Every church has a chance to call their congregation to incredible opportunities of service and growth for themselves and the Kingdom of God. Every Sunday there are opportunities to express avenues of activity that can make an eternal impact. And every Sunday these opportunities can be missed because the announcements were presented poorly. Below are some practical pointers to help educate, inspire and equip your congregation to make a difference in their lives and the lives around them by writing better announcements.
Change the name
Instead of calling them announcements, call them opportunities. We made this shift about 5 years ago and it was a game-changer for us. It changed the way we communicate. Our writing used to be boring, need-based and insider-focused. Changing the name helped us write in an exciting, action-oriented and outsider-focused manner. Changing what we called it, changed the way we thought about it. It also changed the way we do ministry. This change in language helped us narrow our focus. It allowed us to step over the good to purse the great. If we can’t truly label something as an opportunity for the church to fulfill its mission, then we don’t do it.
Write for a presenter not a reader
Writing better announcements can start with something as easy as writing based on what someone hears over what someone reads. Most people intuitively write their thoughts for how people will read them instead of how people will hear them. If people were going to hear your thoughts, you probably wouldn’t take the time to write them down – you would just pick up the phone. One of the best techniques for presentation writing is reading out loud. When you read in your head it’s too easy for your brain to self-correct and fly right over stylistic missteps. To figure that out, you need to hear it. When a phrase sounds clunky or when your tongue trips over the words (because there are too many) you’ve found something you need to fix. If you want to experience this, try reading copy from your website to someone and see how engaged they are. The sentences will probably be too dense and the overall length will be too long.
4/100 3/125 2/150
If you have 4 announcements they shouldn’t be any longer than 100 words. If you have 3 then aim for 125 and if you have 2 then bump it up to 150. This rule isn’t for those getting the information but those giving it. Unless the presenter has a photographic memory, they can only memorize so much detail-oriented info before their brain starts leaking out their ears. 100-150 words is long enough to express what is needed but also short enough to be presentable. Side note – never read the announcements. I will follow up on that in another post.
Explain the vision, or value
Most announcements contain the first 4 W’s (who, where, when & what) but forget the last (why). Stating the reason people should listen compels them to listen and take action.
State an action step
The main purpose of an announcement is to get someone to respond, so stating the action step is a must. Stating how people can respond at the end, and repeating it, helps to engage that step.
Be simple and clear
Eliminate unnecessary or complicated content. Too much information can be just as dangerous as not enough. Not sure if the quote came from Blaise Pascal or Benjamin Franklin, either way it still applies here: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Writing a better announcement means taking the time to write a shorter announcement.
Write for someone new
Write with a particular friend or neighbor who has never been to your church in mind. Would they understand what was being said? An application of this is avoiding abbreviations. Unless you were raised in a church, you don’t know that VBS stands for Vacation Bible School, and even still you might be confused by joining the words vacation and school in the same title!
Avoid unnecessarily religious language
Writing a better announcement might mean avoiding unnecessary “church-y” words. If there is a word that churched and unchurched folks both understand, use that word. Sometimes religious words (repentance, salvation, sanctification, etc.) need to be used. But those times should be during the message, when the meaning can be unpacked, and not during the announcements.
Clarity should supersede creativity
This might disappoint the wordsmiths out there, but if you want people to understand and act upon your announcements, then you are going to have to check some of your style and flavor at the door. Remember, this is an announcement, not creative writing class.
In the end we want folks to lean forward during the announcement package. We want the writing to be so compelling that they can’t help but be sucked into the content. We want them to put down their phones and pick up their ears. Beyond this we want our congregations to take bold and decisive action steps based upon what we have written. Hopefully the suggestions above helps the writers at your church hone their craft. And hopefully your folks will have a clear understanding about how the church is accomplishing its vision, and how they can be a part of that!