Gathered Environments

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Hear the author of ‘So Everyone Can Hear’ Mark Crosby speak with Elizabeth Neep on the importance and the simplicity of creating a church communication strategy.

Communication lies at the heart of every healthy community; the church is no exception. In Matthew 11:15, Jesus says, ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear’. How do we make sure we are saying things in a way that invites all people – no matter their background – to engage with what it means to be church today?

This video goes along side the book ‘So Everyone Can Hear’ – colourful, engaging and practical it will help leaders and members alike be more mindful of how they ‘communicate church’ both inside and outside of it within our dynamic and ever-changing digital culture. Get your copy of the book here. 


If you are interested in taking this further have a look at these practical discussion points to work through along side the video.


How To Map A Vistor’s Journey (Identifying ‘Gateways In’ and ‘Gateways Out’ Of Your Church) 

One of our aims in church is to increase the size of our ‘front door’ to make it possible for new visitors to come every week, and to reduce the size of our ‘back door’ so that visitors are not leaving soon after they arrive but are instead becoming newcomers, integrated into our community.

A key to this is knowing how a visitor will engage with your church

Here are some steps to help improve your gateway in:

Ask friends, who are not part of your church, to visit your website and in the first 30 seconds ask them what they notice (as a visitor).  Compile their answers, then look objectively at your website and make changes to improve how visitors can use your website. One of your main aims is to make it easy to find and visit you, so make this one of the main purposes of your website – highlighting services times, address and postcode, parking details and information for first time visitors.

Once you have looked at your digital presence, work on your physical church presence.  Take your team to your venue during the week – this should include pastoral staff and leaders who have significant leadership in the welcoming process, so that they are all on this journey with you. 

  1. Start half a mile away and both walk and drive towards your venue.  Ask them to make observations about how easy/hard it is to find your venue.  What could you do to improve this with signage and welcome teams?
  2. As you approach your church what do you notice?  Do you have signage outside the church which is clear, welcoming and matches the look and feel of what a visitor might have seen on your website?
  3. Where are the best places to place a Welcome team, so that visitors will feel welcomed and not intimidated?  Think outside and in wider internal spaces, not in smaller enclosed spaces which make it difficult for visitors to have their own personal space, or where they might feel awkward – like corridors, smaller doorways, outside toilets.
  4. How accessible is your church?  Are you welcoming to anybody with a pram, wheelchair or other disability?  How could you improve this and make website visitors aware that you’ve thought through this?  Is there anything they need to know before they visit?
  5. How can you improve signage inside your church?  Will visitors know where to get refreshments? Where to take their children?  Where to take teenagers? How to find a toilet? Where to sit? This is especially important where the venue is hired on a Sunday and you don’t have the ability to fix signage in place.  If this is the case think creatively about pop-up banners, signage that can be temporarily fixed or hung.
  6. What will you hand the visitor and will it help them in their first visit?  What are the questions they will have and how can you answer those questions through a church bulletin, welcome pack or information sheet. 
  7. How can you create an area for visitors that feels welcoming, not intimating?  What is the position of this so that they will see it and feel drawn to it. Consider the natural foot flow of your venue and position it so it’s highly visible and unavoidable.   
  8. Work through the elements of a church service and consider anything that might be a barrier to a visitor engaging with the service, from language to accessibility, to explaining elements of liturgy, prayer or Bible readings so that visitors can understand better and choose to partake. 
  9. How does the service end?  What happens afterwards? How can you make this time a positive experience for visitors and how can you make sure that Welcome teams and pastoral staff get to meet them?  
  10. Do you have teams on the doors saying goodbye to people so that not only are people greeted but they’re waved off as well?  Do they need to have anything to give to people? Do they know what to say so that visitors feel that they had been welcomed? 

Take your findings and create a document of improvements, grading the changes between 1-10.  With 10 being the most urgent (eg. this is urgent and critical) through to 1 – the least urgent.  Add the resources and costs next to each change. Gradually work through this list adding anything else as you receive feedback and become aware of ways you can be more welcome.  Knowing that as you increase the size of your front door you grow in size and will then encounter more issues, which will then need to be resolved. 

For more information and inspiration on Gateways in and out, check out chapter five of ‘So Everyone Can Hear’ by Mark Crosby.

 

How To Improve The Visitor’s Journey

A visitor is not a newcomer, so how do you take a visitor on the journey of becoming a new part of your church community?

A visitor is someone who is dipping a toe into the waters of your church.

A newcomer is someone who is taking the early steps towards becoming part of your community.

Once you have looked at increasing the size of your front door (figuratively speaking), you can decrease the size of your back door by following these steps to improve the visitor journey. 

  1. How are you collecting data (name, email address, phone number, needs) from visitors on a Sunday?  Do you have ways that can provide their data to you, easily and without interruption to their engagement with your service?  This might be something that’s available on every seat or something they can engage with before or after a church service – or both. 
  2. Can they also provide their data if they miss the opportunity on a Sunday?  
  3. What happens with this data?  Does it go into the church office?  How quickly is it processed?
  4. Email the visitor on the following Monday with a template email that thanks them for visiting, invites them back the next Sunday and also outlines a few events and invites that they might find helpful.  Programmes don’t create relationships but they do facilitate them.
  5. Always have a Welcome event in the diary.  This is a chance for visitors to meet the church leaders, ask any questions they might have and progress on their journey to become part of the church family.  These might be monthly or termly, depends on your church, but always have the next one advertised and make it easy for a visitor to indicate that they are coming. 
  6. Highlight specific Small Groups that a visitor might want to attend.  These would normally be groups that you know would welcome visitors and are run by trusted and seasoned leaders.  Food and drink are great facilitators of relationship connectors.
  7. Invite them to explore the Christian faith if they don’t already have a faith.  This might be through a course (such an Alpha) or another initiative that you run. 
  8. Invite them to join a team – whether it’s putting out chairs on a Sunday, helping on the sound desk or making cups of tea.  By doing this you create an army, not an audience. To get people involved in serving, you need to provide spaces and places for people to serve.  Recruiting people is more effective than volunteerism. People don’t do voluntary work because people don’t ask them, people volunteer when people ask them. It’s affirming to be recruited, tell them what it’s going to cost in terms of time / preparation / hours.  Provide enough areas to serve, create new opportunities, provide places that are easy in / easy out.
  9. Have a way to track people, so that all this information isn’t in one person’s head.  At some stage, even the best leaders can forget a step. I’ve found that the ‘flows’ feature on ChurchSuite allows you to help visitors from each step on their journey.  This works by adding a person in at the start of a flow, then knowing what happens at each step, which might be the list above, then when that step is complete, you move on to the next step.  In this way, no one gets missed out and everyone has the same opportunity to become part of your community.

When done well, these steps aren’t a process, they’re a journey which you join each visitor on.  When a visitor is cared for, they are less likely to walk out of the back door of your church. Which is why we say that we aim to ‘decrease the size of the back door’. 

For more information and inspiration on Gateways in and out, check out chapter five of ‘So Everyone Can Hear’ by Mark Crosby.

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