By Ronald E. Keener
You’ve seen the billboard of two pair of feet sticking out of the covers of a bed, advertising a message series on sexuality. “We don’t set out to create a flurry of activity, but to create a helpful series about real life dangerous topics for people who aren’t hearing the truth from anyone, anywhere else,” says Kem Meyer, communications director at Granger (IN) Community Church.
“We try a few things that people don’t expect from a church, hoping people will be curious enough at least to come check it out.” Meyer is author of the new book Less Clutter. Less Noise: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake Sales (Thirty:One Press, 2009), and responded to questions:
Where do churches most go wrong in internal communications?
Life is overwhelming enough as it is. Churches shouldn’t be piling more on top of an already mounting problem, especially when people are looking for answers that will make a difference. But, typically that’s what they do. They say too much and make it hard for people to find the answers they’re looking for. If the church is looking to be a credible source for those answers, it should be looking to help reduce that information overload and helping people find ways to process the information they already have.
Where do churches most go wrong in external (media) relations?
Assuming their news is news. Churches should spend less time figuring out how to talk and let people know about what’s happening in their world and spend more time making the world different because of what they do. That’s newsworthy. Spend time creating great experiences that get people talking instead of talking about great experiences.
What’s wrong with most church Web sites?
They’re organized around their org chart and what they have to say instead of organized for what their audience might be coming to the site to do. (Churches aren’t the only ones who do this, by the way.) They’re self-absorbed online libraries with pages of content people have to sort through, and instead of an online tool that connects people with resources, each other and action steps.
What does it mean to “create conversations”?
The number of social media users is up 87 percent since 2003 (no distinction between churched or unchurched). In the past year alone, the time spent on social networks increased 73 percent (Nielsen says). We have moved past the industrial age through the information age to the interconnected age.
If your church isn’t ready to set up a blog, Twitter or Facebook account, that’s OK. At a minimum, they should be searching to see what real people in their community are saying about them. Here’s three places to start searching: www.technorati.com, www.google.com, and www.twitter.com. Without looking through that social network window you risk making decisions about your church based on incomplete or inaccurate information.
As churches take on communication directors, what should they know about filling this role?
The generic job description for communications director varies widely, depending on the environment. I’ve seen it all on the continuum from receptionist to graphic artist to media agent to fundraiser. When somebody asks me what the job description should be, I answer in two words: consumer advocate. A consumer advocate maximizes things in your church that attract people to the message and removes the things that repels them.
Granger has 13 bloggers. What does the congregation achieve with that much blogging activity?
Let me count the ways: Adds value to others. Develops sense of community in spite of pace, location and different schedules. Bonding. Helps give a voice to introverts. Information is posted once, used over and over. Records what’s happening. Puts a face and personality on the ministry. Removes the sterile, corporate voice. Forces leaders to organize thoughts and follow-through. Public reminder that people are watching — I’m accountable. Facilitates connectedness and expressiveness. Provides direct access with leaders and ministry experts. Provides access to training, tutorials, experts, best practices. Instant focus groups. Contributions to community development with peers. It’s a way to give back and share insights. Reduces “corporate” time creating content. Increases “individual” connectedness to the content that already exists.