Digital Parish: Growing your ministry with email

Click-through rates, drip campaigns, list segments, marketing funnels–we’re talking about it all with Randy Greene of Church of the Resurrection. Randy is a digital media director passionate about helping churches communicate better.

In this episode, we learn about how to build engagement and relationships through email communication.

The Episode

Listen on Apple Podcasts logo, light. Listen on Google Podcasts logo small, light. Listen on Spotify small, light button. Listen on Amazon, small, light button

Show Notes 

A few websites of note from our conversation:

Randy Greene:

Uh, email marketing across, across the industry. So not just for churches, but for businesses and nonprofits and everything too. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to communicate with an audience.

Ryan Dunn:

We're talking email with Randy Green, who is a digital media strategist with church of the resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. A couple of years ago, I stood before a room of communicators and told them that email was dead. I was wrong. I was looking at low open and click through rates and assuming that no one engages with this stuff. I think what I meant to say was that I was really, really frustrated with not doing email communication. Well, again, I was wrong. Email is hugely important for engaging with people in digital space. Email is a very efficient way of communicating, but it's also a means for encouraging relationships. So we're going to explore that in more with Randy in this session of pastoring in the digital parish, Randy talks us through email funnels, dividing lists, getting feedback and driving, good open and click-through rates. So we don't get all frustrated and say things like email is dead.

Ryan Dunn:

Anyways, my name is Ryan Dunn. This is pastoring in the digital parish, your source for ideas and communicating around building healthy ministries and digital space. Let's get into all things. Email Randy Green is with us. He's helped churches communicate better since he was a teenager in college. He studied marketing with a focus on user research. And then after graduating, Randy worked at a number of digital agencies, and today he is with the United Methodist church of the resurrection. He's been there since 2015. "COR" as we in the connection like to call it, is amongst the largest congregations in the United Methodist system. And with COR Randy manages the church's entire family of websites and is the point person for its email marketing efforts. And that's really what we're curious about today, Randy. So, uh, as we start this conversation, I really wanted to start with the why, why is an email list or email marketing? I know we don't like to use the marketing term. So I mean, we can say email list necessary for your church.

Randy Greene:

Yeah, sure. So when I think about email marketing, I think of it, um, within the big picture of what we're doing with all of our digital communications. And so, uh, you know, we live in a digital age. Uh, people are online all the time. Uh, I don't think I probably need to go into any kind of statistics about how many people are online or anything that's, it's, you know, more or less ubiquitous if you're in the United States, uh, your folks are online. Uh, so then we think about the different channels that we have to communicate with people online. And we have things like website, um, websites are great. I love websites. That's how I got into what I do. That's my kind of entry point. Um, but websites rely on people to come to you to find information. You know, it's not outbound, it's not pushing information to people.

Randy Greene:

Uh, it relies on them to think about you and go visit your website. And so that's not a super awesome thing from that kind of perspective. Um, when we think about, uh, other forms of outbound communication, we can think about social media to some extent. So we can look at like Facebook and Instagram and stuff, and those reach out to people. Um, one of the challenges there is that we don't own those platforms. We can create a page, but then we're relying on Facebook to get our content to the people. So, you know, you've got to kind of game the algorithms and, uh, all kinds of stuff there and they're constantly changing them. So there's, you know, there's, there's challenges with that as well. Um, one of the other challenges we can look or one of the other, uh, media we can look at is, uh, SMS marketing, or text message marketing.

Randy Greene:

And that's a really powerful, uh, tool. It's kind of, it's new for most churches and most businesses to really. And so, uh, we're kind of in the infancy of text message marketing. I think there's a big future there. Um, but we're still kind of trying to figure a lot of that out. But email marketing is one where we can own that platform and we can control the content that goes out and who it goes out to. Uh, and it's one that we have really established guidelines and principles. We know how it works. Um, and, and so it's a, it's a mature platform. And so, uh, when you actually look at the statistics, uh, email marketing across, across industry, so not just for churches, but for businesses and nonprofits and everything too, email marketing is one of the most effective ways to communicate with an audience. Uh, just because people pay attention, they might not pay attention like a hundred percent of the time, but when you're sending them like repeat messages and especially for churches, since we're, we're sending to people that we have a relationship with already, it's an actually really effective way to let people know the things that are going on.

Ryan Dunn:

You bring up a great point about ownership of the list. It like in the podcast marketing world, they talk about developing an email marketing list because you don't want Facebook or, or apple or whoever your, um, your host system is, or your social media platform to own your list of people. Like, do you want to be able to take that to whatever platform you want to take it to?

Randy Greene:

Yeah, for sure.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, how does email marketing then help foster community within your church?

Randy Greene:

So, um, there are a lot of different things that we can do with email marketing. And, uh, when, when I'm talking about email marketing, I'm usually dividing it up into several different types of email communications. And so, um, so at one level we have things that are like very transactional. Uh, and so this is like somebody fills out a form and they get an automatic response that says, thanks for filling out our form. Here's the details. You know, it's, it's, it's very transactional or it could be, they registered for a class. And then we send a confirmation email that has like dates times for that class, or, you know, something like that. It's very transactional. It does not feel personal. Um, when they, when they, when they give to our church, then we send a confirmation, Hey, we received your gift. Those kinds of things are all transactional.

Randy Greene:

So that's not really what we're talking about here. Those don't foster any kind of relationship. Um, necessarily at least it doesn't seem like they do to me. Um, another form that we talk about is newsletters. And so often newsletters are things where, uh, we're compiling information about what's coming up, you know, and it's, it's basically like, like, uh, announcements in worship, but we're sending it out via email for folks who weren't there in worship. And so, um, those can foster relationship in terms of they help people get plugged into your community, um, by letting them know what kind of opportunities there are to connect, um, giving them ways to ask for prayer, some of those kinds of things that can foster community. And we can, I, I'm guessing that we'll probably dig a little bit deeper into some of these things in a few minutes.

Randy Greene:

I'm not going to go too deep here. Uh, but one other type of email that I often think of when I'm thinking of email marketing for churches specifically are the really relational emails. And so these are ones that feel like they're coming from a person, uh, in church leadership that often is like the senior pastor, but it could be a lay leader or a ministry leader or something like that. Um, but it, uh, more or less feels like the, this person, this leader in the church was sitting at their desk, opened up outlook and typed up an email and sent it to the individual. Um, now here at church of the resurrection, one of the big things that we do with this is our senior pastor sends a what he calls an IE note every Friday. And it's, it's a little bit more dressed up than like a typical relational email that I think of, um, in that it's got like background colors and it's got a picture at the top and some stuff, but, uh, but it really is like he sat down at his desk, typed out this he notes, um, where he's communicating about, you know, things that are going on in his life, that things that he's excited about.

Randy Greene:

Um, and some of the stuff that's going on in the life of the church. So that might be some upcoming opportunities. Um, but we keep those announced. We try to keep those announcements pretty, pretty minimal. Uh, instead we try to focus on, uh, yeah, th the bigger picture things. So casting a vision for the church I'm talking about, especially over the past few years, there's been a lot of stuff about like, what's going on in the denomination and, uh, what the future for, for the UMC looks like and so on. And so these kinds of things help to build a relationship between our senior pastor and the individual who's reading the email. Um, you know, our, our church is large. And so our senior pastor can't have, uh, thousands of relationships with the individuals, but to the people who are receiving it, it feels like they're being invited into his office for an hour or for half an hour or whatever, uh, to, to read through her, to, to get his, to pick his brain on what's going on in the church and what's going on in his life. And so it really helps foster a relationship in a way that couldn't be done on an individual level.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah, I've found that so often when people are engaging with digital media, they're still looking to engage with, well, either to learn something about themselves or to engage with another person. Um, it sounds like email can be a way of engaging with that. And yet I think when a lot of us think about email, like we're thinking of the newsletter thing, which can often be impersonal, um, it's a broadcast, and we're just trying to get information out there. So do you have different email lists that are based around these kinds of different forms of communication?

Randy Greene:

We have, we, we do a fair bit of segmentation, um, and we're exploring doing more segmentation, but I'll, I'll share with you kind of some of the things that we do right now. Um, so right now we have this, this email that goes out on Fridays and that basically goes out to everybody in our congregation. And so, um, if you have ever given us your email address, you are probably added to the list where you have this relationship with our senior pastor, because, you know, we're, we're really trying to help people feel like they have that relationship with our church. And, um, and that's, I mean, like you were suggesting, that's not, it's hard for a person to build a relationship with an institution. Uh, and so giving Adam Hamilton as kind of that point of connection that face, uh, makes it really easy for them to kind of make that initial connection.

Randy Greene:

So that's a church wide thing. Um, and then we have four, uh, well we have right now, we have a lot of newsletters that we send. Uh, we're trying to pair that back a bit. Um, the, the way that we're moving into the future is so we have five locations throughout the Kansas city area right now. And so we have a newsletter for each location. Uh, and so for each location, we have a location pastor. So that's the pastor can, you know, kind of the shepherd of that local congregation. And so this newsletter is one that comes from them. So it includes a short little note, uh, from that location pastor at the top of it, uh, again, to kind of help build that relationship a little bit, and then announcements about upcoming opportunities that are particular to that location. And in addition, we do have some segmentation for, uh, some particular, uh, ministry areas. So for example, we have a women's ministry newsletter, um, that is more targeted towards just the people in the women's ministry and gives them insights and information and things about things that are happening in the women's ministry. Uh, so we do have some of that kind of segmentation as well, but the main two levels are that church wide thing. And then the, the one that's across the entire location.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. So one of the questions that, that I've gotten since starting this, or relates to funnels in using an email funnel, is that a term that you're familiar with? Can you describe it for us?

Randy Greene:

Yeah, we've, uh, we've got fumbles all over the place. So we got funnels, uh, like the first time you visit into, uh, you know, from, from joining, joining worship the first time, whether that's online or in person all the way to joining classes and groups and becoming a member, we've got those kinds of high level funnels and email funnels and, and digital media funnels and all kinds of stuff. So, uh, I mean, I mentioned a minute ago that kind of the entry level point for us is our senior pastor's email that he sends on Friday. And as soon as we get your email, we have basically signed you up for that one. Uh, and so you'll start building that relationship. And at the bottom of his email, uh, consistently we have a little note that says, if you want to learn about what's going on at your particular location, here's a way you can sign up for your location newsletter. So if it's somebody who, uh, feels attached to, uh, like our downtown Kansas city location, then they can click on that link and they can subscribe to just that downtown, uh, version of it. And so, um, so that's one way that we're kind of driving that. Uh, we also, uh, in, in our weekend worship, we also drive people to a website where we show people that they have an opportunity to learn more every week about what's going on at their location, uh, to drive them into, uh, into that location level thing as well.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. So in order to, I guess, begin that process, if a funnel, another way to think about it as a process, um, in some ways, like we're familiar with that with our processes, use our roads of discipleship, uh, in order to begin that process are, uh, what are some of the entry points? So it sounds like you have the, the kind of verbal invitation within worship services. Are there ways that, um, you're inviting people through like a online forum or how are you getting the invitation in front of you?

Randy Greene:

Yeah, so back before COVID, um, back before the world changed, I guess, as it were, uh, we used to like pass attendance, pads down each pew for every worship service and ask people to sign it, if you've ever been to a worship service at church of the resurrection pre 2020, um, that's probably something that stood out to you. Um, cause we, we, what we do is we'd pass these down a line and we'd say, please sign in, and then we'd add just a little twist of like peer pressure to it, because then we'd say, we'd say, uh, take a look at the person sitting next to you and greet them after the service by name. So, you know, you know that the person's going to be looking for your name so they can greet you. So it's just a little bit of a, yeah, a little bit of that extra pressure.

Randy Greene:

Um, and so when you're signing in one of the things we asked for is email address, of course, um, it wasn't a required thing. It's a paper form. Um, but it was there. So, so that was pre COVID. Uh, as we then went into like the quarantine mode back in 2020, uh, we to shift all of that to online, which actually has been really helpful for us in a lot of ways. Um, basically what we did was we created a page on our website that worked like a bulletin. And so, and we gave it a really easy shortcut. So we said go to core.org/next. So cor.org/next. And on that page, you'll find what is coming next at church of the resurrection. And so at the top of that page, we have, um, a couple of things that make it really easy for people to take quick actions.

Randy Greene:

So we let them signing their attendance. So this is the online version of that paper form we used to fill, uh, out in the pews. Um, and it asks for your email address there. Um, so that's one way that we get information. We also have at the top of that thing of a way for people to sign up just for pastor Adam's e-note. And so that's just a really simple form, basically. It's like first name, last name, email address. Um, and then we also drive people to, uh, to those location newsletters, if they're looking for location specific content, and then after those call to actions, then we have the announcements that are, uh, you know, what you'd normally find in like a paper bulletin at, at church on the weekends.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. And I have to ask this, doesn't have to act as an endorsement, but just as out of a point of curiosity and information, like what, what kind of platform are you using to

Randy Greene:

Manage all this, like our website.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. You know, uh, do you have a, a platform that you're using to generate the forms and then, um, to delineate that into an email?

Randy Greene:

Yeah. We have a whole bunch of different platforms. Um, so the, like our attendance forms and things like that are through jot form. Um, and that's a, that's a pretty widely used online form builder. Um, and so, uh, but we also use Wu forms for some other things. Um, and then we have some forms that are more native to our website. Uh, so, uh, we, we have a bunch of tools. And then for, for our email marketing, we use a couple of different platforms. The, the main one that we use is called SendGrid. Um, we also use MailChimp for some things, uh, and we've got w we have grown organically through the years. And so, uh, organic systems tend to expand on their own. So, uh, we have a lot of different platforms.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. All right. Good to note. And it haven't developed a proprietary. No.

Randy Greene:

Alright.

Ryan Dunn:

That's coming well, how does the, I guess the, the funneling journey or the email journey of a user who signs up, uh, how does that kind of mirror like the spiritual journey or the discipleship journey that, that core has?

Randy Greene:

So when we talk about discipleship at church, the resurrection, or when we talk about the Christian journey, uh, the Christian walk, we really are talking about like five essential practices, which is a, that our senior pastor wrote. Um, it's called the walk and it's, uh, it's all about these five essential practices of the Christian faith. And so those practices are, I'm feeling on the spot now, but, uh, like we're, we're talking about like, uh, we're, we're studying together, we're worshiping together. Um, we are serving together, we're giving together and we're sharing together. And so, so those are the five essential practices. And so what we've started doing is trying to incorporate those practices into the, like the fabric of our communications. Uh, so, uh, for example, this newsletter that we send on Tuesdays, it has, uh, all five of those practices that are broken down in the, in the newsletter itself.

Randy Greene:

So there's a worship section where it talks about, uh, the, what, what worship was like the previous weekend. And it gives people a little prompt if they missed worship. Uh, you can go back and watch it online here, click this link, um, or, uh, you know, it also gives them the opportunity to share some of those things online. We have a graphic there that they can download and share and stuff like that. We also have then a study section with some opportunities about upcoming classes and groups and things, um, a section for serve opportunities and, and so on through the five essentials. So we're, we're really being pretty intentional about using our newsletter specifically to orient people, to those five essential practices in the hopes that it kind of becomes ingrained in their DNA. Like, as they're seeing these things, they don't realize it, but they're learning them. Like it's becoming a part of a part of just the way that they think about their faith.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. Well, I have most of us think about like how we engage within a church community. Like a lot of that stuff is just kind of implied in our shared life together,

Randy Greene:

For sure. For sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Ryan Dunn:

Well, let's get into the nitty gritty a little bit, as I hear, I've heard of this happen, you know, a pastor develops a newsletter and sends it out and, um, you know, it looks at the magic numbers upon the return and, you know, nobody's opening the email message said, w how have you been able to, I guess, invite people to participate in the act of opening an email message.

Randy Greene:

Yeah. So, so there's a lot going on in that question. Um, and a lot of different things that we can do. Um, so one thing I would say is make sure you have a clean list. So if you have people on your list that are, uh, members who, um, haven't attended in seven years, um, it's probably safe to go ahead and remove them from your email list, or at least ask them if they want to receive it. And if they don't respond, then, uh, you know, something like that. So clean up your list. Yeah. Um, because you don't need to be cluttering up people's inboxes if they're not, you know, if they're not interested anyways. Um, and I've, I've, I've seen that happen plenty of times where we have these lists of outdated people. Uh, something else that we can do is working with the content to make sure that it's something that's helpful for people.

Randy Greene:

Uh, so, um, you know, emails are about relationships and I'm going to come back to this in a second, but, uh, consistency is one of those things that is really important for, for email marketing. Uh, so, uh, before I come back to it, the reason I mentioned that now is that we want to make, we want to make sure that people understand the content that they're going to be receiving and make sure that that's helpful and relevant to them. So, um, for example, that's why we try to include really personal messages from our pastors at the beginning of all of these emails, because that, that helps create a sense of relationship rather than it just feeling more like a transactional thing that, um, that, that they can just dismiss, you know, it, if they dismiss, uh, one of our location, pastor emails, and it feels like they're dismissing, like pastor Wendy from, from resurrection Leewood or something like that, you know?

Randy Greene:

Uh, so, uh, so making sure the content is on point. Um, and then, um, so now I'm going to come back to that regularity. Uh, one of the other things that I see a lot of misses on with email marketing is that we send our emails really like spontaneously or inconsistently, um, as far as timing. Uh, so when you develop a regular rhythm for your emails, that helps people know when they're coming and they develop a system for kind of working that into their lives. So, um, for example, if it's sending at, um, our, our senior pastors email usually goes out around like 11:00 AM, sometime between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM on Fridays. And so people are able to develop a rhythm around Friday afternoon, they go, and they check that each note. And so we can see that in the statistics about the open rates that people will just kind of develop a certain time, usually, um, middle of Friday afternoon, where they're reading this email note.

Randy Greene:

And so, and so, um, yeah, so I'm guessing that it's a lot of people sitting in their offices and they're, they've got a kind of a typical LOL on a Friday afternoon, and they're like, I need to kill some time. I don't want to start a new project. So I'm gonna read this email, you know, something along those lines. Um, so making sure that it's something that's sent weekly, or whether it's weekly or biweekly or whatever, something that's, that gives people a sense to create that rhythm in their own lives. Um, and then the last thing I would say would be working on your subject lines. And, uh, so subject lines are hard, uh, and it's, there's a lot of different theories out there. And so what I'm going to say is, um, try some different things for a month or for two months and see what works for you all.

Randy Greene:

So, like, for example, with, with our senior pastors, e-note, we have the exact same subject line every week. It's, um, something like weekly updates from senior pastor, Adam Hamilton. And so people see that subject line and they know exactly what it is. And, uh, so that's where they kind of develop this rhythm for our Tuesday newsletters. We do that a little bit differently. We have a different subject line every week. So it's something about whatever the email is about. Um, so it's trying to frame that in a way that's going to catch their attention and compel them to open it. Um, but then, uh, most email marketing platforms will let you do some something that's called like a preview, a line or a pre header or something like that. So if I'm in my Gmail account and I see a bunch of emails, usually I can see like the subject line, I can see the sender and then I can see like a little introductory text of the email. And so in that, in that introductory texts then for our Tuesday newsletter. So that's where we include the kind of consistent thing that lets them know that this is coming from, uh, pastor Wendy at resurrection Leewood or whatever. So, okay.

Ryan Dunn:

What are some of the, I guess tips you might have concerning subject lines that's working well for you right now?

Randy Greene:

Um, you know, I can w so sometimes we try to get like, clever with the things that has backfired on a couple of occasions. So I'll, I'll, I'll give you a little, um, a little unsuccess story here. Uh, we sent out, uh, this Tuesday newsletter, at one point, we were focusing on, like, we were, were doing a little bit of education on like what it means to be a member at church, the resurrection. Uh, and so we, we had an upcoming coffee with the pastors, which is our, our event where people are able to learn more about the history of church, of the resurrection, learning about what it means to be Methodist. And then at the end of that, they have the opportunity to join our church and become an official member. Um, so we were wanting to promote that event and we were also wanting to just provide a little reminder, uh, for people who are already members, um, just what it is, what it means to be a member at church of the resurrection.

Randy Greene:

And so, um, we'd written this content about, I'm just kind of trying to address both sides of that. And then we came up with a subject line that was, it was something like let's make it official. Um, and we sent this out to, you know, to our, to across locations, uh, for this Tuesday newsletter. And, um, in this message, we were apparently not clear enough that this was intended for both people who are already members to just, you know, to read a little bit and be reminded of what it means to be a member. Um, but also for people who weren't members, because we got tons and tons of responses from people who were concerned that their membership had been revoked or that, um, you know, somehow their membership wasn't captured in, in our records or something like that. Like it, it came across as only join us for this membership class because we see that you're not a member.

Randy Greene:

So, um, so I, so that subject line works really well to get people to open the email. Um, it did not work very well at creating good relationships with our people. Um, it did create a great sense of relationship, uh, because people responded to us and then we, uh, I'm gonna, I'm gonna frame this positively. We were able to respond to each one of those, um, with a bit of an apology for the lack of clarity and communication. Um, and just kind of, um, you know, try to try to show that we were, we were people, um, and we make mistakes and things like that. Um, it

Ryan Dunn:

Started a conversation.

Randy Greene:

Yeah, exactly. Um, so yeah, that was a long few days for me responding to all those things that we had messed up, but, uh, yeah. So, so we can get clever with those things, like let's make it official. Um, and a lot of times that will generate some of that, some of that open rate and things like that, that you're looking for. Um, but we often just try to keep it a little bit more, more general too, um, for the sake of clarity.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. Do you use your newsletter to generate conversation? Like, I think as far as like having a call to action on newsletters, most often we consider the call to action to be like, show up for the event that we're here, that we're putting the word out about. Right. So, uh, do you utilize a newsletter as a means for generating conversation between, I guess, church leadership in the congregation? Um, we

Randy Greene:

Do not every, not every week, uh, but there are times that we do kind of try to poke people and get them to respond or do different things. So, um, like an example of this was, um, there is, this was probably a year or so ago. Uh, but there's a day here in Kansas city where it had rained and there was like a beautiful double rainbow that people were like talking about all over social media and stuff like that. And so in, in the kind of the top heading part of our newsletter, uh, we ask people to send us pictures of the rainbow, um, because we wanted to, to, you know, we wanted to do a Facebook post or something about it. Um, and so it was asking people basically to participate in it with us. Um, so we'll do things like that occasionally that are pretty generic.

Randy Greene:

What we do more often is ask people, um, if there are ways that we can pray for them or, um, provide care for them, in which case we, uh, we're, we're a big enough church that we don't want those kinds of things necessarily all going through email because we're afraid we'll miss them. Uh, so for that, we send them to a form that they can fill out so that we can make sure that we're just following up with everything, um, in the way that we ought to. Uh, but for smaller churches, uh, you could probably just do a respond to this email and, um, and we'd love to connect with you, um, you know, make sure that goes to the pastor, whatever you need to do for your privacy stuff. But, um, yeah, we, we love to, to occasionally ask for people to respond and, and be participants in, in, in community with us

Ryan Dunn:

And content wise within your newsletters that you're sending out on Tuesdays. Um, it sounds like there is like a theme going on, so it's more than just about kind of the, um, the announcements of upcoming church events. Is that true?

Randy Greene:

Yeah. So the way that we divided up is we have like a top part. I usually refer to it as like the feature for the week and that's written by the location pastor, uh, before that location stuff, you know, if you're, if you're a one site church, which most churches are, um, then you know, that would be your senior pastor for the church. Um, and we, we try to have yeah. Different topics for that. And so often that's geared around like, whatever the main announcement is. So for this coming week, we're going to be talking about third grade Bibles because, uh, in the next few weeks we're going to be distributing third grade Bibles. And so we need people to sign up now, it's, it's getting there. Yeah. Uh, so, so all of our location pastors are going to be writing about third grade Bibles and, and kind of those milestones and faith formation, um, and why they're important and what it means and, and so on. And so then the call, the main call to action in this feature area is to sign your kid up for third grade Bibles. Um, and then beneath that we have what you kind of more typically expect out of the announcements. You know, we've, we've got, this is where we've got the five essential practices broken down. And so all of our announcements fit into one of those categories. Um, but you've got your classes and you've got your new sermon series of starting and some of those kinds of things.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. Right. And then do you have other email lists that supplement the newsletter? Like, are you sometimes using email as a teaching platform?

Randy Greene:

We, yeah, we, one of the most successful emails we do actually is, um, our, we call it our daily GPS. Uh, and so, uh, GPS is short for group pray, study guide. Um, it's, uh, we've been doing this for years and years and years, but basically it's like a daily devotional kind of a thing. And we posted on our website as a blog. Um, and then this is where we use MailChimp. MailChimp has a tool that will take blog posts. And whenever it sees a new blog post in a feed, then it'll send it out as an email. And so, um, this is like an automated thing for us. Um, but we have something like 13 or 14,000 people who subscribe to, uh, to these daily devotional things, um, which that's like one of our bigger, more active lists that we have in our church. And it gets something like a 35% open rate on a given day. So you're talking, there's thousands of people who are participating in this daily devotional guide, um, and reading scripture and reflecting on that scripture with, with some of the insights that we, you know, that, that our staff puts together for it. And then spending some time in prayer around it.

Ryan Dunn:

I'm glad that you brought up open rates. Uh, cause you know, you just said 35% is really, you know, a lot of us would be disheartened because it's like, you know, not everybody opened up our email newsletter, like it is, you're looking at your email newsletter, what's a good

Randy Greene:

Open rate. So you're looking at like a non church. If you're looking at like business industry, if you get open rates that are like in the double digits, you're feeling really good about your life. You're looking. I mean, if you get

Ryan Dunn:

Like 12 to 14%, you're feeling really good. And if you're getting click rates that are like one or 2%, like that's, that's, that's really, really solid within the business context click rate is when somebody is clicking on a link within the email.

Randy Greene:

So open rate is when somebody, when somebody opens the email and there's some, there's some caveats there and, um, I'm about to go super deep in the weeds, but, uh, apple has just done some things with privacy that are kind of throwing open rates for a tailspin. So that's a number that, um, is hard to rely on right now. Um, but click through rates is exactly what you're describing. It's when somebody clicks on any link within the email. So it shows that people are engaging with the content basically, um, within, within churches. Well, so within, within our church, um, our typical open rates are hovering around 20% normally. Um, the one that comes from pastor Adam, uh, is actually quite a bit higher than that. He's usually around like 28 to 30% open rates. Um, and, uh, so that's, that's way better than I would have expected, but that, I think it shows the power of that relationship, um, component. And then our newsletters are usually they're hovering around like 20% open rates. Um, and then the click rates on those, which are increasingly more and more, that's a better measure of, uh, people's engagement than the, than the open rate our click-through rates for Adams, you know, really depend on what the content is in there, but it's usually around like three or 4%. Uh, and that's about the same as what we're seeing for our newsletter. So they're usually around like four or 5% for clicks. Okay.

Ryan Dunn:

And what are you trying to accomplish through the clicks? Like when you were posting a link, uh, within a newsletter, do you have an ultimate goal of just leading people back to the website or is it to some kind of other specific call to action?

Randy Greene:

Yeah, so often we try to get people, um, as directly as possible to the action that we want them to take. So usually that's signing up for a class. Um, so it was filling out a registration form or something like that. So, um, so usually what we want to do in a newsletter is give people the most information that they need to make a decision about whether that class is right for them, uh, in as succinct away as possible. So we've got dates and times for the class. And then we try to have like two sentences of description about what the class is and then a link to register. Um, sometimes there are events that need a bit more context or more description, you know, they're more complex or there's more options or something like that. And so instead of linking directly to the registration form, we'll link them back to more information on our website, but yeah, trying to get people, we, we, every click that you ask somebody to do, you're going to lose people and so much as possible. We want to get them directly to the action that we want them to take.

Ryan Dunn:

Cool. All right. Understandable. Uh, as we are kind of getting into the weeds on the email marketing terms and click through rates and open rates and such, uh, another word that we hear or term that we hear quite a bit is drip campaign. Is that something that you,

Randy Greene:

I have utilized? You know, we, haven't done a lot with drip campaigns. Um, that's something that we're starting to move into more and more. And, and the idea, the big idea behind a drip campaign is, um, somebody is subscribed to your list. Probably they signed up themselves. Somehow. Maybe we added them in there from something, but, um, they, they become a subscriber and then we have this like automated workflow that's managed by whatever email service provider we're, we're, we're working with MailChimp or SendGrid or, um, a Webber, whatever it is. Uh, and, and this automation is set up in there so that at certain intervals, this campaign is reaching out to the person. So they might receive an immediate email that says, Hey, welcome to our list. We're so glad you're here. Um, here's what you can expect from us. If you have questions, here's a person you can reach out to.

Randy Greene:

And then a week later, or a few days later, they might have something that says, Hey, we'd love to have you join us in worship this weekend. Um, here's the information you need to join us online, or here's the information you need to join us in person. And then maybe a couple of weeks later it says, Hey, we'd love to check in with you to see how you're feeling about us. Can we grab a cup of coffee with you, email us here to set up a time? You know, so it's these kind of campaigns, it just sets up like different steps, um, trying to nurture that relationship with the person. And so, um, so for churches, there's a lot of ways that you can use it. Um, but yeah, we're, we're just kind of starting to step our toes into that.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. Yeah. Well, yeah, I can envision like, maybe like, Hey, now that you've signed up for email, uh, join us on Facebook and here's the link to the Facebook group. Um, here's a, here's a snapshot of one of our recent sermons.

Randy Greene:

And one thing that we, one thing that we have been doing is with our first-time guests, uh, we've been using a service called text in church, um, which is it's, uh, mostly text message marketing, but it's, it's built just for churches to use. And, um, and they have these kinds of automated workflow setup, these drip campaigns, um, to where, uh, what, what we're doing is if somebody gives us their cell phone number and their email address, we enter them into this drip campaign that starts out with the text message, like immediately that says, Hey, thanks for worshiping with us today. So ideally that, that should be going out within a couple of hours of the end of the worship service. Um, and it provides a name for them to attach to it signed, uh, from, you know, who, whatever person at that, at that resurrection location, uh, that is kind of running point on it.

Randy Greene:

Um, and then it follows up with a sequence of things where we're just introducing them to the church. So we, a few days later we send them an email from our senior pastor. I'm just giving them an overview of who we are. What's important to us, what our mission is, um, why he founded a church, some of those kinds of things. Um, and then it starts talking about like the, um, things like what our purpose is, what our vision is. I mean, all of these things. So over the 30 days after a person first gives us their information from visiting worship. Um, they're getting, uh, several touch points just to let them know that we're thinking about them and that we're available if they want to talk. Um, and, and so on. So, um, yeah, so that's one thing that we are doing, uh, with first-time guests.

Ryan Dunn:

Okay. Last question. I'm going to throw at your Andy, you've been great so far, um, and it's just kind of get the ball rolling. So if I'm a pastor who, um, is sending out a newsletter, that's basically a PDF of the church bulleted, like what might be my first step in, uh, taking my email to, uh, the next level in terms of encouraging relationship.

Randy Greene:

Yeah. I mean, one of the biggest things I would say, I mean, I know it's, it's a, it's a challenge, especially if, if you're a pastor of a small church by vocational pastor or pastor of multiple charges, uh, it's, it's time is always an issue, but if you're able to write a personal note at the beginning of it, just some kind of reflection, um, you know, something that's going on in your life. I mean, keep it short, like keep it like 250 words or less, uh, but something that just lets people know that there's, there's a person behind the screen creating this email. Um, that is the biggest thing that I would recommend. And, um, yeah, if, if you're, if you're doing like basically a PDF of your bulletin, you may or may not be using an email marketing service. Um, if you're not, then you can sign up for MailChimp for free for up to like 2000 subscribers or something like that.

Randy Greene:

And it's a super easy to use platform. Um, but it'll handle a lot of things. I'll kind of keep you in the legal boundaries that you need for, for newsletters. Uh, so I recommend that. Um, and, uh, yeah, and then you can just enter your information, your, your content into that email every week. Um, and that's, that's a really easy way to start building relationship instead of just kind of sending out announcements. Um, I would also say just real quick, um, instead of attaching a PDF, we talked about eliminating clicks for people, trying to get people as, as quickly to the information they need and the action that we want them to take as possible. If you're downloading a PDF, um, there, they have to download that PDF. So that's a click and then they have to usually like pincher zoom to be able to read it on their phones, because we know most people are reading emails on their phones these days. Um, and so that you're creating a big barrier of entry there. So if it's possible again, time is always a concern here. Um, and workload, I understand that. Uh, but if, if it's possible to find a way to even just copy and paste the information from that bulletin into your email marketing provider, um, then that, that eliminates several, uh, interactions that are necessary for the people. And so that, there's a, there's a, I think you'll see a big bonus just from doing that as well. Okay.

Ryan Dunn:

Yeah. And it's great to keep in mind the end user experience as well. So, you know, the fact that you mentioned that most people are looking at this stuff on their phones, not on a desktop devices. Yeah. It's really important to keep in mind as well, even if we're getting to the next level of crafting, uh, an email message, um, we want to make sure that it's mobile user for yeah.

Randy Greene:

Yeah. And most email marketing providers are going to have like the response, the mobile responsiveness built into their platform so that it works just as well on a mobile phone as it does on a computer or iPad or whatever. So another good reason to use email marketing providers. Hm.

Ryan Dunn:

Cool. Or any of this has been really helpful. I appreciate you spending the time with us and for sharing a little bit of this snapshot of what's happened at church of the resurrection and sharing your thoughts on that.

Randy Greene:

Yeah. I'm grateful for all the work that you're doing, Ryan with this podcast and, um, yeah. So thank you for the ministry that you're doing. I'm grateful for it. I'm happy to be part of it.

Ryan Dunn:

Hey, if you have questions for Randy Green digital media strategist at church of the resurrection, you can email him. His address is [email protected] Email is not dead. You can email me as well at [email protected] If this session was helpful, you might want to check out our session on best practices for writing on the web with Joe Iovino or making digital content that connects with Jim Keat. Both of those are in season one. Notes and episodes are up on the website, pastoringinthedigitalparish.com. This has been a production of United Methodist communications, and we always appreciate your support and you can help make this production possible and support our mission through resource umc.org. My name is Ryan Dunn, Viva Le email! 

Peace

 

 

 

On this episode

Randy Greene of Church of the Resurrection

Randy Greene has helped churches communicate better since he was a teenager. In college, he studied marketing with a focus on user research. After graduating, he worked at a number of digital agencies. Randy has been with the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection since 2015 where he manages the church's entire family of websites and is the point person for its email marketing efforts.

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.