Category Archives: Church Planting

23 Tips for an Engaging Church Website Welcome Video

EngagingWelcomesThis thought should consume every church communications point person:

 

Your Website is Your Church’s Digital Front Door.

A First Time Guest can feel welcomed, or unwelcome, before they ever set foot on your church campus to meet one of your oh-so-chipper welcome team volunteers. Every church with a website now possesses the opportunity create a great first impression with a simple, warm online welcome video.

I recently heard a popular film-maker unpack the growing “YouTube-ification” of digital content in a recent leadership podcast. This famous documentarian described the increasingly wide acceptance (and sharing and “Liking”) of video content made from iPhones and digital cameras. The cultural expectation-shift he outlined renders the absolute requirement for thousands of dollars worth of production equipment nearly obsolete for most web-delivered videos. The latest iPhone, model 6s, shoots video at a stunningly high “4K” resolution – which most home televisions cannot even fully reproduce.

With this growing cultural acceptance of less-produced content, the capacity on most smartphones to capture high resolution video, and the availability of online video editors (YouTube has an integrated “Creators Dashboard”), no viable reason exists to justify not having some kind of personable welcome video on your church website.

Here are 23 tips for creating an engaging church website welcome video. While no church website welcome video nails all 23, I have also included a few video links to good examples of some of these ideas in action.

  1. Avoid The Shakes – it is probably a good idea to find a less-caffeinated person than the Youth Minister or just employ a tripod.
  2. Use Good Lighting – shoot a test video and watch out for dark shadows or sun squints.
  3. Briefer Is Better – stay within the 2-3 minute timeframe if you want to keep the viewers attention and induce an action. Remember: your viewer’s time is a gift, not a given.

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    Newbreak Church in San Diego features short introductions from each of their Campus Pastors.

  4. Introduce Yourself Quickly – save your whole story for a membership class or special occasion, but clearly let them know who you are.
  5. Find Interesting Surroundings – unless there is a secret door behind them, do not shoot in front of your office bookcases. Shoot somewhere with visual interest, but not too distracting.
  6. Have A Point – ask yourself, what is the single most important thing you want a viewer to know or do? Make the video about that one thing.

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    Pastor Vern Streeter introduces viewers to Harvest Church in Billings, Montana.

  7. Fun Is Allowed – injecting some personality and levity may help ease a first time guest’s irrational and unfounded fears about attending a church.
  8. Don’t Be Funny – unless you actually are. One way to know for sure is to confirm that someone else other than your mom thinks so. Trying too hard to be funny makes a serious connection too hard for someone new.
  9. You Do You – self-confidence is attractive, so be yourself as much as possible. Use other staff and lay leaders to provide a personality balance if needed.
  10. Remember Who’s Watching – after your initial “reveal” the ongoing audience for your church website video will be 90% first time guests and friends of your parents. So, speak to the guest, not your church membership.

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    The first four (funny) words from Pastor Steve Madsen of Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore, California immediately connect with the viewer.

  11. Start from Zero – even if you are the biggest church in town, assume that your viewer knows nothing. Communicate the most critical information – especially if your building is confusing or the parking lot is crowded.

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    Brentwood Baptist Church outside of Nashville, Tennessee navigates potential guests with engaging graphics.

  12. Share the Moment – leverage the personality, giftedness and diversity of other staff and volunteers. Give the viewer more than one person to hear from.

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    Good Shepherd United Methodist in Charlotte, North Carolina shares their vision and story through church members.

  13. Use Strategic B-Roll – include background footage of worship and kids spaces to sustain interest under dialogue. Do not just talk about an engaging children’s ministry, show it off!

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    Kensington Church, outside of Detroit, Michigan leverages compelling background imagery to introduce the viewer to ministry environments.

  14. Tell A Story – relate the experience of an attender who’s life is different because of God through your church. Testimony is the currency of transformation.

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    The Brook Church in Madison, Alabama uses church members with transformational experiences to share their story.

  15. Don’t Wing It – decades in the pulpit are still light years away from talking into a camera. Script what you have to say to avoid rambling and, umm, a bunch of, umm, filler words.
  16. Remember to Smile – your belief in the church and sincerity of message are unconsciously related to facial expression. A genuine smile will say more than your words ever will.
  17. Employ A Pro – even though the bar of cultural expectation is much lower than it was even 2 years ago, there is no substitute for an experienced visual storyteller. Professional videographers and editors will exponentially increase your communication effectiveness and will be worth every penny. That said, not having the pennies for a pro is no longer a viable excuse for not having a website welcome video.

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    Renewal Church in Chicago engages hearts through stunning imagery and visual storytelling.

  18. Set Experience Expectations – describe and show what a Guest’s worship experience could be, but don’t over sell it. The bait and switch technique only works for used car dealers.

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    The visual experience of a typical Sunday translates through video from Asbury United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.

  19. Use Weekend Words – cute names of buildings, services and classes are fine for insider communication, but your video should speak to outsiders. Speak with words that a functioning, non-seminarian might use on a Saturday with their children.
  20. Conversationally Share Vision – you can state your values without reciting a list of values… just tell them why you do what you do as a church, and how it might make a difference in their life. If you have one, build communication around your Tag Line, not your mission statement (here’s why).

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    Dr. Richard Kannwischer relates the vision of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, California.

  21. Give Audio Attention – be sensitive to background noise and make sure the audio is clear and crisp. Most people will check-out before they lean-in and strain to understand what you are saying. Good background music also sets an emotional undertone.
  22. Highlight Important Points – when you say something profound or a web address and twitter handle is stated, use a text “card” like the old silent movies used to. Words create worlds, say them and show them.
  23. Post To Facebook – which may be the easiest invitation tool you place in your peoples’ hands. Encourage sharing and liking but note if that is not happening. You may need to rethink your video approach.

 

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23 Ways Your Church Website May Be Driving Away First Time Guests

23WaysWebsite

Imagine if it was your first day on staff and you just discovered that your church’s front door was:

– hidden from view and hard to find

– still decorated from last Christmas

– covered in dirt and cobwebs

– cluttered with ministry flyers and notices.

Without hesitation, you would clean and repaint it immediately. You would then find a way to use people and signage, while leveraging every resource possible, to make the entrance beautiful, easy and obvious to find.

Your church website is more important than your front door. 

In fact, nine out of ten first time Guests visit online before visiting onsite, so your church website IS your front door. In 2015, the number of networked devices (phones, tablets, laptops) more than doubled the global population. Today, your church website is your digital front door for nearly everyone who will consider visiting your church, and then reconsider based upon what they find, or don’t find.

Here are 23 ways your website may be driving away first time Guests: 

  1. If it projects an “us vs.them” dynamic, using a term like Visitor instead of Guest.
  2. If it has your Christmas graphic on rotation… in February.
  3. When 80% of your web content is actually geared for members, making it little more than a very expensive calendar for a select group of people.
  4. If there are too many written words and the menu navigation becomes complex and confusing.
  5. When there are too many ministries and activities… because we all know today’s average family sits around looking to be busier.
  6. If your stock photography of diverse people projects an image far from your congregational reality.
  7. When you do not have a picture of the church building or of the front door.
  8. If your photos and videos are poor quality and improperly sized.
  9. If you have not given the Guest a clear next step to take in visiting.
  10. When you are missing a clear and obvious welcome of Guests with a link to critical information on visiting.
  11. If your service times are anything less than large and obvious, because that is really the main thing a Guest is looking for.
  12. When you have different service styles but they are unexplained… remember, one Guest’s idea of traditional worship might be another’s idea of contemporary.
  13. When your worship services or small groups have cute and creative names that are ultimately meaningless outside of those circles.
  14. When the pastor’s welcome letter is more about a Reformational Theology than a Great Commission Cardiology.
  15. When the pastor’s welcome video is too long and too creepy, and therefore not too inviting.
  16. If your photos are of lobbies and hallways instead of worship gatherings and people groups.
  17. When you are assuming that free coffee (which doesn’t taste all that great) is still attractional to lost people.
  18. If you have forgotten that social media is a great connector, because you still have a church directory and yellow page ads… it’s called Facebook.
  19. When you have made an obvious choice toward a low-cost and generic “church website” over a useful and attractive “digital front door.”
  20. If your content requires updating from multiple people, which never actually happens.
  21. When you post links for giving money when you have not linked giving to a vision beyond money.
  22. If the primary URL is a tagline or slogan instead of your church name.
  23. If there is no responsiveness to mobile device viewing, because smart phones are the new desktop computer.

At Auxano, we love serving as strategic outsiders to help churches realize breakthrough effectiveness on their website, through the lens of vision clarity. No service style or theological treatise will impact a true First Time Guest more than a clear sense of “who we are” and “what we are called to do” will.

Start a conversation with an Auxano Navigator today to learn more about our Vision and Communication services.

 

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Filed under church growth, Church Life, church marketing, Church Planting, Guest Perspective, Multi Site Church, MultiSite Church, Outreach, pastoral leadership

Vision Is Not…

Vision isn’t a moment on a Sunday – Vision is a movement happening everyday.
Vision isn’t a one-time event – Vision is an ongoing eventuality.
Vision isn’t a statement on a wall – Vision is a state of mind led by a call.
Vision isn’t a leader’s style – Vision is the substance of all leadership.
Vision isn’t a featured project to reveal- Vision is a future projection in which to revel.
Vision isn’t a upcoming program to launch – Vision is an ongoing picture to paint.
Vision isn’t a building for a church’s function – Vision is a framework for God’s future.
Vision isn’t a crystal-ball prognostication – Vision is a bent-knee revelation.
Vision isn’t a good idea for that one-day – Vision is God’s idea for your every-day.
Vision isn’t a realm for envied conference speaking preachers – Vision is the reality for every congregation serving pastor.
Vision isn’t a contemplative mountaintop excursion- Vision is a collaborative group discovery.

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5 Sure-Fire Ways to Guarantee Repetitive Pastoral Failure

GreatFailuresIt’s not really how you got lost as much as how you lead back to the right path.
Every great leader has experienced failure at some point, well… except one glaring exception.
So yeah, you are not Jesus, but remember:
     Steve Jobs, the man behind the iPhone, iPad and MacBook (likely what you are using to read this), was once fired from Apple
     Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever (not even a question Kobe and Lebron), was cut from his middle-school team
     Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph (making him the great-grandfather of hipster music), was partially deaf
It is not a question of IF a pastor will fail in some ministry endeavor; it is a question of how they will lead as they learn their way back up. 

Some failures in pastoral leadership require a deeper investment in time, repentance and healing to overcome. Especially those failures that erode pastoral authority because of immorality or sexual sin. However, for the majority of pastors, recovery from everyday ministry failure is a matter of learnership as much as it is one of leadership. 
Because moving beyond a failure involves learning and advancing as a leader, after all:
Steve Jobs went on to build the NeXT computer with no real customers.
Michael Jordan went on to miss 12,345 shots in his career, more than half of all he took.
Thomas Edison went on to build 1,000 light bulbs that didn’t work before one finally did.

Failure happens to everyone and for those that refuse to learn and advance, it often happens over and over again. Here are five sure-fire ways to guarantee repetitive pastoral failure:

1. Ignore It – Leaders destined to fail again refuse to acknowledge failure when it happens. When the conversation turns toward what went wrong, they become defensive or change the subject altogether.
 Advancing leaders talk about their failure openly and freely share what they are learning from it.

2. Prevent It – Do everything you can to never allow failure to happen in the first place and you can be sure that when it does happen, you will never see it coming. If you never allow your leaders to fail, there is actually a better chance that they will never succeed.
 Advancing leaders create an environment for safe failure to happen and even celebrate failing forward when it happens.

3. Invite It – It is surprising how many pastors fail to ever plan, and inadvertently plan to often fail. Simple principles of leadership like calendaring, setting meeting agendas or leading toward a consistent vision are a great step toward making sure failure, when it happens, is not repetitive.
Advancing leaders are intentional in their planning, especially if it is not in their nature to begin with.

4. Overlook It –  Making excuses for failure, sweeping mistakes under the rug or simply minimizing the reality of the situation is a great way to find yourself with the broom again soon. A great strategy to repeat failure is to not get outside eyes to help reveal critical points of failure and create a plan to move forward.
 Advancing leaders invite strategic outsiders in to help see what was unseen and bring fresh perspective toward moving forward.

5. Magnify It – Publicly dwelling on your mistakes and failure seems, at first to be humbling and sacrificial. Under the surface though, giving undue and inordinate attention to ministry failure often masks insecurity and fuels ego. Over-magnifying a mistake happens in cultures where failure is easier to recognize than success.
 Advancing leaders define success of their Great Commission calling and celebrate those wins first, while appropriately handling the misses.

You may not go on to revolutionize the digital age, become the greatest basketball player of all time, or hold more than 2,000 U.S. patents, but God does have something significant and eternal for you to accomplish… no matter how hard it might have been up to this point.

How you learn from failure will directly affect how you lead after failure.

Failure happens in ministry, there is no guarantee against it. Therefore, when failure does occur, we must learn and lead from it, advancing to ensure that it does not happen the same way again.

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One Big Challenge to Dream with a Vibrant Pastor’s Vision

DreamingAgain

Have we reached the end of pastoral visioning by dreaming of what should be?
Does a church leader in 2016, surrounded by marketplace professionals seeking a strategic plan, even have permission to dream anymore? Is a less-than-precise path to a God-honoring future unacceptable to staff members looking for immediate action initiatives?

Is it safe for pastors to dream about a future day, or should we continue to just keep the focus on the Sunday to Sunday mechanics of ministry and making budget?

Unless you were on a mission trip or under a rock last week, it was hard to miss the incessant media buzz about the 1.5 BILLION dollar lottery. Hundreds of thousands of people bought more than 635 million $2 tickets in the hopes of the immediate acquisition of a life of extraordinary wealth.

And what made last week’s Powerball drawing even more interesting is that I know of quite a few pastors, some of them prominent and actively justifying it – see Perry Noble’s post here, who were even drawn in to play the lottery. I’m sure many pastors who played the lottery instead chose to navigate what would inevitably be a hard question of “Why are you gambling Pastor?” with what would in the end be a rather easy conversation with their congregation… provided that they won: “Yes, I played… Here’s my tithe

But here is what was really going on behind the scenes with most people who played the lottery last week.
The most fun in playing a giga-jackpot lottery is the dreaming. 

What would you do… Rather what couldn’t you do with more than one and one-half billion dollars? Just look at all these zeros! $1,500,000,000.

Even though I never bought a ticket, I still channeled my inner John Nash with many nights of pre-sleep mental mathematical operations. I will readily admit, it was fun to dream about how I could giveaway hundreds of millions of dollars.
100 million each to NAMB and the IMB… because that moment of handing David Platt a giant check from lottery winnings would be epic… and there would be a giant check.
10 million to every church I have ever worked for, or attended. Let the heated deacons meeting commence!
1 million dollar education funds for my kids, my nephews and every child of a first second or third cousin… With the stipulation that it’s an SEC school and anywhere but Auburn.
Buying that hilltop acreage in Wilson County that call out to me for our family homestead every time we drive past.
And a beach house at Seaside, a Colorado mountain lodge AND a Chicago loft apartment.

You see, for those who did not ruin their family finances on a statistical near-impossibility last week, the lottery incited something written deep into our creation… The powerful ability to dream of a better day. To think long what could be beyond what actually is.

The problem with the lottery, one of many to be sure, is that every one of those dreams are disconnected from an ever achievable reality.

But for many pastors, the opposite struggle is real: the need for an achievable reality disconnects many from ever dreaming. 

Today’s pressures mount for many ministry: Pressure to perform. To make budget before the big missions offering saves the day. To have a cool hairstyle like that guy in Nashville. To reveal bulging biceps as you open the Bible. To increase attendance faster than last year. Or even to once and for all relocate the church.

The pressures of Sunday often mute the dreaming of one day.

Will Mancini recently addressed the subject of pastoral dreaming, thinking long about the future, in this blog post… It’s even in the name of his new book: God Dreams.

And for any in ministry, it was the capacity to imagine a better future, to picture God’s redemptive movement, to see beyond what is to what could be that got us us here to begin with. Everyone called according to God’s purpose does so with a Great Commission Dream branded on our mind and buried in our heart. The everyday-on-call mechanics of ministry and the overlooked-in-seminary reality of leadership serve to squelch our permission to dream as we did at that first moment surrender.

It is a great irony that we would commemorate perhaps the most famous dreamer in American history the week after we celebrate perhaps the biggest lottery jackpot of all time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should forever remind us that the capacity to dream and align people toward a better day may be the greatest human capacity of all.

So here’s to dreaming again…

Here’s to proudly using work hours to think long about Gods call and not have anything tangible to show for it.

Here’s to making time to truly vacation with your family because you’ve been spending time walking under open skies as a part of your day-to-day leadership.

Here’s to thinking out loud with a leadership team about something that may require more than one staff meeting to plan and just a few weeks to execute.

Here’s to being able to say “I don’t know yet” on how to get something Gospel-sized accomplished.

Here’s to what God used to get into this calling in the first place.

Here’s to the permission to dream again.

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The 20 Unavoidable Requirements of Vision Breakthrough

As leaders, we are naturally beginning this New Year praying for breakthrough in one or more areas…
In our family.
In our health.
In our relationships.
In our congregation.
And especially in God’s vision for our church.

But vision breakthrough requires change.

And in just a few short weeks, the warm, hopeful desire for vision breakthrough will stand toe-to-toe with the cold, hard reality of the sacrifice demanded to achieve change. Only what we are truly committed-to, and convicted-of, will remain standing.

For most of us, spending another year talking about what should be different will be as effective in this year as it was in the last.

There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

It might seem obvious, but healthy change and Biblical growth will not “just happen” without work.

Lasting breakthrough in your church consists of at least 20 unavoidable requirements, because in the end…

…vision takes Effort – As followers of Christ, we have no model nor Biblical map for the path of least resistance.

…vision takes Money – Extending the life of a dying church costs very little, revitalizing hope for the future takes thoughtful & intentional investment.

…vision takes Time – God has gifted us with a mind to dream about “what if,” and the time to be about “what next.”

…vision takes Risk – The riverbanks are safer than the rapids, but the full beauty of the river cannot merely be observed, it must be experienced.

…vision takes Courage – Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the presence of fear and then moving forward in faith anyway.

…vision takes Recklessness – Following a Savior who gave His life will likely involve moments of leadership in which we risk ours.

…vision takes Fear – An honest appraisal of the stakes involved in pastoring a church should strike fear in the heart of any experienced leader.

…vision takes Control – A pastoral calling in the local church requires active leadership engagement, not passive membership observation.

…vision takes Prayer – Depending on prayer for breakthrough, means setting aside enough time for a season, not just enough to start a meeting.

…vision takes Truth – Understanding the current state of the church is the only start, if effectiveness and health are truly the destination.

…vision takes Reality – Communication of “what could be” apart from “what is” creates a precarious gap. Excessive aspiration breeds active cynicism.

…vision takes Collaboration – Successful leadership is not measured by what you get accomplished, but by what gets accomplished without you.

…vision takes Help – Every leader naturally thinks they can “do it themselves” when it comes to vision – if you could have, you would have by now.

…vision takes Commitment – It’s much easier to start something new than to revitalize something in existence. New isn’t always better, ask Coke.

…vision takes Humility – Owning and understanding what we presently do not know catapults the process of understanding and owning God’s preferred future.

…vision takes Understanding -Lasting leadership impact does not happen because you developed great solutions, but because you asked great questions.

…vision takes Perspective – The longer you are a part of a system or organization, the harder it becomes for you to see things as they actually are.

…vision takes Immediacy – There are as many reasons to start tomorrow as there are wishes we had started yesterday. Today is all we have.

…vision takes Patience – You cannot microwave vision, it is as healthy & nutritious for the church body as a microwave burrito is for your physical body.

…vision takes Jesus – If the Gospel of Christ is not the primary catalyst and the singular focus of our effort, let’s change the name and charge membership fees.

As we lean in to 2016 together, visionary breakthrough will demand much, but reward much more. Will Mancini’s new book God Dreams is a great place to begin. Here is a recent post from Will on the importance of breakthrough church vision.

If you are ready to start a breakthrough vision conversation with an Auxano team member, or learn more about scheduling a 2-Day Vision Retreat this year, let us know here.

In the meantime… get to work.

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Waking Up from the Field of Dreams Approach to Church Buildings

FODOne of the best, and most misused, quotes from the wonder-years of 1980s movies comes from the classic Field of Dreams: 

“If you build it, he will come.”

These seven words caused an Iowa farmer to plow part of his corn fields and leverage every resource his family had toward the building of a baseball field. Every bit of this effort, we learn, was to the end of having a long-missed game of catch with his Dad. Spoiler Alert: Shoeless Joe Jackson also gets to play ball again. He and Kevin Costner’s character have my personal favorite exchange in the movie: “Hey, is this Heaven? No (pause and smile) it’s Iowa”

This classic baseball movie represents all that is right about heart-string tugging storytelling for every 40-something adult male like me. Unfortunately, the “If you build it, ___ will come” thinking also represents all that is wrong about building-committee facility planning for church leaders like us.

Some combination of these seven words have caused many Christian leaders too leverage every congregational resource toward the end building of some structure for reaching long-missed segments of the population. Spoiler Alert: While new folks in the community will show up initially, without an intentional strategy for engaging and growing them as disciples, they will quickly fade away like Shoeless Joe in the outfield.

It’s time for a new approach to facilities that recognizes that church buildings are not vision, but can be great tools for accomplishing vision.

It’s time for a Great Commission-biased conviction to compel us to push all of our leadership chips into preparing people to BE THE CHURCH, not BUILD A CHURCH. 

It’s time to remember this first-things-first reality: “If we go, He will bring them.”

And in time, the buildings that we do build will have lasting, intentional and everyday impact on making a difference for Christ in our communities. This is a field worth dreaming about.

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Filed under Campus Pastor, church growth, Church Life, Church Planting, Multi Site Church, MultiSite Church, pastoral leadership, Uncategorized