In the digital age, being a church communicator requires agility and insatiable curiosity as new technology and social media channels are released and updated. It can feel like they change faster than we can figure them out.
So how can we stay on top of new features and tactics while building systems and processes to keep the trains running in the meantime?
The key is scalability. Scalability means answering the question, “If our church doubled overnight, would this system support our needs?”
Communication gets harder and harder as the congregation grows and new volunteers and staff members are added, so scalability should be a priority for church communicators.
Here are six areas you can leverage technology to help you build church communication systems and processes that scale.
1. Platform Analysis
If you feel like your church communication systems and processes aren’t working, start with a platform analysis. Bring your key stakeholders together and list your platforms on a whiteboard or big sticky note on the wall so everyone can see. Hand out sticky note pads and sharpies to each person in the room. Write all of your communication platforms on the wall or white board, and ask, “On a scale from 1-10, how is this platform working for us right now?” (1 being the worst and 10 being the best). Have everyone write their answer on their personal sticky note. When everyone writes down their answer, have everyone hold theirs up to find the average score. Write the score on the board and ask the group why they chose their answer. Capture their feedback on the wall or white board and move onto the next platform.
Once you’ve analyzed all your platforms, start with the top two worst platforms and put together a mini team to address the platform issues and come back to the team in a couple weeks with a proposed plan of scalability improvement. You can then work down the list until you’ve optimized each solution.
I recommend your church communication team analyze your platforms at least once every year, since technology is constantly changing. I see churches stuck with ineffective platforms they’ve had for years because no one has ever made it a priority to stop and ask, “Is this serving our church well?” Take time to stretch yourself and build scalable solutions that serve your congregation and community well.
2. Project Management Tool
Project management is one of the biggest pain points I hear for church communication teams.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- We have way more requests coming in than our team can handle.
- How do we prioritize which department’s requests get done and when?
- We’re a multisite church. Should we have a centralized support church communication team or decentralize to the sites?
- I don’t like telling people no because then they’ll just go make the flier or project themselves, and it never aligns with our church’s brand.
I hear these comments from church communicators often, and each of them goes back to effective project management.
Pick a project management tool, and stick with it. I’m notorious for switching too often because the newest, coolest tool has just been released. However, if you have a tool that’s working, don’t change it just because a newer, slicker tool just came out. Pick one that works for your organization and implement it across the departments.
Here are some tips to consider when choosing and implementing a management tool for your church:
- The tool should be collaborative. The point of a project management tool is to help eliminate bottlenecks. Pick one that allows teams to collaborate together on projects.
- Remember that not everyone on your church staff will be as techy as you, so pick one that’s intuitive and easy to use.
- Have an owner/champion of the tool. Project management systems break down when there is no accountability for using it. Have someone on staff who is responsible for implementing and championing the tool across the organization.
There are many tools out there. I personally use Asana, but there are many out there like Monday, Basecamp, Trello, and more.
3. Communication Tool
A communication tool is different from a project management tool. It’s important to understand the differences. Communication tools allow teams to communicate efficiently within a work setting. Project management tools allow a team to take a project from start to finish.
Reasons to have a communication tool for your church staff:
- Helps increase productivity because team members can collaboratively communicate across the organization.
- Minimizes the number of daily emails and increases information turnaround time.
- Reduces the number of meetings needed because team members can get quick answers.
At Vanderbloemen, we use Slack for our communication tool. It has scaled really well for us as our team has grown.
4. Document Creation and Filing System
Have you ever taken a new job and walked into a role with no organization or file system? As a communicator, always be thinking about, “If someone stepped into my role today, would they be able to easily find the information they need?”
I’m a huge fan of Google Team Drives and Google files (docs, sheets, and slides) because it’s cloud-based, collaborative, and scalable. If your church is Microsoft based, consider using Microsoft 360. Another option is Dropbox.
A few tips for effective document creation and filing systems:
- Maintain consistency in branding on documents and design files.
- Use collaborative sharing capabilities so everything is in one place rather than sending Word docs back and forth.
- Use cloud-based documents for easy access to files as staff and volunteers come and go.
- Consider a filing naming system (i.e. Document Name-Department-Date) so files are easy to find in the future.
- If using Google Team Drives, use the template gallery to build scalable document templates like letterheads, bulletins, announcement slides, meeting agendas, etc.
5. System for Marketing and Communication Requests
Most church communicators are constantly bombarded with emails, messages, texts, phone calls, and meetings about marketing and communication requests. This isn’t scalable and leaves room for projects to be missed because everything feels urgent this way. It can also cause frustration and burnout if the team doesn’t have a system for prioritizing these requests.
You can start with something simple like a Google Form where departments go there to request what they need from the communications team and by what date. Many project management systems also have this tool built in. There’s also a new tool built specifically for church request forms by ChurchCommTools.com.
6. Contact Relationship Manager (ChCRM) & Content Management System (ChCMS)
I’m always amazed when churches do not have a ChCRM where they update members and attendees. How can we effectively reach and disciple our congregations if we don’t know who they are? There are many options out there including Church Community Builder, Blackbaud, Breeze, Planning Center, and more. Explore several options, then choose the one that works for your church. The key is updating and maintaining the database so you can effectively communicate with your congregation.
I also recommend that every church, no matter its size, have a scalable ChCMS, which is a website content management platform for your church’s website. Sometimes ChCMSes also have a ChCRM as a functionality, but the point is to make the website easily updatable across the organization so that every small update doesn’t have to be done by the communications team. This helps scale the organization and reduce bottlenecks.
Communication usually gets harder, not easier. So make sure you have systems in place that can grow with you.
What would you add to this list of ways you’re leveraging technology to help streamline and scale your church communications systems and processes?
Holly Tate wrote this originally at Church Marketing Sucks .