Your Communications Plan: Church-Centric or Community-Centric?

By Lisa L. McGloiry

When planning for any type of community outreach, it’s easy for churches to become internally focused rather than externally focused. Preparing for any special gathering includes several steps, such as setting a budget, scheduling, recruiting volunteers, and more. Still, one crucial step that is often missed is re-evaluating your target audience when drafting your communications plan for any future event. Re-evaluating your target audience is critical in helping churches reach more people for Christ — the unchurched, seekers, skeptics, and even those hoppers living in your surrounding neighborhood.

Here are five tips to help you become more community-centric and less church-centric when drafting a communications plan to reach your external audience.

1. Survey your internal audience.

Ask your congregation and supporters to garner new insight into who, where, and how your church can reach and significantly impact your community. It’s amazing how much valuable and innovative information is right within our reach if we just ask for it.

2. Become community-focused.

 Consider the actual needs of your community. Gaining access to a “Know Your Community” report is vital in learning your community’s demographics, psychographics, and unmet needs. As a second step, go and spend time in your neighborhood. And remember, field trips are not only good for educating students. It’s essential to learn what others know, don’t know, and say about your church. For example, ask a barista at your local coffee shop or store clerk if they are familiar with your church and what ministries and programs you offer. Be sure to ask direct and open-ended questions so you learn what your church does best and the specific needs in your community. Consider using other tactics such as collecting testimonials, creating polls, and formulating online responses to garner additional information.

3. Find out where your external audience is online.

 Make sure you know where your audience is online and have a presence there. Also, check whether your content engages your audience and measure each promotional channel’s effectiveness. Analyze all results and tailor your communications plan and campaigns accordingly.

4. Put your annual church calendar under a microscope.

Look at your church calendar closely and re-evaluate each event. Don’t feel compelled to continue to host the same gathering each year because it’s expected or because you “think” that it’s something that your neighbors want or need. Rely on the information you collected when you connected with your community to better know what’s working and why. This type of data will help you to better decide on what event is the best use of your time and investment. Need to make a cut? Make sure you communicate the “why” to your staff and volunteers. Sometimes you’ll have to put an event out to pasture, and that’s totally okay. At the same time, be prepared to expect some pushback, concern, or feelings of sadness from others when introducing any type of change.

5. Include God in your plans.

Most important, don't let the day-to-day grind of planning keep you from putting God in the mix. Working for a church has taught us how to do our jobs very well, shift at a moment’s notice, and go with the flow. Preparing for weekend services and events 52 weeks out of a year is a revolving cycle that often doesn’t allow us to slow down. However, we can’t forget to stop and schedule in time to include God in our plans. Pause and pray when creating a new vision board, designing new graphics for a ministry, rolling out a promotional campaign, or preparing for an event. Ask God for his wisdom and approach to better reach your community, including those in your neighborhood you don’t know about or have unintentionally forgotten. Remember, He cares about your community even more than you do.

Incorporating these five tips will keep your community at the center of your communications strategy, promotional channels, and community outreach efforts. The benefit is that a community-centric mindset and approach will help bring more awareness to your church and help you to reach more people for Jesus.

Interested in accessing a free “Know Your Community” report for your church, helping you reach more people for Christ and draft a stellar Communications Plan? Contact us here at Dream of Destiny today.