Communications Forum: Improving e-newsletters, ho-hum livestreams and coming out of COVID
by Janis Greenbaum,
Diocesan Communications Director
Church communicators have a variety of tools at our disposal to spread the Good News. What tools we use and how we use those tools differs from church to church. Figuring out what’s right for your parish is no easy task, but sharing our skills and experiences can help us all do our jobs more effectively and even have a little fun along the way.
With that in mind, a small group of communicators came together at our October 7 First Fridays forum to engage in that sharing process. Here are notes and action items from this virtual event:
We began our discussion by listing some of the tools we use. They include:
- Email newsletters
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
- Microsoft Teams
- Email / Gmail / Outlook
- YouTube / Videos
- TV monitors
Most people in our group said their most popular tool is the e-newsletter. And everyone is looking for new and better ways to use email services like Constant Contact, iContact, and MailChimp to communicate with their congregations.
Give your email newsletter a facelift! To give you some ideas, check out what other parishes in our diocese are doing. I’d like to ask all parishes to send me a link to one of your recent e-newsletters. I’ll share this list as a resource for you to see what platforms are available and get ideas from other parishes’ designs and storytelling methods.
Communicating our way out of COVID
We are in a strange, uncertain moment in our churches. We’re not where we were before the pandemic… we’re not where we were at the height of the pandemic… and now we’re not sure what direction to take as we’re coming out of the pandemic. Our members had more than two years to change their church habits. How can we use our communications to help us all build new church habits?
Be gentle in your communications. We need to assure people that they are safe if they’re ready to come back to church with no masks or social distancing… and that it’s also okay if they still need to take precautions. Make personal connections with people you haven’t seen in a while and invite them back.
We also need to show our members that there is something worth coming back to. Tell/show people stories. Don’t just tell them when an event is happening – tell them how the event can transform their lives.
Moving away from ho-hum livestreams
Livestreaming our services became a necessity during the pandemic. It was our way to stay in touch with each other and with our faith practices when we couldn’t gather in-person. Now many churches have only a handful of people regularly watching the Sunday livestream. And the practice of creating the livestream has become just another routine that we barely pay any attention to.
Let’s think of new ways to engage those people still watching the livestreams. Ask them for feedback about what they like or don’t like with your streams. Ask your regulars to serve as virtual ushers to greet other people watching online.
And what are some other ways we might be able to use all that expensive equipment? Sunday services are important, but maybe we could also stream things like choir concerts or Godly Play stories for our children. Let’s get creative!
What would help us be better communicators right now?
We could all use a little TLC and professional development as we come out of the pandemic. Communicators at the forum said they would like help with:
- Caring more about social media
- Improving writing skills
- Learning how to communicate better between parishes (convocation communications)
Share what kinds of things would help you be a better church communicator. We’re putting together ideas for an in-person diocesan communications conference. Contact Communications Director Janis Greenbaum if you would like to help plan the conference.
First Fridays is a virtual forum for anyone working with church communications in the Diocese of Missouri. We meet on the first Fridays of each month at 1 p.m. Contact Janis Greenbaum for more information.