Interview with Katie Allred of Church Communications

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Jason Hamrock speaks with Katie Allred, co-founder of Church Communications, about how they are helping churches face new challenges in this unprecedented time of COVID-19.

Podcast Transcription

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Jason Hamrock: Well, hey, guys, I’m here with Katie Allred, and she’s with church communications. And so excited to have her with us. Hi, Katie.

Katie Allred: Hey, Jason. How are you doing?

Jason Hamrock: Well, I’m doing really well. Otherwise, it’s a bit…We’re here at Easter week, so it’s a busy time. And we’re in this new COVID-19 era of our society and certainly turning churches upside allowed inside out for a little while.

Katie Allred: Yeah, it’s been a wild time for sure.

Jason Hamrock: So, tell me a little bit about church communications, and how you guys are helping churches.

Katie Allred: Yeah, so right now, the group, it’s a Facebook group. You go to church communications on Facebook, you go to church communications.com, if you want to find it. But the group really has pivoted to be solely about figuring out this online ministry, like what it looks like. And, you know, it’s funny though. Because, you know, so I have been passionate about reaching people with the gospel online for years, and then my partner was an online church pastor. So Kenny was the online pastor at Liquid Church for a long time, and so we have always been passionate about online ministry. But it’s funny, it was like, he said it like this, “It’s like we were on an island and nobody wanted to hang out our island. And then all of the sudden everybody was like, oh, this is a popular island.” We  we were not the cool kids on the playground, but then we got a nice toy and everybody wants to hang out with us now. Because,  we have just had, it’s just been an about face in how people are trying to figure this out. So, yeah, it’s been it’s been pretty well. But we have been helping a lot of churches, live streaming, online giving, websites. I mean, you name it, churches have asked. And so we’ve been we’ve been handling a lot of requests.

Jason Hamrock: You guys are doing an amazing job, because I get on Facebook and look through there. And what’s really cool about your platform, is you’re just helping churches that have general questions, and it’s so cool to see other churches speaking into it. And it’s become just one community, if you will, where you can go to get answers to stuff that you just wouldn’t really know where to go to turn. Why not look to other churches to help you with that? And that’s what you’ve created, which is brilliant.

Katie Allred: Well, thank you. Yeah, we just want to be helpful. We have always had this open-handed generosity about our platform. We don’t like want to, you know, put everything behind paywall or whatever. We really want to help as many churches as we possibly can, and so that’s been our philosophy since day one.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Well, and in that, how have you seen churches make this transition to online? Because some churches go, I don’t want to get into that.

Katie Allred: Kicking and screaming.

Jason Hamrock: Oh yeah, they just don’t want to do this.

Katie Allred: They don’t want too, they’re like…I saw a lot of churches, you know, even my home church that I grew up in, that were very much like, nope, we’re not doing online until we absolutely have to. And like, I had to split people into different rooms, like they’re like ten people in this room, and [inaudible]. I was like, this is silly. I was like, just stream it and people will watch it at their house. But the problem is too, that in rural Alabama, there’s no Internet really. So a lot of people didn’t have Internet at their house to even watch it. So we’ve had to deal with a lot of that, right, because a lot of people don’t even have the technology to in order to do it. So what I’d recommend to a lot of people is freeconferencecall.com, or starting a conference line where you can do a stream, but you can maybe also do a call or listen. It’s not always the best, but it’s another idea. Yeah, we’ve tried to give a lot of creative ideas over the last weeks. So that was one that came up, especially for the older demographic that has this phone, like still has phones and wants to call. So. Yeah.

Jason Hamrock: Well, so we’re in this season of COVID, every church is now online. In fact, it’s the only way they grow is online. What happens after we get through this season? Where do you see the church going, or what’s going to be the new normal of church, in your opinion?

Katie Allred: You call Missional Marketing and you ask. Yeah, I think it’s going to look a little different. You know, the first I read somebody had posted this, and I was like, yeah, that’s right. Like, for the last, you know, thousands of years of church has been 90 percent about the physical location. One hundred percent about physical location, and maybe ten percent about digital, ninety percent, ten percent. And then in the last two weeks that split to ninety percent digital and ten percent about the location, because the church is not the building, the church is the people. And I think that’s something that we forgot in the last, especially in the last hundred years. I feel like we got super building-centric, like we really cared about what the building felt like, and that kind of stuff. And we cared about the people, of course, but like, it wasn’t so much remembering that the church as a Body of Christ, like the church are people. And so it has been quite a pivot to figure out what does that look like on a normal everyday basis. So, yeah, churches are really kind of figuring out how do I do a virtual small group? How do I do, not just live streaming on Sunday morning, but how do I connect with people who are lonely across the city? How do I meet felt needs in my area during this time? That’s been interesting.

Jason Hamrock: How do you think churches are…because, you know, if you look at what was happening before COVID, the big ‘C’ Church was kind of in a decline in terms of attendance. Mainly from younger people not coming to church. You know, the the dones, the nones, they’ve just they’ve checked out. How, in your opinion, how do churches pivot that? Maybe this is an opportunity to reach younger people. And how does a church grow younger in the new world that we’re in?

Katie Allred: I would have a lot of money if I had a great answer to that. I mean, I don’t know, not a lot of money. But, like, I wish I had a good answer to that. Because I work with colleges. So, I’m a professor, for those of you who do not know, I’m a professor at the University of Mobile. So I work with Gen Z, who refuses to be called Gen-Z, they all want to still be Millennials. Which is funny because I’m like, no, I’m a Millennial, children. Like I have a house..

Jason Hamrock: And you are not.

Katie Allred: Get off my lawn. You are Gen Z and you are different from me. And so, yeah, you know. Let me be honest with you, I work at a Christian school, and there are still plenty of young Christian people who want to help spread the gospel, and who are so very passionate about Christ. I haven’t seen a decline personally myself, because I’m like our school is growing, and I know that there are tons of people who are passionate about reaching others. So I do know that church attendance has slumped. And I think that’s honestly, though, it’s not just our generation, I don’t think it’s just the young people. I think it really is, the older people are not setting the example that you need to be there every week. Right? You know, if you think about it for yourself, honestly, you’re like, unless I was on staff at church, I wouldn’t be here right now.

Katie Allred: And so, you know, I think our priorities as a nation have changed, and we really value convenience over a lot of other things. And so I think that this specific thing has brought church and Jesus back to the forefront of people’s minds, because anytime there’s death and uncertainty, you remember Christ, right? Or people turn to religion, because they want to be comforted in some way. And I think so we do have a unique time to share the gospel, and to share the hope that we have, the good news that we have in the gospel. But how can we do that, right, when we’re all at home? And the digital strategy is the best way to do that, and I think you can do that by meeting felt needs in your community through like Facebook groups, through setting up felt needs landing pages on your church’s website. So that you can you know if people need food, they need money to get through. You know, you can help with those needs when you can. But if I knew how to get more young people to actually attend church, I mean, that would be a blessing.

Jason Hamrock: It is very popular.

Katie Allred: It’s very popular on the internet. I don’t know if that’s the right question to ask, as much as it ism how can we get more people in general to come to church, you know? Because I feel like it’s not just the young people, I feel like it’s everybody. So I think that after this, we’re going to do so much rejoicing that we can even be together. We didn’t realize what a privilege it was to meet together in the same place until this has happened. I had no idea what a privilege it was to have human beings around me, right? I’ve been alone for three weeks at my house, and to say it’s a struggle is like, you know, I’m being honest in you. Right? And so what a privilege it is just to have human beings that you can be in the same room with, it’s something we shouldn’t take for granted anymore. And I think the church, once we come back, we should pull out some major rejoicing that we can be together again. I mean, like a biblical type of rejoicing,where… I don’t know, I’ve thought about that a lot and I’m like, we should pull out all the stops when we can come together again.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, we were wired to be in community, you know, and when you really can’t do that…Well, you can kind of do it like we’re doing right here. But when you can’t do that, you know, giving somebody a hug or shaking their hand, it’s definitely different. A different feel. Something you said there kind of sparked my…you know, every church being forced to, maybe even kicking and screaming, to get online. Do you think, because it seems like some of it’s been, people don’t want to go to church, young or old, just because they don’t. There’s just so many other options, or they’re just tuned out.

Katie Allred: Like go to brunch.

Jason Hamrock: Right, my pastor has always said, you have to try hard not to be boring, irrelevant, and predictable, to keep people’s attention. So when you look at, like the the future of the church, maybe even over the next decade, what is going to be some of the challenges that the church faces in keeping the ministry going and keeping reaching people? Because I think there is a passion and a fire under people, not all people, but how do we how do we bridge that gap?

Katie Allred: Well, I do think that this is going to change church, I think it’s going to change work. I think it’s going to change a lot of things for this entire generation, until, everybody doesn’t remember this again. You know, like the Spanish flu. Right. I’m sure that the generation that was affected by the Spanish flu, like it changed things about them. And it’s going to change things about us. Right? I’m not sure the handshake is going to make a comeback, I really believe that we will change our standard greeting probably in the next year, and like, it will be odd to shake hands. But, you know, the handshake as a  standard greeting is new too you know, it only came about because you didn’t want to look like you had a gun or something. You know, like it was because you wanted to show that you were open handed, that you didn’t have anything.

Jason Hamrock: That you were friendly.

Katie Allred: Right, it was a move of peace. But I do wonder, you know, are we going to start fist bumping, or are we going to start elbows? I think it might happen. But the church, you know, golly, it will change. I think, though, here’s the thing, it already had changed without us knowing. Right, before a pandemic it had already changed, because I can get great worship music on Spotify, I can access an amazing preacher. If I want to be convicted, I can listen to a great sermon on Spotify too, or on a podcast I don’t have to attend church to get either of those things anymore.

Katie Allred: But what the church is uniquely poised to do, and has been poised for the last ten years really honestly, is to provide a unique sense of community that you cannot get anywhere else. Because it is so hard to find community today, that is what churches should be digging deep into, is the fact that you are known and you’re loved. And that you are not alone, you’re not doing your life alone, like we are with you, and we care about you. And that’s what Jesus’ message was, right? Like, you know, every time He heals somebody, you know, a lot of times those were people who were completely lonely. Like the woman who was bleeding, or a leper, those are people who were outcasts from society, and they felt extreme loneliness. And today we have such extreme loneliness, I was just reading a statistic that I put in a presentation the other day that said, where like 60 percent loneliness was like the factor for Americans in 2019. How much more do you think that is today?

Jason Hamrock: It’s got to be,Yeah, exactly.

Katie Allred: It has to be, and like, praise God, I know God and Jesus and I have a church family, and I have really good friends. But if I did not have that right now, I would be so struggling.

Jason Hamrock: Absolutely.

Katie Allred: And so the church is uniquely poised, how can we create these pockets of community for people in our neighborhoods, for the people that we know at work, for the people…Like because, you know, there are people who are at work who are very lonely, how can we reach out to them, and give them these connections? So my church has done a really unique thing, launching virtual community groups, and they’re completely unique, they’re not life groups that we’re already meeting.  They just literally put it on their website, if you want to be in a small group, we will put you in one. And they put a form on their website, and they’ve just put all these random people in small groups who do not know each other, and it’s going great.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, it’s a new way to meet people.

Katie Allred: Like many people who are connecting, and it’s in a Zoom room like we’re in right no. But there’s plenty of free software out there, you don’t have to use Zoom. You can use Skype, you can use, I’ve posted a couple that I found today, Facebook Messenger. There’s so many different ways that you can create these communities. But I think that is it, I think we have got to realize we are a people group, and we can provide this community that people are deeply longing for. And even before this, right, even before the pandemic people were deeply longing for community.

Jason Hamrock:  Yeah, well said. I mean, that’s great advice for churches too. Because I think we can get so wrapped up in the programming, and the weekend. And you know, we’re doing church without doing the community aspect of church, the relationship aspect of church. So this is kind of causing us to shift, to figure out, how do we connect with people? I think you’re spot on with that one.

Katie Allred: We’ve just got to think outside of our bubbles. I think too, like it’s easy to focus on our church, but you  need to focus on people outside of your church. Right. And see how do you get them connected to these groups, these virtual groups, that your church is doing. Because everybody’s bored, and they have time, they have more time than they have ever had. And this puts down a wall, that if they had to physically come to somebody’s house or to the church, they would be like, this is weird. But now they’re meeting through this, and they’re like this is a little easier, it’s a little less weird. I can just leave if I want to. So honestly, what a great time. Right?

Jason Hamrock: So let’s go back to church communications. What do you guys… You know, you’ve got your platform, your amazing platform. When you look at the next few years, what does that look like for church communications? I’m putting you on the spot to figure that.

Katie Allred: Figure out your whole life plan today, Katie. I don’t know. Honestly, I’ve been preaching and teaching this reaching your community online for the last five years, about how you can use Facebook groups to create groups in communities. And honestly, it has blown up in the last couple weeks since this has all happened.

Jason Hamrock: Oh, I bet.

Katie Allred: And I do think that we’re going to continue teaching, and educating, as much as we possibly can. You know, we’ve come up with some pretty neat ideas that are going to come out in the next week, and just try to provide people with content, try to provide churches with content, and continue helping as much as we possibly can. That’s really been, since day one, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, was just help people. So that’s what we’re going to continue doing, ministering to ministers.

Jason Hamrock: Awesome. Well, I tell you what, thank you. Because if you’re a church that you haven’t checked this out, go check it out, you’re going to be amazed. Get connected to this Facebook group, go check up churchcommunications.com, and just absorb and learn church. And listen to what Katie’s saying, and what’s Kenny’s saying, and all the people that speak into this. Because it’s some amazing, amazing resources, because I’ve personally watched that and looked at it. We’ve had the honor to speak into it as well ,from a guest vlog standpoint, we’ve had podcasts like this.

Katie Allred: Yeah, you’ve been a great partner of ours for a long.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, and we just, as a church, we need to rally together. Like you’re saying, provide this community for  people that are hurting, that are living literally right down the street from a church, and they need to get connected. And for some reason they haven’t felt like the church has been their answer, but I tell you what, people are asking a lot of questions. We’re seeing that in Google, it is just exploding.

Katie Allred: Oh, yeah. If you look at Google Trends right now, ‘Jesus prayer’ has like sky rocketed. It’s literally, it’s not like this, it’s like this.

Jason Hamrock: It’s a hockey stick.

Katie Allred: Yes, people one hundred percent want to know more about Jesus and prayer than they ever had before, and so we need to start creating those resources for people too. Like, how do I pray? Like, your church should be the answer to that in your neighborhood.

Jason Hamrock: That’s right. And there’s all these different resources, all these different platforms, that you can get to connect a church, and so take advantage of it. Katie, thank you so much for spending some time. I really appreciate it.

Katie Allred: Yeah. Well, thank you for having me, Jason, I appreciate it.

Jason Hamrock: Alright, take care.

 

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