It’s a whole new world out there.
Most of the pastors now on duty started out just getting used to the church copy machine! I got started with a manual ditto machine, blue ink, and a printing apron.
The truth is, even email and websites are now getting outdated. And no one even thinks about yellow pages ads anymore.
The key is to know what your “take” on the Christian message is, and then to broadcast it on all channels.
The upside is that most of the New Media world is free.
Message. Clarity is king in New Media. What is your life message? If it sounds vague and could just as well be used by any of the Christian leaders in your community, then it’s not yet “New Media ready.” Craft it and hone it. And it has to come out of a deep place in your soul, not the latest popular book on faith. The pastors who rule the New Media world are crystal clear about their message and they are always on message. Think Brand Clarity. With today’s information inundation, clarity is the royal road to influence.
In today’s world, you need to be clear about your “core” soul identity, your life message, having and teaching a reproducible piety (prayer and Bible, etc.), integrating the worship style of your church to your message, and broadcasting it to the universe.
SMS-Texting. Gotta do it. If you don’t, you are ignoring the media most used by 15-25 year olds. And how many of you have too many of them in your church? Discipline yourself to send out 3 texts a day until you get the hang of it. This is the coin of the realm and it leads into everything else. If you have a simple cell phone (no QWERTY keyboard), ask a young person to teach you how to T9. It’s way easier than manual data entry.
Unified Posting Tree. Whatever nooks and crannies of the media you use, it helps to post from one place. Most use PING or POSTEROUS. That way you can post TO everywhere FROM one platform. The service is free. And you can post through Ping or Posterous from your phone using SMS, from whence it will go out to all your other channels.
Blog. I once saw a shirt that said “More people read my T-Shirt than your blog!” This may be true for many of us, but a blog is still the best place to craft your message in more detail for the public. Many of us use WordPress or Blogspot. These services are free. Choose a fun background and get started. I’m new at this, and obviously you have already found me. The stats section on these blog servers give you a great window on what parts of your message anyone is actually listening to. Drive as much traffic as possible from other media to your blog.
TinyURL. This is vital. In a abbreviated communication world, being able to drop short “links” to other places online is key. Put any long web address into TinyURL and it will give you a short version which you can copy and send to people. This is important if you want to direct others to something specific you have written online.
Facebook. This thing is just plain gigantic. Cultivate a 3 or 4 figure friend list as fast as you can. The lines between public and private life are blurring. This is good for ministry, because for integrity to emerge, the two have to flow into each other. Post at least once a day and aggressively go after building that friends list. If you aren’t passionate about influence, you may be in the wrong line of work. Look at my Facebook page under “David Housholder.” There are a couple of us DH’s out there, but you’ll find me.
Facebook Groups or Fan Pages. Your church should have its own presence on Facebook. You can do it through:
1) Giving your church its own “personal” page. I.e. your church is a “person” on Facebook called “__________ Church.”
2) Having a Facebook group called “____________ Church.” This is what we do at Robinwood Church. Check it out.
3) Creating a Facebook “fan page” called “___________Church.”
Each of the three has advantages and disadvantages. Pick one and run with it. Use it to promote church activities, podcasts, etc.
Podcasts. Becoming as essential as having a web page. Young people are most likely to check you out here first. ”What’s on your iPod?” is the best conversation starter ever for young people. Try it. Get an iPod and subscribe to the best church podcasts (although you don’t need a portable player to enter the podcast world, any computer will do). You go to Apple.com and the iTunes store and get started. You may need some assistance getting this set up. Find a 20-year old, give him/her a pizza and don’t stop ’til it’s done. Post and promote, post and promote. Repeat. Our Robinwood Church podcast is listened to all around the world.
Print. Most church newsletters are disappearing; just like many newspapers. But you should have a book out that defines your message. Have it for sale everywhere you go; keep a box in your car. Make sure it is available on Kindle or other readers. You double your income at every speaking event if you have it for sale and let people know about it. Go to Create Space and publish with great editorial and artistic support for about $3k. You can earn that back after a while, and the resource, always on hand, is a big value added. Put links to Amazon so people can easily find it. Look at what I have done with this.
And sure, websites are old school, but there are trends to watch.
1) Simple is good. Think iPod. If you aren’t going to update it, don’t post it. Stale dates, etc. are a bad sign.
2) Never ever ever use stock photos of “beautiful people.” Use real pix of your people. Authentic is everything.
3) Make it easy to “contact us.” Real phone numbers and email addresses. Don’t make people have to hunt to find you.
4) Prominently feature the picture and bio of the senior pastor. People are looking for this.
5) Come right out and tell people what your worship style and political/theological stances are. Don’t be vague. If you’re pro-life, say so. If you are liturgical, say so. Etc.
6) Make sure the branding, colors, logos, etc. actually match your church service and “vibe.” Don’t have an artsy, brooding (albeit cool) website if you are a happy clappy church. The medium is the message.
Check out our site at http://robinwoodchurch.com
Google AdWords. This is a huge resource of targeted advertising. We use it extensively and it works great. There is quite a learning curve and it takes the better part of a year to master. There is no substitute for practice on this one. Just get started.
Twitter. The senior pastor and the church should have a unified account. Check out mine at “RobinwoodChurch” and “David Housholder” –same account. I just got started. This is way more challenging and unforgiving than the happy and safe Facebook atmosphere. You will have to dodge porn and haters. The big upside is that you learn to communicate, just like Jesus, in great sound bites of 140 characters in an uncontrolled social forum. And the truth is, you can test your ideas for potency. If it doesn’t matter on Twitter, it probably doesn’t matter to the public. It can be sobering, but vastly helpful. Be patient and keep at it.
LinkedIn and MySpace. Other valuable social networks. Have a look.
Google Wave. I am one of the blessed few let into this beta-testing version and can’t figure out what it’s about–yet. I’ll let you know…
Remember you can post to most all of these formats at once by using Ping or Posterous. That way you don’t have to maintain all of them.
I will be updating this post. Please forward it to everyone who can use it.
Check me out on Twitter (@RobinwoodChurch) and Facebook (David Housholder), and bless you as your influence grows.