Be bold. Step out of your comfort zone
Although very different from commercial organisations, churches and charities share marketing and communication challenges with their commercial counterparts. Each has different audiences with specific messages to communicate.
The environment for everybody is challenging. Income is under pressure and competition for the attention of the public and their money and time is fierce. People are constantly being bombarded with information to engender loyalty, or to buy another widget or service. Churches in particular are battling to stem falling attendance and membership. Falling membership means that income is more difficult to sustain. Compounding this, is the ageing demographic which means that the size of the worshipping community is shrinking. These factors combine to make the mission of the church more difficult to achieve.
Although not the only tool available to church leaders to help reverse these trends, Social Media, that includes a website presence, is an important phenomenon to embrace. Our young people are growing up not knowing what life was like without Facebook, mobile phones, computer games and online services. The internet and access to services via websites is simply the go to place for information and services, We see the impact of this on the high street. Shops are closing because their business model is no longer fit for purpose. We see organisations like Apple setting up stores to give people expert information and to provide them with a fantastic user experience. Failure to innovate may result is decline and businesses closing their doors.
How should you respond?
Embrace the new reality
Embrace the new online reality and update their websites and social media communications to target people with specific messages that creates interest and intent to engage with church and charities. This will require an honest and challenging appraisal of what individual churches and charities bring to their local communities> the next stage is to develop content and messaging for your website and social media that is contemporary and aligned to the life style and interest of the people you need to reach. The cold fact of the matter is that unchurched young people, single and cohabiting/married couples and older people are missing messages of grace and practical services that you provide. Your website and Facebook will create opportunities to engage with them.
Services for the unreached
- Reappraise the services provided in line with the lifestyles of the people to be reached. Many churches provide debt services and life style services. This is fantastic and needs to be broadened into services for time limited commuters and stay at home carers. Surely there is nothing wrong with creating new businesses and services that reach people in their homes and places of work. This has already been tried and tested. We only need to look at Cadburys and Quaker based organisations for inspiration. Small examples come to mind - coaching classes, teaching classes, coffee and refreshments for different types of customers. Use empty high street outlets, Consider child minding and nurseries? Jobs would be created that will radically change lives!
Evolve and involve
- Evolve and involve the existing congregation. Embrace change and evolve worship. Look at the format of services and evolve into ways that are relevant to non churched and will bring in new people. Perhaps this may involve new forms of social pioneer work where church ventures into the community and outside of traditional bricks and church buildings.
It would be great to have definite answers and strategies that just work! Life is not that simple. We focus is on the internet, specifically strategies, tools, funding and operational practices to help church and charities achieve their goals. Two of our articles are here and here.
We encourage you to be bold. To step out of your comfort zone. Embrace social media. Develop and use a communications plan. Create compelling photographs, video and copy to create interest and to encourage people to engage with you and your church. Use video. It is not for the future. It is for now.
Click here to find out how we can help you design and develop your website and communications approach.