Ok, let’s have some fun.
I love talking about what you should do better when it comes to church communications, but this week is all about a few church communication trends I hope die real soon. Think of it like “Seth is now a very old man, sitting on his porch, griping about those darn kids who keep throwing their ball on my side of the property.”
Yes, there are a few trends I’m not a fan of, because, hey, to each his own on some of this stuff, right? These are my opinions, so feel free to disagree with me if, you know, you’re comfortable being wrong.
I really wish these current trends in church communications would just go the way of the Do-Do already (pronounced, “doe- doe,” you 4th graders giggling in the back) and leave us be. So prepare to get off my lawn…
Secret Messages Embedded in Graphics
It’s a contest to see who can use the smallest font size on their graphic. Giant mountain scene…microscopic text. Who’s reading this? Answer: Those who zoom in on the photo like a microscope. Who is this for? Answer: People who like extra steps on social. I’ll be glad when this communication trend dies and we start writing readable text on our graphics again.
There are lots of easy-to-use website platforms out there. What I can’t stand is when, without knowing the context at all, someone belittles another for using Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace or something like that to make a church website. Somewhere, someone decided that websites have to be hard and created by robots in order to be “real” websites. They don’t.
Die, Troll! Die!
You know what we don’t do when someone disagrees with us in person? Cut them out of our lives and never speak to them again. Yet, that seems to be the strategy of a lot of communicators. And I mean a LOT of them. What’s sad to me is how ready some social media managers are to ignore someone, ban them from the page, delete them, block them, or launch missiles at them because they said something a little hurtful. THAT’S the definition of a snowflake. I would not let you run my church’s social media channel if that’s your first reaction to a negative comment.
The Four Hates
In general, it’s trendy to hate a few things with the fiery passion of a thousand suns in the church communications world. The problem is, again, that gurus cannot know what’s best for your situation. Many “gurus” do not work on a church staff and they either don’t have to deal with or have forgotten how to deal with life on a church staff.
Your context may lock you into one of the four hates or they actually may be a good strategy for you. It’s important to remember that just because someone speaks at a conference, or has a blog or podcast that’s popular, they don’t know everything that’s good for your situation. Myself included. Sometimes.
Here are the four hates:
We actually use an app at our church. And it’s working pretty well because we’re putting unique content on it. Would a mobile-responsive website be easier and possibly better? Maybe. But this is what we’re doing right now because we don’t have that. When we get that perfect website and are ready to move, we might ditch the app. Who knows? But that’s my reality, so don’t sweat it if it’s yours. Make it as great and irresistible as you can and quit beating yourself up because a famous guy doesn’t like them.
Yes, I’m talking about real paper, printed with ink, bulletins that you hand out and everyone throws away. Of course, it’s better for the environment to not waste paper, but you can switch to recycled paper, print a smaller bulletin, print fewer and offer a digital solution in addition on, say, I don’t know, an APP, and try to work with it.
Truth is, a liturgical church is hard to have without it. Older congregations just aren’t going to let you stop printing it all together. You have to work in your context. That’s just reality.
The cardinal sin of social media is to never post the same content from one platform like Instagram to another like Facebook. That works great if you have time, talent, and help along with a few other resources.
But I’m just one guy. I don’t have time for that. I also know that I have people that follow our church on Facebook or Instagram, not both. I also know that posting from Instagram to Facebook doesn’t look horrendous (like it does if I send it to Twitter). I also know that I really have two demographics represented on two separate platforms.
So you know what? I’ll crosspost if I want to. And you can to. We all know the IDEAL is to have unique content on each platform, but if you can’t do that, then do the same thing for both and do it well. Or pick one and do it well. My Twitter strategy in 2018 is the same as my Star Wars Prequels strategy: pretend it doesn’t exist.
Someone asked in a group just the other day about this. They said “Our site sucks, but I hear we shouldn’t use stock photography, so should I just leave it alone?”
Stock is better than none! Go ahead! Pick photography that looks as much like your church as you can. In the meantime, start trying to replace one of the photos each week. Use your smartphone camera and get some great photos or hire a photographer for a weekend.
But don’t do without. You have permission to make your site as good as you can until you can make it better.
Trends come and go
There was a time when apps were cool and Facebook was lame. When stock photography was the best most could do and no one gave them grief about it.
At the end of the day, we’re trying to convey a message, are we not? This stuff helps us do that. Sure, some will see these things and fault you for it. That’s ok. You love the process. You love the journey of communicating better every day and one day, you’ll look back, see how far you’ve taken your church, and say, “I’m really proud of the hard work I’ve put into making Jesus clear to my community here.”
And then someone will take a hi-res photo of you basking in the sunset of your hard work and post it on Unsplash.com for other churches to use for free.