Like the rest of us, churches experience different seasons and levels of activity throughout the year. Summer is when schedules slow down, attendance fluctuates, events pause, and you switch up your daily routine in favor of more fun in the sun. Apart from VBS, summer is historically a time when ministry slows down as well. But this actually makes it the perfect window of opportunity for churches to strategize and develop a robust communications plan. So how can your church make the most of summer?
In a recent podcast, Mark MacDonald identified five important tasks churches should consider this summer. Mark is the founder of Be Known For Something, and wrote a book with the same name about branding that rose to #2 on the Amazon Best Sellers list. Mark is currently executive director of a communications nonprofit that influences roughly 10,000 churches across the country.
In his best-selling book, Be Known For Something, Mark says the summer lull affords churches an intermission to implement five strategic, measurable activities. Treat the summer as an annual time to evaluate and, if necessary, revamp the way you accomplish your mission. To really connect with people in your church as well as those in your community, church communications pastors should put these five things on their summer to-do list.
1. Get out in the community and listen
Effective communication depends on how well you know your audience. God has placed your congregation in a neighborhood and region for a specific purpose. Look outside the four walls of the church to truly connect with those who need to be brought closer to God. Your community is fertile ground for God to do His work.
Instead of viewing summer as a time for maintaining the status quo, work on situations that don’t change with the seasons. Marriages still struggle, even though it’s summer. Finances are strained and people are stretched to their limit. The ups and downs of life still knock you down when temperatures are high, perhaps even more so.
So how can the church meet these needs? If you want to transform your community, ask questions to understand people’s concerns, fears, and motivation when it comes to church. Do your best to dispel any misunderstandings and work toward a symbiotic relationship. If your mission is ‘to go to the highways and byways,’ then you need to know what matters to them. Pray about how you can be the salt and light to your city. There are abundant ministry opportunities to change lives right outside your doors.
Clarify who your target audience is and what will help them reach their goals. Figure out how your church can be known for something that’s a real solution in your community. Whether it’s today, five years from now, or eternity, are you known for the right things? Are you making a real difference to those around you? If not, talk to your pastor about a pivot.
2. Consider a rebrand
If your current brand isn’t working, it might be time for your church to rebrand. This isn’t just changing the logo, but changing the local perception of your church. Your style should reflect your unique congregation.
As communicators, we lean into visual components like colors and the logo to identify who we are. However, making a genuine connection hinges on what people think and say about your church, rather than what the church says about itself.
And a rebrand doesn’t mean starting over from scratch. You can stay true to your mission, vision, and values even though the methods you use to connect with people change over time. The important thing is to make it about those in your community rather than about the church.
Reevaluate how your church stays relevant to the community by talking with local community leaders. Align your mission, vision, and values with gaps that meet physical as well as spiritual needs. For help figuring out the steps, partner with a marketing agency specifically skilled in this area to lead you through an effective rebranding process.
3. Assess your past, plan your future
Schedule a time to sit down with your team and take a hard look at last year. First, be sure to celebrate your successes and appreciate everyone’s hard work! Then decide what you did well, what you can do better, and what was in between. Be honest about your shortcomings so you can learn from them. Explore which factors were within your control and which were not. Then, research how you can refine your offerings to create more touchpoints and relevance in your community moving forward.
From reviewing the past to planning for tomorrow, establish concrete, measurable goals to determine whether your objectives are achieved. As you plan your budget, allocate sufficient resources to produce events and activities that support your overarching purpose. With the right preparation, you’ll be amazed at what a good return you’ll see on your investment.
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4. Work on your website
If you have competing priorities and aren’t sure what to tackle first, work on your website. The number one complaint people in our focus groups make about churches is that they can’t find anything on their websites, or the websites don’t look up to date.
Hone your web content until you excel at creating and optimizing SEO. Make sure the most widely searched content is at the top of the landing page and topics get more specific as you scroll down. Set up your content correctly, and Google will be your biggest evangelist.
There are many free tools to help you capitalize on web traffic. For example, you can use the “people also ask” feature at the bottom of the search engine results page on Google. You should also use Google’s ‘related suggestions’ feature.
If your mission statement is on your home page, it’s taking up valuable real estate. Instead, be sure everything on your website answers why the reader should come to your church.
5. Create evergreen social media content
Create an evergreen library to fill in any gaps in social media posts. When you have an idea or a quote you want to save for later, write it in a shared document to incorporate brainstorming from your entire ministry team. At times of the year when fewer events are happening in your church, use these posts to stay in touch with people in your community.
Summer is also a great time to devote to yourself. You can be driven and goal-oriented, but take advantage of downtime with your spouse, your family, and even by yourself. Stay in the Word and feed yourself spiritually to be renewed and refreshed during the summer, prepared to dive into events and activities, sessions and studies once again.