The Ultimate Church Announcement Strategy
Getting information to your members is essential to church health. Churches who disseminate information well thrive.
Those who don’t will die.
It is as simple as that.
In this post, I will teach you how to use one tool to create five phases of communication that are powerful and effective ways of crafting event announcements and putting those announcements into formats that make them unforgettable.
The cornerstone of our church announcement strategy is the Event Communication Worksheet.
Every church should have a worksheet for creating announcements. Use ours or make your own.
Just use one!
We make announcements all the time, and like many oft-repeated activities, our announcements will get lazier and less effective if we don’t have a way to standardize them.
Our worksheet is available here and includes all of the relevant information about the event: event title, date, start time, end time, cost, etc.
There are a few things that are unique and important about this worksheet.
First, it includes a cost breakdown.
It isn’t enough for people to know the total cost. People want to know what is being paid for specifically. Parents sending their kids to camp can easily get sticker shock at the price of a week at camp. “$320! Are they going to camp at The Four Seasons?”
The price is much less shocking when they see that their child will be spending $55 for four nights of lodging, $40 for hotels on the way to camp and back, $15 for a t-shirt, $110 for meals at camp, $30 for meals during travel, $10 for travel, and $60 for recreation, crafts, Bible study materials, the worship band, and the camp pastor.
Breaking down the costs let them consider how those individual costs compare to a similar purchase. It also helps us to think critically about how we are asking our church to spend resources.
Second, it asks for specific resources that will be used for the event.
So many territorial disputes have sprung up in churches over church vans and fellowship halls. Many youth ministers have been hung out to dry over the missing, dirty, or out of gas church vans.
This shouldn’t be. If there is an event that requires the use of a van, a building, or any other significant resource, then that should be put in writing in advance of the event.
Your youth pastor might bristle at having to fill this out, but after using it for a time he will see that his life is better when it’s organized.
Third, it asks which groups will be targeted through this event.
The church can’t have a scattershot approach to ministry. Everything we do should be connected to the mission of the church to bring sinners to repentance, to make converts into disciples, and to help disciples become disciple-makers.
Each event we do should have a clear purpose aimed at helping a targeted audience.
Thinking about the intended audience will help us craft the method of our message moving forward. If we are creating an event for senior adults it is probably a waste of time to create a video for Tiktok. If you are aiming an event at the community outside of the church, you will have to do more than put it in the bulletin.
Once the upper portion of the worksheet is complete you will use the information to move through the five phases of the church announcement strategy.
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Phase 1 – The Teaser
We tease every event at least six weeks before the event. The teaser should contain the title, date, and audience for the event.
The teaser is the equivalent of a save the date card for a wedding. People who are connected won’t need anything more than the teaser to put it on the calendar and start making plans. Less certain people will start paying attention waiting for more details.
A teaser is a great way to start your church announcement strategy for an event.
It allows you to give some information without having every detail ironed out. You may not know the venue for the Christmas dinner, but if you don’t go ahead and reserve the date with your people early, then there will be numerous conflicts once December rolls around.
It helps you test the waters. If you announce something two months from now and half of your target audience tells you they are going to be out of town on a school trip, then you have time to change the event before you have committed more substantial resources to publicize it.
It generates excitement.
There’s an old expression that this who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know. It’s pretty true. When people only know a little bit of information, they talk about it. They will share what they know and what they suspect. They will form theories and ask questions.
Another thing the teaser does is force you to think into the future.
It is easy to let the weekly routine of pastoring become a rut. Thinking out six weeks is good for us and our churches. People need something to look forward to, and that’s us too. Pastors are people. Put something out there and keep the details a secret and let people enjoy the excitement and intrigue.
Phase 2 – The Formal Announcement
The formal announcement shouldn’t just be the youth pastor reading the bulletin. That is not a church announcement strategy. That is a membership disengagement strategy.
The formal announcement needs to be a sticky message. It should be interesting, memorable, and actionable. Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick is a fantastic resource for learning to create sticky messages.
You can find a video summary of the book here.
The best way to accomplish this is by making your announcement a story.
Consider these three different ways that a charity bake sale might be advertised.
1. The youth pastor stands behind the pulpit and gives the date and time of the charity bake sale and silent auction. He reminds everyone that the money will go to support sending kids to camp. Last year they raised x number of dollars. You may remember, Martha’s lemon meringue pie raised a record of $75. So everyone, please, plan to attend.
2. A teenage girl approaches the pulpit. She says last year I went to camp with this church. I had never been to church before, but because of the bake sale, I was able to go. While I was at camp I became a Christian. That wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t supported the bake sale. There are a lot of kids like me in this town, so I hope you will support the sale again this year.
3. The screens show a woman in an apron in her kitchen. She is practicing making a meringue. A voiceover says, “For last year’s bake sale Edna made a coconut cream pie. Delicious. It was an airy, tropical-flavored slice of perfection. It was like heaven went on vacation to the Caribbean. But did anyone notice? No. Everyone was so in love with Martha’s Lemon Meringue. Not this year. This year…Martha’s going down. Oh, and we’re going to raise money to send kids to camp, but most importantly… Martha’s going down.” The date, time and location show on the screen.
If you saw the first announcement, you would probably register that the bake sale is coming up, but would you know what’s at stake? Would you be inspired to bake or buy? Is the first announcement going to get new participants involved?
The second and third are sticky. They tell a story. They show what is at stake more effectively than the first announcement. They will be remembered and retold.
The second announcement tugs at the heartstrings a little bit, but the third announcement has one huge advantage over the second—its format.
The video can be shown in church multiple times in multiple services and locations around the church. It can be put on social media and shared by church members. A member of your church could use the video as a way to contact a church prospect and invite them to participate in the bake sale.
What opinion would you form about the church that made the video?
Most likely they would think that your church is a fun place with fun senior adults.
Phase 3 – The Reminders
Reminders should take place from the time of the formal announcement until the event.
As part of a church announcement strategy, reminders have to be a multi-pronged effort. One reminder or one kind of reminder is not enough. Reminders should include announcements from the stage, in the bulletin, flyers, sermon mentions, engaging social media posts, and deliberate conversations away from the services.
Some of these are pretty straight forward; announcements, bulletins, and flyers are old hat.
Let’s take just a moment to consider some other forms of reminders.
Sermon mentions are a powerful way to promote events.
People take note of what their pastor is talking about.
If you are doing a yard sale to raise money for a local charity, in your sermon you can mention that you were going through your closet to get donations for the sale this week. Or you can mention your plans for after the yard sale. Or you can highlight the benefit of bringing stuff to the church rummage sale vs. hosting your own sale.
It is a small addition, but it points to your involvement and interest in the event.
In most churches, pastors have social influence beyond the explicit instructions they give. We lead by example. Some of our greatest lessons are caught more than they are taught.
Social media posts are an important reminder tool.
Notice, I call them a reminder tool. Your entire strategy can’t be based on social media posts. Too much of our social media consumption is passive. People scroll through hundreds of posts and don’t recall the details from any of them.
We’ve been there. You remember that Cody posted something funny, but you can’t find where it was in your feed. You go to his page and scroll through twenty posts to find the right one only to realize that it was Corey, not Cody.
That isn’t the level of attention you want for your important announcements.
An engaging social media reminder will pose a question or a prompt for your people to engage with.
My ministry assistant is a master at this. She posted a question about people’s pets and I got notifications about it for months. People were steady posting pictures of their pets in clothes and doing human things.
That is what you want for your reminders. You want people to comment and interact around what you are doing.
A reminder for our yard sale might be, “Post a picture of your favorite yard sale find and the story of how you got it,” or even “How many pounds are you going to lose at the yard sale this weekend? #easyweightloss #stuffweightcounts”
Deliberate conversations are a must.
Our words reflect our hearts.
If we are excited about something we talk about it. If we are nervous we make it clear in our words. We talk about what we love and what we hate. Even when we are angry our lack of words sends a clear signal.
When we have an event coming up in our church we must be deliberate in the way we talk about it.
From your perspective, the upcoming youth community service day may be a disaster in the making. The youth pastor didn’t start making arrangements early enough. He didn’t communicate with the kids effectively. Parents have a hundred questions that should have been answered. You see that it is going to be awful.
How do you talk about it?
If you aren’t deliberate, then your feelings will show through whatever you say.
This isn’t to say we should be dishonest. Our integrity is of utmost importance. It is to say that we should be deliberate.
If all of the above situations are true, what can we say when a parent starts asking us about the service day?
You could air out all of those frustrations, “I’m upset about…”
You could distance yourself from the impending disaster, “He didn’t listen to me.”
You could stonewall, “You should ask the youth minister.”
Or you can choose to accentuate the positive and the important.
“I am excited that our kids are reaching out to our community. We insulate our kids from a lot of the difficulties that are daily struggles for people in our town. I think service is an important element of creating a grateful heart. I’m not sure about all of the details. You’d have to ask the youth minister about those things, but I know my kids will be there.”
If you express doubt in your staff or even just negativity about their performance in a singular instance, it will spread like wildfire. Your positive comments will not be nearly so contagious, but they will have influence over the way others feel. So, consider how you will deliberately speak about the things that your church is doing.
Phase 4: The Buy-In
This may seem past the point of announcing, but getting buy-in is an essential part of a church announcement strategy.
Your message isn’t complete until you know it has been received.
So, what does buy-in look like?
As a youth pastor and pastor, I have taken groups of kids to multiple camps every summer for over 20 years. Altogether, I have taken around a thousand kids to camp.
I’ve had dozens not show up for a free trip to camp.
I’ve had three who didn’t show up after they paid.
People show up when they have paid a price.
What price is your church paying to buy-in to events?
There are several ways to make this happen.
This is the most straightforward buy-in, and it has many advantages. If you pre-sale tickets for an event, you know exactly how many people to plan for. You can know who is coming. You know any special needs they have and the accommodations you can make for them. There is a clear budget for how much you can spend.
This is essentially the same thing we do with camps and trips, even if we don’t hand out a physical ticket. We have a limited amount of space and we require a payment to hold a person’s space. Selling tickets is great for banquets, dinners, camps, and trips, but there are a lot of times when selling tickets doesn’t make sense.
If you are planning a service project, you need to know how many people will be attending so that you have enough transportation, tools, and work for them to do, but you aren’t going to sell tickets to go clean a playground.
Sometimes it is more appropriate to ask for a reservation than to sell a ticket. For instance, if there are transportation and other logistics to work out it is entirely acceptable to ask people to commit to attending. If food is being prepared, a reservation is essential.
In my church, we use our bulletin insert for this purpose often. We update our bulletin insert every week. It always has a place for prayer requests and our Wednesday night meal, but the other buy-in opportunities and next steps change every week.
There is something powerful about committing yourself in writing.
It may be that the only buy-in you need is a verbal commitment. That begs the question, how often are you asking for that commitment?
I have often seen ministers announce an event and then assume that people will come. It’s a Field of Dreams strategy that has no chance of working consistently. Building it doesn’t mean they will come. That is essentially just hoping, and hope isn’t a strategy.
Use conversation as a buy-in. “Are you planning to be there?” does a couple of good things for you if you ask it often. It lets people know that you want them to come and it helps you get an idea of how many people will be there.
You can couch the question in some different ways: what time will you be there, how many people are you bringing, who all have you invited, and will you be able to help with X. They are all essentially the same. Are you planning to be there?
Phase 5 – The Reputation
Just like people, events have reputations.
If last year’s Valentine’s Banquet was amazing, then most of the people who went last year will plan to be there this year. They might even tell their friends about the banquet afterward. How much will that matter a year later?
If last year’s banquet was horrible, will that matter?
The answer to both questions is that it really depends on who is telling the story.
If there is an event that will be repeated, whether it be next year or next month, the last part of your church announcement strategy is to curate the story of the event. You are responsible for the event’s reputation, and you will make it or break it in this phase of the strategy.
There are a few key things to remember when building a reputation for an event.
1. You don’t get to decide if an event was a success.
There are a lot of metrics to determine success. An event could lose money while people had an amazing time. Attendance could be abysmal, but you got to visit at length with a prospect. You are not the final arbiter of whether an event was good or bad. Don’t crush the potential of an event with your judgment.
2. Without pictures, it didn’t happen.
Most people have a pretty great digital camera on their phones today. Encourage them to take photos and send them to you. Create a folder on your network for photos, encourage people to post the pictures on the church Facebook, or message them to you. The pictures tell a story better than your words.
3. Be careful where you put the microphone.
There is a person at your church who complains. You just thought of someone. The reputation phase will give someone a microphone to tell the story of what happened. Don’t give that discontented person a microphone to complain about the event. Find someone who will speak charitably about the event and quote them. More on this to come.
4. Publicizing the next event starts now.
Show people that the last event was fantastic as soon as it is over. Don’t wait until next year. Build some publicity now. Make the people who missed it wish that they hadn’t.
Here is how these principles should work out in our Valentine’s Banquet scenario.
A volunteer is stationed at a photo booth during arrival and departure. This person takes hundreds of pictures. They take them of individuals, couples, families, and groups of friends. They call out random people who barely know each other and make them pose together like they’re Charlie’s Angels.
The Facebook post is made during the banquet and everyone is encouraged to post pictures from their table in the comments. People who stayed home will be inundated with pictures when they look at Facebook. When you decide to create a video or slideshow about the banquet you will have an abundance of photos to work with.
At the end of the evening, you approach a handful of people to get their responses to the event. Talk to people who are smiling. Tell them you want to record people’s responses to the night. You ask them, “What was your favorite part of the night?” Write down their answers in front of them or record them talking. They should know that they are “on the record.”
In particular, seek out the biggest complainer.
Put a camera in his face and ask him about his favorite part of the night while he is surrounded by a group of people who had a good time. Even the biggest complainer has a hard time complaining in front of an audience on camera when asked for his favorite part of the night. This also gives the complainer the attention he seeks without unproductive behavior.
The next day you put together a three-minute video that includes candid photos, photo booth pics, videos, and interviews. You make sure to include your biggest critic saying something good about the night. They may have some negative things to say, but once they are broadcast being positive about the banquet, their criticism of it will be tempered.
Show the video in church Sunday morning. This is the official story of the event.
Its reputation is made.
Eleven months later post the video to Facebook. Tag all of the people featured in the pictures and videos. Let them share the video and generate excitement for the coming year’s event.
I know this seems like a lot of work.
It is also rewarding. Using this church announcement strategy with an announcement worksheet gives each event a better chance of being a success. It gives your church the best chance to engage, and it gives you a chance to be and feel successful.
What is your favorite church announcement strategy? Tell us in the comments!
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