I love heading into a new season (or month or week or even day) with a plan, knowing what needs to be tackled and when I'm going to do it. When that doesn’t happen (a fair amount of the time), it can feel defeating and I often find myself floundering, buying the lie that it’s too late to do anything, and constantly playing catch up.
Although school has already begun in most places, and many church activities are back on the calendar, it’s not too late to take time to plan for fall communications in your congregation! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Decide on your planning tools.
Between digital and analog means, there’s almost an overwhelming amount of tools you can use when creating a communications plan. It’s easy to get stuck here, but my best advice is to determine your top priorities, pick something and try it for a season. Take into account things such as accessibility, visibility, update-ability, and collaboration. If your congregation already uses a certain planning system or software for other areas, starting with that might work well. And, when all else fails, printing out blank calendar pages generally gets the ball rolling on a first draft.
2. Figure out who needs to be involved in the planning conversation and what calendars to consult.
Who on your ministry team, whether staff or laity, should be part of the communication planning discussion? From whom do you need to gather information before you sit down to plan? School calendars (parochial and public), major sporting events that may have an impact on your members/community and church calendars from previous years are often my go-to tactics.
3. List all of the things that need to be communicated for the next several months (or the timeframe you selected).
Put the events, sermon and education emphases, special music notes, memorization focus, etc. drawn from the conversations and research in step two into a bulleted list. Looking at the fall season, your list may include Christian education opportunities and schedules, music rehearsals, family festivals or activity nights, service opportunities such as neighborhood leaf raking or Thanksgiving meal donations, stewardship events, and even later into the season, details for Advent.
Another key part of setting up a communications calendar is seeing what times of the year are saturated with activity and information, and prioritizing what will be shared with your audience. A lack of focus and clarity often leads to confusion and frustration for everyone.
4. Outline your communication channels.
This is where you keep track of your congregation’s communication avenues, both current and new opportunities. Basic channels often include the church website, bulletins, social media, outdoor signs, and announcements (printed and verbal).
5. Determine what needs to be part of your communications plan.
Bring together steps three and four, noting how you want to communicate each of the events. Adding a personal touch is another angle to consider.
6. Break down projects into manageable portions and set deadlines.
Once you know what and how you want to communicate, give yourself the gift of small bites. If you’re planning for a big, church-wide event in mid-November, work backward from the date and write out the elements needed for communicating it (graphics, bulletin blurbs, website copy, video announcements, snail mail pieces, etc.). Give each element listed a due date and assign the work to the appropriate person or team.
7. Consider batch working.
Armed with your comprehensive list of projects and due dates, batch working can be an efficient and satisfying way to tackle daunting endeavors. “Batching” simply means grouping like tasks together in your schedule. It comes with the benefits of completing work when you’re “in the zone” and not duplicating efforts when it comes to equipment setup and the like. Things like writing email requests to all of your contributing lay leaders, scheduling social media posts, recording several podcast episodes, formatting a month’s worth of weekly devotions, or creating sermon graphics are all great places to try out batch working.
Whether you’re new to communications planning or a seasoned pro navigating new circumstances in uncertain times, don’t forget to give yourself and your team grace. Learning and growth take time, and perfection is an illusion. Use this season to try something new or make adjustments to an existing system with the goal of better serving those with whom you’re called to share the love and hope of Jesus.
Start organizing your church members to see who should be on your communications team, keep track of important calendar events, and see important trends in your congregation with Church360° Members.