Last Week we discussed how having an electronic newsletter for your ministry provides many benefits, and even listed a few categories that can get you started in delivering the information your community and congregation would need to know in order to build momentum and mobilize your ministry. This week we take the conversation further and I’ll list a few vetted software providers that will help you in turning your thoughts into action.
In order to send an electronic newsletter you need to sign up for a software provider that allows you to send one email to multiple recipients at once. If you were to send such an email from your mailbox on Outlook, Google, AOL, Yahoo, etc. chances are your mailbox account would be shut down and considered unlawful. The reason for that is because people need to give you permission to mail them en mass. When you violate this permission-based law of internet communication (it actually is a law, by the way, called CAN-SPAM) then you put your communication, and reputation, at great risk.
There are many low-cost and even free options for you to get started though, and many software providers will even let you build a list of up to 1,000 people and you can mail those people for free before you have to pay a dime. Depending on how fancy you want to get with the newsletter you may be able to use a free service for the life of your account, or if you really want to have a lot of connection, marketing, segmentation and reporting you can use a paid service.
Paid services generally start at $15 per month. The most popular service however is not always the BEST service in this instance. There are even some service providers that specialize in ministry-based marketing. I’ve set up lots of clients to do email marketing (the official name of this type of communication) and know there are pros and cons to them all. My recommendations below are based on ease of use, customer service and reputation. I could easily provide 10 companies that you can investigate here, but for the purposes of this blog I want to keep this simple. If you want to have a conversation to see which of these, or which service not listed here, may be right for you, just schedule a quick chat with me. It’s that easy!
1) Mail Chimp: Mail Chimp is usually my first recommendation when someone wants to start a newsletter but not pay any out of pocket fees until they know how they are going to commit to this email marketing effort. They allow you to have a list of up to 3,000 people, and you can mail that list 6 times in one month. They place their branding and logo in your email, and some basic reporting and list creation features are not included at this level, but it’s a good place to get your feet wet. Also, for churches you get a discount if you upgrade to the paid service.
2) Constant Contact: This is one of the most popular email newsletter providers. They have great templates and customer service, and chances are if you’ve received an email from business providers before you’ve received one delivered by Constant Contact. They have a free trial, and after that you pay according to the number of subscribers you have. One caveat to Constant Contact, in my opinion, is their lack of robust list separation and form development. But if you’re just looking for a simple way to add people to a list, and you don’t want to be limited in the number of emails you send, Constant Contact is the way to go
3) GetResponse: After using a different service for years I recently switched to GetResponse because I felt I was being raked over the coals with a previous providers. Get Response blows me away. Yes, they have some cons, but their pros far outweigh all the others. They make creating your newsletter easy if you don’t know coding but still want a fancy, visually stunning email (the type that gets opened more) and their reporting tools are top notch.
Your homework this week is to look into each of these providers and determine which, if any, is right for you. If you need someone to bounce some ideas off just give them a call and get a feel for how their customer service treats your requests. If you want to get help creating your church’s newsletter I’m here for ya. It’s my mission and my pleasure!
P.S. Share your thoughts, newsletters and mission in our comments below. Let’s do this thing together!
I already know that you gawked at the title of this post: A WEEKLY newsletter? Who the heck has the time? Why weekly? What do you put in it? How does that apply when you’re small? What if you’re really small and just starting out?
I know the concern you have about being small all too well. I’ve been part of churches that have thousands of people in the congregation each month, and those that have a handful meeting in the living room of someone’s house each week. What I’ve noticed is that the ones that make decisions based on the direction they want to grow in, versus the size they’re starting out at, grow the quickest.
Now, before we get off on a tangent with growth let me say this: I think growth is an expected part of ministry, and I think it’s partially measured in numbers. New people should be coming in those doors, otherwise, you run the risk of just being a “nice little support group.”
That being said, I’ve seen that ministry leaders that move and motivate their peers in an organized, or at the very least, consistent way do well in building a spirit of community and shared mission. One of the best ways I know how to do this is with a weekly newsletter delivered to an inbox.
The advantage of that is that it can go to your members, friends, friends of friends, etc. When I was new to New York back in 1995 I found it very hard to make friends. I had 3 of them, and neither of them went to church. I also had a friend who did go to church but didn’t see their culture as being one I could really learn and grow in so I called up a friend. My friend Ony lived in NASHVILLE, TN and I called her to ask her if she had friends in New York City that went to church.
Imagine that. She was hundreds of miles away. She’s never lived in New York and yet, when I had an urge to seek God I called on her to connect me to “a friend of a friend” to make it happen. She did. I went… and the rest is history.
That’s the beauty of technology. You can keep people in the loop while also building strong and solid relationships. To keep this post from being 5 pages long I’m going to break it into segments. Today’s segment will simply get your juices flowing. Here’s the homework I’d like you to do: Consider from the list below the categories you can imagine your church newsletter using to start a weekly update. Next week we’ll dive further into how to get this thing going.
Newsletter Category ideas:
Those are the topics I come up with from the top of my head (where did that saying come from?) and I’m sure you can think of more. If you already have a newsletter, share the link in the comments below. If you can think of some other topics, share that as well. We’re all on the same mission!
We live in a visual world. A world where there’s so much transparency that information travels faster than ever. The problem is technology. Information is so abundant that it’s easy to get information overload. Did you know that 75% of what you learn in a workshop, event or class (or even sermon) is forgotten within 24 hours! That’s why it’s really important to communicate with repetition and themes. I’ll have to blog about that next week but for today I want to speak to you about the church intro packet.
Whether your church is large or small I think it’s a great idea to do an intro packet. First of all, let’s cover what the intro packet is not. It is NOT your weekly church program. It’s not your church bulletin or your announcements list. It can include those things, but it’s much more than that.
The Intro packet is a set of information that tells people who are new to your congregation about your mission, your values, your leadership, and how to get in touch with you. Yes, they can find that stuff on the website, but there’s something about having a tangible item in your hands that deepens any experience.
One of the best intro packets I ever received was from the church of an ex-boyfriend. His church was small, about 30 people. I was probably the only visitor to his church that Sunday but the following week I received an intro packet in the mail to the address that I listed on my visitor’s card.
It was lovely. It was a folder with the following items inside it:
I was delighted, and I still remember the name of that church and how welcomed they made me feel. I visit a lot of churches. Even when I am visiting a new city I’ll find a church to attend, and I can’t count how many I’ve stepped foot in but I can tell you that Rehoboth Pentecostal Church will make you feel welcome and what they believe.
There are a few ways to deliver an intro packet. I don’t think it fits within every church budget (or staffing abilities) to mail a packet to each new visitor, but I do think that an intro packet should be available to everyone that walks in the door. The information doesn’t have to be in a folder, it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be attractive. It can be a simple one-page document rolled up and tied with a ribbon like a scroll.
If you don’t have an intro packet I challenge you to try this for just 3 months. If you do have one, please share in the comments below what yours has, and how you use it.
Until next week…
P.S. If I get at least 10 comments below to create an intro-packet template I’ll create one, so spread this post and let me know if that’s a resource that you need.
I’ve been going to church since I was a child and as I sit back and think of each one, I can identify a culture for each experience. Some experiences were warm and inviting, and some were dominating and intimidating. I learned at each one, but reflecting on it has me thinking… how many church leaders consider their church culture before planting their church?
When called to serve God as a leader (and I think we are all called to serve, as it says in Romans 12) the preparation is a bit different than other roles of servitude. There is so much to think about! I hope this post helps you to get a clearly defined goal towards your church culture so that you can stay on track with building your wing of the kingdom in the most excellent way.
To start defining your church culture you need to identify three things: church values, church language and church environment. If your church has been operating for quite some time you should be able to take a step back and identify what has surfaced for each of these three areas pretty easily. As you do, write them down. Would your congregation (members) be able to tell others about your values if asked “What does your church believe in or stand for?”
Do you have a clear tone of voice? Do you speak conversationally or formally in your teaching? Does your church have a clear name? It may seem like a silly question, but I was a member of a church once and didn’t quite know the name of it. On the books, legally, it was called one thing, and in life application it was called something completely different. The names weren’t even closely related. This caused confusion and angst when it was time to write a check for tithes because the name that everyone called the church was different from the name that needed to go on the check. Leadership at this church thought the more casual name promoted the culture and values of the church more, but didn’t take it one step further to make it stick legally across the board.
And when it comes to church environment what is yours like? My husband and I currently attend different churches, and for very obvious reasons. I like structure and he likes things loose. I like sermons and he likes group discussion. We both like a casual atmosphere. We both serve at our churches each week. Both of our churches have coffee, tea, juice and bagels, etc. which are available to eat DURING the service. This would have been a big no-no in some of the churches I grew up in. It’s one that makes me and others feel warm and welcomed, and breaks the intimidation that some feel when entering a church. For some people, this would make them feel less reverent towards Christ.
Different ways to serve different people where they’re at… do you see what I mean? Understanding and clearly defining your church’s culture is a key step in expanding your ministry. It alleviates any confusion people may have about who your church is and where you stand, and that helps them to do what really matters, which is come in, become a part of the community, and deepen their relationship with God.
Once you’ve identified your church culture write it down. Put it in a manual and post it on your website. In our age of new media it’ll become a great tool of evangelism for you.
What’s your church culture? What are some things that identify who you are to your community? Share them in the comments below:
My face lights up every time I meet someone at church and find out they found us online. As a geeky girl, it does my heart good to know that the internet, a tool that can be used for so much selfishness and scam, can be used for God. One of the ways that you can really take advantage of this is by setting up a Facebook page for your church.
Now, having a page up is all fine and dandy, but if you don’t use it and have a variety of content it really won’t work to spread the message and work that you’re trying to achieve. One of the ways I’ve been able to help my church in this is by pulling my corporate experience into the social media matrix.
Here’s what we do: Every day of the week we post 2 different messages. We vary the messages each day of the week and actually have a formula for what we post and when. This gives variety to our community without becoming predictable and stale. If someone was to “study” our page they could definitely figure out the formula, but because there’s so much variety in it, the perception is not formulaic.
Here’s an exercise to start you off for your church’s Facebook page:
1) On Mondays post a thought to focus on for the week
2) On Tuesdays link to an inspirational video. The video can be one that you create, or one that is in alignment with your churches values and mission. (you can create videos easily at animoto.com)
3) On Wednesdays ask a question. Survey your audience and find out something relevant to the message delivered in Sunday’s sermon
4) On Thursdays profile a breakthrough or victory that has happened for a member of the church, a prayer that’s been answered or a miracle witnessed within or outside of the church in popular news
5) On Fridays post an inspirational scripture or passage to lead in for the weekend
6) On Saturdays share an event happening in the community you serve. Make it un-church related. Show that you live within the community and not just within the 4 walls of your church
7) On Sundays share notes for the sermon, or lyrics for a song, or the topic/focus for the day
As you implement this formula you’ll start to see what works for your church and what their needs are. As people start to engage with the page you’ll also see how you need to tweak this formula. Add in what is needed, delete what isn’t. Watch for the impact that your Facebook page has. You’ll be amazed!
(Feel free to watch my church’s page for ideas and inspiration)
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I’m starting a new Sunday series today for churches. A new category, called Church Branding, because it’s one of the most rewarding ways that I use my expertise. I’ve been managing the social media for my church (Hoboken Grace) for about 18 months and also serve on the welcome committee on Sundays. What’s so rewarding is that each Sunday we have a few Connection Points set up at the church, small round tables where a new visitor can come over and introduce themselves and get a free gift.
Being at that table has been such an inspiration for me, especially because the social media team is now a group of 4 women. When I first started managing the social media for the church it was because I saw a lost opportunity. I felt I was a part of an amazing community but that the message, our existence, just wasn’t reaching enough people. Instead of sitting back and thinking “they really outta do something about this” I got in touch with the teaching pastor and told him that I’d like to do this for the church. Each Sunday the majority of the first-time visitors to our church reveal that they found us online!
Chris was open to the idea and so we got together over coffee to discuss the churches goals, values and guidelines, and then I began. With so many people being attached at the hip to some type of internet-capable device it seemed to me that not being consistent and active in social media was a big mistake. I was right. Pretty soon, once we had consistent posts going up once per day, we started to see a more engaged community and attendance at our services and social events soon followed.
Each Sunday I’ll start to deliver to you some of the ways that you can help your church to have a stronger brand and give you insight into how we leverage technology to better serve and love our community. For starters, if your church doesn’t yet have a Facebook business page, Twitter Profile, or YouTube Channel speak with the staff about setting them up. Usually, as long as they know you’re going to be in total alignment with the church’s values they’ll bless you with their full support.
Next Sunday we’ll discuss best practices and setup for each of these three channels.