To be a successful pastor or church leader, you have to be able to understand the needs of your community and personally connect with your congregation. You do this by communicating frequently and listening to what community members have to say—both at church and after they step outside of it.
But when you want to reach out and build those relationships, which channels should you use? What are the best ways to connect with congregants outside of your regular Sunday service?
The answer isn’t always the same! Choosing whether to use online or offline communication channels depends on your church’s current goals. Whether you want to find donors for a fundraiser or get more young people to the pews, taking the following steps will help you decide which channel will work best.
Determine Your Goals
Before you draft a message to community members, clarify exactly why you’re reaching out and how this outreach will support your church’s larger goals. For instance, an announcement about an upcoming volunteering event may support your church’s goal of empowering congregants to give back to the community.
Determining the goal of every communication you send will help you choose the right channel for each one. Common goals for church leaders might include:
- Raising money for the church’s services during the year-end giving season.
- Connecting with younger members of your church’s community and encouraging them to get more involved.
- Recruiting more volunteers to hand out food at next weekend’s food pantry.
- Strengthening relationships with long-term members by thanking them for their dedication to the church.
Many of your outreach messages will likely fall under the same goal. If your main focus right now is fundraising, for example, you’ll want to create plenty of different fundraising appeals and marketing materials that work together to drive enough donations. Even if this is the case, it’s still beneficial to remind yourself of the end goal every time you write a new message.
Evaluate Your Options
With your goals in mind, consider both online and offline options. Your church may have many different channels at your disposal, from phone calls to social media to flyers posted throughout the community. However, we’re going to focus on three common channels you can leverage and discuss the strengths of each one.
1. Direct Mail: Best Channel for Fundraising
Direct mail, whether in the form of handwritten letters or formal invitations, has the unique ability to break through the online noise and grab your recipients’ attention. Because of this, direct mail is often the best channel to turn to for your church fundraising efforts.
Asking for congregants to give over email and other online channels may feel less genuine, and your appeals can easily get lost in crowded inboxes. According to Meyer Partners, direct mail is highly personal, tangible, and perfect for storytelling—making it the go-to channel for effective fundraising appeals. When you want to ask community members to give back financially to the church, write personalized letters and send them directly to your congregants’ doorsteps.
In your mailed fundraising appeals, make sure to adhere to the three R’s of storytelling to connect with community members on an emotional level:
Alt text: An infographic explaining the three R’s of storytelling, explained in the text below.
- Resonance: To convince community members to give to the church, you must tell stories that resonate with them. Whether you lean on stories from the Bible or stories of the people you serve, tell true stories full of humanizing details.
- Relevance: Use donor-centric language to empower your church’s donors to make a difference in their communities by giving to your church. Place them directly in the story and show them exactly how they can impact your church by donating.
- Respect: Be direct and honest in your fundraising appeals, and try to evoke only positive emotions. Focus on the benefits of giving and all the good your church can continue to do with their donations.
After community members donate, send out thank-you letters in the mail, too. When possible, these should be handwritten or signed by a member of church leadership to express your heartfelt appreciation for every gift.
2. Email: Best Channel for Distributing Information
While emails shouldn’t be the backbone of your fundraising strategy, this online channel is useful for getting out important information to the members of your congregation. When you want to share upcoming events, community news, or volunteering opportunities, email can help you provide congregants with all the information they need.
To increase the chances that community members will see and read your emails, make your subject lines stand out with clear, attention-grabbing language. Add personal touches when possible, and use a warm, conversational tone to connect with readers.
For example, say that you want to invite the women in your congregation to attend a conference for Christian women with some of your church leadership. You might send out an email with the subject line “Want to enjoy fellowship and deepen your faith? Join Christie and Lauren in Dec!” In the body of the email, you’ll have space to include all the logistical details of the conference and more information about why congregants should attend.
3. Text Messages: Best Channel for Quick Connection
What about times when you don’t need to send a lot of information but just want to connect briefly with members of your congregation? For these messages, consider turning to SMS, or text messages.
Mogli’s text marketing guide explains that text messages’ high open rates make them perfect for urgent messages, quick updates, and short one-to-one conversations. Since recipients are likely to read texts right away and it’s easy for them to respond, texts work well for quick check-ins and reminders that help you strengthen relationships in small ways.
For instance, you might use texts to follow up with newcomers after they attend their first service. Send a quick text to thank them for coming, invite them to join again next Sunday, and offer to answer any questions they might have about your church.
Create a Multichannel Strategy
Since each channel has its own strengths, you’ll see the best results if you combine both online and offline channels in a holistic, multichannel communication strategy. This way, you can harness the unique benefits of each channel for different purposes and appeal to all generations within your congregation.
Try using a content calendar to plan out which communications you’ll send on which channel for a given month. This will help you stay on track and ensure you’re using the best channel for each message. Plus, you’ll avoid overwhelming members of your congregation with too many messages on a single channel in a short time.
Whether you’re looking to raise funds or just checking in to see how your congregants are feeling, using the right communication channel will help you do it successfully. You know your congregation best, so be sure to tailor your communication strategy to their preferences and adjust it as necessary.