As church communicators and creatives, we typically have plans in place for most problems that arise. Whether it’s a busted mic or a lyrics computer that decides to run a software update in the middle of worship, we know how to avoid these issues and work around them.
However, there are times when we don’t have a plan in place. Times when googling your problem will not provide the answer your looking for. Times when you have to ask yourself, “Are you freaking kidding me?”.
I think most of us right now would say we’re in the middle of one of those times.
With the daily influx of new information about the coronavirus, it seems that we’re in a situation where we are not only processing the information as it comes in but also trying to process how to get the right information out to our church community.
This is a situation where there are no quick fixes and fear is quickly becoming an emotional norm for our communities. So, how do we combat this? How do we communicate well with our churches and utilize this moment to continue to advance the kingdom of God? Well, here are three key things you can do to help manage your church’s communication during coronavirus (COVID-19):
Be Clear and Concise on in Your Communication.
As communicators, we naturally want to be thorough in our communication. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned and we want our audience to know that we’ve thought through these issues. However, there comes a point where we can over-communicate and lose our audience.
So when you’re communicating about the coronavirus, you should be able to read your communications and answer the following questions:
Do I have a clear understanding of what my church is doing in response to the virus? Your members should be able to explain to anyone in their community clearly how your church is responding. This includes how the church treating its facilities, how it’s changing its practices on Sunday morning and throughout the week.
Do I have a clear understanding of what my church wants me to do in response to the virus? Your members should have a clear idea of how you want them to interact on Sunday morning. This include how to greet each other, how to handle childcare, how to give and how to continue to have community even though you may not be meeting in small groups.
Have a System in Place for Continual Updates.
Keep in mind that the coronavirus situation is rapidly evolving. This means that your communication will need to rapidly evolve as well. So you need to plan accordingly. Here are some ways to keep your communication up to date:
Think mobile first. Most of us are aware that our church members have their phones on them 24/7. This is going to be key in keeping your members up to date. One of the ways to do this is to invest in a text messaging platform. That way whenever you update your website (here is the webpage our church launched in response to COVID-19), cancel events or have other pertinent news you can get that information in your audience’s hands ASAP.
Create a checklist for communications channels. When you’re communicating at a rapid pace, you need to make sure that you don’t leave out a key communication channel. However, when you’re trading emails with staff, keeping an eye on what your local government is communicating, and still trying to handle the flood of incoming questions, you can forget what tools you have at your disposal.
To combat that confusion, it’s key that you create a reference checklist for communication channels. For example, if you’re closing down your Wednesday night activities, do you know all the channels that this message needs to be communicated on? If you create a checklist, you can quickly go through each channel and make sure the message gets to your audience no matter what channel they choose to pay attention to.
Determine Paths for Extending Church Life to Digital Platforms.
In the church world, there’s an ongoing debate about whether online church is “real church”. Well, regardless of which side you fall on, in that argument, we’re all going to be trying to figure out how to make church happen on digital platforms.
One practical thing to do in these situations is determine which digital platforms are natural extensions of your church. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to try and launch a massive worship streaming platform and form online Bible studies if that’s not something that you’ve done before. However, it may seem more natural to form a Facebook Group to help your church handle prayer, care, and support for church members. Here are some examples of how church life that can be extended to digital platforms without overwhelming your church members:
Online Giving: Most churches I know have some sort of online giving option (if you don’t have one I highly recommend you check out Tithe.ly). Now would be a good time to reintroduce that to your audience. Keep in mind that you need to communicate that this is not about increasing giving, but rather keeping ministry functions up and running during this time. To drive this point home, remind people where their money goes and how it impacts their community.
Online Community: While there is a robust debate about whether real community can happen online, your church should have some form of online community. One of the easiest expressions of this is Facebook Groups. You can create them for each of your small groups, your congregation or even your staff. Keep in mind that the goal is not to replace the community that happens in the walls of your church or homes, but rather keeping community alive during this current situation.
Podcasts: Podcasting is an easy way for your pastor or leadership to communicate to your church in a format that is becoming increasingly popular. With just a smartphone and a free account on Anchor.fm, you can set up a free podcast that can deliver daily updates, devotional thoughts, and prayer requests to your congregation.
My prayer for you and your church during this time is 2 Timothy 1:7, which says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
This is a time when the easiest thing to do is to be reactionary and emotional, because it feels right in the moment. However, I believe it is an opportunity for your church to communicate that even in times like these we serve a God who is in control.