Communications is a vital part of local church ministry. Think about it. If we're not effectively communicating, then we're missing an opportunity to reach more people. Even if communications is already a priority in your church, might there be opportunities for growth? Find out. Gather a team and perform a church communications audit. Here's how to get started.
1. Identify your audiences. Make a list of all the internal and external audiences served by the church, such as retirees, young people, other age segments, new members, visitors, and so forth. Include what types of information and communication they want and need from you. Understand the different perspectives on communication efforts among particular audience segments.
2. Look for the gaps. Think of all the ways in which your church already communicates. Look at your communication pieces, like your website and newsletter. Think about their purpose, audiences, messages and how they're distributed. Are there any gaps between these pieces and the audiences you identified earlier?
3. Determine your goals. What do you want to learn as a result of this audit? Write those things down as purpose and outcome statements. For example, some outcomes could be:
- Determining how informed members are about different ministries
- Designing effective delivery tools for each particular segment of members
- Determining the need and receptiveness for a specific communications tool or approach the church is considering, for example, a new social media tool
- Understanding what the congregation says it wants and needs to know
4. Listen. Go straight to the source. Ask your congregation what info they need to keep them informed and growing spiritually. You might consider holding one-hour focus groups or listening sessions to get new ideas. From the responses you receive, develop a survey that you can distribute throughout the congregation and on your website.
5. Evaluate and implement. Evaluate the results and patterns. Types of communications that people want and the ways they prefer to interact will emerge. Note differences in the demographics of responses. Are there trends? Now, put the goals you identified earlier with the congregation's needs to create a plan. The plan will answer what, why, who, when and how. Be sure to report survey results and plans for addressing their needs to the congregation. Survey participants will appreciate the open communication as confirmation of being partners in ministry.
This is a just a short guide for getting started. For more in-depth resources, including a sample survey, tips for facilitating focus groups and tips for assessing your findings, go to umcom.org/churchcommunicationresources.
And check out more quick tips at youtube.com/mycomtips.