Communications Strategy for Grace UMC

The other night in Bible study a woman I had never met before came in and sat near the front. After class she introduced herself to me. "My name is Regina. I am Catholic, and I worship at St Patrick's in Denison. I wanted to learn more about the Bible and I saw this class on the website. Is it OK that I attend?" "Absolutely!" I said. And I gave her my copy of the participant book. Regina made my day.

When I first came to Grace a year ago, I heard people say, "Communications is an issue here." After 20+ years in ministry, my first reaction was, "What church doesn't have communications concerns?" I knew the website needed updating. Jan Sutter, who handles our offline communications, like bulletins, newsletters, emails, etc, spends lots of time on paper-based media. I began researching bulletin and website designs from other churches, as well as online church communications forums to learn best practices of growing churches.

Since we were already producing a monthly newsletter and sending out weekly email updates that were basically a re-hashing of the newsletter, we made a temporary change in the bulletin design: it was a 8 1/2 x 11" page, printed two-sided and folded in half. It was a simple design, but didn't have any room for announcements, opportunities for fellowship, and service. Last Sunday we rolled out a new bulletin design, which fits into the overall communications strategy of the church. Like the original bulletin, it's a tri-fold design, but it's smaller. Less paper/less cost. There are six unique sections. Of the six panels, two are devoted to Sunday morning worship: outlines of both services, and an empty section for sermon notes (or doodling or grocery lists-- have fun with it). There is a panel called "Teaching and Courses" for studies and learning opportunities-- if your study is not listed, it's because the office doesn't know what you are studying. Let Jan know! Another section is "Connect" for fellowship, and "Serving Opportunities" (obvious) The back panel is for social media, online links, and more contact information.

The new bulletin design allows for much more information, but not in an overwhelming way. Because of the amount of communication in the bulletin, we will stop producing a monthly newsletter. Like the prayer list, we will print a calendar for anyone to pick up in the office. I have asked Jan, who has formal training in design, to shift some of her focus to the website and away from print media. Our church is not in a financial position to hire a website design person at this time, although the Finance team did designate some funds for it in the 2017 budget.

Our hope is that these changes will lead to more connections, deeper faith, and growth in discipleship for everyone. I know change is not the most fun thing in the world. Some people have already voiced frustration to me personally and amongst others. Others have said they like the new design. These changes will take some getting used to, but I believe if they lead to increased engagement on the part of folk who are already here, and an increase in the number of new people at Grace, they are worthy of the sacrifices some of us will have to make. 

Immediately after I hit "send" on this message, I am meeting with a family who has been worshiping here for several months. We will discuss the couple becoming members of the church, and more importantly, baptizing their three children. This sweet family visited many churches for a couple of years before settling on Grace. Regina came to Grace looking for more knowledge of the Bible, and found a warm and welcoming place. This is the work we are called to do: to share the gospel with more people, and to help people who are searching for Christ to find a spiritual home. I hope you will join me on that journey.