It may seem like your congregation disappears into thin air during the summer months, especially in Canada, where the summer is short and the draw of cottages and camping feels impossible to ignore. But people’s faith doesn’t go on hold between May and October. In fact, for an environmentalist like myself, the summer presents an incredible time to nourish my spirit.
Thanks to the abundance of communication tools at our disposal, churches can be a part of our summer lives in a new way. They just need to think creatively and connect with people where they are (in cyberspace).
There are two steps to effective communication: step one, use the right tool and step two, put out interesting content.
Step One: Connect with people directly.
If you have been collecting your members’ email addresses, then you already have a powerful tool for reaching your parishioners while they are on summer break. If you send out e-newsletters or weekly e-bulletins think about what kind of content your parishioner would feel compelled to read while sitting on their dock.
Many churches have a Facebook page which is often more frequently used than their website. This is a great opportunity for summer engagement because you can post pictures, videos or articles that are attractive to your members. You want to keep your text content brief and post frequently. Tag specific members if that is appropriate and ask people questions to get a discussion going. When a lot of people engage with a post, Facebook keeps it in the Newsfeed longer. This means that when your members sign in to Facebook they are more likely to see your post.
Personally, I love Instagram because I am a very amateur photographer and I just love beautiful pictures. I say this because it is important to keep in mind why people interact with different social media platforms. Many people want to see high quality, artistic photos on Instagram. There are also people who enjoy the Instagram accounts that post inspirational quotes or comedic memes. Does any of this sound like you? Do the members of your church use Instagram? If yes and yes, then Instagram is the right social media platform for your church. If no and maybe, then your time might be better spent on Facebook or crafting e-newsletters.
This platform is great for sharing an update with your members in less than 140 characters. Twitter requires that you produce brief but meaningful content. You can share links to longer posts from your church’s blog or other websites. For example, pick out a thoughtful question from your sermon and then add a link to the full sermon in your post. You offer a short way to connect and a longer form for your members to follow up with if they have time.
Step Two: Create engaging content.
I have created a list of eight unique content ideas that faith-based organizations can use to stay in touch with their community:
- Daily or weekly meditations or prayers (with a focus on relaxing, revitalizing, breathing, being present, thankfulness, nature, sunsets; things that will resonate with people during the summer months)
- Run a ‘How I connect’ campaign featuring stories from your members about the different ways that they connect with God and Jesus in nature.
- Share relevant news articles to keep your congregation updated on things happening in their city and around the world. The key word here is ‘relevant’ – your content should always be in line with your church’s mission and ministry.
- Share moments of peace and tranquility. A calming picture with a short thought-provoking message fits in well with a leisurely summer lifestyle.
- Send intentional and meaningful messages that say ‘I’m here for you even when you are not physically present’.
- Invite people to send names of those for whom they would like you to pray.
- Send tips for maintaining spiritual health such as ideas for morning prayers or key points from your Sunday sermon.
- Share songs, art or poems that are inspirational.
The key to an effective communication strategy is understanding your audience. The summer presents churches with an opportunity to engage their congregation on a different level. You may have fewer people in the pews but it doesn’t mean that your congregation has entered into a spiritual abyss. You can make meaningful connections with your parishioners via the numerous communication tools that you have at your fingertips.
Don’t forget snail mail. Sending a letter with a morning prayer and a message from your priest or minister is a wonderful way to let your parishioners know that their church is always present.
If you like these ideas, give me a shout firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear about how you stay connected with your congregation!