Christmas is coming. Stores are already adding Christmas décor to their shelves. Pre-Christmas advertising has begun. Are you ready for Advent and Christmas?
While Advent is a season of preparation, leaders in the church must also prepare for Advent. Our planning should include how we will share invitations and messages beyond the walls of the church building. What do you want to communicate? Which tools and resources will get your message to those who need to hear it?
As with any communications project, first identify your audience.
Your audience includes your own church members. However, for messaging that goes beyond your congregation, consider first those who would be best served by your church, those not already familiar with your offerings. Be specific about who you are trying to reach. Identify what their needs will be this holiday season.
After you get to know more about your external audience, discuss with other church leaders what they will be doing to help reach that audience. For instance, if your church is located in an underserved community, your ministries and messages may highlight your food bank or toy giveaway.
If you are hosting an Unwrap Christmas event or any other Christmas outreach event for the community, promoting that will surely be one of the key messages this year.
Check with your pastor and worship team to see if they have a theme for the Advent and Christmas Eve services. If so, your communications may tie into that. If you will have a special music or theatrical program or live Nativity, promote this to attract community members.
Now consider what kind of tools you may use to get that message out.
United Methodist Communications has partnered with Outreach to provide a variety of well-designed resources to share the message of the season. These include posters, postcards, yard signs and larger outdoor banners.
For a limited time, a coupon code on the page will assist you in purchasing these customizable resources. Even if you visit too late for the discount, you may also download the designs for free to use them in your own creations.
Be sure to include similar images and messaging on your church website and social channels. A consistent look works best to show people that everything is connected. Most people will look up a church online before they set foot in the door. There are five basic sections you should include on your website, but also be sure your site has clear and complete information about the activities to which you are inviting the community.
While your social media followers may primarily be your church members, it is still important to consider how the community may view the information. Many people search social media for events or to get to know organizations better.
Facebook has an event section where people can see what is happening in their area and what their friends are already attending or are otherwise interested in. Don’t forget to post your church’s community-oriented events.
Beautiful images and funny memes proliferate quickly throughout social media. If you post a well-designed image and message, it will be shared by your current followers so that their followers may also see the message and be invited to your church.
Be sure the social media post links to an appropriate landing page. Landing pages make it easier to find more information about exactly what was mentioned in the social post.
Use a hashtag such as #UnwrapChristmas or something more specific to your local church or theme for the season. Encourage your members and event attendees to use the same hashtag. This could lead others who see these messages to come to later events or to engage further with your congregation.
The holiday season continues to be a major time for people to visit churches whether for worship services or for other events. Your messages need to be where others can see them and include messages that speak to their needs.
Be sure to consider the above options, methods and tools and let the good news about the coming of Christ spread throughout your community.
Andrew J. Schleicher is an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church, a certified Christian communicator and a senior marketing and advertising specialist with United Methodist Communications.