How to Stay Connected to Your Congregation

How to Stay Connected to Your Congregation

Leading up to the end of 2020, many pastors, church leaders, and ministry department heads were reporting the same discouraging findings.

We’re having a hard time staying connecting with people.

People aren’t signing up to serve, attending online services, and seem to have disappeared.

We just don’t know how to help people connect with the church in this strange time.

And church attendees sing similar tunes, mentioning “Zoom fatigue” and feeling isolated from their church family.

So, how can churches re-connect with their members after a period when many fell out of the holy habit of churchgoing? What can churches that are at least partially online-only do to help people stay connected in community?

Smaller churches have a leg up in this area. Because of their size, they can more easily gather contact information, notice when people are missing, and make personal visits without using a lot of resources. Many smaller churches are already doing the types of personal contact activities that help people feel more connected.

It’s time for every church to learn from and act as a small church. No matter your church size, here are a few ways for pastors and church leaders to stay connected with their congregations.

#1 – Create spaces for connection.

To help your congregation stay connected with the church is to provide ways for them to stay connected with each other.

Whether your church is meeting online, in-person, or both, something is better than nothing and even the simplest initiative can be a widely-appreciated space for people to fellowship.

Try these ideas:

  • A Zoom Lobby. Set up a Zoom meeting where people can log in and chat “face to face” before and after online services.
  • Facebook Groups or GroupMe groups. These services are free and can create a simple, accessible space for people to connect.
  • Small events for people to look forward to. Events outside of traditional small groups and church services, such as craft night, worship night, toy/coat/food drives, weekly live prayer services, or book discussions, can happen in-person or online and can be run by a layperson.

Church leaders can provide blueprints to help these spaces succeed (activity ideas, discussion questions, etc.) while allowing these connection spaces to be run by members of the congregation. Everything doesn’t have to be led by church staff. Simply creating the space and opening it up for people to connect can be a powerful way to see more engagement in your church. 

#2 – Go old-school.

With all of the emphasis on online connection in 2020, one of the best ways to re-connect with people effectively is to not do it from behind a computer screen.

Bring back the more “old-school” ideas. Your congregation is probably so used to Zoom calls, emails, and social media everything that it would be a welcome change of pace and a touching surprise.

Try mailing or dropping off special packages. We heard about one church mailing scavenger hunt kits for kids. You can create Sunday School bags or Advent boxes for kids or adults. Send a personalized card that includes instructions for how to share prayer requests. One Church Fuel member said that their church’s Christmas card ministry was booming and people really appreciated it more than ever.

If you’ve sworn off the old church directory or church cookbook, it might be time to bring them back or update them. Making contact information available makes it easy for people to reach out and check on each other. You can even make them more modern by including social media handles.

Sharing a recipe can be a nostalgic experience that not only gives people a tangible thing to connect over, but makes great memories that are tied to the church community. And both of these ideas (creating a church directing and compiling a church cookbook) can be done digitally.

Or as Stephen Brewster, a creative leader experienced in the music industry and church leadership, said on a recent episode of our podcast, take the time to call volunteers and donors just to say Merry Christmas. Or ask how their summer went.

A phone call or snail mail might seem like outdated ways to reach out to an actively online congregation, but they’re effective ways to make people feel seen, loved, and connected.

#3 – Keep it simple and personal.

When you think about staying connected to your congregation, you might assume that you need to set up a fully-staffed online campus, hire a Social Media Director, or start 50 small groups around special interests.

Those are all great things. However, some of the best ways to connect with people are also the simplest.

A quick text message or a one-sentence email (“How can I pray for you today?”) gets the job done.

Consider sending a survey with a few straightforward questions to find out how people are doing and make a plan to follow up with them.

Ask a few members to share stories in service of how they’re handling the current season or how they’ve stayed connected at the church (these can even be pre-recorded and shown virtually).

If you’re feeling disconnected from your congregation and wanting to help people remain strong in their ties to church community, give these tips a try. Your efforts don’t have to be fancy, expensive, or even managed by staff, but they can make a big impact for creating connection in your church.

Take the Next Step

We have pre-written emails that will help you communicate with clarity, care, and concern and offer the hope and consistency that people need in these uncertain times.

Our free 12 Emails to Send Your Church resource includes twelve prewritten emails to help you save time and communicate well.

You can serve through communicating and these emails can help you get started.

Free Download

12 Emails to Send Your Church
 

How To Rebuild Unity In Your Church After 2020

How To Rebuild Unity In Your Church After 2020

People aren’t offended by Christ. They’re offended by Christians. 

Too often, it’s Christians offending fellow Christians within your church, feeding into the self-segregating nature of modern Christianity when it’s left on auto-pilot. People in the church aren’t just drifting their gaze inward, but they’re creating their own little subdivisions and cliques within the church walls.  

One group prefers contemporary worship music while another only wants to worship with traditional hymns, so you start doing two different services in order to steady the waters. 

Using separation as a band-aid instead of unity as a salve. 

One generation wants to keep doing small groups on Zoom while the other is itching to meet in person, so you silently allow both to continue on. 

Yet again, using separation as a band-aid instead of unity as a salve.  

Before this past year, church leaders have been able to keep the quiet rumblings of disunity among your own congregation at bay… And then 2020 made things more divisive, more binary, more confrontational, and more political than ever.  

People built the walls that separated neighbor from neighbor even higher and made them even thicker. Gossip became malice and tension became explosive both outside and inside the church.

Whether you were a part of the wall building or misspeaking is beside the point. We all watched it happen throughout the year. 

So, how can you rebuild unity in your church after a year like 2020? 

It is entirely possible to do so. It’s going to take grit and grace from you as a leader but is possible. 

To “reunite” your church in 2020, you need to unify everyone around a common purpose.

For each individual to turn their eyes from inward to outward, beyond themselves and their preferences, lead your church in fixing its collective eyes outward. 

Not in a traditional, “there are people out there who need our help and need our Savior,” way, but in actionable ways that bring our Savior to the very people who are currently not a part of your church or God’s kingdom at all. 

Give people the opportunity to show the surrounding community who Christ is—together. Create the space for members of your church to come out from behind flagrant Facebook posts, to disassemble the walls of division, link arms, and look outward as one unified body. 

Leading your church to adopt an outsider-first approach is a great step toward rebuilding unity. It looks different in all churches, but for your church, it could mean…

  • You are intentionally designing your church services with outsiders in mind and calls to invite outsiders in mind.
  • You offer programs and ministries to meet the real needs of your community that require volunteers to get involved.
  • You are shifting resources from programs inside the church to supporting programs and organizations that serve your community without being a part of your church
  • You are constantly reminding current members of your church that it’s the people who are NOT in attendance that need your church to be united
  • You deploy programming that requires people already connected to your church to connect with each other.
  • You forgo your traditional church events and repurpose that time to shed light on organizations meeting current needs in the community that need volunteers.

In 2021, rebuilding unity in your church is not about growing your church. If it grows in the process, that’s a great benefit. But rebuilding unity is about leading your church in becoming more like Christ. 

Become the church known for being unified and seeking unity in 2021.

Become a church where the people who are already in attendance come together as one and first-time visitors feel welcomed enough to join in. Be one body with many beautiful members, not a fractured group.

Romans 8:14-15 reminds us that “All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children.” 

God’s sons and daughters. 

Adopted as His children. 

Siblings bicker and fight from time to time. Relationships are messy no matter how similar or dissimilar our blood is to one another. But being a family, being sons and daughters, demands that we lay aside our preferences, and choose to stand united. 

Try leading your church in treating outsiders like family and they’ll start treating each other like family along the way. 

Take the Next Step

For help creating a comprehensive and strategic approach to creating unity among your colleagues, your congregation, and your community, check out the FOR Starter Kit

The FOR Starter Kit gives you a complete roadmap to truly impacting your congregation and ultimately the community, and creating unity across the board. Don’t just throw ideas and vision at the wall and pray something sticks. Get the FOR Starter Kit and let it be your guide to building unity within your church and in your surrounding community. 

16 Book Recommendations for Pastors to Read in 2021

16 Book Recommendations for Pastors to Read in 2021

Whether you are able to fully open your church doors or not is completely out of your control. The number of digital viewers you can garner and members that will fully engage in the life of your church online will continue to vary. 

In the day-to-day activities of running and leading your church, physically and digitally, most things are out of your hands. Outcomes and results continue to remind you of how not in control you are. 

But you can control how much you invest in your own foundational education by reading various books throughout the year. 

As education and learning have evolved throughout history, books have stood the test of time. Fewer things do a better job of convicting you, teaching you more about yourself, and shifting your once stubborn perspective quite like the right book read at the right time. 

Coming out of a year as chaotic as 2020, there’s likely a lot of anxiety to settle, trauma to unpack, and practical leadership guidance needed to lead your church well in 2021. We compiled a list of books we believe will prepare your heart and inform how you strategize in the year ahead. 

Each text spans different topics, subject matter, tone, and author background which is intentional on our part. 

And each book will provoke you toward new actions, fresh strategy, and create a solid ground to stand upon as you lead your church in the new year.   

#1 – When Breath Becomes Air 

Author Paul Kalanithi writes a deeply inspiring and shockingly honest memoir that attempts to answer the question, “What is a life worth living?” 

He writes the entire book in the face of his own mortality as he suffers from stage IV lung cancer. Confronted with death he pens a beautiful reflection on the value of life. 

This book will remind you of your own humanity and the fragility of life itself. It will point you to the very giver of life and breath, and as a personal writer’s note, it will make sure you hug your spouse extra tight. 

#2 – God and the Pandemic 

You may want to escape the global pandemic and you’re likely suffering from “COVID Fatigue” along with everyone else. 

But as a leader of the church, it’s necessary to formulate responses to this global health crisis and its aftermath. 

Classically gentle yet firm, N.T. Wright sheds light on Scripture and how it guides our thinking on what this pandemic means, what God has to say about it, and how we can recover moving forward. 

In less than 80 pages, this book will reveal exactly how Jesus would speak into this situation, its consequences, and its implications. 

Read this book and you’ll be as Peter and John were to the Romans.

“Surely they have been with Christ.” 

#3 – Start With Why

Third most popular TED Talk of all time? 

There’s a reason for that and it’s backed up by one of Simon Sinke’s original works, Start With Why

Throughout the book, Sinek investigates how certain organizations and historical figures, though entirely unrelated, are more influential, more profitable, and more successful than others.

As the title foreshadows, it all starts with “why” and every principle in this book can be applied to how you lead your church. 

Staff members, volunteers, and your congregation will not buy into any direction, vision, or message unless they understand the “why” behind it. 

Make that idea a guiding principle in your leadership this year by reading this book. 

#4 – Dream Big

When you’re a kid, you dream big. But somewhere along the way, fear tends to take the wheel. 

Bob Goff’s third literary installment will remove fear from the driver’s seat and put you back into the driver’s seat. 

As a pastor, you have big, beautiful ambitions for your church. 2021 is the year that those ambitions finally come to life. 

Based on his wildly popular (and successful) Dream Big Workshops, Bob will walk you through a life-proven framework with practical steps that will turn the biggest dreams you have for your church into a reality for you and your community.  

No more hiding your own dreams from yourself. This book can alter the course of your life and your church for the good of the Kingdom!

#5 – Seeing Jesus From The East

The late Ravi Zacharias did so much to bring the powerful message of Christ into the complex conversations of apologetics, world religions, and geopolitics. 

Seeing Jesus From the East is one of his faster reads, but that doesn’t vandalize the integrity of the message. 

Living in the western world, it’s easy to forget—even as a pastor—the Eastern roots of Jesus. To fix your eyes on Jesus is, in reality, to fix your gaze to the East. 

This book will undoubtedly freshen your perspective on the parables you have shared for years and round your approach to the Scriptures as a whole. You’ll have no choice but to remember not just who Jesus is, but where He is from.

#6 – Atomic Habits

Do you think pursuing your New Year’s Resolutions will go differently this year? 

It’s okay to admit that they won’t. 

With Atomic Habits, Author and blogger James Clear will take your eyes off of goals and set them on daily habits that can create massive improvements in your life. 

As one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, Clear reveals practical strategies that will teach you how to break bad habits, form good ones, and master the little behaviors that create astronomical results. 

Instead of setting yourself up for failure with lofty goals and unfair expectations, spend 2021 making tiny 1% improvements each day that lead to your ultimate success. 

You and your church will be better off!

#7 – Necessary Endings 

Sometimes life demands that progress stems from ending things instead of starting them. 

Put a clear stop to relationships, activities, and personal perceptions that stunt the very growth in your church that you’re trying to foster. 

Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Necessary Endings will challenge you to achieve the personal and professional growth your heart desires by following through with the tough decisions. 

Decisions you don’t want to make and that scare the daylights out of you.  

To not put an end to the right things could put an end to your church. Read this book and put its guidance into action. 

#8 – Deep Work

Imagine a workday completely free of any distractions from social media, email, and random interruptions. 

Cal Newport’s book gives you the tools you need to live in a distraction-free world where you execute deep work day in and day out. If Atomic Habits is an appetizer, Deep Work is the main course.

It’s easy to feel like your life and therefore your work is dictated by distractions. Your screen is bombarded with advertisements and click-bait. 

The intense regimen and call to deep work in this book will ensure that your days are full of productive work that has a deep impact on the world around you. 

Read this book to make 2021 the year of influencing your surroundings instead of another year of letting your surroundings influence you. 

#9 – Loonshots

If you’re tired of team dynamics within your church stifling the growth of your church or the execution of plans, then this is the book for you. 

In Loonshots, Safi Bachal explores and explains the science of phase transitions and how it causes groups of people to suddenly reject what they previously embraced. 

Using an engaging and witty narrative, Bachal is able to unveil the behaviors that cause teams of people to change their behavior and derail an organization’s mission in the process. 

There are structures you can put in place within your own church that will keep everybody aligned on the same mission and this book will teach you how to do that. 

#10 – Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry 

If you have felt the desperate need to slow down over the past 9 months, you are not alone. 

Actually, if you have felt the need to slow down at all over the past 10 years, you are not alone. The evolving digital world can easily make you feel surrounded by damage and destruction. 

And that causes you to hurry from problem to problem, achievement to achievement. 

This is the pain and the problem John Mark Comer address in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Instead of using illusive inspiration as a bandaid for exhaustion, Comer uses sound truth as a salve for your wounds. 

In this book, he reminds you who you are meant to be and provides the roadmap you need to stay emotionally and spiritually healthy in our increasingly chaotic world. 

#11 – Tattoos On The Heart

It’s unfortunate that the past few years have politicized the phrase “lead with compassion.”

Because empathy and compassion are not political characteristics. They’re gospel characteristics. 

Gregory Boyle’s book Tattoos On The Heart serves as a joyful reminder of what God’s compassion looks like when played out here on earth. 

If you want to laugh and cry in one sitting, we cannot recommend this book enough. It’s not exactly Boyle’s compassion that will compel you to lead in the same way, but the stories he shares. 

#12 – The Freedom Of Self Forgetfulness

Everything in our world today makes it seem acceptable to connect every experience and every conversation to ourselves. 

In this super short (49 pages) pamphlet, Timothy Keller shatters right through that very idea. Keller argues that a heart supernaturally changed by God is neither self-hating nor self-loving. 

It is radiantly self-forgetful. 

Drawing from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, this short pamphlet will rock your world and the way you perceive yourself in it. 

If you want the gift of rest in 2021, first give yourself the gift of self-forgetfulness. 

#13 – Liturgy of Politics

Turn on any TV or open any social media feed and you’ll hear or read about the political division in our country. 

Your church has a role to play in the reconciliation and unification that God has in store for the coming years. 

Kaitlyn Schiess’ book Liturgy of Politics offers practical guidance on how to navigate the choppy waters where church and state collide.

Throughout the book, Schiess’ makes you aware of how your church’s politics are often shaped by practices and habits that you’re not even aware of. 

This book will make you aware of the political forces surrounding your church and offers historical Christian context to shape the conversation moving forward. 

#14 – Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes The Church

It’s no secret that in general, our houses of prayer have become houses of programs. 

In his thought-provoking and convicting book, John Onwuchekwa reminds you that prayer is as necessary to the Christian, and therefore the church, as breath is to the human body.

Prayer is often encouraged in the personal lives of congregants but less often practiced in the local church. 

This one book can turn prayer into the very lifeblood of your church and how your community comes together in 2021. 

#15 – Gilead

You are divinely wired for story, so we couldn’t make a whole list without including a few fiction stories. 

Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead is the type of captivating story that will move you to tears and to dancing all at once. 

She elegantly tells the story of America, our America, through an intimate tale of three generations of fathers and sons. The characters are wrestling with the spiritual battles and changing of times that still rage against us today. 

Read this book for a narrative that will fill any void you have felt throughout this year of discourse. 

#16 – Let The Trumpet Sound

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is often reduced to a handful of quotes on the third Monday in January. This pastor, author, and leader had a complicated life that left a lasting impact on our world. 

In this authorized biography, Stephen B. Oates examines the whole man and challenges you to see our current challenges in a new light.

Biographies are always a good way of altering the way we allow the past, and past figures, to shape our outlook on the present. 

Let this heavily researched book on one of America’s heroes deeply inform and even challenge the way you view the varying tensions in our world today. 

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to start your own personal library, this may be your launching pad. 

Read one or a collection of any of these books and witness God move in and through you in ways you’ve never expected.

Take the Next Step

The Pastor's Book Club brings pastors and church leaders notes, summaries, and action steps from the best business and leadership books.

Ministry insights can come from anywhere, and business books are an untapped source of wisdom.

Pastors and church leaders are often well versed in Bible study, theology, and ministry, but are ill-equipped to lead an organization. That’s why The Pastor’s Book Club focuses on bringing the best ministry insights from world-class business leaders.  

How to Get Online Christmas Guests Connected in Your Church

How to Get Online Christmas Guests Connected in Your Church

Every year, we see more people come through the church doors for special occasions like Christmas. We get excited about the increased attendance and start looking forward to watching more people come to know Christ, step up to volunteer, and maybe even start giving.

But wait…where’d they go?

Those Christmas service guests can come and go before anyone has the chance to connect with them. They easily get lost in the in-person crowd and or in the corners of the internet when they watch online.

And for Christmas 2020, getting people connected to your church will be even more challenging as many people opt to attend online-only. 

But with some frontend preparation, there are ways to keep online Christmas guests from falling through the cracks.

#1 – Offer multiple methods

As the barrage of available personality tests shows us, people are incredibly unique in their preferences for communication and activity.

First, provide multiple ways for people to identify themselves. This can be through interaction in the livestream chat, a digital or physical connection card, a “Plan A Visit” page on the church website, etc. You can’t connect with people without first knowing that they’re watching or visiting.

To make sure that people get connected to your church no matter what their preferences are, make sure they’re able to find a way that works for them. Some people would love to receive a phone call from a church volunteer, while others might want to text to connect.

A “text to connect” option can even happen during services. Use a service, such as Text in Church, to allow people to send their contact information through text.

While some people might be willing to fill out a physical connection card and take it to a connection team volunteer face-to-face, there are many others who are much more likely to fill out a digital connection card that they can find on the church website or that shows up in their email. And the digital connection card doesn’t have to be fancy—a simple Google Form, CCB form, or any other digital form will do.

Just remember to emphasize methods of connection where people won’t get lost and fade into the church’s list of followers. “Connect with us on social media!” isn’t as effective as getting their email address or phone number.

#2 – Create a clear next step

The core question to ask when planning your follow-up process is: What are you asking guests to DO? (You can use our free Follow-Up Checklist to evaluate your process.)

Free Download

The Follow-Up Checklist
 
Perhaps there’s a next step option before their next step, such as a Facebook Group they can engage in before taking the leap of joining a small group. Have someone in the Facebook Group who is in charge of helping people move along in the process and usher them into the next step of joining a small group, meeting someone to connect over coffee, attending a Bible study, etc. This is a great role for a volunteer.

Sometimes people get connected to churches through things that aren’t connected to the church much at all. Their next step could be participating in a community outreach initiative or even a cooking class that the church is organizing. Ask people to do something for the community or in community, instead of just for the church. This is a more comfortable, low-stakes way of getting connected for some.

Another way to help people get connected that’s low pressure is to plan “demo-like” communications. This could be an email with a video introduction from the pastor that shares a little about the church or a webinar/Zoom meeting with a time for Q&A.

And of course, there’s always the option that’s popular in churches—adding them to the weekly newsletter. This isn’t a bad next step, but make sure the newsletter is new people-friendly first. Remove insider language that a new person wouldn’t understand and make sure the newsletter includes upcoming events and other opportunities that can be the next steps for them.

#3 – Nurture them

Businesses understand that people need to be nurtured before they “buy in.” So, they send helpful articles related to their industry, give away free samples, and consistently send follow-up emails to remind (and educate) potential customers of the products they were interested in.

While churches are not businesses, churches can borrow from this principle and use “nurture campaigns” to help people get connected.

A well-planned follow-up process makes sure that connections happen and keeps first-time guests, new believers, new givers, etc. from falling through the cracks. (Church Fuel members, check out the follow-up email templates in The Follow-Up Course and Resource Library.)

When you design a follow-up process for your church, consider point #2 again and begin with the end in mind. What is the ultimate action you want people to take?

Next, ask: What can we do to help them get there in the meantime?

To take another relevant cue from the business world, send people helpful content. Find out what people need (asking questions is how we get to know people, after all) and create resources that help fill that need.

When they answer your question (in service, through a Facebook ad, etc.), request their contact information to send them a resource on the topic. In the business world, these are called lead magnets.

For example, a church could use providing resources as a part of their nurture/follow-up process. If you ask, “What is your biggest spiritual need?” and someone chooses the answer, “I don’t know where to start with the Bible,” send them a Bible reading guide or devotional that your church put together.

Many people in your area might be struggling with job loss. Send career resources and let them know that a team of people are praying for them.

The parents watching your church online might feel like they’re running out of ways to involve their children in faith practices or just ideas to entertain them. Create and send a Bible exercises ebook for children or a list of fun, family-friendly community activities.

Sending people helpful resources nurtures their relationship with the church. People will engage with this casual support from the church long before they’ll consider becoming a member, volunteering, or even joining a small group.

Nurturing online guests or potential guests (whether before or after you have their contact information) helps connect people to God through being spiritually nurtured with resources and prayer, to other believers, and to their gifts—making them more motivated to get connected to the church and start serving God.

To learn more, listen to Season 2 of The Church Fuel Podcast where we covered how to reach people online. Start with these two episodes:

Take the Next Step

Tired of people falling through the cracks in your church? The Follow-Up Course provides you with the tools and templates you need to follow up effectively.

This insanely practical course will help you create, improve, and launch effective follow-up processes to get guests, givers, and new believers connected in your church.

How to Make a Pandemic-Proof Church Calendar for 2021

How to Make a Pandemic-Proof Church Calendar for 2021

After the year we’ve had, it’s reasonable to want to approach 2021 with caution.

How can we make a plan for the church in 2021 when we couldn’t plan for 2020?

Isn’t it silly to have a ministry plan now that we see how quickly it can be uprooted?

Although planning might seem futile, it’s more important than ever.

And the best way to make plans real and set them into motion is to get them on the calendar.

The church calendar is one of the most vital but underutilized tools. It helps ideas become reality and turns the things we should do into the things we’re doing.

We couldn’t plan for the way this year turned out. But next year’s ministry plans don’t have to be dampened by this year’s chaos.

There are many meaningful things that should be represented on the church calendar that matter in every season and should happen no matter what. They can be done whether services and events are in-person or virtual. They’re things that 2020 made us realize how significant they are.

#1 – Make a big deal about digital, recurring giving.

When most church doors closed and the offering plate couldn’t be passed on Sundays, it became clear that offering digital giving options is crucial.

Even in 2017, 62% of churchgoers preferred giving electronically, according to a study by Vanco Payment Solutions. And in 2018, churches that started accepting donations online saw a 32% increase in overall donations.

And donors who give digitally often set up recurring gifts and those recurring givers donate 42% more than one-time donors.

With so many positive trends with online donations and recurring gifts, it needs a place on the church calendar.

Whenever you plan to preach about money throughout the year, set specific dates to emphasize online, recurring giving. Tell people why it matters and how it helps the church make plans wisely.

Whether it’s a one-weekend message push or an email campaign that spans throughout a month, have a plan on the calendar to talk about giving (not just money) and highlight ways to give online.

Mark which Sundays will include a plug for online, recurring giving. Set aside special days during specific months to send emails to donors. Plan a strategic, unique message for your most active donors and establish which day those text messages or emails will go out.

If talking about money in church makes you nervous, check out The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Stewardship. It’s a free ebook that helps you create a strategy for encouraging people to give, thanking existing donors, and guiding your church to financial breakthrough.

#2 – Plan content beyond preaching topics.

Having a preaching plan is great, but creating a content plan has an even greater impact.

While you’re planning sermons and other teaching topics, plan to pull content from that to share in emails and on social media. If print-outs are your thing, plan to put a devotional booklet together or mail sermon notes to church members who can’t attend in-person.

If there’s still virtual teaching happening, give it more reach by using short video or audio clips for social media posts. You can even have guest preachers send in their sermon videos along with a short introduction clip to share the week before their assigned Sunday. (Bobby Williams, our Community Director, filmed sermon videos for a few Church Fuel members during the pandemic to give the pastors a break.)

No matter how you decide to use the content, assigning real dates on the calendar helps to make sure it happens.

Plan ahead for not just the topics you’ll preach on, but for when you’ll put out content that will help people.

  • How many times per week can you share clips from the sermon to encourage people on social media and which days will you post them?
  • Are there topics on the preaching calendar that would make a great Q&A session or webinar to dig deeper into it and connect with people?
  • Can you create content especially for a certain time of year, such as an advent calendar, a back to school prayer guide, or a summer devotional for vacationing families?

None of these ideas have to be given out in person, but all of them can be powerful resources for people in your church—as long as they’re on the calendar.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, look for the Preaching Calendar in the Resource Library. It’s a template that helps you plan sermons for the year and additional details for each service.

#3 – Give important small events the calendar space they deserve.

The months go by so fast that before we know it, the volunteer appreciation event we “should have” becomes the volunteer appreciation event we “should have had.”

Maybe it became more clear to you in 2020 that the small things, such as volunteer recruitment breakfasts and digital strategy team meetings, are a big deal even though they’re not big days.

While Easter and Christmas are incredibly momentous dates on the church calendar, don’t just plan for the big days. Those small, everyday things make a substantial difference in the church culture and impact people in their daily lives.

Choose people over projects and set aside dates for the small but mighty events that push ministry forward, encourage people, and serve the community.

For example, is it a part of your mission to get more involved with local organizations this year? Add a special Sunday to the calendar that’s dedicated to highlighting the cause or calling for volunteers. Set a deadline for making decisions (“We’ll select an organization to partner with by -this date- and we’ll share about it on social media during -this week-”).

Choose a week for a staff or volunteer retreat to recharge with and show appreciation for your team. If you’ve thought, “It’d be nice to have a parents night out event where we watch children at the church so parents can have a date night…” put that date on the calendar and start planning for it.

More important than the big, in-person events that churches may or may not be able to have in 2021 are the small, culture-shaping events that matter more than we know.

Take the Next Step

Without a clear strategy, everything seems like an opportunity or an obligation and it’s easy to lose sight of what matters. To truly reach your community and see sustainable growth in your church, you need a simple but effective plan.

In the Building Your Ministry Plan course, we walk you through each step and help you clarify what matters. The result will be a strategic plan that everyone can support.