Past Episode :
Bart Blair: [00:00:09] Mark McDonald, thanks so much for joining Jason and me on the podcast today. We’re so glad to have you back on the show.
Mark MacDonald: [00:00:14] Thank you so much for having me back. Like people who have me once, it’s understandable, but the second time, seriously?
Bart Blair: [00:00:23] No. Well, we really didn’t have much choice because after your first time on the show, the video version of this podcast, your episode is the most-watched podcast episode on our YouTube channel, if you can believe that. And where is Ben Stapley, Jason, where does Ben Stapley place?
Jason Hamrock: [00:00:46] Ben Stapley is not even close, he’s so far down, I mean, there are quite a few people in between him and Mark, I’m just going to say that.
Mark MacDonald: [00:00:53] Wow. And like everything that pops into my mind right now, I can’t really say out loud, but we’ll talk about that afterwards.
Bart Blair: [00:01:01] Okay. And now we’ll know if Ben Stapley is actually a fan of the show or not. We know he’s a fan of Mark McDonald’s, he’s one of Mark McDonald’s biggest fans. And we’re big fans, too, Mark. For our fans or our friends, our listeners, and those who are viewing on our YouTube channel who might have missed the last episode, or who might not know who you are, why don’t you just start by giving us a little bit of background and share a little bit of your story, how you ended up in ministry and how you ended up doing what you’re doing today.
Mark MacDonald: [00:01:27] Well, Bart, I mean, I just can’t believe I get to do what I get to do. I’m a little kid from East Coast Canada, from the maritime provinces near Brunswick. And I mean, I grew up in, you know, large cities of New Brunswick, which aren’t really all that large. And all along I just kept thinking, like, how would God ever use me? And I’ve always been, you know, everyone always says to me, so what are you known for? Well, I want to be known for being faithful, and God just opened up door after door. I ended up as Senior Creative Director for one of eastern Canada’s largest ad agencies. And then from that, we had the opportunity to move to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and set up an agency for churches, and then that turned into Be Known For Something agency. And really, when I look back at the way that that unfolded, being the marketing arm for several churches, you know, large networks, they propelled me kind of to the conference stage and I mean, it just became fun. But the conferences started saying, so would you at least write some of this stuff? So I’ve written over 800 magazine articles that have been published, and then from that, I wrote the best-selling book Be Known For Something, which is really the book that everyone should read about church branding. And then moved from Winston-Salem to Jacksonville, Florida, where I was the Strategic Communications Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, and their 3000 churches. And then I’m also the Executive Director for the Center for Church Communication, which influences about 10,000 churches across the country. I can’t believe I get to do what I get to do.
Jason Hamrock: [00:03:23] I know it’s ministry, but it’s joyful, you know because you’re in your sweet spot, right, God’s gifted you with specific tools and gifts and you’re using those for his purposes and glory. So it’s pretty cool.
Mark MacDonald: [00:03:38] Well, I mean, it’s really what we preach. So I try to, you know, if it comes out of my mouth, I try to do it myself. And sometimes after I’ve said things out loud, I think, Oh, how am I going to do that? But I really do try to stay out of the hypocrite zone.
Jason Hamrock: [00:03:58] Yeah. Well, let’s dove into some content. So some questions for you as, as both of you know, because you have worked in a church, I’ve worked in a church, our listeners are likely church staff. In churches, we go through seasons throughout the year there are just different seasons we move into as a church and as a ministry. We’re staring at summer, it’s right in front of us, and as you know, we can kind of get into that. well, whatever we did last summer, we’re just going to repeat that and do it this summer. And that may not be too bad or maybe a good thing, what are some things that we could do differently? What should we be thinking about? I just want to kind of have an open dialog on what goes through your head when you think about what ministry should be doing this summer.
Mark MacDonald: [00:04:43] So, Jason and Bart, I feel like we should have been friends a lot longer, and we’ve gotten a nice connection over the last couple of years, but I’m kind of interested in what you all do. I mean, there is a pace and we oftentimes, you know, we’re working with churches and there’s the busy time of the year, like, our work pretty much falls away at Christmas time, I mean, no church ever calls us and says, yes, we would like an intensive coaching program right now. Because they’re like, no, help. And then it kind of reaches oftentimes into Mother’s Day, where, you know, that’s a really big time of the year for church people. But then summer somewhat turns into a lull like, oh, my goodness, is a breather time. But how about you guys, like what do you all do in the summer that you can’t do in the rest of the year?
Jason Hamrock: [00:05:45] Well, I think for us, because we get to serve churches, we’re always giving advice, we coach them up on things they should be doing, and activities they should be doing that is probably a level or a layer underneath your current ministry things, right? You’re probably getting ready for VBS and you’re going to get ready for some kind of a back-to-school, sort of back to church fall, and then you move into the Christmas, you know, you have those seasons, right? Well, the thing that we’re kind of coaching churches up on, is how to build systems that allow you to continue to generate content, that will generate more leads in terms of helping people that find you online, so that you can kind of keep that that funnel going all the time. And so it’s kind of like looking at the churches, what their pain point might be, and their pain point is, how do I pull off VBS? That’s not the pain point, the pain point is how do I continue to get more people and seeds and reach more people digitally in this post-COVID new world we’re living in, what does that look like? And so for us, it’s always trying to coach them on things they should be doing that, again, is below the surface a little bit but has a huge impact on how their church can grow, when somebody’s looking for a church or they’re looking for help with a felt need and they find your church.
Mark MacDonald: [00:07:07] Jason, you’re so good at just, like, sharing a little bit of what you have to offer with the church, which I’m glad you got to do that, but I was really talking about taking and pulling back the curtain even more. What do you all do in your organization in the summer that you can’t do during the rest of the year?
Jason Hamrock: [00:07:28] Strategize, plan, right? We think about what are the new tools we want to be working on, it allows us to kind of zoom out and go, what did we accomplish in the last stretch, the last 8 to 10 months? How have we grown? Where do we need to grow more? What do we need to kill, sacred cows? And how do we continue to develop and stay true to our core values of what we want to be as a company and how we serve churches.
Bart Blair: [00:08:00] Jason and I had a half-hour conversation this morning, which we can’t have during Christmas and Easter because we’re drinking from a fire hose, and working with churches that are trying to market their Christmas and Easter. We had a half-hour conversation this morning about asking the question, what are the pain points that the churches we’re working with are having that we haven’t yet developed the solution for, that we need to be the ones to develop that solution for? So we’re looking at, I mean, I don’t want to just repeat everything that Jason said, but we’re looking at the past with an eye to the future and trying to figure out what needs to shift, what needs to change, how we can continue building on what God has already allowed us to do in the current season so that we’re continuing to be fresh and we’re continuing to be innovative and we’re continuing to expand our footprint. Right? We work with churches with the hope and the goal that we’re expanding their digital footprint and their reach in their communities. And obviously, for us internally, we want to do the same thing, we want to make sure that we’re continuing to expand our footprint so that we can connect with more and more churches and provide them with more and more solutions to the problems that they’re having. So it’s kind of part and parcel, one and the same, it’s what we want churches to be doing and it’s what we ourselves are taking this kind of low season to evaluate and to do.
Mark MacDonald: [00:09:22] Wow. So normally when I’m writing a blog, I always think, okay, I need to do a nice introduction paragraph. Well, you guys just gave a perfect introduction paragraph because what you said, the church needs to be doing at the same time. And sometimes I think we get caught up in the whole idea of, yes, but you all do business, we do business, but the church does ministry. But the problem is, is that we really need to start looking at ministry and saying, how do we make sure that we have some checks and balances in there, that make sure that ministry will be ministry in a year’s time. So really what it comes down to is that, I mean, I think that there are just five things that are a nice process that people can go through, especially in the church, that are just really, absolutely needed and you can’t do it in a busy time. Like it’s something that when there’s a little bit of a lull, I think that we all just got to go. oh, it’s just nice. Well, wake up, buttercup, now’s the time that you should be doing these five things.
Jason Hamrock: [00:10:37] Okay, you got me. I want to know what these five things are.
Mark MacDonald: [00:10:42] Well, I’m a goal-oriented person and I’m also coming, I’m on the end of a cold, so just a second, there we go. And as a goal-oriented person, oftentimes, I think that what we need to do is just say, as I talked to a pastor yesterday and I said, so if God just rains down blessing on you right now, what would you dream that your church would look like? And like, oftentimes, we’re so quick to say, well, if the Lord’s willing or, you know, if the blessing happened to come my way. Well, no, no, start envisioning that vision, and that’s what we call goals. And so you just want to make sure that you come up with challenging things, like if you think okay, let’s come up with some goals that I think we can get done. Be careful, because God can do exceedingly more abundant, above anything we could ever ask or think, so make sure you make them really good and challenging. Make sure that they’re motivational things that you want to do, but then also make sure it’s measurable. So there’s my little preamble before I get into the five things.
Mark MacDonald: [00:11:58] So number one, get out into your community. Effective communication rises and falls in how well you know your audience, and oftentimes we get so wrapped up in the busy times with who the congregation is, but God’s placed your congregation into a community, it’s the feeder ground, it’s the is the area that you want to fall in love with and be known for love in that community, so get out into the community and listen.
Bart Blair: [00:12:32] Let me pause you on that, that made me think of something that I actually was thinking about a little bit earlier when you were asking the question, what would you be doing during this down season? What often tends to happen for churches during the summer, during the low season, is they assume that there’s less ministry activity to do because the people in their church are all checking out, going on vacation, taking holidays, and the kids aren’t in school, and so weekend attendance numbers tend to drop, and we don’t plan any new initiatives or do any of our regular programming, because we’re taking this break for summer because our people are less engaged. But the people that you’re talking about going and listening to, are the people who are not yet connected to your church. And the reality is, is that marriages don’t stop failing just because it’s the summer, people don’t stop experiencing grief and anxiety and loss and financial challenges just because it’s summer, and so we can have this tendency sometimes to shift in and out of gears based on what Jason and I refer to as our ring one, our primary audience, the people who are already part of our church. We shift gears based on what our own congregation needs and wants and apparent participation level is going to be, without really considering the fact that there are still many, many ministry opportunities in the community for people who haven’t yet connected with our church. So I just wanted to jump on what you were saying there because I thought it was pretty insightful.
Mark MacDonald: [00:14:10] Well, and it’s interesting because a church just has to decide, are you a church for the church or are you the church for the unchurched? And the unchurched is outside of your walls, if you’re only concentrating inside, you’ll almost always go into decline. And you have to start looking outside because, you know, we do a lot of demographic studies of areas and it’s usually a third or third or third. A third of the people in your community have no connection to any church, nor do they want any connection to any church. Another third has had a connection but have decided that they don’t want a connection anymore with the church. And then the other third, who are regular attendees, which we all know means every day, no, every week, no, like one or two times a month, it’s like maybe 20 times a year, but most of them are just Christers, they go at Christmas and Easter time. And so that’s one-third, so if you just want to be a church for the fully committed believer, well, you have a very, very small group of people that you’re going to be talking to. And I believe that we’re going to go out into the world and make disciples, and that’s the other two-thirds. We’ve got to figure out, so why did they lose interest in us? How did the church screw them, can I say that word? Messed with them in the past? And then…
Bart Blair: [00:15:48] Send out the beeping tool? I told you we were going to have to beep you in this podcast.
Mark MacDonald: [00:15:51] Man, and we thought it was going to be for Jason. The interesting thing, though, I mean, we need to figure out, that they have needs, concerns, and goals, and we’ve got to define those things and say, so how do we get them to pay attention to the church again? And you can’t do it unless you start talking to them.
Jason Hamrock: [00:16:11] Well, yeah, and you need to go a step deeper than that. I don’t think the first step is them coming to church, right, we know that. The first step might just be some kind of online engagement, or maybe some kind of a funny vid that you did somewhere else in a park or something like that, right? That relationship has to start there, and over time, let God bring it together.
Mark MacDonald: [00:16:34] Absolutely. And what’s interesting that I found, so we do focus groups, you know, we go into a church and we pull out demographic groups and we talk to them. And then we always ask for a community group, a group of people from your community who don’t go to any church at all. And oftentimes churches go, you know what, it’s just invaluable information, like, we just couldn’t believe what you got out of them. But every time that any person in the church, like the people who are listening to this, any time you’re talking to an unchurched person or somebody who goes to another church, it’s an informal focus group. You should just constantly have your regular questions that you ask, ask them and then listen to their answers. And when somebody, you know, when I sit down on a flight and somebody next to me and I mean, we just have that, you know, let’s strike up a conversation. I oftentimes will try to get like, so have you ever gone to church? And like that’s a pretty softball question. And if they go, no, no, it’s like, why like do you go to church? I say, Yeah, I kind of do, you know, I go every week. Like people’s minds are blown, that I would give up a Sunday and like as soon as they are blowing their minds, I’ll say, So what do you normally do on Sunday? And like be like almost every single time people say, that’s my family day. For them to go to church is to give up a family day, so we’ve got to figure out as a church, how do we make sure that we have family time so that someone can come in and experience it as a family. Where oftentimes when someone walks to the door, it’s like, oh, you have children? They can go here, and students can go here, and parents, you can go here. But yet what I see is the perception in the community is oftentimes they want to do something together, and that’s something we need to fix, I think, in the church.
Bart Blair: [00:18:47] So you said, Mark, the first point is to get out into your community and listen, and part of listening requires asking questions and that’s what you just shared that you did. And just because I want to prove that this is a biblical Jesus-like thing to do, in the Gospels, it is recorded with Jesus asking 307 different questions. People ask Jesus 140 different questions, and 181 of those 184 times, he responded by asking another question. The clue here, the key here is, asking questions and then listening, and then asking more questions and then listening. I think you’re hitting a nail pretty hard on the head there, that if we want to have an effective, life-changing, community-impacting church, it really needs to start with knowing and understanding our community, their needs, their cultural aspirations, their personal and family aspirations, we don’t need to cater to them, but we definitely need to know them and be sensitive to where they are if we ever expect to be able to reach them.
Mark MacDonald: [00:19:59] And ultimately, Bart, I mean, you understand this, I mean, in this communication world that we live in, I mean, we call them personas, which is just a stereotypical description of a group of people. Well, if we were to go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in, we need to know what is compelling to them. So the goal, number one, is that you need to clarify who your persona is, what their needs, concerns, and goals are, what would a solution to their needs and concerns be, and what would a path to a goal be? And then which is the most prominent, as you talk to more and more people, what rises to the top all the time? And if your church can figure out how they can become known for something that’s a solution to a need or concern or a path to a goal, people will go, I didn’t expect to get it from a church, but that’s what I’m looking for.
Bart Blair: [00:21:00] All right, number one.
Jason Hamrock: [00:21:03] We got the first one. What’s the second one?
Mark MacDonald: [00:21:05] Yeah, and this is usually when I think, oh, my goodness, we’re only at one. Okay, so two, it sounds crazy, but really what we’ve been talking about is based upon audience, based upon the community, are you known for the right things? And if you’re not, then number two is, talk to your pastor and consider a rebrand. Like you just have to say, okay, so if our current brand is not working, i.e. you’re reducing in numbers, you’re in decline or stagnation, then it might be time for you to rebrand. And that sounds scary, that is not just changing your logo, this is changing the perception of your church, so that’s how do we become known for something that’s relevant and needed in this community? And so you just need to do whatever it takes to reconnect to that community.
Bart Blair: [00:22:02] Okay, double click, double click, if you got to stop, sorry, Jason. Go ahead, Jason.
Jason Hamrock: [00:22:07] When you’ve talked to churches about what it means to build a rebrand, just give us a couple of insights. Like does that mean, hey, gather all the leadership team or even gather the elders, we’re going to talk strategy, we’re going to talk about our core values, we’re going to talk about what we are mandated to do, how do you lead them through that?
Bart Blair: [00:22:25] I think what he means, Jason, is you need to design a new logo by committee, that’s what you need to do. That’s what rebranding the church is, right, it’s designing a new logo by committee?
Mark MacDonald: [00:22:36] Okay, so you’re going to get more views on this as I throw up in front of the camera. So, no, that is not what we’re talking about. And in fact, Jason, you just hit a sore point, which I could go off on. But that whole mission, vision values, like we all in the church world, everybody wants to talk about what’s your mission, what’s your vision, what your values? All of those things are so navel-gazing, like you’re just staring at your belly button and you’re talking about, so what does it mean to be our church? How do we do ministry, let’s just talk about me, me, me, me, me? The problem is, is that we’ve got to start making it about them, them, them, them, them. So you’ve got to take your mission, and vision, and values, which are important, I’ll give them that, and you probably want to make sure you have those things so that people who become fully committed members in your church understand what makes your church a church? But you’ve got to convert that into an external thread, which, we call it a communication thread, it’s a traditional brand positioning statement. If everyone is saying we’re about the same, which every mission, vision, and value, convince me otherwise, is pretty much the same, it’s kind of scriptural, and Scripture makes it really clear and everyone rotates around the different the wording around all of it, but if everyone is the same, no one will make a choice. If you can be different, if you can be positioned differently from all the other people that are out there and that you speak directly to the audience that you’re trying to reach and you’re actually different, then people will know you for something different. And that’s where you need to, like whether you hire somebody like you guys, or whether you hire someone like us or our team, or if you pick up my book at Amazon.com, number two Amazon best-seller that walks you through the whole process of how do you become known for something that’s relevant and needed, and every chapter ends with some questions to move them forward. Or we do this crazy thing called the brand retreat, where we come in and for three days we meet with the leadership of the church and at the end of the three days we have a thread, we’ve defined personas, and we have a start of a communication strategy. Or you can hire another agency, like, I mean, this is not about Be Known For Something by any stretch because there are so many good people that are out there that will help you with the rebrand. But you can also do it yourself by using some tools like the book, you know, for something.
Jason Hamrock: [00:25:28] Good stuff.
Bart Blair: [00:25:29] Yeah, I think you’re hitting on something that’s just super, super important, and when it comes to branding, this was basically what the podcast was all about that you and Jason had the conversation before. Is that as communicators, especially since so many of us are visual, right? I mean, I don’t know many communications directors who didn’t start out in some level of graphic design and marketing and we’re visual, and so we so lean into the visual components of who we are to actually be the identifiers of our brand. And Mark, I don’t know you well, but I do really appreciate the emphasis that you place on the brand being more tied to what people believe about us, think about us, and say about us, than what we say about ourselves. Because it really doesn’t matter what we say about ourselves, if the people in our community are not echoing those sentiments or if they have a completely different idea about who we are and what our purpose is in the community.
Mark MacDonald: [00:26:36] So before COVID, more than 4000 evangelical churches closed their doors every year, and I would dare say that many of them had a really good mission, vision, and values.
Jason Hamrock: [00:26:50] But they just weren’t living them out. [inaudible]
Mark MacDonald: [00:26:55] Yeah, and it feels very internal, so that the average person, like if you have, make, mature, and multiply disciples for Jesus Christ as your know your big vision, well, no one in your community in that two-thirds group is waking up this morning saying, man, if only I could make, mature, and multiply disciples for Jesus Christ. Like it’s an internal language that needs to be converted to what is the benefit for the person that’s listening to it?
Jason Hamrock: [00:27:26] Absolutely.
Bart Blair: [00:27:28] That was point number two. Sorry, man, we’ve got to keep going here because we have three more. Each one of these probably could have been a podcast episode, we don’t have time to do that. So, number one, get out in your community and listen. Number two, if you’re a communications director leader, if you’re an executive pastor, talk to your senior pastor about a rebrand. And then lean into some other voices like Mark or others who can help you figure out what steps and process you need to go through to do that rebranding process What is our third thing to consider as we go into the summer, Mark?
Mark MacDonald: [00:28:02] Okay, and this one should be a very quick one. I mean, just it’s exactly what we were talking about at the very beginning. Look at your past year and decide, what have we done right, what have we done really wrong, or what’s in between, and was it stuff that was out of our control, and what could we control, and that’s what we call strategy? So you just got a look, it’s like look at the past year and look ahead to your next year and say, so how are we going to do it differently? I mean, that should be a scary word for every church. Like maybe the way you’ve always done things is not the right way, and I don’t say that with too much mocking, but there’s a lot of mocking that I just threw on to that.
Jason Hamrock: [00:28:51] I do it all the time, I’ll say, you’ve got to, like I always ask churches, what are those sacred cows? What are they? You know, that you just can’t live without? And I usually get, the lead pastor always wants to do this. How do you know it’s working? He doesn’t, he just has a feeling that it’s working. You know, that’s usually where I’ll camp out and say let’s talk about that.
Mark MacDonald: [00:29:11] Yeah. And that goes back to be setting goals that are measurable so that you know, whether it’s succeeded or failed. And oftentimes people go, oh, I would hate to declare my goal that that is like, you know, this year we’re going to double our social media followers. Because as soon as you say it, then I think everybody says, oh my goodness, I’m going to lose my job. Because I’m going to tell everybody we’re going to double it, and then if we don’t double it, then I’m going to be axed. Well, the problem is, is that oftentimes we just say, so let’s just try to improve our social media. And then at the end of the year, you go, so has the social media improved? And the person who’s trying to get a raise says, yes, yes, my goodness, let me tell you, and spin everything as positive as possible. But the thing is, on this side, looking forward into your next year, you’ve got to, ooh, take some God-sized leaps and says, here’s what we really need to accomplish based upon some failures of the past.
Jason Hamrock: [00:30:16] I love helping churches, especially communication directors, create a budget. Because they’ll ask us, can you help us, right, I need to submit my budget for the year, what do you think I should do? So I put on my communication director hat and I go, Let’s talk about that. What I try to plant in their heads is, don’t think just this year, go to your leadership, who are business-minded, especially the elders, probably business leaders, and have like a three-year plan, a five-year plan, and this is what you want this year, and here’s how I’m going to measure the results, here’s how I think the ROI is going to play out. But I have a big long-term, I mean, that’s going to speak volumes into them blessing you or not blessing you based on what your vision is for your team. That’s scary, but it’s also very strategic.
Mark MacDonald: [00:31:05] Yeah, and it’s interesting because the church loves to tell the person in the pew, that when they say so, should I tithe on net or on the gross? The church quickly says, well, it depends on how much blessing you want. Like, do you feel that you want to blah, blah, blah, all that stuff? Well, when setting budgets, oftentimes the budget’s the reason why things aren’t achieved in the church, so set as much budget as possible and just make sure that there’s a return on investment. And the thing is, that requires goals, and they have to be measurable, and you have to make sure that what you’re throwing money at is actually working.
Bart Blair: [00:31:45] I’m a big fan of Will Mancini’s Horizon Storyline, which really gives clarity for churches on how to create multiple-year strategies and plans for a long-term vision. And one thing that I think is really important to kind of piggyback on what Jason is saying, is that it’s almost impossible for a church communications director to really set effective goals and strategies that will be overall wins for the church if the church itself does not have clarity on where it’s headed and what its ultimate goals and plans are. Because everything the communications director is doing ought to be working to move the needle on the church’s overarching goals. Right? So it’s one thing for the communications director to set goals in a vacuum and say, I want to double social media, and I want to have this kind of open rate on my emails, and I want to do this. Well, that’s all well and good, but in the end, how is that helping the church as a whole make new disciples and how do we tie those things together? So I think, you know, whether it’s budgeting or setting goals, setting objectives, whatever your role is in the church, you need to do your best to try to align it with the church’s overarching goals. And if you’re going to your leaders and they are unclear about what their goals are and where the church is headed, this is an opportunity for you to lead up and really try to influence them and help them see that what you want to do is to help the church succeed, but we as a church need to define what success means for us.
Mark MacDonald: [00:33:19] And that’s why number two is, to talk to your pastor, because your pastor has to set the vision. As a communications person, your goal is to advocate for the audience. So oftentimes people, when I’m saying you’ve got to develop your thread, the communications person says, I can’t develop my thread because that has to come from above me, that’s above my pay grade. And it is above most communications people’s pay grade, because most pastors have not put the communications person in a lead leadership position so that they can set the vision, so you’ve got to come in line and support and motivate your pastor by saying, what’s your vision? How do we convert that to a thread? And then here are some strategies so that we can make sure that you will achieve that.
Jason Hamrock: [00:34:18] Yeah, cool. Okay, let’s talk about the fourth one because we’ve covered the three of them. The last one was to assess your past year and plan your upcoming year to the strategy. What’s number four?
Mark MacDonald: [00:34:30] Yes, and that last one was supposed to be very quick, and this next one, I’m going to try as much as possible to make this as quick as possible, but number four is, if you don’t have anything on your plate right now, work on your website. Most church websites suck, like, they’re just so bad, they’re not giving people…Like we do a bunch of focus groups, and the number one thing that people say is I’ve been to the website and I don’t know whether it’s up to date, or I’ve been to the website and I can’t seem to find anything. And so if you find your church in that in that world where people are calling or saying, yeah, I need information about, and you say, well you can just go to the website. And they’re like, I can’t find it on your website. It’s because your website sucks, it’s to a point where you just work on it and get really good at SEO content. So the organization is really key, make sure you have about six things in your main menu, make sure that they’re in the right order from left, prioritized to the right. And then make sure things rise to the top of your page, so give overarching information at the top of your page and then get more specific as you go down the page. But then also make sure that all of your content is set up so that Google becomes your biggest evangelist, you want to make sure that that search engine optimization principles, and I mean, I can get really granular here, and there are just so many cool things that are out there, really good tools that are free to everyone who’s listening to make sure that the content’s right on your page. Can I just go into one, like the one that I just discovered?
Jason Hamrock: [00:36:24] Yeah.
Mark MacDonald: [00:36:25] So if your page is about Awana, which is a sub-brand, which no one in their right mind would ever in their community say, well, my kids just need Awana. So instead, if you think about it, think about what would they be googling to find it, so children’s program would probably be that thing. So instead of calling it Awana, call it a children’s program, then introduce that it’s called Awana in our church. But go to Google.com and put in children’s program, and what it does is it knows all the people in your world, in your community who are Googling things about children’s programs, and what it’ll do is, you know, how it gives you that little dropdown. And oftentimes it’s just worded a little bit different, and go with Google’s words, not with what you think it should be.
Jason Hamrock: [00:37:29] That is right.
Mark MacDonald: [00:37:29] And then the other really cool tip here is just, you know how they give you all the websites you possibly might want in Google in the Google search, keep scrolling, you probably have to like swipe two or three times, halfway down, you’re going to see related searches, and people also ask. People also ask, are all the questions that someone puts with a question mark about that topic, and you better answer those questions. So if you have an FAQ, or if you have an area at the bottom of your page that you should have, where you’re answering questions about the information on the page, go with what Google has. And if you supply the information really well, and use the exact words that Google has suggested, then Google will love you.
Jason Hamrock: [00:38:21] Yep, you’ll show up. I mean, we can cover that with so many, like celebrate recovery, right? Nobody searches that outside the church world, it’s addiction recovery, or addiction support groups, that kind of a thing. Yeah, that plays out, that’s phenomenal advice to be working on your website throughout the summer.
Bart Blair: [00:38:41] Jason and I, there’s a video on our YouTube channel, I’ll ask Randal to link it in the show notes. But we have a video that we recorded, it might have been a podcast or it might have just been something we did offhand, which was four things to rethink about your church website. One of the things that I want to emphasize before we move on to the fifth and final point is, more than likely, if you look at your analytics, you will see that somewhere between 60 and 90% of your website traffic is new visitors, meaning it’s people who don’t yet know you. Therefore, the way that you organize your content on your website needs to be done through the filter of the person who doesn’t have any context of who you are or what you’re all about. So everything above the fold, meaning basically everything you see on the screen when the website first loads needs to be focused on the person who’s come to your website who simply doesn’t know who you are or what you’re about. There needs to be clear calls to action for the person who’s trying to learn more about who you are and what you offer them. And so using language that is both friendly to Google, but also friendly to the outsider of your church, not using all of your insider lingo, insider language, or program names, if that doesn’t mean anything to anybody outside the church, it’s not useful on your website, at least not above the fold on the home page. So there’s my soapbox, I got on it, I’ll get off.
Jason Hamrock: [00:40:10] A little stamp on that, if your mission statement is on your home page, remove it, nobody cares about your mission statement other than you. Instead, replace it with a benefit statement for why they should come to your church.
Mark MacDonald: [00:40:21] I’m feeling the Spirit.
Bart Blair: [00:40:23] Here we go, all right, let the Spirit lead you, Mark, to number five.
Mark MacDonald: [00:40:28] You’ll post this on YouTube, and it will randomly choose this one picture of me with my hands up.
Bart Blair: [00:40:35] And it doesn’t have to randomly do it, I can choose that myself and I might just do so.
Mark MacDonald: [00:40:40] Yeah, put Ben Stapley’s picture up. Okay, so, five, the last one, Hallelujah. Everyone who’s listening is like, get to the last one so I can stop listening. Okay, so, five is social media will suck the life out of you and especially during really busy times, so number five is to create evergreen content that you can post at any time. So it’s the stuff like, here at Be Known For Something, I mean we’re posting Be Known For Something statements all the time. Any time any one of us gets one that pops into our heads where we’re at a conference or we’re reading a book or we’re doing something and it’s like, Oh yeah, you should be known for this, not this, or you should have this, or you don’t want to be known for this. Like all of those Be Known For Something statements, we have a Google doc that we all go in and we just flood those, like we have hundreds of those all listed there. And then our graphic designer, any time that they’re like, oh, I’m in between projects, what can I do? Oh yeah, let’s do a graphic for one of those Be Known For Something statements, they can be used any time. And then the person who schedules all of our social media, if they think, I’m looking for a graphic and I don’t know what else we can do, here’s a hole? Then all they do is, okay, so it’s coming into summer, maybe I should search the Be Known For Something for summer, or for a lull, or vacation, or living, or something like that so that they can draw on that stuff. Churches need an evergreen library that is just available to them to fill in some of the gaps.
Bart Blair: [00:42:34] That is excellent, that is excellent. Mark, I’d love to expound on that a little bit more, but we’re going to go ahead and wrap things up. You did write a blog post or someone on your team wrote a blog post kind of focused on this particular content, we’ll link to that in the show notes. As we wrap things up here today, any parting shots, anything that you just want to leave our audience with before we bid farewell?
Mark MacDonald: [00:42:59] And I know that this is going to sound like me pandering just a little bit, but take time for you, you’ve just come through a really, really busy time. And, you know, I’m a driven person, I am a goal-oriented person, and I love work, I work far too much, but I really, really love it, and many of you are the exact same way. But make sure you’re taking the time for your spouse, for your family, for you, and just make sure that you’re staying in the Word and feeding yourself spiritually as well.
Jason Hamrock: [00:43:37] Awesome advice.
Bart Blair: [00:43:38] Hey, thanks so much for being on the show, we really appreciate it, and I’m quite confident we’ll do it again. Mark MacDonald, Be Known For Something.