure, as soon as possible, that you get it back to what it was. And then maybe even have that new 2022 campaign push, small group sign up or whatever you all are going to be doing right there at the beginning, you've got that graphic ready to exchange that. That's a great, easy, easy, easy thing to do. And maybe schedule out a couple of posts for that week after Christmas, so that you're not having to worry about that so much.

Jeanette:

But get some of those scheduled out because a lot of people are hanging out more, they're online, they're ready to talk about what they got for Christmas or their favorite Christmas memory, or whatever. And so there's a lot of just engaging type posts that you can do. Like I said, ...

Bryan:

Absolutely.

Jeanette:

... I'm getting off script, but I love social media.

Bryan:

And this isn't really about 2022, but for right now, Advent just started yesterday. In the US, Thanksgiving was last week. But with Advent starting, this is a great time to even update your stuff right now, your Facebook, cover photo or even your profile image. Make it holiday themed or make it fun, and whatever, for the next season. And then, like you were saying, think ahead right now to that week after Christmas, when hopefully you're taking some time off and relaxing. And schedule that now so that things go back to normal on your profile page, and you're really looking toward 2022. That's a great idea.

Jeanette:

And I'm telling you, I have worked in many churches and now even where I work, there are times where I will be, I'm so into what am I going to be posting on the feed?

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

How am I going to be interacting in the group? And then I will look up at the cover image and go, okay, we launched registration for this a month ago.

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

We don't need to have, registration now open. We can have something else. And so it is so easy. I mean, that's my job, that's my job. So I'm so like, oh, I probably could change that. So it is so easy to get ... You are on there every day, you are doing that, engaging and the communicating in the feed, in the comments, all that kind of stuff, but look up, look up to that cover image.

Bryan:

Well, and I think you bring up a good point too. All of these things are really just foundational for us to say that, now is a good time for you to take a look at things with a fresh set of eyes. Yeah, we get so used to looking at the same bulletin every week or the same pages on our website that we get blind to the things that are outdated. So take a look back. Maybe you even ask someone else to come look at your stuff, to point out what you're missing, or what seems stale, that you can update.

Jeanette:

And actually we could probably help our listeners out with that too, in our Facebook group. If you want some of the fellow Church Juice Facebook group members to help you out. I do that all the time. I'll share a Facebook page that I might manage, or a Facebook group that I manage, with a friend of mine in the church communication space that's not necessarily ...

Bryan:

Right, connected to it?

Jeanette:

... super connected and say, just be brutally honest. And they'd let me know. They let me know.

Bryan:

That's a good thought. One more thing that we really haven't talked about, but I think every communicator has to deal with it, or every administrator, or whatever your title is, but phones. You need to update your phone messaging, right?

Jeanette:

People are still calling your phone number.

Bryan:

Yeah. Make sure that your recordings are accurate.

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

For right now, tell them when Christmas Eve is, or whatever you have coming up. But make sure that you update that for the new year with whatever is new, or even just making sure that it's not outdated.

Jeanette:

You all, I made Brian add this to the list because this was something that my church, when I worked there, it was a constantly ... And our phone systems have gotten a little easier now than I was working at the church. But maybe your church is like mine and was behind the ball on things. And so we had our different messages set up. So we had recorded a regular hours' message and a summer hours' message and a holiday hours' message. But remembering to switch it ...

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

... was difficult. And so we just wanted, I just was, we got to do this reminder because I know there are people listening that are, yes, we still have a phone system. And maybe you're, we only have one message, it's a literal voicemail situation going on. That's fine, just change that one message. In many cases, it's probably easier to do that than what we had to do with the logging in and the phone person.

Bryan:

But it's such a passive thing, right?

Jeanette:

Yes.

Bryan:

You don't really think about it until you call the church, which, if you're working there, how often do you actually call and get a voicemail? So.

Jeanette:

Yes. And that's how we usually knew that we needed to change it because somebody would say, I just listened to the message. And it was, first of all, it was somebody that wasn't even working there anymore had recorded the message.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

That kind of stuff. And so you really, it's not something that you think about, but it is sometimes, and in many cases, it's the first or second impression that someone is going to get. Probably the second, because they had to get your number from the internet, probably.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

But it is something to pay attention to. And again, this is all about low hanging fruit. This is easy peasy, something really quick. But we did just want to mention that. Check your phone.

Bryan:

Yeah, absolutely.

Bryan:

Any last thoughts? Any other kind of things that you think are low hanging fruit?

Jeanette:

I could go on for days, but then it ceases to be low hanging fruit and it's just fruit falling down on your face, and confusing you. So let's keep it simple. Reach out. Of course, I know you're always going to invite them to the Facebook group, but we're here to help you see those little things. Take the bird's eye view, a peek inside, on your website or on your social handles and help you see what you need to see. That's what we're here for.

Bryan:

That's good. Thank you.

Bryan:

And thank you for listening to the podcast today. If you haven't already, make sure you hit, subscribe, so that you get all of the latest, every Monday when we drop episodes. Although we'll be taking a little bit of a break for Christmas in a few weeks. But, either way, make sure you subscribe, stay up to date and you can continue today's discussion by throwing out your website or whatever files you want people to look at by joining our Facebook group. You can get a link to that group, along with all of today's show notes, @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.

Jeanette:

For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com.

Jeanette:

For information on Reframe Ministries and our family of programs, visit reframeministries.org.