Women in Ministry: Following God’s Path

Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

It is not always easy to find our purpose and place in ministry. Even in our modern times, there can be an imbalance of the sexes when it comes to leadership opportunities extended and available to men and women in ministry. Whether attempting to join the staff of a local church in a specific position, becoming a pastor of a pre-established church, or starting a new ministry, challenges may arise. Building a ministry is difficult for anyone, but even more so for women attempting to enter into an arena that has traditionally been led by men.

Fortunately, with a little creativity and God’s guidance, there is a path forward for anyone who is strong and determined enough to follow it. Here are some of the steps to follow to fulfill your purpose in ministry.

Be a Minister First

One of the great worries as a woman going into ministry is that you will be pigeonholed as a token woman in the role. In other words, you won’t be taken seriously. It’s quite common for women to be shepherded into “women-only” ministries that cover “women-only” issues. While those concerns are important, and women ministers are perhaps best able to discuss them, that shouldn’t be the limit of what you have to say about God.

There can be pressure to tailor your ministry directly to women, to the exclusion of the entire community. That may be your goal, which is perfectly fine, but if you wish to reach everyone, be sure to avoid the trap of speaking only to the concerns related to your sex. Bringing God into everyday experiences can be a way to invigorate faith, but try to avoid speaking only about stereotypically female topics. Broadening your approach to include the concerns of everyone in the community will not only open the doors to a larger congregation, it will also demonstrate your ability to relate on a level beyond your gender.

Once a community begins to respect your voice as a minister, you will quickly be seen not just as a woman, but as a dedicated, faithful messenger of the Gospel.

Prove You Have the Mind and the Faith for Ministry

You may need to demonstrate your skill beyond your tokenism in the first place. For a man entering the holiest trade, basic credentials can suffice to prove his competence, but you may have to display more prominently your knowledge of God and scripture. Getting published and, as will be discussed in a moment, finding respected ministers to sponsor you, will go a long way to assuage any fears that you don’t belong.

Find the Support to Hold Your Ministry Up

In order to forestall some of the uncertainty you will inevitably face, be prepared to offer up the endorsement of some ministers already well established in your church community. By getting yourself introduced by an already trusted voice, you will start out well ahead of the game in earning the respect of everyone in the pews.

When a well-known pastor stands by you, it signals to everyone that your ministry is not as different as they might fear at first. It creates a sense of continuity that will help ease transition.

Turn the Other Cheek But be Bold in Your Convictions

No matter how hard you work to portray yourself as a respectable member of the ministry, there is always going to be criticism. The best way to deal with negative comments is not to fight but to show Christian compassion even when it is hard to find it in others. Try to understand the difficulty some people have in accepting a woman in charge of their spiritual lives, and return mistrust and dislike with kindness. By allowing those who struggle with your ministry to graciously return to the fold when they are ready, and to do so without stigma, you leave the doors open for reconciliation after a short period. You also de-escalate any disagreements and allow yourself to represent the more mature, godly side of the argument. Fighting back too hard can end up creating a fracture in the congregation.

Take Inspiration from those who Came Before

When the struggle becomes too much, look to those who came before to find the strength to keep going. The history of Christianity is full of women who have testified to God’s holy truth. From Christ’s mother, to the numerous women who followed and helped Him in His life, to the women who helped found churches and worked with Paul, to the early female martyrs, Christianity’s founding is full of powerful women who stood up and spread the Word of God, no matter the objections. Indeed, it is hard to imagine Christianity growing as far as it did as quickly as it did if not for these women.

Use their stories to strengthen your faith and resolve in the face of opposition. Whatever you face ahead, there have been women who faced greater odds, and through the power of Christ, overcame them.

Do any of these women come to mind? Women who struggled, but then succeeded in ministry? If so, consider nominating them for our Lift campaign. Head over to http://thechurchonline.com/lift for more details!

Meet Caleb!

Caleb Shultz, the most recent addition to The Church Online’s programming team, serves as a web developer. His primary role is to update current sites and develop new websites after working one on one with The Church Online’s team of web designers. He ensures each site is unique and exactly what the client imagined. Adding to the great camaraderie at The Church Online, Shultz enjoys conversations with his co-workers, which often end up being about food.

Shultz attended The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, specializing in web design. When he finished his degree, he began creating websites in his spare time. As he noticed his skills growing, he realized he had a natural affinity and talent for web development.

So why web developing? Shultz says he pursued this field because he loves solving problems, which makes Shultz perfect for his position and a great addition to the team. “As a web developer, I typically run into a multitude of challenges throughout the day. This could seem like a drag to some people,” he says. “However, finding solutions that create a good product in a timely manner motivates me. I love the satisfaction that I get when I solve a problem, in particular, when it’s a problem that had me on the brink of giving up.”

Not only does Shultz enjoy being challenged, he thrives in a team environment. At The Church Online, the team is always bouncing ideas off of one another, allowing for a very creative, fun environment. This kind of environment helps Shultz when planning ahead for the creation of a website. “Getting ideas from others is a great way to help you brainstorm ideas of how you want the website to look and function,” he says.

Outside of work, you can find Shultz with his family, enjoying walks and playing games. Although, he doesn’t fully abandon the “building” skills he uses at The Church Online: he also enjoys working on home improvement projects. “We also love traveling,” he says, “Whether it be to visit old friends or to explore new places.”

How to Have a Successful Fall Ministry Launch

As we enter into the last quarter of the year, many churches are excitedly preparing to introduce new ministries into their communities, while some are even undertaking the efforts required to start a new church. Regardless of the focus of your particular mission, it’s worth considering ways that the season itself can help ease the inaugural period to bring the Word of God to people.

Here are a few ways you can use fall to your advantage as you prepare your new ministry.

Take advantage of new routines

For many, summer is the slowest season of the year. The kids are out of school, the college kids are off on adventures or back home relaxing with Mom and Dad, the weather can be too hot to do anything, and people drift off for vacations. But once autumn comes around, everyone snaps back into activity. School starts back up, parents get back to work, and an opening presents itself for people to commit to focusing more on getting involved ministry and seeking to strengthen their faith.

• Plan a church worship concert with local musicians or your own church’s worship ministry, inviting the community and those who have taken the summer off to get involved. 

• Have an open house to offer people opportunities to learn more about your church, and sign up for a new season of bible studies, family ministries, small groups, and outreach programs. 

• Offer playgroups at your church or popular nearby play places for moms with little ones.

• Host a senior citizen’s “lunch and learn.”

• Encourage college students to visit during the week by offering a quiet place to study and free Wi-Fi (if available).

Despite the busyness of fall, people will be grateful to have this time in ministry to relax and connect with one another, fostering growth of a loyal congregation in no time.

Take advantage of the weather

We all know how wonderful those perfect fall days can be. After months of stuffy summer weather, we’re entering the period of cool breezes and clear skies, with all those glorious colors around us. People are looking for any excuse to get out into nature before the cold sets in at the end of the year, and your ministry can be the perfect way to combine a little fresh air with a lot of faith.

• Partner with local Fall Festivals by setting up a photo or selfie booth for fun pictures and conversation. Have the photos available online (using SmugMug) and for purchase on your church’s website. 

• Organize a prayer walk at a nearby park or trail to behold nature’s palette.

• Host a trip to a pumpkin patch or farm to find the perfect pumpkin.

• Sponsor a community service event with a local environmental group to clean up and beautify a neglected place.

If your church is located in the city, this is all the more opportune. Find a good location where those who are away from wide open spaces can spend some time with all of God’s creation.

Fall is a wonderful time of year, one in which it is easy to see the glory of God’s creation all around us. We have fine weather, wonderful holidays, and a period when we all feel invigorated to work a little harder. By accommodating your ministry to highlight the wonderful bounty of the season, you increase the eagerness people will have when considering joining your ministry or church.

2016 Design Trends (Part 2)

From the desk of Danielle Lebo

Part 2

In the first part of this series, we covered a few of the big first impression items when it comes to designing your website. If your site doesn't work with mobile devices or doesn't have the overall minimalistic design with eye-catching images and video, a lot of people won't give you the time to really introduce yourself.

Just as we all dress well for moments when first impressions count, a cleanly-designed site with just the right amount of flash (style, not the software) sends out the message that you are a brand with some authority, and you run a place worth sticking around in.

But page design doesn't end with these broad strokes. There are a number of finesse points that can make your site that much more attractive and bring in those new viewers.

1. Bold, Strong Typography and Iconography

Larger, simpler type usage and fonts on websites has the double benefit of being trendy and also eye-catching. It aids in the process of developing a minimal design and allows designers to place emphasis and call-outs on a site in a clean, organized, catchy way. Plus, with more font resources than ever, designers are able to call on more fonts for usage, allowing many designers to move out of the box of what used to be only a limited number of options, many of which were not as versatile as those we see available today.

The use of icons as a design is on the rise as well. Icons create simplified visual interest in conjunction with headline text or as stand-alone items. As with photographs, icons help encapsulate your identity at a glance in a way text simply isn’t able to. Although you want to avoid cluttering the page with too much, a few choice icons—combined with a suitable font—can save a lot of space and make the text you do use stand out more.

2. Hover States

A hover state is an action that occurs when a user mouses over a particular item. A common example is with navigation menu entries: when moused over, often times the color of the item changes.
But hover states can be so much more. Examples of these include size changes upon roll over, icon swaps, images fading, or blurring. Indeed, this is becoming increasing popular as a means to engage users in conjunction with minimal design framework. Hover states just make things “pop.” These simple, little animations add small areas of interest to a website and add a hint of creativity to a website without being overly distracting or relying on the archaic Flash animation approach (which has been steadily going out of style for a number of reasons for years now and really no longer functions as needed).

These are only a couple simple trends in the world of site building. Design trends are constantly changing as new innovative ideas change how we experience the internet every day. As you can see, at the current moment, it is imperative to adapt to the fact that most websites are accessed via mobile devices.

At the same time, users now expect to see a clean, minimalistic design that delivers information in a heavily visual fashion. Even if you don't personally care about these things in your online experience, it is important to stand out and avoid falling behind in website trends because many people judge a business or ministry from that first impression. Having a site that looks modern and interacts in the way users expect it to can make all the difference between a user sticking around to learn all about you and drifting off to the next link on Google. Make sure, based on their web experience with you, that they don't need to search any further.

2016 Design Trends (Part 1)

From the desk of Danielle Lebo, Graphic Design Services Manager

Part 1

We live in a digital age where people are constantly immersed in the digital media that exists all around them, especially in the palm of their hands. Your online presence (or lack thereof) says more about you than you probably think. Having a website makes you look up-to-date, legitimate, and credible. Chances are, you are going to pop up in a Google search whether intentionally or incidentally in response to a given search term. How you present yourself initially to a viewer—through your online web presence—will make or break their perception of you. Not just any old website will do. People expect fast, modern-looking sites, and they are easily turned off by a site that doesn't appeal to their high standards. If they feel that your website is dated, not relatable, difficult to navigate, or just flat-out boring, then chances are they will move on to the next result until they find one that seems more promising. After all, if you haven’t updated your website since 2003 (or even longer!), how can they really be sure you will even answer your email or return a phone call?

So, in this two-part series, we're going to explore a few of the top 2016 design trends to consider when evaluating your current website or planning to launch a freshly-developed one.

1. Responsive Design

The fact of the matter is that most people now access the internet first and foremost (or even solely) from a mobile device. The days of static web design—that is, a design that is built to fit only one type of screen size—are over. Now, it is not only standard, but crucial practice to utilize a responsive layout that will adapt appropriately to fit, whether it be different monitor sizes or devices.

Investing in a mobile responsive website will prove to be extremely beneficial, as it allows users to easily view the contents of your site in a layout that was designed to fit effectively onto their phone or tablet. Nothing is going to turn off your page's visitors like trying to view a desktop site from a mobile device. Nobody likes the inconvenience of having to try to zoom or click buttons too small for the tip of a finger to press. The more difficult you make this for the visitors to your page, the less time they will be willing to spend there. From a potentially dedicated new follower to somebody else’s client or congregant, your site's inability to respond to mobile devices could send people straight back to Google to look for someone who understands today’s technology standards.

2. Authentic, High-Quality Photography and Video

As the average user experiences increasingly fast internet speeds, it is more and more possible to support large, high-quality photo and video without significantly impacting page load time, which had been an issue in years past. Now that you don't have to wrestle between speed and content, first-rate, eye-catching, creative photography and videography is a great tool to draw people into your site and make them want to spend those crucial extra moments finding out what you are all about.

To maximize the potential of images and video, make them visible in the header area of your website and as background elements. This not only makes you look professional and shows that you pay close attention to the detail and importance of originality, it also calls upon the strongest human sense to capture the attention of users and engage them in your website’s content. If you really want to “wow" people, great photography and videography is definitely a crucial element to pay attention to.

Make sure, though, that the images and video interact well with the overall message and purpose of your site. If these glossy elements clash with what you mean to represent, you may turn people away at the door. An image of a wide expanse of nature may be beautiful, but it may play against you if your church or business is city-based. Try to keep in mind at all times what you think your visitor wants to see in those attention-grabbing pieces of media. Those pieces need to add up to an accurate image of what you represent.

3. Flat, Minimal Design

The appeal of flat, minimal design was probably inspired by branding introduced by Apple, Inc. Think of the clean look Apple presents the world: lots of open space on the page with a few sharp, clear images. This has become the preferred look across the web now, and users will reward you when they see it.

In an added benefit to the "cool" factor, a flat, minimal web design keeps your website from looking cluttered and focuses on quality content and information (along with those eye-catching images and videos mentioned above) that users find pertinent without the unnecessary, distracting bells and whistles.

While it can be tempting to throw all of the clever tricks you and your web designer know onto the page, keeping things simple and neat keeps users from having to constantly dig for what they are interested in on your website. As another nice bonus, it translates better into mobile-friendly layouts.

A word of caution, though. Minimal design reinforces the need for quality content with carefully chosen colors, use of white space, and intriguing photography to effectively engage and inform users. With fewer distractions, the quality of your content shows through—like everything else—much more clearly.

The flat, minimal design is key to any site that wants to look like it was made in 2016 and not 1996. But it's not as simple as copying Apple's use of space. There are a number of smaller elements required to really make the site's design come together. To get a clearer picture of just what those elements are, be sure to read part two of this series.

Raise Your Church’s Google Ranking: Quick Tips to Move Up the Search Page (Part 2)

Part 2

Getting your church to the top of Google’s ranking is no easy feat. It’s a competitive world out there, even amongst churches and the faithful, and finding the right tools to get your message out to the massive online audience can be intimidating.

That’s where SEO can make a huge difference. In our first post on this subject, we discussed how your words can have a major influence on getting Google to notice you and raise your profile. Now, we’ll look at how you can connect your church to the rest of the world.

1. Keep it quick

One of the most important things, in Google’s opinion, is how fast and responsive your site is. And that makes a lot of sense. How often have you clicked a link and grown frustrated waiting for the page to open? If you do that, and every other user does that, imagine how frustrated Google must get with that extra half-second it takes to reach your information.

This point goes well-beyond just SEO. This is just basic online courtesy.

Think of it like this: if your church has greeters at the door on Sunday who hold the doors and welcome people in, how do you think a prospective new congregant would feel if it takes forever to get a greeter’s attention and get the door opened to enter. Would that person wait around or would they decide this church really isn’t for them?

Basically, if you want others to come to your church, and if you want Google to help you, you have to show some speediness in holding their interest. Take the time to time your site and make sure everything is loading with consistent blazing speed. Google prizes this so highly, it has revealed publicly that this is an important factor in its ranking system. (Google keeps most of its criteria and how heavily they are weighted secret, so this is a pretty big deal.) It has also, very helpfully, provided a site that can tell you how your site is doing and what you can do to improve.

2. Link link link

Google loves links. Connecting content makes its job easier and creates a more cohesive experience for those searching through topics. But while most links are good so far as Google is concerned, there is a differentiation to be made in just how worthwhile each link is considered.

Internal links are links made to your own content on your site. These are less weighty than external links that lead to and from other sites, but they still serve the purpose of getting more eyes on your past posts. The more your site gets browsed and the longer users spend on it, the more Google will be willing to raise your site up the rankings. These internal links also integrate your material that merges your ideas and identity into a whole. Feel free to link within your articles to posts about your church’s credo or previous posts that connect to the topic at hand. You’d be surprised how many people will click to learn a little more about what you’re about.

But external links are where your Google ranking can really start taking off. That’s because Google has become very interested in what it calls “authority,” a somewhat ambiguous concept attached to sites that people trust and frequent. Authoritative sites tend to be the major news outlets, government sites, educational sites, and similar prestigious institutions.

To really get Google’s notice, you would need one of these sites to link back to you, thus lending you some of that precious authority. But peppering your pages with authoritative links does show to Google that you consult trusted sources and present accurate information, which is a major concern for the search engine.

A word of warning, though: just as with keywords in the last post, overusing links can get your posts labeled spam. With every link, make sure it is germane to the current topic and that the link actually works. And don’t start buying links from other sites. Google has become very good at sniffing out which links are authentic and which are bought.

One way to get genuine links can be through guest posts from another authority in the field. Have a fellow pastor from another church write a few posts and then share links between the two sites. Creating such connections will bring more visitors to your site and strengthen your own authority in the field.

3. Share everything

Perhaps this goes without saying, but social media is simply the way of the world these days. According to Pew Research, 62% of Americans get their news from social media at least some of the time. Avoiding Facebook and Twitter is quickly becoming an impossibility for businesses and churches alike.

But it isn’t just a matter of setting up the page and occasionally posting a verse from Scripture. To really use social media effectively, you need to post and share content regularly. That’s the only way to ensure that your content is going to get out there.

Just like Google, Facebook uses algorithms to decide what news gets in front of its users every time they log in. If you post rarely and those posts aren’t shared, it’s hard to convince Facebook to place your latest article at the top of the page, unless you want to pay them. To avoid this, simply get into the habit of sharing. Share posts from other churches that you think will speak to your congregation as well. Share photos from recent church events. Share stories about congregants and about yourself. Preview next Sunday’s sermon. And then, make it easy for others to share for you as well. Make those Facebook and Twitter icons on the page very easy to identify. Giving your readers the option to share the post easily, much of the work can be done for you, which brings more viewers, more external links, and a higher ranking on Google.

SEO is a vast topic, and these tips are obviously only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mastering search engine optimization for your site. But if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on the way to making sure your church is the first stop for anyone online in search of an answer.

Raise Your Church’s SEO Ranking: Quick Tips to Move Up the Search Page (Part 1)

Part 1 

Let’s be honest: we all want to see our church’s posts rank at the top of Google’s search results. But it’s hard to get noticed in the expansive, almost unending world of online content. Even if your church has a lot to say, it often gets drowned out by the biggest voices online—those sites that everyone knows and visits, the ones that end up with that top spot on Google searches every time. It can get frustrating trying to get a word in edgewise, to get people to pay attention or even see your content so they have the option of paying attention.

Part of the difficulty is due to how Google ranks content. The world’s most popular search engine can be a hard place to get noticed. If you don’t publish for one of those already established sites that are already popular and already heavily trafficked, it can feel like there’s simply no way to get your words (or the Word) in front of new eyes.

That’s where SEO comes in, or search engine optimization. These are techniques that can move your content up Google’s rankings and get your site noticed.

Unfortunately, like so much involved in modern technology, SEO can be very complicated. But to help ease the burden, we’ve put together a two-part series with a few tips to get Google to help lift your message higher and bring new eyes to your page.

And it all starts with those words, words, words.

1. Keywords are still key

Keywords are the crucial set of words and phrases that define what you’re talking about. If you are in the baseball card business, for instance, “baseball,” “card,” and “trade” or “sale” would probably be key to any topic you cover, while “Babe Ruth” and “Hank Aaron” might be key to a particular article.

If you were involved in SEO in the 1990’s or early 2000’s, you may know that having lots of keywords in your content was very important for high page rankings. However, since Search Engines now use a number of ways to determine where a page is placed in a search, keywords are not the only way to get a page to move up. 

That doesn’t mean, however, that keywords don’t still serve a purpose. So, putting the right words in your actual page title, for instance, can still improve how relevant Google considers your article to the most common searches.

If you are writing about activities in your community around Christmas, be sure to put those main concepts in the page title or first few sentences of the first paragraph. “[Cincinnati] Christmas Activities” will net a far higher ranking than “What you can do around [Cincinnati] at Christmas.” This can take a little time to adjust yourself to, since the latter may seem more intuitive.

Using those words again (and/or synonyms) in the article will further reinforce the exact niche your article fits into. In our above example, starting your article with a sentence like, “The local Christmas activities for [Cincinnati] will include:” with a keyword-rich list of events, would help Google sort your article into its proper place.

A word of warning, though. If you try to stuff too many keywords and too much keyword repetition into your article, Google may actually penalize you. So, tread with some care here, and make sure your keywords read like a natural word selection in every instance (i.e. don’t force them where they don’t belong and sound awkward).

If you’re struggling to come up with keywords, consult authoritative sources like Google Adwords to generate some ideas.

2. Keep the URL Short

It’s easy with all the effort going into building your church’s presence online (Using Social Media to Promote Your Church & Crafting a Church Marketing Plan) to forget the little things that Google seems to cherish above all else.

One of those is right there above this article, the URL. URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator, but you’ll know it by the simpler title: web address.

Getting your URL to be short and keyword-rich is a very useful way to get more of Google's attention. With such an obvious and simple point, you might think this would go without saying as you click “publish” on that next post, but not every site-building platform will naturally create short URLs. Unnecessary information like the date or sorting categories connected to your site layout or even a seemingly arbitrary set of numbers and letters can clutter the address and will cost you when Google comes scanning your page for relevance.

For optimal results, keep the URL short and to the point, ideally with just your main site address and the keyword-rich article title.

3. Go long

Despite the common assumption these days that no one knows how to pay attention anymore, Google is a big fan of long articles. If brevity is the soul of wit, verbosity is the essence of ranking.

While the exact word count Google looks for isn’t known, the search engine does seem to prefer content with more than a thousand words.

So, don’t be afraid to add a few more points to your post and add another anecdote or two to push it past the brief. If there’s another story that might make your point stronger, add it with all its requisite detail.

While it will do no good to jabber on if your point is already made (Google measures how long and how far down the page visitors read), and simply adding nonsense to extend your page length will immediately be noticed as spam, the general rule should be this: if you have the ability to elaborate on a subject then do so.

It should be clear, three points in, that SEO is a balance of expert writing and word strategies to get excellent results. In our next post, we’ll look more closely at connecting your posts to the rest of the internet.

Meet Scott!

Scott Nulph, a Ministry Development Consultant at The Church Online, has been a valuable asset to the team for more than a year. As part of his daily routine, he helps to develop and maintain business relationships with churches, ministries, and organizations—both local and national. Through the use of media technology, he helps each organization grow.

“Hearing the excitement in the voices of pastors and team members as they talk about how they want to grow their ministry or organization is my favorite part. It makes coming to the office each day enjoyable,” Nulph says. Through specific, strategic methods, Nulph has helped numerous accomplished leaders grow their brands. Even working under a strict deadline, Nulph shines. “I remember a time when a prominent pastor needed help with a social media campaign to promote a conference that was happening that weekend. We gathered up the team, bounced ideas off one another, and were able to come together as a team to get the project completed on time.”

No matter the project—big or small—Nulph enjoys working with each client. Whether helping a client decide on a name for their ministry or determining their organization’s technology needs, Nulph is a team player. “I look forward to creating and maintaining long-term business relationships,” he says. “I truly enjoy watching what our team can do for our clients. Our design includes some of the best that you can find. Every day I watch them take specific concepts and watch them take clients’ visions and make them not only real but more than the client expected.”

As a previous long-term manager of a large operation, Nulph gained valuable people skills that he uses each day in all aspects of his life. He works to exceed client expectations on a regular basis. “Understanding what people want, how they are feeling, and the emotions they display goes a very long way in being a blessing in other’s lives, if even for a moment,” he says.

When not serving all of your ministry or organization’s needs, Nulph is busy spending time outdoors hunting, fishing, and enjoying sports. He also loves to spend time with his kids, in the kitchen cooking, and in his shop woodworking.  

Crafting a Church Marketing Plan

From the desk of Kathy Yoho, Marketing Coordinator

Mark 16:15 NKJV “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'”

Jesus makes church marketing sound so simple. In His time, it was really that easy: go out into the world and spread the Word, then just wait for the masses to come. However, in our time, that verse would be weighed down by all the new technology out there and all the difficulty that now surrounds just reaching out and spreading God’s message. Nowadays, it would sound more like: “Go build a website, live stream all your sermons, do a Facebook paid ad, start an Instagram family ministry page, and pin gospel quotes to a Pinterest board.”

And that’s just the beginning. We’re living in a time when online integration and marketing are advancing at such a fast pace, there are bound to be new sites and new methods of reaching out almost as soon as this article goes to print. The people we wish to reach are every day asking for more targeted involvement, more integration, and more connection with their church. It’s a game that is every day a greater challenge to play, and yet a game that, if we want to live up to Jesus’ call, we have to play nonetheless. So, where do we begin with a modern church marketing plan? Well, since we have to play the game, we might as well play it right. That’s where my G.A.M.E. approach comes in.

G – Gather information

  • Determine the audience you are trying to reach, and then learn all you can about them. For example, if your church is hoping to increase attendance of new families or is near a college campus and wants to expand its reach to students, look into what these groups are concerned about. Talk to a few people within that community to help tailor your future efforts at reaching out more to their needs. Find out about their concerns and what they are looking for from a church.

A- Accumulate and analyze the data

  • Once you have a little information about your target group, dig a little deeper. Find out where your audience gets its news and information from. Nielsen and Pew Research are excellent places to start finding communications trends for different types of demographics. Google Analytics can also help point you in the right direction for what type of users visit the church’s website and which pages are most popular. Also, using a survey card which could be filled out and turned in during services would provide valuable information about the demographics in your congregation and what the target group feels is lacking. Once you have that information, study it closely to see if any trends are apparent. Are there particular concerns or interests that crop up over and over again? Are there certain sites this demographic like to visit? What about offline? Do people tend to gather at or visit a particular place?

M- Make a plan

  • Use all this data to target specific communications mediums both online and offline to engage the people you are trying to reach. Write down all the ideas that will communicate the church’s message and prioritize accordingly to need, budget, etc. to reach the largest segment of your target group and communicate the most important ideas that separates your church’s vision from the rest. Make sure that the message fits the venue.

E- Execution

  • This is the MOST important part of any plan. Ideas are only ideas unless they are put into action! Decide who will implement each part of the plan, set deadlines for those tasks, and follow up accordingly. Supervise tactics to see what is working and what can be improved and make adjustments as needed.

While we don't have the luxury of easy marketing success, the means are still available to us to reach those we see in the community who could use Christ in their lives. Even in this modern, media-saturated world, there are still ways to get the message out, if we are smart about how we play the game. An organized, strategic, well thought out marketing plan is the best tool to advance your church’s communication goals easily and effectively!

Welcoming Visitors to Your Church

We have all been in the position of being a visitor somewhere, whether it be at a school or work function, a social event or as a visitor at a church. When visiting a church for the first time, many times we form our impression of the church and even the pastor and leaders by how warmly we are welcomed. Many of us have heard stories of or even been “welcomed” by a less-than-friendly usher or greeter.

While we make attempts to be courteous and open to visitors, no matter where we worship, we must realize the extra effort it takes to reach out and help our special guests feel at home. Here are some tips that can help make newcomers feel more welcome and comfortable:

• As members and/or regular church attendees, we should endeavor to make visitors feel welcome. Just remember how you felt as a visitor in a new place. A friendly, welcoming face helps to ease any initial doubts about the decision the visitor has made to visit the church.

• Treat visitors as guests in God’s house, not as strangers. Use the same hospitality in church that you would for an honored guest in your own home. Their comfort and needs are of utmost importance.

• Act as a tour guide and provide a map of the church if there is one. Show them where all the resources are, from the bathroom, to the youth areas if they have children, to the fellowship hall. If there is a welcome center, encourage them to visit it.

• Remember the importance of nonverbal communication. With a smile on your face, make friendly eye contact. A gentle touch on the shoulder or a handshake wouldn’t hurt, either.

• Initiate conversation and greet guests at their level. If your guest is a child or in a wheelchair, try not to talk down to them. If you are physically able to, kneel down to ensure you are on the same eye level.

• Learn about your guests. Remember their names, ask them a few simple questions, and listen to their responses. Take a genuine interest in them. However, try not to get too personal with your initial questions, as this could scare a newcomer away!

• Help visitors find seating to accommodate their family. Better yet, invite them to sit with you if there is enough space. Whenever possible, do not let visitors sit alone.

• Invite guests to join you for an activity, whether it be to introduce them to other members at the church through a small group or to invite them to corporate Bible study.

• Ask visitors to fill out a visitor registration card with an option to opt-in for email alerts. Don’t automatically sign up guests for emails and newsletters they may not want. Do direct them to the church’s website for more information, though.

• Thank visitors for coming and let them know you hope to see them again. And if you have the opportunity to see them again, make sure you extend the same courtesies extended prior.

Stay tuned next month for a post about church growth and member retention!

Women in Ministry: Managing our Ministry, Career, and Family Lives

Part Three of Three

In previous posts in this series, we have examined the stressful side of women being involved in ministry. Prevalent in this discussion is the fact that, despite stress and juggling multiple ventures, they are capable contributors when involved and engaged. The skill set required to be “everything to everybody” is certainly in place, but for most women, a plan of checks and balances for their own well-being needs to be in place as well.

So why do we get involved so deeply and in so many different areas of life, from the kids’ soccer team and the local hospital volunteer corps, to event planning for work, and ministry work in church? “We get involved because we are born nurturers,” says Krista Kerin, Ministry Development Consultant with The Church Online. In fact, as wives, mothers, daughters, and friends, we are already well-versed in child-rearing, taking care of the household, caring for aging parents, and lending that capable and firm—yet reassuring—touch in everything we do. Naturally, it would follow that when those we love or respect need us, we are there.

Notoriously multi-taskers, women easily fall into adding more to their daily tasks. After all, when we were working and decided to have children, for example, we took on both roles with relish because we had to. After a short break when children were born, women resumed their regular roles as businesswomen, stay-at-home mothers running the household, or church leaders heavily involved in ministry work—all with the children in tow. We exercise, eat, clean, work, and play, all with our families foremost in our minds and our children right next to us.

To the pessimists who say that women take on additional stress when they add to their daily initiatives, the optimists are there to point out that adding church work to their lives is a positive choice. Keeping children close while dealing with work is also an admirable thing. Further, nurturing their own interests is never a bad thing. Thus, it is healthy to get out and find a ministry that reflects a passion or a talent. And it’s fine to incorporate any volunteering for your kids—dance recitals, sports and arts camps, classroom parties, and so on—into these full schedules.

As women and known people-pleasers, we need to be more cognizant of how we do it, however. We need to learn to assess what we have time for, how much we can contribute, and frequently gauge how we are feeling. It is okay to say “no” now and then. We can’t bring the cupcakes for every class party, and we can’t be the one who does every presentation at work. Nor can we be the best of ourselves in ministry work if we are too stressed out to contribute or to care. Again, a simple scan of the week can tell us if we are able to lend a hand to our extracurricular activities each week. What can I handle this week? What do I want to do today? Or, how much is too much this month? Women are capable of so much; time management needs to become one of those top priorities.

Women in Ministry: Avoiding Overscheduled Lives

Part Two of Three

Logically, we all know that bills, home repairs, children and their demands, marriages in different stages, and additional family or work stress can take a toll on us. Add to that volunteer work in school, the community, or the church, and suddenly even hobbies and previously enjoyable ministry work seem to overwhelm and fatigue us rather than inspire or rejuvenate us. And as women often entrusted with the role of family nurturer and caregiver to the children, our instincts are to take on everyone else’s stress as well. Sometimes we are telling everyone else that it’s all going to be okay, and we are feeling quite the opposite ourselves—unable to sleep or function in our once calm and enjoyable lives.

We have the tendency to focus on the negative when we feel that pleasurable activities have become a burden. In our last post on women and burnout in ministry, we learned that we all go through the same stress cycle, and that many times this cycle is so familiar to us that we just allow, rather than stop, the destructive patterns of behavior. While we are certainly not suggesting that any of us deliberately seek destructive patterns, we can all admit that we do tend to take on too much on occasion and then seem to think that part of our responsibility is to also handle the stress or the overwhelming to do lists, workloads, and tasks at hand on our own.

However, if we remember that God sends so many truly good things our way, we can begin to focus on the positive things in life again despite having many roles as mother, wife, employee, and ministry leader. Even the most cynical of us can admit to enjoying an occasional sunset at the end of a long day spent at work, tending to family, or working in ministry. And we can all appreciate the comfort of a warm bed, a meal prepared just for us, conversations with our children and friends, and the devotion of a husband or other close family member. These things help us. They refocus us. We need to begin to see them not as guilty pleasures or indulgences but as everyday blessings—the ebb and flow of a busy life that also allows for downtime and the simple enjoyment of the little things.

In Isaiah 43, 1 – 3 (NIV), we are told:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

When we truly listen to those words, we do understand that God sends us what we need to get through the most difficult times in our lives. God tells us what we need to do when we ask Him, and He will always send us what we need to get through the most stressful times. We need to give our attention to what God is telling us about our commitments and our lives. We need to trust in Him for guidance when we need it most.

Women in Ministry: When Burnout and Stress Become Issues

Part One of Three

Today’s women wear many hats. On any given day, a woman who centers her work around the family can put 100 miles on her car simply running errands and getting her kids to activities. A woman who works outside the home will attend meetings all day, drive through rush hour, and still have to make dinner, give the kids baths, and help with homework. In ministry, trying to balance work, home life, and sometimes school and another job becomes tricky. Single women are not immune to the pressures either. Even though they may not have to factor in marriage responsibilities or children, many report being asked to do more by church leadership and other members because people assume that they have the time to donate to others.

Women have a tendency to take on a lot anyway. In their roles as family caretakers, many are socialized to believe that the cooking, the cleaning, the nurturing, and the organizing falls to them. Add to that the breadwinning role and a role in ministry leadership and the already-full plate begins to overflow. As the caretakers and the ones notorious for their ability to multitask, it is hard for women to admit that they are feeling stressed, disengaged, or even depressed because of the full lives they appear to lead.

“Being able to recognize that we all have our limitations is the first step in understanding how to acknowledge and address our stress or burnout in daily life and in ministry work,” says Krista Kerin, Ministry Development Consultant at The Church Online. She adds that she is glad to see churches and women’s groups alike addressing this issue directly.

Experts will tell us that simply understanding the stages that we might go through in the throes of our most stressful seasons in life is paramount to identifying what causes us stress, taking steps to stop the behaviors and patterns, and eventually, overcoming the issues. We have to learn to recognize our Stress Symptoms, Our Stress Compensation Behaviors, and our Stress Breaking Point.

Many times, our Stress Symptoms are simply issues that we live with every day like headaches, stomach issues, or insomnia that we tell ourselves are normal everyday issues. We need to realize that these minor problems are our bodies telling us to slow down and decompress. When we reach the level of Stress Compensation Behaviors, we are truly trying to make the best of a bad situation by scrambling to make deadlines we know we can’t keep or putting others’ needs before our own. Ultimately, when we reach our Stress Breaking Point and experience the depression and hopelessness that comes from fatigue and the constant sense that we are overscheduled and not good enough, we are ready to make changes, but the patterns are in place.

Start to break the pattern by first understanding your Stress Symptoms. Next, seek help when you find the urge to get into your Stress Compensation Behaviors. Finally, know that when you reach your Stress Breaking Point, you can rebound from it and make changes in life that will help you stop the cycle of over-extending yourself in life and in ministry.

Stay tuned for next week's post: Avoiding Overscheduled Lives in Ministry and Beyond

Faith Break: Finding the Right Voice

Proverbs 15:1-2

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. (NIV)

Anyone who has ever had to give an important speech or had to write an important article knows the frantic search for the right voice. While we all speak and write every day in our own unique voices, we only really become aware of what that voice means when we are in a position where our words take on the consequences of making a point by being judged and weighed by others. Then, we suddenly become conscious of just how important it is to sound a certain way, to say things not just in our own unique way, but in the way best suited to the purpose.

For those who spend their Sundays at the pulpit, or for those whose mission it is not just to sell a product but to defend and spread the Word of God, this is a particularly strong concern. Speaking the Word is an act of the greatest consequence. Taking the wrong tone can take someone down the wrong path and away from faith, while the right tone can lead a fleeing sheep back to the fold.
In such moments, we wish to speak with “the tongue of the wise” and not “the mouth of the fool,” but how can we know the difference?

In the Bible, very few ever actually hear the voice of God directly. The prophets all speak with His voice, spreading His message. So rare and powerful is this gift, many of those who heard have books in the Holy Book with their names upon them. We know these people to be honest and righteous now, but from the perspective of a man or woman of Jerusalem, the prophet is only one of many claiming to have the answers. This is a daunting task, to take the divine truth and set it down in words that average people can understand. After all, most of us feel God and know God but don’t receive His Word directly in the way the prophets did. How can we find the right voice for this modern task?

Firstly, it is clear that God wishes we take care with our words, not just in a moment of performance, but in every moment of our lives. Not only is “a word fitly spoken…like apples of gold/In settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, NKJV), but crass words act against our purposes. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (4:29). This is a sentiment Our Lord understood well when He said, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” (Matthew 15:11).

So we must be, as the verse above suggests, “gentle” in our language. But this only takes us so far. Many might be gentle without being wise. We might avoid cursing and other coarse language, keep blasphemy far from our tongues, and still not find the voice to command people to faith.

As ever, the source of much of our wisdom is Solomon, not just from the above proverb but Ecclesiastes as well. In chapter five, Solomon tells us, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools” (5:1). The wisest king in history would know something about that. And his advice is the same here as in Proverbs (5:2):

Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few. 

We should speak few words, always listening before we speak. And who should we listen to? God, of course. We must hear his directions in everything around us, but also to those we are speaking to. Though some of us stand at the pulpit and some of us preach to the crowd, we must remember that speech was designed for conversation, that we have to listen before we can respond. We must listen and not be impatient to hear what God wants us to say, what voice He has in mind for us. Or, as James put it, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).

It is from the wisdom of this approach that a voice can be found. If we are listening for God’s words as well as the needs of our congregations or the people in need of the Word, our own words will begin to suit the purpose and find God’s voice. Just as a reader begins to write like a book’s author after spending hours with that book, and just as our letters and emails take on the tone of the other correspondent, so too will our voice suit God and our flock if we are willing to listen first and speak gently second. If we commit to this path—to leaving ourselves constantly ready to hear and to speaking little save but what God has said to us—there can be no trouble in finding the right voice. The voice will come of its own, and the service to the Lord will be certain.

Meet Seth!

The Church Online’s most recent addition to its writing team, Seth Libby is a man of many voices. Libby has made his career speaking through characters, interviewees, and clients, seeking out the unique qualities in each and bringing them forth onto the page. A novelist, journalist, and blogger, Libby has been published in multiple genres and in numerous outlets, and loves the challenge of putting a book together. “Crafting a book is a very special skill,” he says. “It requires an ability to reach into the heart of an idea and build around that. It takes not just skill with words, but an ability to organize someone else’s thoughts and speak in someone else’s voice, so that every new word feels like it came from the client’s mouth first.”

Now dedicating himself to his work for The Church Online, Libby is always ready to take on the next ambitious project. Libby writes and edits content for books, articles, and blogs. But with every project, his position is all about finding that new “voice.” An integral part of The Church Online writing team, Libby helps ensure every word counts and accurately speaks for each client. “My job consists not just of putting words on the page but getting the voice and intent of the client correct, so that it feels completely authentic and individual.”

Libby earned a bachelor’s degree in English and religious studies from Indiana University and a master’s degree in biblical studies from the University of Manchester. His career in writing started in Russia after spending most of the last decade teaching English abroad. It was while teaching in Russia that he discovered his ability to take the vague ideas of others and turn them into stories. “It is exhilarating to flesh out what someone has only been able to partially articulate,” he says. “To carve a life out of a piece of marble based off someone’s penciled sketches.”

He finds the most enjoyment in the blogging work he does. “Blogs require fresh ideas and good scriptural analysis while hitting new themes every week. It pushes me to be creative and consistent, and to say everything in a limited format,” he says.

When he isn’t writing, Libby reads often, cultivating an impressive library of well over a thousand volumes. He also watches a lot of Premier League soccer and enjoys playing guitar.

“But these days,” he says, “my young family is the center of my world.”

Using Social Media to Promote Your Church

In the modern landscape of 21st century Christianity, no church can afford to avoid social media. In a time when the Pope has joined evangelists, apologists, and presidents on Twitter, many a faith-based organization stands to get left behind should the opportunity to spread the Word online be passed up. 

But, though we may all know the necessity of social media, it can still be a tricky world to enter. With so many distractions to scroll through, how can a church make a mark on Facebook feeds?

Here are five ways to build up a successful social media platform for your church.

1. Develop a light touch

The modern attention span is growing ever shorter. Whenever you are posting, try to keep the content brief, thoughtful, and if possible, fun. Twitter makes this easy for you by keeping everything to a 140-character limit, but just because other platforms allow for more doesn’t mean you should abuse the privilege. Brief updates about the church, quotes from Scripture, and quick thoughts will allow easily distracted internet users to absorb your message and stick around for more.

2. Make the content dynamic
Short and sweet is great, but even better is to show your message instead of just writing it out. Many churches simply get by with providing announcements of upcoming events on social media, which leaves a drab and uninteresting body of content that might keep the faithful informed but fails to bring anyone in who isn’t looking for an update on the church calendar.

A better way forward is to imagine all the different ways social media offers to make your followers want to visit your page. Create videos like sermon bumpers to hype your upcoming sermons. These short videos add drama and entertainment that a long, detailed post will never get across. Instead of just posting a verse from Scripture, turn it into a catchy image or .gif (short, repeating graphics). Posting short clips from recent sermons can also help engage your readers and remind them of the power of God in a way the words on the screen may fall short of doing.

3. Spread yourself out
When you start considering all these useful, flashy forms of communicating, it becomes apparent very quickly that the primary social media sites aren’t going to be enough. The biggest dogs in the hunt, Facebook and Twitter, are the obvious places to log yourself into the online community, but don’t be afraid to expand into other social media to increase your dynamism. Create a YouTube channel and start posting those videos or even a church vlog (video blog). Post your Scripture images and photos from recent church events on Instagram. Offer your pastor up for an occasional Snapchat.

There are a number of platforms out there that have targeted audiences that might not be as dedicated to checking Facebook. LinkedIn can bring in more of a business dynamic, while Flickr tends to attract the more artistic visual crowd than Instagram. Even consider starting a blog on your website. 

4. Integrate your message and keep it consistent

The sky is the limit with different social media platforms; just don’t spread yourself thin. Ideally, if used correctly, these multiple platforms should be a boon, allowing you to put up more content that can then be shared in multiple places. Your Instagram posts can also be posted on Facebook and Twitter. Your Snapchat can be advertised on Google+. Linking everything together creates a homogenous atmosphere that suggests a busy, active, and interactive church.

Make sure your message and tone remains consistent, though. If it comes down to keeping content consistent or cutting content, always go with quality over quantity. Making sure everyone involved in your social media presence is on the same page about where your church stands and what it stands for is crucial. No matter where a follower clicks, they should be presented with a different side of the same church.

5. Remember to be social

Finally, all of this is only useful if you have people looking at what you are sharing with the world. There’s a reason these are called “social” networks. It can be tempting to simply use these platforms as another pulpit, as a place for one-way conversation in which your church speaks and the internet listens, but to maximize your church’s presence, it’s helpful to try to engage as much as preach. Respond to others who message you, share content from other users, and link to thoughtful, on topic articles. You might extend yourself and connect with other likeminded churches online and share each other’s content. By seeming available and building up good will in the online community, your efforts will be responded to in kind, and you can expect far more positive feedback.

How to Maintain Professionalism on Social Media

From the Desk of Benjamin Bahleda, Design Services Manager

Social media is an incredible tool for every business, church, and individual looking to interact with their customers, clients, congregants, and colleagues. Just a click away you can find numerous stories of those who have turned a sleek social media profile into transformational success.

However, there are also numerous stories—perhaps more numerous—of those who failed to maintain a professional presence online, and for whom the resulting fallout was exceedingly damaging.
Since our modern market and society require almost everyone to have some semblance of social media representation, the need to engage while remaining professional is crucial. The world expects companies and individuals to openly exhibit their lives and thoughts to the internet nowadays, commenting on everything in the news and even on the most mundane of subjects, such as what was had for dinner.

Opening up while remaining on guard is a difficult balance to maintain, but there are a few key tips to keep in mind that can help you avoid the perils of the faux-pas while continuing to provide an engaging space in the social media landscape.

1. Avoid Politics (unless that’s your thing)

Being an election year, it is difficult to avoid talking politics. While you probably have an opinion—and on some days, you probably want to voice it—the first key tip is to stifle this urge. Given the powerful platform social media represents, you may be tempted to share a photo or an article you feel really puts things in perspective, but remember that your audience isn’t following you to be converted to your opinions (at least not about the race for president). Your audience wants to know about your organization’s activities.

Statistically, no matter which side you come down on, you are in a position to alienate half of your base of support. Even in industries that heavily favor one political party or the other—or in tight-knit churches with deeply shared values—a significant portion of your audience still likely doesn’t reciprocate your stances and might hold your publicized opinions against you.

Politics is a no-win game in social media, unless your whole game is about politics. If your organization is built on political opinion, then ignore everything written above and cheerfully wage your wars against the enemy in red or blue. But, if that’s not the case, or if you are unsure, keep your political feelings private. A few might appreciate your posts, but the vast majority are likely to be turned off by it.

2. Avoid arguments

If your interest in confrontation extends beyond politics, take great care to stifle this urge as well. Social media—and the internet in general—is rife with antagonism. You and your organization are certain to get negative comments, some of them quite nasty, but responding rarely leads to positive outcomes.

Don’t waste your energy working on a perfect defense of yourself, and especially don’t put that energy into taking your critic down a peg or two. Such responses can easily lead to allegations of disrespect and bullying, which places you in the position of suddenly being the bad guy.

The best approach is to ignore the criticism, but if you must respond, do so in a conciliatory, fact-based manner, making sure to note the person’s chief complaints and your effort to improve on those issues. Be sure to do so in a respectful manner, as this is what people will use to judge your character. Just remember that sometimes, negative comments are posted just for negativity’s sake.
If there are points at which you cannot approach agreement, it is best to leave them be or else explain calmly the reasons why. Being respectful of the other individual is imperative, regardless of how they may be acting.

Encouraging a social media environment that is civil and respectful can have a powerful effect on not only your own posts but also on those made by your surrounding community, so that negativity and argument can be quashed before it even reaches you.

Regarding issues that tend to be as controversial as politics above, it is always best not to start the debate and to respond as little as possible. Don’t focus on trivial differences and keep any sports or community-based championing playful and civil. While discussion of controversial topics can be fruitful in private, trying to litigate a point in 140 characters usually only leads to greater misunderstanding.

3. Always remember the world is watching

The above two rules might more roundly be categorized under this third point: remember the world is watching you, and what goes online stays online. While the social media environment requires us to respond quickly and constantly to things, we still have to be careful to be on our best behavior. Before pressing enter, imagine your response on Twitter or Facebook as if it were spoken in a crowded room full of your peers, your family, your employer, and a large number of strangers with their phones recording your every word. Would you wish for all these people to hear such comments coming from you? Would you be comfortable with such comments being recorded and always available to be brought up again? Even years into the future, your comments and postings will be available for anyone to see, so be wary of what you say online.

That being said, don’t let this image keep you from posting at all. While what you say will always be there, most of those who follow you are sure to already be predisposed to see you positively. As long as you keep the permanency and publicity of your remarks in mind—and avoid the pitfalls of controversial topics—you can use social media for all its positive aspects without fear of the negative hazards others fall into.

How to Write a Book

From the Writing Team at The Church Online

So you want to write a book? We have some tips!

The witty iconoclast Christopher Hitchens once said, “Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

Here at The Church Online, we take a different view. We think everyone has a book in them, but some people just need a little help getting it out.

But how does it work? How do we take the book in your head and turn it into a book held in everyone’s hand? To find out, take a look at these five tips, with a quick overview of the book-making process at The Church Online.

1. Find the voice

As writers, all our verbal preferences come out on every page. Some people are blunt and direct; some are elliptical and poetic. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Our first job here is to find out what kind of writer you are so that our words come out as your words and our edits reflect your voice and tone. We want to make sure that we are giving power to your thoughts in your book.

2. Pitch an original story

You may think this is obvious; we all certainly want our books to be big hits. You want a book about how Jonah relates to the modern world, but here at The Church Online, we know there’s a bit more to the story than that. We help you find a new angle on Jonah that’s never been done before, a book that feels necessary and exciting in a world that may have heard the story before.

3. Plot the path

You have the idea; now how do you get from alpha to omega? This is often the step that makes people put down the pen and give up. Once we have your story down, we have to break it apart into pieces, outlining every element. Each chapter needs to have an idea, each idea has to fit together, and each idea has to lead to the ultimate message of the book.

4. Keep a tight leash on the message

Speaking of the message, this little guy has a way of running away from you once you get into the thick of the content, usually midway through your book writing process. It’s important to always keep an eye on where your message is, to bring it around enough to remind your reader but not so much as to sound repetitive. It’s a careful art and one we pride ourselves on mastering here at The Church Online.

5. Get feedback and edit, edit, edit

Finally, we get to the part that bores most people but remains one of the most important steps: the editing. This is when you take a roughly cut piece of marble and sand it down to Michelangelo’s David. We work closely with you to find out how you feel about each and every word in your book and tweak every detail until it is perfect. Perfect for you and perfect for your readers. We’ll take as much time as necessary to make sure the book matches the vision that you started with back at the beginning of the process.

So feel free to prove jaded Christopher Hitchens wrong. Don’t keep your book inside. Bring it to us, and we’ll make sure the masterpiece you envision becomes a reality.

Meet Krista!

Krista Kerin has been with The Church Online for over six years as a Ministry Development Consultant. She spends her days working one-on-one with clients to help them understand the services The Church Online provides, precisely identifying how best to serve their organizations and suit all of their needs. With a wealth of experience, she has established a knack for pinpointing clear-cut strategies and services that will assist in development of organizations that are on-the-rise. “I help clients understand the services we provide and what services would be a best fit for them,” she says.

Though she enjoys many parts of her job, one aspect of her position stands out in particular: “Knowing that I am helping churches get quality marketing and technology services to spread the Love of Jesus Christ is a great feeling.” Kerin loves receiving the opportunity to work with multiple clients, fostering relationships throughout her years of work with The Church Online. “I have had the privilege of working with churches of all different sizes and demographics to reach the world for Christ. For me, this is priceless!”

Kerin is often fully involved with projects at The Church Online from start to finish, working closely with the team and clients to maintain organization and strict deadlines. She knows the importance of refusing to settle. “Don’t compromise on quality,” she says. “Most times, a website, logo, or marketing materials are the first impression someone has of your organization. That first impression can determine whether they walk through your door.”

Before becoming involved with The Church Online, she attended Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio. After graduating in 1998, she became a full-time missionary on the BGSU campus where she had the pleasure of ministering to college students. Nowadays, she spends her time with her husband and their three little boys. For fun, she loves a good movie, shopping, vacationing, and enjoying some rest and relaxation.

3 Tips to Target Millennials in Your Church

From the desk of Seth Libby, writer and editor for The Church Online

It’s the demographic everyone is after: the young men and women of America. Whether it is soda, cinema, or salvation, all our society’s advertising efforts are directed towards the Millennial generation. But with all that inundation of advertising, all that claim on young people’s time, how can you and your church stand out?

Here are three tips to get your message in front of young eyes and bring the young flock back into the church.

1. Speak their language, but do it carefully

As a media-saturated generation, much communication between young people involves the use of said media. This involves things like internet jargon (think of all the acronyms and abbreviations you see thrown around online from LOL to TL;DR), as well as an infinite number of memes and cultural references from repurposed catchphrases to gifs.

It’s important to understand these things, but be wary. The language of youth changes at an incredible pace these days. A widely-shared joke today is burned through and left for the oldies by tomorrow. Trying too hard to fit in is worse than not trying at all.

2. Be upfront with the direct generation

The Millennials are a generation that is tired of being targeted by advertisers looking to sell. At this point, they’ve seen all the tricks in the book. They’ve been raised on colorful commercials for sugary cereal and have come of age in a world of viral marketing. But the thing that works best, that cuts through the new century’s cynicism, is genuineness. People like John Green who specialize in being genuine and upfront develop huge followings. And those followings remain loyal.

By refusing to play the game of salesmanship with your church and instead putting forward an open, concise, and honest message of what you stand for, you will get much more attention than all the flash you could think up would have brought.

3. Let technology be your friend

This is perhaps the most obvious point, but one well worth remembering. Most of life for young people is lived online these days. Be prepared to meet Millennials in their preferred world of communication. That means not just Facebook and Twitter but Instagram, Tumblr, and Vine, among others. Always be ready to jump into new technology. You’ll have much more success if you bring your church to them than if you expect them to come to church.

All this can seem a little hard to handle for people already busy trying to keep God in the lives of every person in their community. Next time you are looking to spread the Word to the next generation, remember these helpful tips.

5 Common Sense Marketing Tips for your New Website

So you have a great, newly designed website…

What’s next?

You had the foresight, as savvy business owners, church leaders, or marketers, to revamp your website or commission a new one. However, now you’re unsure of next steps, cautious about moving forward initiatives that may or may not work.

With a website plan in place, you need to keep the following in mind:

1. Strategize your copy by optimizing content for search engines. You may think you have all the content you need in place. It never hurts, however, to go back through and make sure that you’re using the correct words to direct people to your site. Make sure that your copy is peppered with words that illicit frequent searches or direct people to certain sections on the site that highlight people, products, services, events, and more.

2. Publish an e-newsletter and blog. You may be familiar with e-newsletters or blogs, but you may not have either high on your list of priorities. If, however, you have anything to say—and we mean    anything—to your current users or people you want to reach eventually, you need to reach out with these formats. Make sure that you have an easy opt-out for the e-newsletter, but keep your content relevant and helpful so that people continue to opt-in. In thinking of blog topics, don’t be afraid to approach clients and partners for recommendations or reviews.

3. Participate in social media and set up strategic links and networks. Because use of social media is so prevalent in our culture, it is an absolute must for your organization. However, you need to understand that your approach will be evaluated and closely scrutinized. To make sure that you are spot-on in how you approach your audiences, it is okay to roll out your presence on the social media scene slowly—research similar organizations, establish your network, and find the right balance between informative and promotional content.

4. Remember to promote your website and company offline too. While we certainly recommend having your technology up to par, we also strongly recommend keeping up your offline presence. Where can you put your logo? In fact, how does your logo look? Does it need a facelift? What can you sponsor? How current and professional are your printed materials? Are they reflective of your online presence? These are all components to evaluate when marketing your business.

5. Turn to the pros to make sure your website reads professionally. We are a “can do” culture when it comes to technology. However, the world of websites goes far beyond whether or not they load quickly. You may need professionals to handle your website so that your customers get the best user experience, giving your company the best word-of mouth-marketing, industry reputation, and online marketing presence possible.

How to Brand Your Company with the Perfect Logo

From the Desk of Martin Aitken, Brand and Publications Manager at The Church Online

A good logo is essential to any organization, whether it is a church, business, or non-profit group. A logo may be one of the first pieces of information people see, revealing more about your organization than you may expect. A poorly designed logo will reflect negatively on your organization and is a sure sign of poor branding.

Too many organizations simply miss the mark when trying to create high-quality designs, but business owners and designers alike need to remember that the logo is the first step to creating a brand for your organization. It is just as important to create a strong foundation for your company’s image with your intended demographic. For maximum impact, do be sure to make your logo simple, memorable, versatile, appropriate, and timeless. Do not make your logo trite, cliché, confusing, or misguided. Consumers are savvy, and they will remember a logo that is impactful. They will also forget logos that are all show with no substance, or look like logos they’ve seen before.

When working with designers, be sure to follow these five rules for logo development:

Scalability and Color

Your logo should look just as good on a small button as it does on a large billboard. It should also be just as impactful in black and white as it is in color. Make sure the logo isn’t over-complicated with details that will confuse. Keep in mind that the color palette should be one that would work well with other complementary colors.


Your organization is unique with a specific vision. Embrace it. Your logo should reflect your vision creatively, communicating what the organization stands for.


Ideally, people should feel an emotional connection to the organization based on the logo, whether they’ve been involved with your organization for five minutes or five years. A memorable logo will fuel the fire of the connection. Start with a simple, professional design and go from there. Most importantly, make sure your logo is memorable for a good reason—not because it’s crazy and ridiculous, but because it’s unique, balanced, and professional.


Be concise with the wording of your logo. No one is going to remember a lengthy tagline and it will crowd the design of the logo. Don’t junk it up with wordiness. It needs to be clean and memorable. Some organizations take advantage of initialism, an abbreviation consisting of initial letters that are pronounced separately. Again, keep it short.


Don’t turn your logo into just another mandatory mark—a necessity of branding efforts. Honor your organization and create something beautiful and appealing.

Meet Benjamin!

Benjamin Bahleda, Design Services Manager at The Church Online, spends his days managing the design and programming teams, overseeing projects from start to finish, designing and coding, and communicating with clients. He makes sure all projects are completed on time without anything slipping through the cracks. Considering his strong organization skills, he’s perfect for the job. “My God-given talents have always been creativity and organization,” he says.

Bahleda developed his passion for art at a young age. “I remember really enjoying the Sunday comics and wanted to be a cartoonist,” he says. “I read the comics every Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed the marriage of art and humor,” he says. “I wanted to become a cartoonist to deliver that same humor in an artistic form, which lead me to writing comics for the school newspaper.”

His curiosity for art naturally led him to take an interest in art classes in high school. He began taking courses in commercial arts and graphics at a local college. Loving the direction he was moving in, Bahleda transitioned to working toward an associate’s degree. “Getting to design, especially when given creative freedom, is one of my favorite things to do in this world. It’s incredible how fast the workday can fly by whenever you’re immersed in doing something you love,” Bahleda says. He earned his associate’s degree for specialized technology in graphic design at Pittsburgh Technical Institute. He soon hopped on board at The Church Online, and has been lending his skills to the team since 2007.

Bahleda loves when he has creative freedom design-wise, allowing his artistic, innovative background to really shine through. Throughout his years at The Church Online, he’s worked on countless notable projects that have allowed him to do this, and he appreciates the challenge. As Design Services Manager, he’s been deeply involved in every project since his start in 2007. “I’ve been involved somehow in every design project since 2007, so there are a lot of projects that have gone through my hands in some way,” he says.

While enjoying creative freedom, he notes the importance of receiving direction and clear, consistent communication from clients regarding anything design-related. “You can trust us to make something unique and creative,” he says. “Even if we don’t get it right the first time, we’re always willing to go back and revise a design to meet the vision of the client.”

When not designing at The Church Online, Bahleda enjoys a plethora of activities, which include staying active by running, hiking, and taking advantage of the great outdoors. He can be found cooking and trying new recipes, usually on the grill. He also enjoys gaming, Bible Study, digital music production, and DJing.

How to Make Your Book Pop: Three Secrets

From the Writing Team at The Church Online

So you’ve got a dynamite idea for a book, but no one seems to be willing to give you the chance to show it. What’s a writer to do?

Try these three tips to make your book really take off.

1. Find the right demographic and speak directly to them

The first question you have to ask yourself is, who are you talking to when you write your book? We would all like to have our writing read as widely as Shakespeare or the Bible itself, but in reality, there’s usually a specific group that a book’s message is going to fit best.

So, who is it? Decide that group—male, female, young, experienced, new to your topic, Internet savvy, Christian, hipsters, whatever—and tailor your approach to them.

It’s important to nail this down so you can speak more intimately with your audience, directing them based on their life experiences and personal concerns. Make your book too universal, and it applies to no one.

2. Make the language accessible

When discussing something you’re extremely passionate and knowledgeable about, there’s a temptation to talk over everyone’s head. Getting too into intricate details can get tiresome quickly to laymen trying to get through a few pages before going to bed. Likewise, speaking too formally or too informally can create a barrier between you and the reader.

The trick is to find the sweet spot where your subject is alive in your writing while a conversation is still able to take place on a relaxing and engaging level. Try to simplify the intricacies a little without talking down to your reader.

3. Find the balance between fun and serious

Throughout life, we learn there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, so there is a time to be serious and a time to have fun in your book, too. Making the book too heavy with serious thought or too light with levity will make it a struggle for the reader either way.

What you have to do, then, is find balance. Don’t let your serious topics become too morbid and don’t let your points turn into lectures. Create moments when you can break the tension with a little humor or a light anecdote. But don’t overuse this trick. Laughter is the sugar to help the medicine go down, but don’t forget the medicine for the sake of the sweet. Finding the happy middle ground makes all the difference in getting a reader to stick with your book.


Stay tuned for more topics and secrets from the writing team! 

Meet Danielle!

At work: Graphic Designer. At home: Mom. In her mind: Superwoman. In reality: Generation Y.

Danielle Lebo, a graphic designer at The Church Online, thrives on creativity. Her position requires constant originality, and she works to bring daily inspiration to everyone else too. “I create eye-catching promotional graphics including flyers, posters, and websites for our clients that they will love,” she says. “I’m always searching for bigger and better ways to do things. I try to keep everyone laughing and smiling and keep the creativity flowing.” Working at The Church Online for over a year now, one of her favorite moments is working on a project from start to finish and seeing the client’s reaction. “That’s the most rewarding—knowing all the hard work you put into the process paid off,” she says.

Lebo is a team player and loves working with clients on an ongoing and consistent basis. She enjoys being able to share her passion and skill for designing with other people. “I find it rewarding to be clients’ go-to person for the creative issues that they ask me to solve, and in the meantime building a relationship with them,” she says. “It’s always fun looking back and seeing everything you’ve done. It makes you feel like you’re a part of their team too.”

She loves getting a chance to work on the graphics for large projects, like the Conversations Conference in 2015. “From designing the app and personal website for Bishop Thomas, to the printed materials that went along to the conference, it was a huge priority for us. It’s a great honor to work with such notable clients in our industry.” She notes the importance of honesty and open-mindedness when designing and working with clients. “Design is ever-changing,” Lebo says. “To truly be different, you have to be able to be open-minded and think out of the box. Be honest about what you like and don’t like.”

Lebo knows a thing or two about paying attention to what she really likes, as well as what is most important. Before graduating with honors with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, she studied fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. “After spending a semester at SVA, I realized I had an interest for graphic design and commercial art. And I realized I didn’t want to be a starving artist all my life,” she laughs. So she moved back to Pittsburgh to follow her passions. While attending The Art Institute, she worked as an intern for two top Pittsburgh agencies. After working in the industry for a year after graduation, she found The Church Online. “I joined the TCO family and they liked me enough to keep me,” she says with a smile. She loves the team she has the pleasure of working with every day. “We’re all a family here and it really makes a difference getting up and coming into work. It’s nice to always have someone to lean on.”

But design isn’t her only love. She enjoys spending time with her amazing family, who keep her busy and smiling with fun and adventurous activities. On the rare occasion that she isn’t with her family, she enjoys painting, arts and crafts, listening to music and going to concerts, watching movies, fishing, cooking and baking, and shopping. She also spends a good part of the year obsessing over all things pumpkin spice and fall.

Three FAQs on Making Videos

With Natalie Vazquez, a Video Production Specialist at The Church Online

I’ve decided using videos is the next step for our organization. Where do I get the best content?

If your services are being streamed or recorded, you will already have a large amount of potentially usable content for videos. According to Vazquez, “As I review footage of worship services, it’s essential to make sure the lighting, image, and audio that is captured is at its best. As technology continues to change, our eyes are being trained to absorb HD quality video and will constantly adjust to any resolution advancements.”

Okay, I have the content. Now what?

Sermons and other presentations and events can be broken down into short clips to create a summary of the content for those who may have missed it, or to spark interest and entice more people into the church services in coming weeks. “When I edit footage from churches, I strategically choose clips that have the most impactful image and composition. I also take into consideration the empowering messages that the pastors preach during the service. When these two elements are edited together the viewer is able to grasp the focus of the ministry as well as visually see the people who mold the congregation,” says Vazquez. “For example, the special events promotional video, The Summit, created for New Life in Christ Interdenominational Church showcases pastors and people involved in the church community to highlight this annual event,” she adds.

I have a video. Now what do I do with it?

There are numerous ways you can use videos for outreach for your ministry or organization. Not only can you include videos on your websites, you can take full advantage of social media by posting videos to the various platforms you use. We recently launched a “One Minute Messages” platform, making it simple for churches to integrate shorter videos into all of their online platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

As with most things in life, consistency is key. “Continuously posting videos to your website and social media sites will keep people interested, engaged, and informed,” Vazquez says.

Five BIG Tips for How To Make Videos Compelling

Think about some of your favorite videos on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. What made them stand out to you? What made you want to share them, go back to that particular social media platform, or talk about what you saw? How did you find them? What did they inspire you to do?

Videos have to compete against status updates, photos, tweets, and links to other content on all forms of social media. This makes it all the more important for them to be eye-catching and to present information that stands out in this vast field of visual input.

At The Church Online, we work with ministries and organizations of all sizes to develop creative and eye-catching video content that is both viewable and shareable not only on their own ministry websites, but also on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and other popular social media sites. Natalie Vazquez, a Video Production Specialist at The Church Online, suggests the following five key tips to making compelling videos:

1) Zone In, Not Out

Make sure your videographer is paying attention to the action, not tuning out. You wouldn’t want to have your pastor out of the frame, or have abrupt camera movements.

2) Stay on Top of Trends in Technology

Your video won’t be impactful if the content is poor quality. Stay up-to-date with cameras, resolution, and audio equipment.

3) Incorporate Animation

Keep your video lively and fun with motion graphics such as logo reveals, 3D text, and overlays.

4) Sound Effects

Use catchy sound effects and soundtracks. Make your viewers want to keep listening.

5) Start with a Punch

Start your video off the right way—with a captivating image or key phrase from your pastor.

Make Your Video Something that People Want to Watch

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reports that people are watching 35% more videos on their mobile devices now as compared to 2014. At least once a day, 36% of people report watching video content that is five minutes or longer. 58% of people report watching shorter videos daily. Imagine taking a 50-minute sermon and breaking it into several 1-minute clips, highlighting the most notable aspects of the sermon. We have integrated this latter concept with our comprehensive “One Minute Messages” service.

“People are not only watching standard news and sports content online, they are now watching faith-based content on mobile devices and via smart televisions at levels never once thought possible,” says Melissa Wharton, our President and CEO.

For more information on the growth of mobile and online video, visit: http://thechurchonline.com/technology-for-growth

Reflecting on Black History Month

We at The Church Online are united with our partners in understanding the importance of Black History Month. In honor of this celebratory month, we are hosting a guest blogger, Dr. William H. Curtis, Senior Pastor of Mount Ararat Baptist Church. He provides us with a reflection on some of those influential people who have contributed to the accomplishments of African Americans over the years and present day in the following blog, "Reflecting on the First Week of Black History Month." For more information on Dr. Curtis, visit William H. Curtis Ministries at: https://www.whcministries.org/

Meet Natalie!

Working at The Church Online for over a year, Natalie Vazquez edits and works with video as if it were her second language. The resident Video Editor and Motion Graphic Specialist on staff, Vazquez is in charge of many different tasks. In the course of a day, she could be working on several different projects. Some of her tasks include: creating sermons bumpers, logo reveals, promotional videos, and edited worship services; audio adjustments, voiceovers, script-writing, and soundtracks; kinetic typography, overlays, 3D text, and dynamic lower thirds; and working with and providing 2D and 3D motion graphics that enhance video footage. She works hand-in-hand with the design team to create masterpieces that truly impress. Attending Chatham University, she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the local Pittsburgh university. She has her Master of Fine Arts in Film and Digital Technology.

Loving a challenge, she thrives in the fast-paced environment at The Church Online. “My favorite aspect of my position is being able to make static imagery become energetic and compelling to the viewer,” she says. “It’s exciting to be able to use the professional graphics created by our very own designers and enhance the flat image to make the illusion that it’s popping off the screen,” she adds. Viewing the final project is another of her favorite parts of the job.

Vazquez is always pushing her limits, utilizing her entire skillset. Working with Mount Ararat on the “Disciples on the Grow” sermon series was one of her favorite projects. “I enjoyed working on this project because it embodies not only a promotional video for the series but also utilizes sermon bumpers that cohesively showcase the messages for the ministry,” she says. She also enjoyed working on the sermon series “The Blood Still Works” for New Psalmist Baptist Church. “It was one of the most 3D-driven, action-packed videos I have had the opportunity to work on,” Vazquez says.

Vazquez brings a wealth of knowledge to the team. She’s completed numerous internships, ranging from universities to film festivals. Her area of expertise is expansive, as she is constantly absorbing information and generating new ideas. Vazquez has worked as a Camera Operator at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a Video Production Specialist at Chatham University. When skimming through footage, she focuses on finding clips with proper lighting and clear audio. She advises clients to “Have camera operators that are engaged in the service and are knowledgeable of good camera composition.”
When she isn’t busy creating another masterpiece for The Church Online, she enjoys keeping active, including playing sports and going to the gym. She also likes exploring her cultural side. “I enjoy embracing different cultures and learning about their food, dance, and music,” she says. “You can find me imagining I’m in another country as I listen to some authentic flamenco music! Vale!”

Using Video for Outreach

More so than ever, we are a visual society. Constantly looking at screens, we absorb information through images. Words can fade, but pictures stay burned in our minds. Videos, especially, impact us. Don’t kid yourself; you know you can’t resist pausing to watch a cute animal video, a sappy love story photo montage set to music, or the latest prank video all of your friends and family are sharing.

More than two-thirds of American adults own a smartphone, and an even higher percentage admit to owning a computer at home. All of the convenient, at your fingertips technology provides easy access to the Internet, thus contributing to high rates of video consumption. Internet traffic is dominated by video content, so it only makes sense to take advantage of the trend.

As over half of people report watching short videos daily, here at The Church Online we have noticed the increasing popularity of utilizing promo videos to promote church events. “Video, in every sense, has always been ‘King’ from a marketing perspective. Video engages us in a special way, many times allowing us to better understand and remember the message being conveyed. With the busyness of many people’s everyday lives, the use of short, yet impactful video is a tool that should not be overlooked in any ministry outreach plan,” says Melissa Wharton, President and CEO of The Church Online.”

Maybe it’s time you start using video to market your organization! Tune in next week to meet Natalie, our Video Production Specialist.

Posting More, Watching More, Sharing More

Within just one year, video posting to Facebook has increased by 75% globally. In the U.S. alone, there was a 94% increase in video uploads. The uber-popular social media site reports that 1 billion videos are being watched per day by users. Over half of regular users watch a minimum of one video per day, Facebook confirmed. 65% of those videos are being watched on mobile devices, whether that be on a smartphone or tablet. The Church Online has noticed a consistent uptick in the number of committed online viewers of faith-based video content. On average, more than 60% of Christians watch online faith based video on a monthly basis and 60% of Christians search for spiritual content online. The Church Online has also noticed an increase of more than 300% in the last two years alone in the number of viewers accessing its customer's video streams on a weekly basis.

From 2014 to 2015, Facebook's News Feed video visibility increased by a whopping 360%, largely due in part to the auto-play feature. Now more than ever, brands and video creators are working to create content that is eye-catching. The first few frames of their videos need to be captivating enough to make users keep their eyes on the screen. New Psalmist Baptist Church is a fantastic example of a ministry utilizing video and relevant social information to draw people into ministry. "The use of state-of-the-art camera and audio equipment, stage lighting, and a professional crew can make all the difference. It's crucial to consider these factors and consistently stay up to date with technology. Capturing footage in high quality 1080HD opens up many avenues for ministries. For example, in post-production, 2D and 3D motion graphics can enhance the aesthetic which is cohesively achieved with quality footage produced during church services," says Natalie Vazquez, Video Production Specialist for The Church Online.

Check out an example here!

Using Social Media for Outreach: The Basics

The number of social media platforms on the market has steadily grown over the last few years, all of which you can easily utilize for outreach for your ministry or organization. Taking advantage of these sources, from Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and LinkedIn, you’ll change the way you communicate with customers. No matter if your ministry is big or small, social media is the perfect outreach strategy. 

Billions of people and organizations are taking advantage of these platforms, so why not you too? Keep reading for a few tips from the experts at The Church Online.

Put together a team that has passion and skill
It is crucial for members of your social media team to have expertise. Additionally, they need to love what they do. Passion for outreach—and in the organization in general—will come through in every tweet, status update, photo, or connection.

Start with an audit of social netaworks that you use
Which social media sites are you already using? How often do you visit these sites? How often do you post or tweet? Reviewing your current social media activity is the first step in strategizing a new plan of attack for your social media outreach campaign. How many followers do you have? Is there a lot of activity on your page? All of these are helpful questions to begin generating ideas for outreach.

Decide which social networks you will use and how
There are numerous forms of social networking you can use—too many to count—but it’s important to choose the platforms that will be most effective for you and your ministry.  

Develop a mission and/or goal for what you want to accomplish and how
Your goal doesn’t have to involve gaining more followers on Twitter than Taylor Swift. Your goal can simply be to gain a social media presence in general. Or maybe you want to make sure to tweet once a day and reply to each response. Whatever your goal may be, decide how the team is going to accomplish it, step by step.

Decide what you want to post and when
Create a calendar to keep track of postings. Perhaps you’ll post a new status update every Monday at noon, a new tweet Wednesday at 2pm, and a photo on Friday at 5pm. Or maybe you want to stay more active and post daily, or even several time a day. Consider using a service that can help you schedule when your posts will be sent out.  

Integrate High Quality Graphics and Video
It is important to utilize professional graphics and video in your social media platforms.  These tools will help attract even more attention to your ministry and outreach efforts than just words alone.

Be consistent!
Make a schedule and stick to it. If you start slacking on posting, your audience will lose sight of you.  The biggest key to effective online marketing is consistency. “A person needs to come in contact with your name at least 7 times before they will come up with a decision to come to your church or purchase your product,” says Theodore Jackson III, Ministry Development Consultant at The Church Online.

Determine a time when you will review your plan and make adjustments
Set a date to check on your outreach efforts and make sure you are sticking to the plan. Are you still following the calendar and posting when you need to be? Are you maintaining consistency? “Consistent follow-up to measure your progress is important. You have to be able to determine your return on investment, giving your organization the ability to make changes and adjustments to maintain effectiveness,” says Jackson. Monitor whether or not you are making an impact and reaching and expanding your audience. If not, it may be time to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new strategy.

Expanding Church Outreach: No Time Like the Present!

Marketing your organization each year is a critical element of an overall growth and outreach plan. Plans to move ideas forward and highlight all the good points and positive movement in a year, a month, or even a week are imperative to grow, get messages out, and make sure that products and services are accessible to the proper demographic.

As pastors and lay members of our churches alike, we understand the good work being done, and we relish in the fellowship, the outreach, and the interaction with our pastors and fellow worshippers. Melissa Wharton, President and CEO of The Church Online notes that “Everyone, from the pastoral and ministry teams, administrative teams, church members, and those who live in the community should have a vested interest in the growth and the success of the ministry.  Ministries play a critical role in not only the spiritual well being of its members, but also in the vitality of the communities they are a part of.”   It is important to ensure your church or organization is meeting the needs of its members and the community. This involves accessibility, including expanded access to worship and community based services. A user friendly website can ease the process of tithing, prayer and ministry, or any other group involvement. The Church Online has recorded a sharp growth in online giving (an increase greater than 6x) over the last two years and has also noted a higher level of participation in ministry activities when online tools are incorporated into ministry websites making it simple for supporters to participate in ministry activities such as small groups, classes, special events and more. Streaming live services and offering video on demand are a couple of other services you can utilize to help expand your message and your work to national, and even international, communities. Ongoing communication is imperative. Book publishing, weekly blogging, and regular video production and outreach will keep communication consistent, lively, and inspirational.  Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, located in the East End of Pittsburgh, PA has found a great way to successfully contribute to their communication efforts. They have initiated a prosperous small group program that encourages fellowship with others while at the same time providing a biblical study component. Aligning with the current ministry theme at the time, each of their curriculum workbooks has been written and provided to be engaging, inspirational, and enjoyable. Mt. Ararat integrates the workbooks with an effectively managed website, captivating videos, and inspiring pastor’s messages to keep communication alive and consistent.

Check back here weekly for more directed marketing tips from The Church Online’s Technology, Marketing, Design, and Publishing teams. We’ll be discussing how to start your marketing and growth efforts, how to expand on what you already have in place, and how to assess whether or not your current plan is meeting your organization’s goals. We invite you to join us for weekly goal-setting as we approach the New Year and have to face all those resolutions we have set—both personal and professional. Make 2016 your organization’s year for change and growth. See you here next week!

About The Church Online:
The Church Online is a faith-based full service agency that offers superior, world-class technology, design, publishing, and marketing services. The company was established in 2002 in Pittsburgh, PA and has expanded to successfully work with a growing list of clients worldwide.

About Us

The Church Online is a World Class, Christian based organization working with today's Christian churches to implement Professional Technology and Marketing solutions that celebrate and expand Outreach and Evangelistic opportunities while tending to the business needs of a Modern Church ministry.

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How to Maintain Professionalism on...

From the Desk of Benjamin Bahleda, Design Services Manager Social media is an incredible tool for every business,...


How to Write a Book

From the Writing Team at The Church Online So you want to write a book? We have some...


Meet Krista!

Krista Kerin has been with The Church Online for over six years as a Ministry Development Consultant....


3 Tips to Target Millennials...

From the desk of Seth Libby, writer and editor for The Church Online It’s the demographic everyone is...


5 Common Sense Marketing Tips...

So you have a great, newly designed website… What’s next? You had the foresight, as savvy business owners, church...


How to Brand Your Company...

From the Desk of Martin Aitken, Brand and Publications Manager at The Church Online A good logo is...


Meet Benjamin!

Benjamin Bahleda, Design Services Manager at The Church Online, spends his days managing the design and programming...


How to Make Your Book...

From the Writing Team at The Church Online So you’ve got a dynamite idea for a book, but...


Meet Danielle!

At work: Graphic Designer. At home: Mom. In her mind: Superwoman. In reality: Generation Y. Danielle Lebo, a...


Three FAQs on Making Videos

With Natalie Vazquez, a Video Production Specialist at The Church Online I’ve decided using videos is the next...


Five BIG Tips for How...

Think about some of your favorite videos on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. What made them stand out...


Reflecting on Black History Month

We at The Church Online are united with our partners in understanding the importance of Black History...


Meet Natalie!

Working at The Church Online for over a year, Natalie Vazquez edits and works with video as...


Using Video for Outreach

More so than ever, we are a visual society. Constantly looking at screens, we absorb information through...


Posting More, Watching More, Sharing...

Within just one year, video posting to Facebook has increased by 75% globally. In the U.S. alone,...


Using Social Media for Outreach:...

The number of social media platforms on the market has steadily grown over the last few years,...


Expanding Church Outreach: No Time...

Marketing your organization each year is a critical element of an overall growth and outreach plan. Plans...