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Local Church Communications Guide 2015

Cal-Pac Office of Communications

Welcome to the Local Church Communications Guide provided by the California-Pacific Conference Office of Communications!

This 2015 version gives local churches a brief orientation to the mechanics of local church communications in the 21st century.

The guide will always be “incomplete” in that more should be added as time goes by and local churches request specific information.

So, please be sure to contact the Office of Communications (cpco@calpacumc.org) with any specific questions or for requests for consultation.

Branding

  • Cross & Flame – The official United Methodist Church logo is available as a digital resource, but is part of a brand strategy with brand guidelines that must be followed.  Suggestion – UMC Brand Toolkit
  • Church Logo – The logo is best designed with the target ministry population in mind (not just the existing congregation) and available as a media file for consistent usage across digital and print applications. Suggestion – Consult Cal-Pac Communications in the Design Process

Digital Communications

  • Database – In the process of creating a church “directory,” use a spreadsheet to keep members’ contact information.  Suggestion – Microsoft Excel, Mac Pages, Google Sheets
  • Email Address – Use an email address based on the domain name of the church website (ie. email@yourchurch.org).  Suggestion – Ask Cal-Pac Communications for Web Resources
  • Email Marketing – For email lists larger than 50 email addresses, use an email marketing service instead of regular email (using regular email for bulk emailing will cause an email address to be blacklisted by email servers as spam).  Suggestion – Mailchimp.com
  • Website – A website is a  basic requirement of contemporary ministry.
    • Domain & Hosting – The purchase of a domain name and hosting is required.  Hosting should be no more than $6/mo.  Suggestion – Ask Cal-Pac Communications for Web Resources
    • Design – The site should be based on a “content management system” (CMS) (ie. WordPress).  Suggestion – Ask Cal-Pac Communications for Web Resources
    • Front Page – The purpose of the front page is to guide the user to a specific location to take a specific action (ie. to visit on Sunday).  The following are basically required items for the front page (besides the main navigation menu) of a local church website:  a) Sunday Worship Information, b) Pastor’s Information, c) Contact Information, d) Media (ie. video, audio, photos), and e) Social Media Access
    • Analytics – Another way of saying, “statistics,” analytics is the data by which to analyze website usage. Data can only be analyzed when collected and such collection is usually done via third party software such as Google Analytics. Suggestion – Use Google Analytics
  • Social Media –  Social media is another way by which to minister to both an existing congregation and the mission field beyond, but connected to, the existing congregation.  The social media channels of a local church will inevitably become a means of proclamation and thus, a Pastor is encouraged to be leading the social media strategy, content production, and management.  Suggestion – Pastor builds and leads a “Communications Team”

Purpose 

To minister to people where they are through the latest happenings and media that make real to the user the local church’s mission, vision, and core values.  (The primary purpose of the local church website should not be to be the “filing cabinet in the air” for the congregation)

Methods 

  • Designed from Scratch – The most popular software used to create a website from scratch is Adobe Dreamweaver.  In summary, this is the method of creating a website page-by-page.  This method is not recommended for a variety of reasons.
  • Content Management Systems – As website development “developed,” systems were created to manage the various parts of the website that are recurring and repetitive.  Thus, systems such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal became popular.  For those without a background in web design and development, retail CMS solutions such as Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix became popular.  Suggestion – Try a number of these systems and see what is best for current needs and competency.
  • Basic Requirements – Whatever method used, a website always requires at least: a) the domain name (ie. yourchurch.org) or the name your church website will have, and b) web hosting or the web-space that your website requires.  GoDaddy.com is the most popular domain purchasing/management service as well as providing hosting services.  Popular hosting services include bluehost.com and dreamhost.com  Suggestion – Consult the Cal-Pac Office of Communications before purchasing eitiher domain or hosting service, if unsure.

Content 

The following is a proposed list of “do not forget these” or basically required items for a local church website:

  • Front Page – a) Worship Info, b) “I’m New” Link, c) “About the Pastor” Link, d) Contact Info, e) Social Media Channels (Be wary of too much content on the front page; resist saying yes to every request for posting on the front page from church ministries)
  • “I’m New” Page – Make sure the page has a page specifically designed for those unfamiliar with both the local church AND “church” in general.  Resist the temptation to use churchy language or to write a theology paper.  Instead, introduce briefly what one does in a life of faith in Jesus Christ and what is expected of them as a guest to the church.  Somewhere on the page should also be a link (and/or button) that leads the user to the most appropriate upcoming event or activity for a church guest (which could be a worship service or not).
  • “About the Pastor” Page – The primary question on the website user’s question when learning about the pastor is probably, “Does this person seem as though they could understand my life context?”  On this page, answer this question through the pastor’s background, life experiences, and intentions in ministry.  Avoid writing an auto-biography.

Structure 

A website is one part of a larger communications process and strategy.  While a person with the technical competency of website management should be tasked with managing the website, the design and function of the website should be according to a larger local church communications strategy developed by the leadership of the church.

Purpose 

To minister to people where they are through images, quotes, links to stories, and other shareable media which, secondarily, establishes trust, empathy, and perspective for the ministry with the people.

Methods 

  • Created Images – What began as “meme’s” (mostly of cats and children making funny faces with funny quotes) has now become the practice of putting words to an image, often with an image filter.  In ministry, use created images to inspire and/or remind followers of important principles of Christian living.  Suggestion – canva.com is a free and easy tool to create such images
  • Created Content – Voice matters in the internet world because it is the way by which like-minded individuals can recognize value.  Thus, in ministry, content such as perspective via a blog post or emotion via a short video give followers the opportunity to share with others what they find to be valuable.  Suggestion – medium.com is a great blog platform and vine.co is twitter’s short video platform
  • Curated Media – The internet is a vast reality with many a things available to read, see, and hear.  So, busy, everyday people appreciate someone selecting what might be most important as a suggestion to them.  In ministry, select and share pieces from the internet to allow followers to learn things for which there is not usually time or space in a regular church schedule.  Suggestion – tumblr.com is an easy way to curate content and be part of a network of like-minded users
  • Campaign – Social media leading to action taken by social media users is the goal for large brand names as well as charitable causes.  A campaign is a way of eliciting action taken by a social user via the inherent social connections of social media.  In ministry, a campaign can raise both awareness and/or funds for a specific cause.  While there is no one platform for campaign creation, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of a social media campaign.

Structure 

Social media is not a tool apart from ministry; it is a ministry in and of itself.  Therefore, its staffing, whether by paid staff or volunteers, should be thought of as any other ministry would by keeping in mind the attitude, skills, and training required for ministry success.  Much like preaching the sermon in the Sunday Worship Service, ministry via social media can become the voice of the church.  Suggestion – the Pastor should either manage, or lead the team that manages, a local church’s social media channels.