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Send Great Church Emails People Actually Want to Read

emailFor all the advances in digital communications and social networking, email continues to be the most reliable way for congregations to digitally communicate with members and potential members. Why? In the transition we find ourselves in between print and digital communication, email is the most reliable way of digitally sharing your ministry’s news and information. It’s as close to mailing a letter to everyone’s home as you can get, just without the paper and postage.

Unfortunately, most congregations fail to get the most out of their emails for several reasons:

  • Uninteresting design
  • Inconsistent scheduling
  • Incomplete email lists (who gets it)
  • Inability to measure their success (who reads it)
  • Too much or too little information
  • Lack of focus

However, for some that use email well, a weekly email update is becoming the anchor of their communications strategy, lessening the need for a time and paper intensive production of a monthly newsletter.

Here are some ways and a few examples of how to send great emails that people will read:

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Helping Our Youth Become Digital Disciples

textingTechnology pervades nearly every aspect of our daily lives—especially those of our teenagers—and yet we rarely talk about it in our churches.

People carry powerful smartphones, wonderous tablets, and they work daily on desktop and laptop computers. They are continually plugged into the internet and social networks—technologies which have completely saturated our daily lives and work.

And yet, as pervasive as these technologies and digital media are, we don't really talk about them in church. Why?

Perhaps there is an unspoken presumption that these devices and networks don't have anything to do with our faith. In fact, they powerfully shape our faith in ways we are often unaware of—both by the information we receive through them (how we are formed), and how we live out of faith in digital spaces (how we enact our faith). It may also be our own relative discomfort with understanding and operating these technologies ourselves. We can feel less than knowledgable and outpaced (read: intimidated) by our teenagers.

In this digitally-integrated time, churches need to take seriously and engage in conversation at the intersection of faith and technology for all ages, but especially youth. As our youth live more of their lives online, they will also live out their faith there too. If we don't engage it, we will miss out on a huge part of their lives...and leave them without spiritual guidance.

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Should I Stay or Go? Three Questions and Resources for Discerning a New Call

GoDiscerning whether to seek and accept a new call to ministry is an intense experience.

A myriad of ideas, dreams, and worries swirl around in your head and heart. It can be hard to know your own mind, motives, and true desires, let alone God’s.

In my own experience of deciding to leave one call and take another, these are the three central questions that helped focus my discernment—and the resources that helped me answer them. I hope they can be helpful to you in your own process of discernment.

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How to Get Your Church Podcasting on iTunes

on-the-airIf you create audio recordings of sermons or educational programing at your church (or want to start), its a great idea to podcast them in iTunes.

In today's web, its not enough to just make your content available, you want to serve it up in a way that makes it easy for people to access and listen. Podcasting on iTunes is great for this. With iTunes, people don't have to sit at the computer and listen for 10, 15 minutes or more, they can subscribe and get them automatically delivered to their mobile devices - which makes them more likely to actually listen.

Setting up a podcast on iTunes is a very managable process, you just have to know where to begin. iTunes provides an extensive information page. In this post I break it down into five steps and include some advice for getting the most out of your podcast. I just set up my own podcast for my sermon blog using this process and it works like a charm.

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How To Host Your Own Beer and Hymns Night

beer-and-hymns

There is something very cool about singing Beautiful Savior, Amazing Grace, and A Mighty Fortress in a pub.

Sure, its partly the novelty of it, but it also worshipful, spiritual, intimate, fun, great outreach, and an affirmation of God's presence in our daily lives - in all the places we gather, including pubs.

I've helped to host four Beer and Hymns events. They've each been a little different but they have been great experiences. The singing is beautiful, the environment is relaxed, it takes us into the community, and it opens something up for people spiritually.

Beer and Hymns has been popularized in Lutheran circles by Nadia Bolz-Weber and House for All Sinners and Saints. Jodi Bjornstad Houge and Humble Walk Church also regularly host Beer and Hymns. Jodi writes about their experience here. I've included several links at the bottom of this post with examples of how people have done Beer and Hymns and what it means to them. 

Here's my version of how to host your own Beer and Hymns event:

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10 Commandments for Church Websites

moses iphoneNow more than ever, it is essential to have a well designed and engaging church website. Here are my top ten commandments for getting the most value out of your church website.

Audience

1. Focus on Newcomers

Your church website's primary value is as an introduction to newcomers and then secondarily as news, resources, and information for members. Of course, there is overlap between the two. The difference is that members know where to find what they need. First time visitors don’t.

The home page and prominent menu items should focus on newcomers, providing the most crucial information on the first pages they see. Of course, you also want news and information for current members. You can place links/portals with this internal communication, especially administrative information, to the bottom or side of the page (and let people know where to find them.)

Help newcomers find your website on Google search using this technique.

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