Boston's historic Haymarket is quite the experience. At these open-air fresh food stands located near the Freedom Trail in the heart of the city's historic district, vendors are shouting their sales to attract attention. During the busiest times, shoppers are pushing and squeezing their way from booth to booth in one congested mayhem. I'd venture to say that this method of promotion would not work in most places. But despite the organized chaos, strangely enough, the approach works for the Boston Haymarket. Have you ever felt like you were facilitating organized chaos when trying to come up with a communications strategy for all your church's events and activities?
With the Haymarket imagery in your mind, consider these two vital mistakes many churches make, with thoughts on how to avoid them:
Mistake 1: Too Much Information
Church communicators like yourself want to inspire people to attend one or more of the church's activities. They put time into crafting descriptions for each of the 15 or 20 events to be included in the weekly bulletin.
Though there is a tipping point, creative descriptions can help set the context of the event. However, if 95 percent of bulletin entries are the same from week to week, you've unintentionally created a scavenger hunt for your readers as they search for that new information. For an added challenge, we anticipating them finding the subtle date change or deadline extension on an entry that's been in for the last four weeks.
I'm not trying to be critical. But consider this: a news agency prints a newspaper where 95 percent of the stories are the same. Their readers are expected to find the 5 percent that has been edited or added. How long would that newspaper continue?
An alternative would be to consider creating a content calendar. Maybe the first bulletin of the month offers an overview of all the events occurring in the next 4-6 weeks. Then the subsequent bulletins each week contain highlights for maybe 6-8 of the activities. While some entries can repeat from week to week as needed, you reduce the number of messages overall in weeks 2-4.
Mistake 2: Competing Messages
I've talked with many church leaders and communicators over the years who want to be more effective in their communication processes. The second common mistake I see has more to do with programming, but it makes communication more difficult and less effective.
Consider the busy schedules we Americans lead each week. In reality, a person may be willing to offer two time slots outside of their normal routine for additional activities. One of those time slots is spent on going to church each weekend. They pick up a bulletin on Sunday, where they find a total of four events for their two kids in the next two months, a ladies conference for her, a men's breakfast for him, a small group for them, and a congregational prayer night for the family.
With a little strategic planning, you can avoid the congestion caused by too much information, and avoid competing messages.
While each of these activities come from different ministry areas–kids and students, ladies, men's, small groups, and church-wide–you can see the competing messages this presents. It puts this family in an awkward position of having to make a choice. In this example, they may choose one or two events, but they most likely won't choose to participate in all of them.
This type of competition is unintended but common in churches. It happens because ministries plan their calendars as independent entities, even though their audiences can overlap considerably. To avoid this competing messages, ministry leaders could consider planning activities together regularly rather than individually. During this planning, you can discuss how the audience segments may overlap and avoid offering too many events for the same people.
With a little strategic planning together, your team can diminish the congestion caused by too much information and reduce the number of competing messages. If you do, your communication will be much more pointed and effective.
What in this post could you or your church identify with the most? If we can help your church communicate better, we'd love the opportunity.
Don Wambolt has over 25 years' experience in leading church communications. More