People don’t know what they don’t know! One of my great frustrations following a successful church event or community initiative is bumping into people a few days later and they say ‘I heard the church had a lovely Afternoon Tea. I would have liked to get along but I didn’t know about it.’ Perhaps you have felt the frustration of being on either side of a similar conversation. There can be wonderful things happening in your congregation, and you might have much to offer to those in the community, but how will people know unless they are informed?
Increasing your congregation’s profile in the community is more important than ever. One of the most damaging restrictions during the pandemic was the impact upon community life and the freedom to gather with others. Local churches play a vital role in bringing people together in different ways to meet real needs, that is vital and should be profiled.
Effective communication is key to growing your congregation’s profile and areas to consider in this regard include talking to other groups in the community, digital media, signage, printed media or online presence. Whilst social media has its problems, carefully managed, it can be a hugely beneficial tool in raising awareness of your congregation. In addition, you may want to seek expertise to develop an up-to-date website or perhaps consider developing a community newsletter if you have the capacity. Do you already have an existing church magazine for members? Perhaps it could be reshaped to be more community facing and suitable for wider distribution.
Whilst the emphasis is primarily on digital communication, it is important to not discount considering the visuals around the church buildings such as noticeboards and signage. If these look shabby or the language is archaic then it says a lot to passers-by. Two resources are linked below that will be helpful in this regard.
As you reflect upon your congregation’s profile in the community, you might want to consider three different directions in which you could look to improve the content of your communication, and ultimately your witness in the community:
1. LOOK FORWARD: What is coming up in the life of your church that people need to know about? We are often good at doing this for one-off events or special services around Christmas or Easter, but what about our regular programmes and activities? We perhaps assume that local people know about our uniformed organisation or toddler group because they run every week, but how would people outside church find out about these things. Our church has been running a weekly Lunch Club for older people for over 20 years and around five years ago numbers were down to single figures. The group had never been promoted locally and following an article and regular promotion in a community newsletter, numbers increased to over 20 members.
2. LOOK BACKWARD: Take time to profile any recent special events, groups or activities. This may leave some people feeling sorry they missed out but it will also encourage them to be more attentive to the things you organise in the future. This is not about ‘blowing your own trumpet’, rather it is about raising awareness of your congregation in the local community. It is one way of giving people a glimpse of the beauty that lies within the community of church, and it can help to de-construct any misunderstandings people have about church.
3. LOOK OUTWARD: Look for every opportunity to share information about the activities and achievements of other community groups using your communication channels. Examples of what this could look like include:
- The local primary school is running a fete so you promote it, encouraging local support.
- The community sports club win a cup so you acknowledge and congratulate them.
- A neighbouring church appoint a new minister so you warmly welcome them to the community.
Simple gestures like this might seem insignificant or unrelated to church life, but they show you care about the area in which you are placed.
As you think about ‘Getting going again’ in your local witness, take time to reflect upon the ways you might increase your profile in the community using effective communication by looking forward, backward and outward.
Z3605BT - Church from the outside : General - Church Communication - Book Category :: Christian Publishing and Outreach (CPO)
Z3627BT - Church from the inside : General - Church Communication - Book Category :: Christian Publishing and Outreach (CPO)
Neil Harrison is PCI's Mission Development Officer.