Your church has a web site and posts frequently to social media, but is it still using printed bulletins and/or classic phone trees to share information with its members? What's stopping you from going where your members are by taking these digital too?
The web and email entered the public consciousness in the mid-1990s. Twenty years later, 85% of Americans are online and use email. Even more important, predictions are that 72% of us will have a smartphone by the end of this year.
Switch to e-Bulletins
My first client, a large church of about 800, had a problem. The bulletin they handed out each Sunday was already a folded 11x17" sheet of paper, yet they consistently had more announcements than they could fit. One result was unhappy ministry leaders whose announcements were left off. Another was that the announcements made from the pulpit, consisting not only of items from the bulletin, but also the omitted items, were taking more and more time.
Our collaboration led to implementing a program of emailed bulletins. Not just one weekly e-bulletin, but four, to cater to specific interests. One contained general announcements, one covered the teens ministry, one for the children's ministry, and one for prayer requests. Each went out on a different day at approximately the same time. We re-tooled the printed bulletin to be more of a welcome to visitors.
Leaders explained the plan to members, and everyone was added to the relevant distribution list. For example, retired members with grown children were added to the general and prayer request e-bulletins, but not to the teen or children's ministry e-bulletins. For the e-bulletins, we used a service that offered the ability to post on its web site links to allow members to opt in or out of each type of e-bulletin.
The congregation also used classic phone trees to get out late breaking important news, such as services cancelled due to bad weather. At the same time it implemented the e-bulletins, leaders committed to a plan by which whenever bad weather cancelled services, a notice would be on the web site home page by 7:00 Sunday morning. (elderly members who did not have a computer would still be called).
Members who did not have access to the internet were not left unattended. Each Sunday, the church office staff left a few printed copies of each e-bulletin at the office counter. The leaders also arranged for those members to continue to be notified by phone when services were canceled.
These four things did result, yea five did the church love:
Text your members
Another option for bringing the phone tree into this century that I am seeing more churches do is to update members via text messages. And as with e-bulletins, there are many affordable services that would allow members to subscribe and un-subscribe themselves, and the church could text members en masse.
Friars at a Boston church take it to another level by handling prayer requests by text. Text your need and the friars text a response of support and prayer.
Use social media
Don't forget about free social media. If Facebook is popular among your members, create a Facebook group as opposed to a Facebook page. This has three benefits:
Google Plus communities offers similar features.
It's important to realize that one choice may not reach all, and it's wise not to assume you know the best platforms to use.. Ask your members where they spend their digital time to make sure you are where they are... in email? In Facebook? Texting? If none dominates, you may need to consider more than one venue.