How to Best Utilize an Intern for Church Communications | Burning Questions

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Bart and Jason discuss questions like how to best utilize an intern for church communications and more in this episode of Burning Questions

Podcast Notes

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Podcast Transcription


Bart Blair: Welcome to season 4, episode 33 of the Missional Marketing Podcast. This is the 157th edition of our show. We’ve been producing this podcast since 2020 to help churches grow by leveraging digital marketing and effective communications. And I’m Bart Blair, the co-host of the show, joined by the CEO of Missional Marketing, Mr. Jason Hamrock. Hi, Jason.

Jason Hamrock: Hey, Bart. How are you today?

Bart Blair: Today I’m doing very well. We’re recording this on a Friday. It’s been a long week with many, many zoom calls. I see a little light at the end of the tunnel, but still a few more today after you and I are finished with this. I am looking forward to the weekend. I’m having a bunch of people over to my house tonight to eat hamburgers, and I’m looking forward to that. What are you doing tonight? Anything special on your Friday night?

Jason Hamrock: No, nothing.

Bart Blair: No.

Jason Hamrock: I don’t even know. My wife will tell me what we need to do, so.

Bart Blair: Okay, all right, I get that. Yeah, I get that. Well, that’s very good. Hey, we’re going to just cut to the chase, because, well, we’re both on a schedule today, and we wanted to record another Burning Questions episode of our podcast. It’s been a little while since we’ve done this, and our list of questions has been growing. And so we decided, hey, we’re just going to jump in for a few minutes and we’re going to tackle a couple of questions. And so I think today, Jason will ask me a question, I will ask Jason a question, and we’ll both have an opportunity to kind of bounce ideas back and forth off of each other on each of these questions. And we want to remind you that if you have a question, you can email them to us. Just send it to, and just put it in the subject line burning question for the podcast, and that’ll get to me and I’ll add it to our list, and maybe someday soon we’ll answer your question on our show. So, Jason, do you want me to ask you a question first?

Jason Hamrock: Ask away, Bart. Bring it on, let’s go.

Bart Blair: All right, here’s the question I’m going to ask you. Jason, what are the best practices for growing our church’s email list, increasing our open rates, and using email marketing to keep church members informed, driving key actions that we want them to respond to?

Jason Hamrock: That’s like three questions in one.

Bart Blair: That was kind of a big one, yeah, it was a big question.

Jason Hamrock: You know, so obviously I think, let’s talk really briefly just about the content of the email. I’m a huge fan of keeping it short and simple. If you’ve got a list of like eight things you’re covering, that’s just too much, right? That’s overkill. I’d like to keep it to, normally we promote two things, but occasionally three things because you don’t…if you want them to engage. So I’m always trying to limit that to just a few things that are the top things I want to communicate for that week because you gotta remember this is a weekly thing.

Jason Hamrock: The second thing though, if you go deeper into what is it we promote, whatever you’re promoting, wrap a story around it. So it should never just be, we have this event coming on and you know, it’s in two weeks and we want to invite you. Tell a story first, and then inside that story, you invite them to the event. I’ll tell you sometimes the best is this, if you’ve got, let’s say you’ve got a serving event coming up you want the congregation to serve. Maybe you could think ahead and put together an article that talks about a small group rallying together, the small group, they went and they served, and they did something really meaningful in the community. You just accomplished a couple of things there. You talked about the value of small groups and community, you talked about the value of serving, and then you just promoted your upcoming serving event. So you’ve got to think a little deeper about, don’t just promote something to check it off the list, but think about what can we do to tell a story and really motivate people, because that’s going to help your engagement of the email. So your engagement rate will go up, I have seen this happen, open rates will continue to climb, engagements will continue to climb, and links and clicks to your website will continue to climb. So if you do that, you’re going to be in really good shape.

Jason Hamrock: Now, how to get more people to subscribe to your email newsletter? Well, you’ve got to make it easy for people to find it. I’ve actually literally been on church websites, and I’m like, where’s your newsletter? Do you guys do a newsletter? Yeah, every every week. I can’t even find it anywhere, it’s not even…Put it in the footer, don’t just put it on the home page, put it in the footer, like subscribe. Make it really easy, just your email, don’t ask for a bunch of information. Make sure you communicate that in church services and inside the service itself. Maybe you’ve got an app, so they’ve got the app, but you could promote, you know, sign up for our newsletter because you’re going to get great information, weekly. So there are just different ways, you know, people, if you have like a starting kiosk in your lobby, right, and people walk up and they fill something out, have them subscribe to the newsletter because that’s where they’re going to get all the details of what’s going on inside the church. So there are some ideas right there.

Bart Blair: Yeah. Let me blast a few, I’m kind of going to work from where you ended, and work backward to where you started. Creative ways, print little business cards with a QR code on them that pops up a little register for our email list. The big thing about getting people to sign up for your email list is that you need to have something that you’re offering to them that they perceive has value to it, right? So I’m not just going to get on your email list just for the sake of getting on your email list. But if you’re sending something to me that has some value, I think that’s super important. I love stories, stories of impact, stories of life change. I love recaps of sermons. I love content in the newsletter that points back to expanded content on the website. So you mentioned, you know, a serving event with small groups, and there was a third other component in your little explanation there, but I can’t remember what it was.

Jason Hamrock: Well, the actual event.

Bart Blair: The actual event itself. So you know you should have a small groups page on your website. You should have a page for events and serving and things that you’re doing, and you should be linking back to your website to drive more traffic back to your website for people who really want to learn more about those things. So there are some creative things that you can do there. Again, adding content to your website that people see is valuable and then offering to send them more comparable content that is valuable by signing up for a newsletter. The newsletter needs to be not just a digital bulletin, and I think that’s the point that you’re trying to make.

Bart Blair: Now, winding back to some more technical things, one of the reasons that churches see open rates drop is clearly because the content that we’re sending is not perceived as valuable, therefore people don’t open it. So for starters, you have to have content that’s worth opening. But here’s another thing that churches fail to do, and I think they’re afraid of doing it, but from time to time you need to purge your list. This means you need to go back, and if you’re using MailChimp or Constant Contact or whatever you’re looking at, go back and pull all the email addresses of people who have not opened your email list in the last year, send a unique email to those people telling them that you’re going to remove them from your list unless they reply telling you that they want to stay on the list. And if they don’t reply, take them off the list. Now guess what? By proxy of removing those people who have never really had an interest in your emails, your open rate just went up because you have now all these people who are no longer receiving the email, who never really cared about the email, no longer depleting your averages of the average number of emails that get opened. So don’t be afraid to purge the list.

Bart Blair: The last thing, Kim Tarleton was hitting on this, she’s on our team on the Church Communications Group, and she was hitting on this, at one of our roadshows recently. She said, don’t bait and switch with your subject lines in your emails. Don’t use a subject line that promises something that you don’t deliver in the email. At the same time, don’t use a subject line that says newsletter, Friday, May 10th, 2024. Be creative, be creative with your subject line to entice somebody to open the email, but make sure you back it up with good content in the email, don’t bait and switch. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Jason Hamrock: Love it, love it. There you go. All right, let’s move on. This question for you, Bart, comes from our friend Mariah. So thank you, Mariah, for sending this.

Bart Blair: Mariah in Wisconsin, all right.

Jason Hamrock: So she’s asking, we’re bringing on an intern, or they want to bring on an intern, any advice on the best way to use an intern in the comms world?

Bart Blair: Wow, that’s a really good question. I’ll speak from the perspective of what an internship should be. Okay? An internship should be an opportunity for someone to get a lot of exposure, intentional exposure on a lot of different things in ministry in a designated period of time. So maybe it’s a six-month internship, or a one-year internship, or maybe it’s just a one-month internship, whatever you want to do. The best way you serve an intern, and you need to think about this, that the intern is coming not to do a job, but to actually get exposure and get experience. The best way that you serve an intern is by crafting a plan or a strategy that gets them exposure to a variety of different things so that they can see where they’ve got natural aptitude, natural giftings, and perhaps a natural calling. And so if I was bringing an intern onto my church communications team, I would have them maybe shadow other people on my team. Maybe if I have a graphic designer, or if I have a web developer, or if I have a copywriter, or a social media person, I want to make sure that they have an opportunity to shadow with each of those people on the team, get some hands-on experience in all of those different areas. There might be a few small administrative things that you can give that intern to own during the time that they’re doing that internship. But I think if the hope or the goal is that this person who’s coming on as an intern might eventually either join our staff full time in ministry or launch out into their own, you know, vocational ministry life and find a spot in another church, I think giving them a well-rounded experience while you’re serving them as they’re doing their internship, that’s the way that people don’t look at it. We’re bringing in interns to serve us, actually, when an intern joins our church, we should be thinking about how we can best serve them, capitalizing on the time that they have with us and just helping them really find their best way. Any thoughts from you?

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, that’s really well said, I love that we’re here to serve you. What I would also include in that is Patrick Lencioni wrote a book called The Six Working Geniuses, I think it’s called. I would have, there’s an assessment you can take and it’s like 25 bucks, have that intern take that assessment because it’s going to kind of clearly tell you where their giftedness, where their geniuses are. And let’s say their geniuses are kind of invention and wondering, all right, there you go, don’t give them a bunch of tasks to do, because they’re probably going to not do so well, but let them be involved in meetings that are thinking and planning and being creative. But if they are kind of like the tenacity, like to get stuff done, all right, get them involved in learning how to do that. I think what you said there, Bart, was that it’s a well-rounded experience, but you really want to kind of lean on giving them some things to do so that they are getting their hands and their feet a little dirty in ministry. But the way I see it, and I actually had a couple of interns when back in the day, and my job was just to basically expose them to the inner workings of a comms department in a big church. And, you know, people like it or they love it or they hate it, you know, but it helped them understand what and if they wanted to get involved. Plus, I could see and go, yeah, that’s somebody I want on my team, versus thanks for serving, see you later. You know, you get to know people without having to commit to them. So I love the idea of interns.

Jason Hamrock: How do you find interns? You know, you can obviously look inside the congregation to see if anybody is interested in becoming an intern, you know, a young adult. Or go to a local university and open it up there, if it’s even that they get some credit hours for serving, that’d be awesome, people would love that. So I’d look at local universities, or look within, to actually find the interns.

Bart Blair: I’m going to quote a friend of mine named Joel Trainer, who’s a pastor in Ohio, and he’d say, make it a win for them. Think about it from that perspective, if you make it a win for them, it will ultimately be a win for you. Those are the only two questions that we’re going to tackle today in this particular episode, but I do have one more question for you before we wrap things up. You have been working very closely with the church out in California called Eastside. And, you were sharing in one of our meetings, a week or two ago about some creative stuff that Eastside is doing with video content in social media. Could you just take a couple of minutes to share some of the stuff that you’re doing with Eastside and what kind of successes that they’re seeing in that?

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. You know, we’re kind of moving towards really leaning heavily into video. And that’s just not just necessarily, you know, recording things, I want some motion. I want motion on stuff, so reels are where it’s at. If we post something on social media, if we post it on Instagram, it’s just kind of a flat image, it doesn’t do well, it tanks, but if we post a video, it explodes. And so with that concept, we’re just going, we want to do that more and more and more, we want more video or at least movement. So if we’re going to promote a sermon series, I don’t want to promote a graphic, I want movement on that to at least bring it to life. So we’re doing that.

Jason Hamrock: Another thing that we decided to start to tackle is a thing called, Eastside in 60 Seconds. So on Tuesday or Wednesday, we’re going to drop a video, and it’s a 60-second video about what’s going on in the church, you know, this weekend or what you need to know. So we’re going to cover like 2 or 3 things, but we’re going to be really creative with it and kind of have fun with it. So it’s not just going to be a talking head, it might be something they’re actually doing, or they’re somewhere in the community, that relates to the topic. So again, we’ve talked about serving. Well, I want them actually serving, and then to stop going, okay, it’s time to do Eastside in 60 Seconds. I’m over here doing this, so we’re going to do that, and then I gotta go back. So the idea is just to be creative inside of that 60-second video. And again you could do it, we still have e-news, but this is just another way to be creative, to communicate some stuff in a platform that we know works really well with video, and we’re going to get more engagement. And we’re actually thinking more than just our people, we’re thinking about people that are going to see this and then go, oh, I want to be a part of that. So it’s an invitation as well to people that don’t go to Eastside.

Jason Hamrock: So those are just a couple of ideas and being creative with moving this comms team in a little bit of a different direction, thinking differently, not just reacting to week in and week out, week in and week out, you know, we have our checklist, right? You have got to have some space and margin to think creatively and just generate some ideas, and what can you implement and act on that isn’t going to crush your team, but bring a lot of value not only to the church but people outside the church?

Bart Blair: Yeah, that’s really cool. So if you’re listening to this and you’re curious to see what Eastside is doing, that’s Eastside Church. It’s just called Eastside Church. Eastside Christian Church in Anaheim, California, which, by the way, happens to be hosting a Church Communications Roadshow in June. In fact, on June 20th in Anaheim at Eastside Church, Eastside Christian Church, in Anaheim, Jason will be there. I will not be at that particular event, but I’m sure Jason would love to meet you. So if you’re listening to this podcast or watching it on YouTube, and you happen to live somewhere in Southern California and you can get there, click over to the Church Communications website, which is Church, look for the roadshow events, and get registered. Prior to the one happening in Anaheim on June 20th, two days prior, in Folsom, California at Lakeside Church, there will also be a roadshow on June 18th. So if you happen to be in the Folsom area, that’s Northern California, I think, Northern California, make sure that you plan to be there June 18th in Folsom, or June 20th in Anaheim. Click over to to get the details. And because you are a listener to the Missional Marketing Podcast, here’s your discount code, are you ready? ROADSHOW49 all one, word all capital letters, ROADSHOW49. I think that gets you like $30 bucks off the registration, I think, don’t quote me on that. I don’t know what the actual registration cost is, but it gets you lunch and it gets you an intensive look from some leaders in church communications, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. I mean, every time we’ve done this over the course of the last 8 or 9 months, the feedback that we’re getting from the churches that are there is amazing. And, in fact, most of them, I think, they’re looking forward to us coming back again. And, so we would love for you to participate in one of those events if you are in Northern California or Southern California, or if you want to fly to Southern California or Northern California, go ahead and do it, California is a good place to be. The weather in Southern California should be nice in June, and so of course, it’s nice in a lot of America. But anyway, I just wanted to make sure that we plugged that. That’s all we have this week, for this week’s episode. Hopefully, this has been beneficial for you. If it has been, make sure that you leave us a rating and a review wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And, if you haven’t yet subscribed, make sure that you do that so that you don’t miss any of our future episodes. Jason, thanks so much for hanging out with me today.

Jason Hamrock: Thanks, Bart. Glad to be here.

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