Many churches in America have aging congregations and a constant prayer in all of them is that they attract young families to the church. A primary response to this need is for churches to upgrade their children’s programs and make certain their nurseries are spotless, attractive, and well-staffed. Though facilities responses are essential, communication responses are also important if your church wants to have a family come back more than once.
You’ve got to speak the same language as younger people
Imagine if you were invited to a party by a close friend. The friend tells you that the people are great and you’ll have a fantastic time. You approach the party with excitement — but when you open the door, you discover that the party guests are all speaking the language of their native country and English isn’t allowed. They are all English speakers, but they prefer to not speak it at their parties. They smile and are very nice. They offer you food; they have a game room for your kids; but when you try to talk to them, they shake their head and say your language isn’t allowed. You will probably leave as quickly as you can and decide you never want to associate with that group again.
The language of many young people today is technology and if you don’t speak that language, they will feel about as welcome as the guest in the story above.
Technology communication tips
Attitude is one of the most important things in learning to speak the language of technology. You may not know how to do the things that are suggested below, but admitting that your church is working on these areas and perhaps even asking for help to implement them, will go a long way to making technology speakers feel at home.
None of the comments that follow should be taken as a recommendation that you do away with any of your current means of church communications. You still need printed Bibles, email, phone calls, postcards, and whatever else the people in your church use for communications. The challenge today is that we can’t do away with past means of communication, but we continuously need to add new ones and here are some to consider:
Allow the use of cell phones and tablets in church and adult education classes
This seems so basic, but I still see church bulletins that tell people not to use their phone even to read their Bibles in church. One church went so far as to give a mini-lecture in print on how irreverent it was to read the Bible on your phone and how distracting it was to those around you.
I don’t imagine many who were used to reading the Bible on their phones came back a second time to that church.
In contrast, at another church when it’s morning time to read the Scripture for the morning, the Pastor invites people to follow along, “either on the screen in front, your printed Bible, or whatever electronic device you enjoy using.”
It isn’t surprising that this church, with a large aging congregation, has recently been running announcements in the bulletin asking for volunteers in the ever-growing children’s programs.
Be sure your website is responsive and constantly updated
A responsive website is one that can be easily accessed on a smartphone. A responsive website resizes so that text can easily be read on the smaller screen. A website that isn’t responsive can be accessed with a smartphone, but it’s hard to read and extremely difficult to find anything on it. For people who use their smartphones to look up every part of their lives, if your church makes that impossible, they won’t bother to go to a desktop computer or call the church office.
Making a church website responsive can be as simple as changing the underlying template for the site if your site is built using WordPress.
For a more complete explanation of what responsive sites look like and how they work, CLICK HERE http://www.effectivechurchcom.com/2012/09/a-primer-on-responsive-websites-what-they-are-and-why-they-are-important/ — this article is a couple of years old, but is a good illustration of them.
Text important messages
Email is no longer the latest and most efficient way to contact people. Many people today don’t ever look at a desktop computer unless their job requires them to. They access all the media and information they need through their smartphone and seldom look at email. It can be depressing to realize after all the work you do on creating email newsletters that many people won’t look at them.
Texting is the next challenge to learn if you want to communicate with the people who don’t access email. Here is an article that tells you how to send group texts on your smartphone: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to/mobile-phone/3472964/how-send-group-texts-from-android-iphone/
Have the option to give electronically
Many people pay all their bills electronically today and some have few or no paper checks. If you want them to give to your church, you need a system where they can do this. Not only will this make it easier for people who prefer to pay this way, but many churches have discovered that electronic giving makes contributions much more consistent.
Have your pastor’s sermons and those of other teachers available online, preferably on iTunes
Sunday is no longer a sacred day and many people have changing work schedules. Because of that, they may not be able to attend church regularly. If people miss, they may want to hear the sermon and if the only way you have them available, if you do, is on CD or tapes, many younger people simply won’t bother. Many of the church website templates have automatic ways to put audio files on your site. Getting your material on iTunes is more complex (I still haven’t done it, hope to do an article about it soon), but important to do it if you want to make your message available.
Make social media more than a logo on your bulletin or a link on your website
If you or someone on staff isn’t regularly interacting with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google+ accounts, don’t just put these on your bulletin or as a link on your website because that’s the “in” thing to do. These tools are called “social media” for a reason. If you aren’t involved with them, don’t bother. Better though is to get a volunteer who loves interacting on these sites and will do it for the church.
A final note — the technology advice above is for more than younger families
Confession time here — though I do think everything I said above applies to [attract] young families to your church, the article above could also have been labeled, “Some tech communication lapses in churches today that really bug Yvon.”
I am far from being described as a member of the young family target audience, but my love of and involvement with technology make all the issues above important to me. I was motivated to write it after viewing one too many church bulletins and church websites that didn’t have these things and personally being bothered by them.
The point here is not about my cranky preferences — it is about being all things to all people that we might win some, no matter what technology they use or what age they are.
For more advice and resources on church communications, please go to: http://www.effectivechurchcom.com