church marketing

American Churches and The Digital Divide 

The company also found that one-third of faith-based organizations reported an increase in donations during the 2020 pandemic—specifically, ones with more of a digital presence. Churches with YouTube channels, Instagram pages, and prominent websites saw 533 percent more donations than those without.

Technology like this can help churches of all kinds, but it has been a lifeline for some smaller and more rural churches, which have been more vulnerable in the pandemic.

Source: The Digital Divide Is Giving American Churches Hell | WIRED

Over the past year, I’ve worked with dozens of churches, non-profits, community groups, and various religious organizations and congregations on tech and marketing issues discussed here. Some are large, most are small. I’ve worked with predominately white congregations, predominately black congregations, and a mixture of both. Some of that work was setting up a website for the church or group, lots of that work was to implement an online giving option that was either new or much easier to use than a previous solution (especially on mobile devices), some of that work was marketing strategy and how to survive Covid and still keep services and ministries going amidst lockdowns and economic crisis.

What has struck me about all of this work is that the churches and groups that “leaned in” (I’m not a fan of that term, but it works here) to the situation with a realization that this was going to be a long term situation that would change the nature of congregating for a long time found their communities more engaged, their donation numbers rise, and new opportunity to provide ministries and services became clearer. Those who sought short-term budget options to “get through this” and “make our way back to normal” are the groups that struggled in 2020 and are only now coming back to me for help with the long term.

I hope more churches begin the hard, but fruitful, work of reconciling the current landscape with the realities being faced by congregants. Numbers are important, but a church is made of people. Churches that recognize and uplift that in their outreach, leadership, and message-telling are the ones that are “finding a Way through.”

Monday November 16, 2020

This is something else…

Monday’s are always slightly (if not totally) chaotic here at home. Like many Americans, we’re homeschooling our children while working from home. After 8 months or so of this, we’ve gotten into a pretty good rhythm and everyone basically understands our schedules and roles. There are days when emergency client projects or calls or ZOOM meetings pop up alongside the occasional last-minute work emergency that throws off the routine, but for the most part we’re making our way through Covid-Times.

What’s fascinating for me are the institutions, businesses, and organizations that don’t express an understanding of the incredible amount of cognitive load that most of their employees or workers or volunteers are under. I’ve seen it with large businesses that I consult with, but especially churches.

There are a number of variables, but I’ve heard horror stories from many employees and pastors of churches (caveat that my partner Merianna is a pastor and the church where she serves has been incredible through all of this) whose congregants or boards or deacons are acting out of an “individualist” rather than “cooperative” model of messaging to staff and the church community.

We all want to go back to “normal” but that’s just not going to happen anytime soon. That’s especially true with Thanksgiving and the Holidays ahead of us. Vaccines are months, if not years, out and in the absence of leadership we’re going to have to rely on ourselves to make it through this Winter, the Spring, and probably the Summer of ’21.

In the meantime, think about your messaging if you’re a church or nonprofit. Think about intentional communication, and realize that there are public health professionals who are experts on this topic. We should listen to them (and not just our Facebook news feed and social media). Use messaging and marketing as an advantage. It’s the only advantage that many churches have these days. But it’s possible to survive and thrive in a pandemic as many healthy congregations are learning. Don’t wait for “normal” to return before your church faces reality. And be kind to your pastors and staffs.

What I’m Thinking About Today

You Still Need to Have the Conversation – Culture Study

“Maybe you can promise a big gathering next year, or hours this year on the day-of playing Among Us or just watching a movie together. You can use the health of your own children or your cousin or your grandparents as a cudgel. Just remember that the most affective appeal to an individualist is always going to be from the people they care about in their immediate sphere. A state-wide lockdown might not change their behavior. An emailed article certainly won’t. But you might.”

Very important post that you should read before Thanksgiving. Don’t enable or assume. Confront people with facts and care.

Squarespace’s New Feature Could Help Businesses Survive the Pandemic – Fast Company

The company is introducing what it calls Member Areas—special sections of customer websites that are restricted to people who’ve signed up for a membership, which can mean paying a regular subscription charge, coming up with a onetime fee, or simply creating a login. The goal is to give Squarespace customers a new way to offer content to their own customers and fans, whether that’s fitness instructors providing paid online classes during the coronavirus pandemic, writers offering regular newsletters to people who provide their email addresses, or chefs sharing virtual cookbooks with onetime purchasers.

Interesting move from Squarespace… we use the platform for a few client sites still (mostly small business and churches). I’m technically a certified Squarespace Developer, but I’m not a huge fan of designing or developing there. Many of our clients who insist on starting with Squarespace “because it’s cheaper” eventually make the jump to WordPress and our hosting packages (don’t get me started on Wix). All that said, I welcome these sorts of new opportunities for businesses and individuals to utilize their own sites for these sorts of features rather than having to use a 3rd party service like Patreon etc.

You can now embed Apple Podcasts on the web – TechCrunch

Apple is making it easier to discover and listen to podcasts via the web. The company announced today an Apple Podcasts embed web player is now available, allowing anyone — including creators, listeners or marketers — to generate embed codes for the over 1.5 million shows available across the Apple Podcasts service.

Good on Apple. You can now embed Thinking.FM on your own site!

New Zoom feature can alert room owners of possible Zoombombing disruptions – ZDNet

The new “At-Risk Meeting Notifier” Zoom feature scans the internet and alerts conference organizers when a link to their Zoom meeting has been posted online.

That’s helpful… should have been developed and deployed a few months back, Zoom.

Open source: Better solutions and a more inclusive society – Yoast Blog

Volvo designed the first three point belt design in the sixties. It is patented, but open for everyone to use. Also, Volvo allows open source access to its crash-research data.

Big believer in open source technology (and knowledge rights) here. Super interesting post.

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits – Big Think

To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.

There’s a little bit of magic in all science.

To be updated throughout the day…

What Facebook’s bot developer platform for Messenger means for your church or business

Church Marketing Facebook Messenger Bot

The bot era has officially begun. In a widely expected move, Facebook today announced tools for developers to build bots inside Facebook Messenger, bringing a range of new functions to the popular communication app. Facebook believes Messenger can become a primary channel for businesses to interact with their customers, replacing 1-800 numbers with a mix of artificial intelligence and human intervention. If they are embraced by the general public — which is still far from certain — bots could represent a major new channel for commerce, customer support, and possibly even media.

Source: Facebook launches a bot platform for Messenger | The Verge

Expect to see much more about this in the coming months and get ready to change how you interact with many services and businesses.

If you are a business or church or nonprofit or provide a service, it’s time to start thinking about messaging and bots.