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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.43.57 PM

    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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.45.09 PM

    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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.47.03 PM

    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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.47.49 PM

    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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.48.26 PM

    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!

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.49.20 PM

    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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.50.32 PM

    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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.51.31 PM

    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.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.57.06 PM

    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).

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.52.18 PM

    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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4 Bracket-Busting Plays for Welcoming Guests this Easter

bracketbusters

It’s time for March Madness.

In the sporting world, March Madness is the NCAA Men’s Division One basketball tournament, dominating the next few weeks of speculation and conversation.

In the church world, March Madness is Easter Sunday, and every service leading up to it, dominating the next few weeks of speculation and conversation.

Many leaders will go all out to connect as many people to the Gospel of Christ on this largest guest attendance weekend of the year. Savvy church leaders are presently focusing their attention on the pathway and points of entry a guest will take to attend worship services this Easter. Spring is a natural and necessary time of year to take a look at your Guest Welcoming and Hospitality ministry, and like 64 basketball coaches right now, make adjustments to capitalize on one shining moment.

In the spirit of March Madness, here are four bracket-busting plays for welcoming Guests this Easter:

1. Tweak the Fundamentals

Nine out of ten guests this Easter will go to your website first. What will they see? More importantly what will they not see? Some estimate that last year the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population. If you are not already solid in the fundamentals with your website, then you are behind.

Some Easter-critical tweaks could be:

  • a clear and prominent “I’m New” button or page
  • Easter service times, and stylistic differences of services, if any
  • your address, directions, parking information and a map
  • a short description, with photo, or video clip of the worship experience
  • information on Children’s Ministry, including security/safety procedures

2. Remember, the Best Offense is a Good Defense 

Once a de-churched or unchurched Guest decides to attend this Easter, the enemy will use everything possible to distract and dissuade them from attending. This means that your Hospitality Team should be on point and playing defense once that family or individual reaches the campus. Two types of defense are:

Zone Defense  – Just like on the court, positioning people to cover a certain geographic area of your campus is key. This may even include having vest-wearing greeters at a key intersection or navigation point off campus, joyfully directing people toward life-change in Christ. One fundamental advantage of a Zone Defense in basketball is controlling the tempo of the game. Employing a Zone Defense in your parking lot, hallways and information tables is the best possible way to ensure the best possible the guest experience. An effective Zone Defense maps out the strategic points of connection in each area, and plants an informed, smiling face at each one.

Man-to-Man (M2M) Defense – There are times however, when a direct, one-to-one approach is necessary in the Hospitality Ministry. One huge area to play M2M is in the Children’s Ministry. This is a great opportunity to recruit additional volunteers to walk guest families to each child’s classroom, facilitating or explaining the security and sign-in procedure along the way. This simple action provides direct reassurance to each new parent that their child will be cared for, and could minimize a significant distraction to Gospel receptivity. Other M2M defensive areas could include altar calls, next step tables and guest receptions.

 3. First Make Four Passes, Then Take the Shot

What if every guest you have this Easter receives at least four genuine smiles, four warm handshakes or four verbal welcomes before they ever enter the worship environment? Everything that a new person experiences, good and bad will impact their receptivity to the message of Easter. From parking lot to pew, if your leaders are trained and positioned to deliver four smile-passes to everyone who enters, you can be sure that your worship experience and your message will find a wide-open heart, ready for the salvation-shot.

4. Crash The Boards

Specifically, on your knees. Instead of praying for a billion-dollar bracket, this could be a season of prayer and intercession on behalf of those who will attend this Easter. The Holy Spirit is already at work in the lives of those who will come, needing to be transformed by the Gospel. Lead your welcome team to pray regularly, for your guests this Easter, and every Sunday for that matter. Watch what happens as leaders catch the vision to welcome life change at a door, in a parking lot or beside an information table.

Each year, just 12 players get to cut down the tournament nets in victory. However, every leader in your church has an opportunity to celebrate the use of their gifts to see the lost be found this season.

There is no better time than now to get out on the court and press for the win.

This post first appeared on March 18, 2014 and has been updated.

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Leaders Look Forward

LookAheadNothing compares to the moment a hearty laugh with a church team immediately shifts into a deeply poignant moment of congregational insight.

For one team, this happened in the midst of a common exercise on the front end of Auxano’s Vision Framing process. A connecting exercise that begins with a simple, yet insightful question…  If our church was a car, what make and model would we be?
Of course, the only appropriate follow-up question, if the answer has not already been revealed, is “Why?”

In this instance, the Pastor began to describe an older model Station Wagon. The team then developed the rest of this polariod-era picture, complete with plastic decal “wood” paneling, a black-cloud emitting diesel engine, and stick to your bare summer legs vinyl seat covers. For every leader in the room of appropriate age, the third row back seat evoked knowing smiles of michevious childhoods. Who didn’t love that rear-facing view as a kid?

As the laughter waned, the Pastor then went on with his “Why” explanation.

“Many of our leaders would rather be more focused on where we have been. And if we were honest, many really enjoy harassing others who moving faster than us down the road ahead… There are days when I feel like very few of us are facing the same direction looking forward.”

It is not scriptural, but still accurate to say that “where there is no vision, the people cherish.”

They cherish the past, because they do not have a clear picture of the future.
They cherish where we have been, without a vision of where God leads ahead.
They cherish the comfort of the known, without hope that transcends the unknown.
They cherish the tools and resources provided to accomplish our calling, rather than the actual calling.

The magnetic attraction of a living and active vision of the future, much more than just a one-liner vision statement, becomes instantaneously clear.

Calling leaders to face forward through the windshield toward the horizons of God’s preferred future, is not easy. Getting a fast-moving team to slow-down and think long feels impossible.

After all, looking backward from the third row was pretty fun… but leaders look forward.

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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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14 Reasons Your Church Staff Retreats are Better Offsite

Auxano Resync Retreat 2016

Auxano Resync Retreat 2016

Finding the time and money to pull the staff offsite for an annual vision retreat challenges every leader.
The temptation to lay-up and schedule yet another week in the church conference room lulls us into yet another year of marginally effective visioning. In the name of stewardship or saving money, we are actually sacrificing the development of the team – as a team – in an exponentially effective environment. In reality, many church teams cannot afford to NOT get away for a short-term, focused season of team and vision development. With intentionality and planning, I believe every team can find some way to get away together.

Here are 14 reasons why your church staff retreats are better, and will accomplish more, offsite:

1. Focus drifts in the church conference room, you have 50% of the staff’s attention, at best, inside church walls

2. Relational roots grow deep on uncommon ground, late nights and early mornings are where teams are formed

3. Team building exercises are cheesy but effective when no one outside the team is around, just remember that adults hate the Trust Fall

4. Distance provides perspective, and getting away from the church building often right-sizes ministry challenges

5. Too much rhythm dulls our senses, forced breaks can be a healthy disruption to status quo ministry activity

6. There will always be a ministry fire burning, they will flare up before you leave and there will be plenty of firefighting to do when you get home

7. Investment in growing and being a team compounds exponentially, because retreats are not a dollar for dollar investment

8. Celebrating ministry wins offsite extends far beyond the moment, leverage memory of place to reinforce mission accomplishment

9. Most church conference rooms are boring, God’s creation work in nature resonates with the nature of the Creator in us

10. It’s healthy to schedule some unscheduled time together, meeting agendas are a means of an offsite rather than the ends onsite

11. Your team faces significant ministry challenges every day, fun times away can be life-giving and sustaining

12. Looking forward to a shared experience creates team synergy, as the weeks leading up to a retreat bring energy and focus

13. Stories from offsite meetings become a part of leadership cultural folklore, memories and laughter carry forward indefinitely

14. Putting effort and resources into planning time away with your team communicates their value

Here are three guidelines for selecting a location for an offsite vision retreat. As you are planning, think about…

…Someplace Beautiful. Unless you live in Houston TX you will not have far to drive to find the wonder of God’s creation.

…Somewhere Interesting. Find a place with a story and bring home as much inspiration from it as you can.

…Somewhat Away. Get enough separation from the everyday to nurture focus on the one-day of God’s preferred future.

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7 of the Worst Themes Ever for a Capital Campaign

Everyone knows that fundraising success in a church capital campaign is not dependent on the theme.

A vision campaign can succeed apart from its name or visual communication. However, a bad theme will severely limit the effectiveness of visionary communication during a campaign. Any time spent reiterating or otherwise explaining a theme -beyond the initial introduction- distracts from conversations elevating discipleship and expends energy apart from accomplishing the mission.

Church vision campaign themes function best when they inspire hearts and mark a season of God-revealed possibility. The Resourcing Team at Auxano uses these three axioms to weigh the impact and effectiveness of capital campaign themes:

  1. Don’t be cute, be clear. Direct marketing should never overshadow disciple making, and campaign themes or taglines that “try too hard” end up making clarity of what you are trying to accomplish harder to understand.
  1. Speak to Impact, not Project. Project goals should never be the communicated “ends” of a Biblical season of campaigning. Whatever you are trying to raise funds for – be it a new building, debt retirement, or outreach initiative – is not the vision, but a God-directed tool used to accomplish the vision. Communicating success in terms of dollars raised breeds a culture in which the vision must be another new facility, program, or personality rather than Great-Commission engagement.
  1. Invite to Live Big, not just Give Big. We are close to the heart of Jesus when our motivation for calling people to Biblical stewardship and lives of generosity grows from a heart of what we want for them, not from them. The Biblical and eternal success of a vision campaign emerges months later through increased participation in groups, greater numbers of volunteers engaged, and congregants walking deeper in relationship with Christ… not meeting the stated financial goal.

Here are seven *completely satirical* examples of Biblical, yet wholly inappropriate, capital campaign themes for seasons of church fundraising:

This is the right idea, maybe just the wrong words…

01_PonyUp

 

Some Old Testament narrative may have unintended implications and needs be avoided…

02_WorthySacrifice

 

To really lose credibility with the millennial crowd…

03_NoRegrets

 

This one is perfect for a fast food, consumer-driven church culture…

04_UnlimitedRefills

 

There is the carrot approach to motivating people, but this takes the stick approach a bit too far…

05_UnWithered

 

Because nothings says “Jesus Loves You” like an “us vs. them” approach…

06_SafeDry

 

And sometimes, you just have to straight up threaten generosity out of folks.

07_OrElse

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15 Quotes for Church Leaders from the book Extreme Ownership

ExtremeOwnershipThirty pages in, the realization hit.

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is not only one of the best leadership books I have ever read, it may the only leadership book I have ever read cover to cover. Typical books on leadership, especially church leadership, leave me uninspired… at best. At worst, a few seem to me as simply a series of notions stretched thin to create chapters.

Using the U.S. Navy Seals as their frame of reference, Extreme Ownership kept me turning pages by unpacking the depth of ONE astoundingly simple truth behind any successful leadership enterprise: take responsibility. In doing so, the highly effective church leader is no longer a mythical being, existing on a higher plane than the rest of all mere mortal pastors. But with responsibility, every minister at every level of the staff structure, fulfills their duty to ensure success in leading toward the most important mission of all mankind: the Great Commission.

In this, Willink and Babin’s book is practical: Every minister, in every staff role can appreciate and live out the principles of Extreme Ownership. Additionally, actual stories from their leadership during the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq, illustrating these principles in action, keep the reader connected because testimony is the currency of transformation. Finally, a sense of gravity is felt throughout the book as effective leadership for these authors was a matter of life or death. The obvious parallel for leaders in the church, is that extreme ownership could mean eternal life or death in our theater of operations.

Here is a summary of Extreme Ownership in 3 sentences:

  1. Leadership is taking total responsibility for the effective execution of what you are called to accomplish.
  2. When you are a leader, success always belongs to the team, failure always belongs to you.
  3. A clear, simple, actionable mission that everyone believes-in is critical to the success of every team.

My Top 15 Quotes for Church Leaders from Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

  • Without a team there can be no leadership.
  • For all the definitions, descriptions, and characterizations of leaders, there are only two that matter: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission. Ineffective leaders do not.
  • For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success.
  • The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how to best accomplish it.
  • Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.
  • The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team properly and successfully execute.
  • If an individual on a team is not performing at the level required for the team to succeed, the leader must train and mentor that underperformer… But the leader must be loyal to the team and the mission above any individual.
  • When it comes to standards as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.
  • There are no bad teams anywhere… Only bad leaders.
  • It is incumbent on senior leaders to take the time to explain and answer the questions of their junior leaders so that they too can understand why and believe.
  • Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together up and down the chain of command to lead.
  • A broad and ambiguous mission results in lack of focus, ineffective execution, and mission creep.
  • If your team isn’t doing what you need them to do, you first have to look at yourself. Rather than blame them for not seeing the strategic picture, you must figure out a way to better communicate it to them in terms that are simple, clear and concise, so that they understand.
  • A public display of discontent or disagreement with the chain of command undermines the authority at all levels. This is catastrophic to the performance of any organization.
  • If your leader is not giving you the support that you need, don’t blame him or her. Instead, reexamine what you can do to better clarify, educate, influence or convince that person to give you what you need in order to win.

 

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