Imagine you are out for an afternoon walk (hopefully with a cute pup in tow) and you pass by this house.
What is your first impression? What do you notice?
What thoughts did you have about the owners of this property?
Looks a little unloved and messy, right?
Just like a physical location, your digital presence leaves an impression, a feeling with those passing by.
Whether people “walk by” your website, Instagram reel, or email newsletter, we want to avoid any feelings of chaos or confusion so that you can inspire them to take action and engage with your organization.
You can do just that through a consistent, personalized visual identity.
Below are a few reasons why a visual identity is so important to the success of your organization.
Every interaction with your organization needs to offer a quick and easy introduction to the mission of your organization, what you value, and how others can get connected.
A visual identity is crucial to making a great first impression.
With overall church attendance continuing to decline year after year, many congregations are searching for ways to better their visitor engagement and get new folks connected into ministries.
As we look to the summer, usually a high visitor traffic time for congregations, we wanted to share the top three common pitfalls we see in church visitor engagement as well as solutions to overcome these pitfalls.
It is easy to point out the problems—we are committed to helping you find solutions to the communication and engagement issues you face every day!
Okay, let’s get into it!
Pitfall 1: Processes are Focused Solely on In-person Visitors
According to a Barna study about the new Sunday morning as a result of the pandemic, more than one-third of practicing Christians attended online worship with churches they do not normally attend and 42% listened to/watched messages from other religious leaders!
Although this study was completed in June 2020, you can assume this practice of “virtual church shopping” and finding spiritual guidance from various sources continues today.
Just like the front door of a church moved to a digital space in the 2000s in the form of its church website, Christians now have more sermons, choir anthems, devotions, and online worship services at their fingertips than ever before.
It would be negligent to assume Christians are not using these resources to help them have a better understanding of a particular congregation, who is welcome in the church’s physical space, and what the church values are prior to walking through your physical front door.
Why prioritize the online experience?
At Evoke, we have seen a shift from prioritizing the online experience, back to an acute focus on “butts in the seats” under the lens of “rebuilding community.” Because churches are no longer required to maintain an engaging online presence, some have let it fall to the wayside.
As budgets have taken a hit over the past three years, along with the constant comparison of “before the pandemic” numbers, we understand the human reaction to revert back to what we understand best.
Yet, there is a lot we were forced to learn about how technology can be used to enhance worship and engage more people in ministry.
However, these important learnings seem to be lost in the fearful shuffle of what comes next for churches in a post-pandemic world and how to get people “back in the building”.
Instead of believing the ways of doing ministry during the pandemic were temporary, how could your congregation utilize your learnings and integrate technology into your processes long-term to feed your in-person ministry opportunities?
When your visitor processes neglect God’s beloved who may prefer online worship, families that are praying and reading scripture together in their living rooms, those who travel often for work, and those who cannot physically visit our spaces for a variety of reasons, we limit the power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit to only the righteous in-person few. And the God that I believe in will and can not be limited by our human view of how church must be done.
Solution: Establish an Online Greeter & Prayer Team
Just like your in-person greeter team, an online team of greeters should engage with those who are worshiping online, many of whom may be looking for a church home.
This team should be trained on the dos and don’ts of how to effectively engage with folks online and how to get them connected to digital resources.
Online greeters should be familiar with upcoming ministry opportunities and events, the church website (and necessary links they can share like a prayer request form), and service/volunteer opportunities.
“Where are you joining from today?” is a great introductory question to ask during online worship.
Notice we did not say “Where are you joining us from?” - stay away from “us” language (learn why here!) to help create a more inclusive environment for online worshipers.
Consider this chat scenario:
Greeter: Good morning church! Where are you joining from today? It is a wonderfully sunny day in Fairfax, VA today.
Lisa: Myself and my three kiddos are still in our pj’s this morning. The time change kept us away today—sorry!
Greeter: So happy to have you and the kids in worship today, Lisa! Here is a link to the faith formation resources for today, including some coloring sheets for the kids to enjoy during or after worship.
Lisa: Aww, thanks so much! Super helpful for my 3 and 6-year-olds.
Greeter: Glad I could help! Hope to see you and the kids for the upcoming Easter Egg hunt on April 8, too.
This team can also take it a step further and provide an opportunity to pray over those in need of prayer while the service is taking place. There are a few live stream systems out there that provide an option for private prayer--like Church Online—or use the Messenger feature on Facebook so the person can privately chat with you.
Online engagement is more than a friendly “Good morning :)”! You want to proactively provide opportunities for others to share a bit about themselves, their spiritual needs, and connect with others in the congregation.
Pitfall 2: Lacking a Process or Confusing Processes
As you grapple with how to reach out to church seekers and the surrounding community, congregations are trying out new approaches to connect with visitors or looking to other communities of faith for good ideas (copying is the sincerest form of flattery!).
Yet, the approach to your research and development usually goes something like this:
We like to call this the “spaghetti dinner approach”—throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. If it sticks, then it must be good.
A critical step missing in the “spaghetti” approach is to first establish a few goals for your visitor process. What are you trying to accomplish with a visitor process? How do you want a visitor to feel when they come to your church? What does your congregation provide to those in your community that may be different from the church down the street? What is important for a visitor to know on their first, second, or third visit?
If the team of people doesn’t have a common goal for visitor engagement, then the ideas generated will feel scattered and disconnected, leaving it difficult to prioritize them.
The “spaghetti” approach can also lead to conflicting processes, confusing actions for the visitor, or a plethora of take-home materials that rarely get used and quickly become outdated.
Solution: Utilize the Tools You Have & Follow this Implementation Process
After you have set goals, the next step in your process should be to review and assess the current tools and processes. If you don’t have current processes documented or know how they should work, then how can you identify the areas that need the most improvement?
This step should include a review of the available tools, communication channels, and information collected to understand what you already have, what is missing, and what tools may not be fully utilized.
Ultimately, your implementation process should look like this:
Pitfall 3: Gathering Contact Info is Your Goal
When you set your goals for visitor engagement, we highly recommend you do not include gathering contact information as one of them.
Is it helpful to have contact information from a visitor for future follow-up? YES!
Does focusing on gathering contact information put the needs of your church above the needs of the person in your midst? Also YES!
Don’t get me wrong, you should build processes that help you gather contact information! But the request for contact information needs to come at the right time—which is usually not within the first five minutes of meeting someone.
When you solely focus on gathering contact information, you can easily forget that you might be just a stop on someone’s faith journey. And that’s okay. Your congregation is not going to be the church for everyone. But you should make it a priority to share the love of Christ with everyone in your midst.
Solution: Put the Visitors' Needs First
Have your team use their brainstorming power to come up with a list of reasons WHY visitors would come to your church.
Your list may include:
Asking a young adult who has unwillingly accompanied their parents to worship to fill out a connection card and share their email address with you is not going to be fruitful, most likely.
But providing a warm welcome, engaging them in conversation, and inviting them to the next young adult gathering might be what it takes—at least they will feel seen as a separate being from their parents and welcomed authentically into the community.
Share any other ideas or solutions you may have for better visitor engagement in the comments below!
I know, I know....many of your just made it through Holy week and you are in need of a break. Please, take some sabbath time! But also, pass this fundraising resource on to your treasurer, director of development or finance team to get their wheels turning.
We have put together a Generosity Campaign Communications Plan tool which outlines the many steps it takes to pull off a successful stewardship or fundraising campaign.
There is no way to put this lightly - it is a LOT of steps/tasks if you want to be successful and have clear communication with your donors.
We have seen many hiccups happen when:
And for you spreadsheet lovers - this can easily be copied and pasted into Excel.
Check it out and let us know what you think!
Dr. Karen Strier started a field study on the Northern Muriquis (primates) in 1982. Since then, she has been tracking the muriquis and compiling the data and findings in the Muriqui Behavioral Ecology Database (MBED). MBED looks at stochastic demographic fluctuations and individual life histories to better understand population viabilities and behavior as their territory is altered and negatively affected by humans (source: anthropology.wisc.edu). She was one of the first to conduct such a study. Additionally, due to her long-term involvement in Brazil, where the muriquis are endemic, her research and voice have made a difference in Brazil’s environmental education and efforts.
Other female primatologists undoubtedly helped pave the way for Dr. Karen Strier, such as Diane Fossey, Birute Galdikas, and Jane Goodall. Primatology is now an area of science with one of the highest proportions of female to male scientists (source: CBC).
Rebecca is blessed to have been a part of the MBED lab in her college years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and she greatly admires these scientists who have revolutionized our understanding of primates.
One of my favorite TV shows was “Mad Men,” a period drama about an advertising agency in New York in the 1960s. One of the things I found so compelling about the show was how strictly it adhered to every detail of the time period — from the costumes and set design, to the cultural norms of the time. This included the discrimination and harassment the women in the office endured, not to mention the fact that (at the beginning of the series) not one of those women worked outside the secretary pool.
Eventually in the storyline, one secretary, Peggy Olsen, had the courage to show her creative skills to the men in charge and was promoted to copywriter, the only female one in the company. By the end of the seven-year series, Peggy was on her way to being an executive at a top advertising agency.
Peggy was based on real-life copywriter and advertising genius Jane Maas, who became only the second woman officer in the history of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather. In 1964, Maas landed a job as a junior copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather, writing ads for everything from Dove soap to American Express. She rose to become a creative director before leaving in 1976 to join Wells Rich Greene, where she created the iconic “I Love New York” ads and wrote the classic book, How to Advertise.
I’m grateful for the trailblazers of my industry who had the courage to aim high and succeeded in breaking into what was a men’s-only world in the mid-20th century. Having more women in design has only made the industry better.
How crazy is it that it is only within my mom’s lifetime that working moms were protected from being discriminated against in the hiring process? While moms have been part of the workforce for decades, it wasn’t until a Supreme Court Case in the early 70s that there were protections for moms applying for jobs. Thanks to Ida Phillips, who applied for a job in 1966 only to be told that due to her preschool age child, she couldn’t be hired, I have the choice to be a working mom without fear of being discriminated against (of course, here at Evoke, it wouldn’t be a worry!)
We still have a long way to go, but laws around providing maternity leave, giving moms time to pump/breastfeed at work, and support for continued education, all help keep women in the workforce and move us towards closing the pay gap.
I am blessed to work for a women-led company who supports my journey into early motherhood, AND my career journey. Supportive employers like Kelly make all the difference.
Here’s to all the working moms out there- Happy Women’s History Month!
“Women’s history month is as old as I am? Seriously?” My thoughts exactly when I did some research in honor of women’s history month. This seems completely ridiculous until you look back at our collective history.
Women’s History Month started as just one day - on February 28, 1909, in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the 15,000 women who marched in the garment workers’ strikes. Which then led to a week-long celebration in 1978. Did the women who participated in this sweatshop strike, many of them immigrants, understand the historic impacts of their actions? Or were they simply looking for justice and a safe working environment so they could support themselves and their families?
Either way, it is a humble reminder that the same struggles faced by women in the early 1900’s - equality, to be safe at work, to be seen as human - have not changed much in the year of 2023. Yet, we have one whole month - instead of only one day - dedicated to the resolve and power of women in our country, culture and world.
My great grandmother, Violet, was 3 years old at the time of the first women’s history week. Violet was one of my first examples of a strong, outspoken woman who prioritized her family while making minimal concessions on how she would live her life. Grandma Vi endured the harsh realities of a husband who loved the bottle a little too much, yet continued to defy the role of a woman at the time by working most of her life rather than staying home with her child.
By the time my brother and I came along, Vi had been living on her own for many years after her husband passed, and continued to drive well into her 80s only to give up the wheel on her own terms. We would visit Grandma Vi in her quaint apartment where she always had a dish of mint chocolates and “bullseyes” (the individually wrapped, soft caramel wheels filled with white sugary cream in the middle). My mother always tried her best to limit our candy intake - but was thwarted by a slap on the wrist from Grandma Vi proclaiming “this is my house…they can have as much as they want!” I know who to blame for my sweet tooth :)
She loved lobster, making (and consuming!) Swedish cookies her mother taught her how to bake and getting her hair permed. I am not sure if she ever participated in a protest or donated to a women's rights group. But, she most definitely set the example for the women of the Wadman, Rudd, and Holloway families - women can make their own rules, laugh as loud as they want, set boundaries, and be respected for their thoughts and ideas.
Grandma Vi left this earthly world in June of 2001, the day after my brother Barry, her first great grandson, graduated from high school. She said she would “make the Lord wait - I have to see Barry in his cap and gown”. Not even the Heavenly Father could keep my Grandma Vi from living her life the way she wanted to.
We Love a Humble Church.
Do me a favor and go to your website and pick a random page to read.
How many times does that page say...
your "church name"?
Now count how many times it says “you” or “your” "you’re"....
My dad did not share with me his genetic disposition for placing bets, buying weekly lottery tickets and then winning 80% of the time even at slot machines - but if he had, I would bet my retirement funds that the "we's" out pace the "you's".
"For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” - Luke 14:11
Although not always intentional, we have fallen into an unhelpful habit of talking about ourselves, our church, our ministries all too often.
Why is this a problem you may ask? Let's think about this scenario as real people having a conversation.
If your best friend were to only talk about themselves, their experiences and their hardships, you would consider them self centered and hard to be around.
If they fail to ask you any questions about your life or your perspective on the topic at hand, you would find it hard to continue to be in a relationship with this person. Frankly, the title of BFF would most likely be revoked.
Potential worshippers, visitors or guests - whatever you wish to call those not yet connected to your congregation in some way - are doing the same thing.
Walking away. Not engaging. Not taking the next step in relationship with a congregation.
We need to live into our call as Jesus' followers and humble ourselves in order to garner trust with new-to-us folks. We need to reframe how we speak to those looking for a church community.
Here are some steps you can take now:
1. Throw out the list of ministries.
We regularly see a list of ministries or committees on church websites. Yet, these lists only glorify the amount of work these teams do rather than how lives and relationships are being impacted in the midst of these ministries.
From a new person's perspective - they don't care much about how busy your teams are and frankly, they aren't looking to join another team, so it is a fool's errand to continue to list ministries as if they are products that a consumer can add to their cart.
A new person wants to know:
Instead, highlight the values of the congregation (i.e. gathering for worship, building relationships, radical welcome to all God's people, serving those in need in the community and world...). You will find when you center the values of the congregation on the website, that sharing about ministries happens naturally.
For example, if serving the surrounding community is a value, you will find it easy to share all the ways that a person can get connected to feeding the hungry, supporting the unhoused or using their knitting skills to make baby blankets for the newest saints at the women's shelter.
2. Change every "we" statement to a "you" statement.
When writing content for any communication, especially your website, try putting the reader/visitor first with every statement you make. It is easier to talk about ourselves first so this will take a concerted effort to change your focus each time you go to write.
Some examples of how this reframing will change your language:
3. Use storytelling more than advertising.
When we adapt our thought process to sharing the good news about what God is up to versus advertising the next food drive - it’s hard to make the church the center of the conversation. God and the lives changed becomes the focus.
Here are some good storytelling examples: