5 Critical Steps To Getting Your Church In The Loop
One Sunday, I was guest preaching at a small church in Northern California. The worship service started as you’d expect with a rousing song, a few words of welcome and a few more songs to lead us into a time of unpacking God’s word. But then we reached the announcements; which lasted FOREVER. Well, not forever of course, but they did go on for 25 minutes.
Which is WAY too long.
We’ve all been there. We try and keep the announcements lean but everyone thinks their announcement is the most important and while you may have gone into the morning with three simple announcements, that neat and tidy number somehow morphed into a much larger number.
The harm of having lots of announcements goes way beyond taking up a lot of time in the worship service. It’s actually a lot more practical than that. Long winded announced are actually ineffective. In our attempt to say everything, we actually fail to communicate important things in an engaging and influential way.
Cause at the end of the day, announcements; while an important part of worship, are really about getting people involved with the life of the church. And to do this effectively, we need to think like communicators and marketers.
So I’d like to share five key changes you can make in your worship service announcements that will not only shorten the amount of time spent on announcements, but actually make them more effective.
Ironically, the first two items on our list have absolutely nothing to do with Sunday morning.
Strategically transfer your announcements to digital platforms
For many churches, the justification for having long announcements is because they have no other way of communicating what’s going on in the community. There is a core (and ultimately false) belief that the only way you can really get information across is through a physical person telling other physical people through a microphone. But we all know this isn’t true.
In fact, live announcements are only one the ways people seek and receive information these days. Between email campaigns, social media and websites, churches have a handful of obvious ways they can inform people of what’s going on in the church.
The problem is, most churches haven’t taken the time to train and transition their community to rely on these platforms as their primary source of information.
Consider this, the average “regular church attender” in America currently attends a live worship service around 3 out of every 8 weeks. That’s less than 50% of the for the people would already be in the know. It’s less than 12 time per year for those who consider themselves Christians but not active church attenders.
While these broad statistics are alarming in numerous levels, they tell us very practically that we can’t rely on Sunday morning for the majority people to hear the announcements.
We have to invest in other platforms. And when I say invest, I mean we need to use them strategically, regularly and creatively.
I know so many churches who are absolutely killing it with their weekly emails and social media updates. And they aren’t fancy or wordy, they’re clean, clear and to the point.
Create Clear Onramps
Once you’ve invested in some new and strategic communications platforms for your announcements, now it’s time to make sure that every announcement has a clear and predictable onramp.
Too often, the action step in a church announcement is something like, “Go see Jenny if you’re interested in serving,” or “go sign-up on the clip board in the back.” But first time visitors don’t know Jenny and the clipboard in the back is only available to people who are present.
Instead, we need to create predictable places where people go to take action on the announcement. This could be a facebook page or a digital kiosk, but the best place is probably your website.
What I tell churches is they need to have a short and memorable a domain as you can get, and then make the “slug” or subpage something short and predictable. So instead of telling someone to go to Jenny to sign-up, you tell them to go to [youchurch].org/groups. Then on your groups page, you have all your sign-ups right there, ready to go.
This way you get place this URL in an email, on facebook, and even announce it verbally and it’s easy to remember. You can still have a physical kiosk where people can access this sign-up at the church, you just open up the access when you make the onramp something anyone can access anywhere.
Now that your church has discussed some of the systems you’ll need to build in order to slim down your Sunday announcements, you now have the freedom to shorten your announcement time. You see, if you try and quit your long announcements cold turkey, without a stronger systems to replace it, you may be met with open revolt.
Think I’m exaggerating? You’d be surprised (but maybe not) at how hardcore congregations are about their announcements.
But if you’ve already replaced those bulky announcements with something better and more accessible and you actually have the metrics to prove it, you’ll find it to be an easier sell.
You are now free to find that magic number. Two announcements? Maybe three? Keep it to the most general stuff or maybe the things that have the most to do with your mission and vision? It’s up to you. The points is, you now have the freedom to limit the quantity and duration of your worship service announcements.
Focus on the "Why"
Simon Sinek, influential marketing and culture expert tells us that instead of focusing our message on the who, what, where, and when (the information), what we really need to focus on is “why.” As in, why is this something that’s important, meaningful or life changing. Information isn’t (usually) life changing, but purpose can be.
And I believe when it comes to the church, the heart of “why” always leads us to tell a story.
Why should someone care about a personal finance class? Because they hear a story that connects with their own story. Why would someone attend a retreat? Because they’ve heard of relationships beginning and lives transforming at a retreat…and they want that story to become their story.
So as you form your announcements, spend some time thinking about how your can connect this event, group, or even important piece of information with the story God, the story of the church, and the story of the people sitting in the congregation.
Form A Great Announcements Team
The final item on our list is a biggie.
Often, we tend to delegate the actual announcing to the person who is putting on the event, the teaching pastor, or an elder who’s comfortable speaking in front of people. Rarely are any of these the right choice.
You want fresh people up there who’s only job is to clearly communicate the announcements. And while a pastor is certainly qualified to speak in front of people (I hope), the problem is they’re focused on their sermon, are usually not detail people and even if the first two weren’t true, they’re already saying so much in the service that people will have a hard time separating in their memories what was said in the sermon and what was said during the announcements.
What you want is a team of people who are good in front of an audience, respected by the congregation, and who have the time and bandwidth to land a great announcement. Because you don’t “wing” a great announcement. You’ve collected the information, you know the “why”, you know the action step, and you’re able to keep it simple. Most people can’t do all this and you need to find people who can.
The next step…get to work. Talk about your church’s announcements with leaders, congregation members, new attenders. Get your finger on the pulse of how you’re currently doing and begin a conversation about where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.
Founder and Lead Catalyst for Clearpath.Church. Josh is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and is passionate about helping small churches find their voice. Josh lives with his family in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California.