Writing Content for Congregations

The written communication of your congregation has great potential to bless members, newcomers, and the community. Your congregation has unique stories of the love and care of God. It is worth your while to evaluate and tweak current church content and write new materials. Doing so will help people grow together in becoming more like Christ.


Your congregation’s written communications have great potential to bless members, newcomers, and the community. Your congregation has unique stories of God’s love and care. That’s why it’s worth your while to evaluate and tweak current church content and write new materials. Doing so will help people grow together in becoming more like Christ.

Key Insights

1. Ask who, what, and why before you ask how and when. who is the audience of your written communication? What do you hope they know, feel, or do after reading it? Now explore whether your delivery strategy is working.

2. See your congregation’s print and online content through others’ eyes. Ask friends who don’t know your church to skim your bulletin, newsletter, website, newspaper ad, and outdoor signs—and then have them describe your congregation. Create a simple survey to ask people at church how they learn about what’s going on at church. What kinds of communication would help them participate more deeply in worship or connect better with each other and God?

3. Invite many people into communications team conversations. Shared vision is crucial, so your communications team should include a staff member with decision-making authority. Ask good questions. Listen well. Pray together about what you’re hearing.

4. Build on what God has blessed you with. Weekly bulletins and monthly newsletters work well in many churches. Some congregations are heavy into texting and social media. But if you have lots of people who don’t read well, you might try asking everyone to bring their calendars to church each time they come. Or hand out preprinted weekly or monthly calendars to post on refrigerators or use as Bible bookmarks.

Publications

The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style: Updated and Expanded (Zondervan, 2004)
by Robert Hudson
This guide is a great help when you wonder which religious terms to capitalize or you want to root out religious jargon that many people don’t understand.

The Mercifully Brief, Real World Guide to... Raising More Money With Newsletters Than You Ever Thought Possible (Emerson & Church, 2005)
by Tom Ahern
Even though fundraising isn't your congregation's main purpose, this book deserves your attention. Its clear advice will help you write newsletters that inform and inspire your congregation.

Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony  (Alban Institute, 2005)
by Lillian Daniel
Read this for ideas on what to ask before you niterview someone whosestory will be shared in your church newsletter or on your website.

Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication (CreateSpace, 2001)
by Tim Schraeder
More than 60 church communications experts contributed to this book. They explain how to use the web and new media to connect people to the gospel message.

Less Clutter. Less Noise.: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake Sales (thirty: one press, 2009)
by Kem Meyer
Kem Meyer, communications director at Granger Community Church in Indiana, zeroes in on how churches can communicate clearly and simply.

Reaching Out in a Networked World: Expressing Your Congregation's Heart and Soul  (Alban Institute, 2008)
by Lynne M. Baab
Baab draws on her experience as an editor, pastor, and professor to help church communicators shift from only words to words and images. This book includes an excellent communications audit template.

 

Web Resources

Your Church’s Digital Front Door: Choosing your online presence
This feature story about church website findings may surprise you.

Theological Reflection a Key to Worship Renewal
This feature story shows how asking good questions helps congregations move worship forward.

Connect Community Service and Corporate Worship
You’ll communicate the gospel even better when you include worship in church-based community outreach and include community service in congregational worship.

Working with Your Local Media
Download or listen online to this Worship Symposium session on how to connect with local reporters who can spread your church’s mission and service to a wider audience.

Church & Web Communication
This site includes practical resources, blog posts, and a friendly forum where you can ask questions and share experiences with others who work or volunteer in church communications.

Tips for Preparing the Church Bulletin
Trust us. It’s a lot more fun to read someone else’s church bulletin bloopers than your own.

Tips for Producing a Good Story
This basic advice for volunteer citizen reporters also applies to writing content for congregations.

Lillian Daniel on Pastors Writing Badly
Are you a pastor who dreads writing for your church newsletter? Check out this essay and heartfelt comments.

Snappy Writing: Five tips for your church website
This helpful article includes links to examples of good church websites.

Dealing with Fear in Church Life
Changing the ways that churches communicate (or worship stirs up) fear. This feature story shows how several congregations overcame fear and changed in healthy ways.

Dare to Ask a Beautiful Question
Perhaps your church messages aren’t reaching the people you long to reach. In this feature story, pastors share how asking better questions and giving away power helped their churches experience more unity in Christ’s body.

Understanding Differences in Bible Translations
A surprising portion of North American adults don’t read well, which means they don’t always understand the Bible translations used in church worship and congregational life.

Swee Hong Lim on Asian Christian Worship Practices
Reading this Q&A may inspire you to interview someone in your church or community about Christian worship practices in another culture.

From Blogs to Tweets: Wise Use of Social Networking Technology in Your Worship Community
Download or listen online to this Worship Symposium session on how churches are using social media to strengthen ties among members and reach new people.

50 Ways to Communicate Effectively
Download this four-page pdf as a blueprint for how to start improving church communications in your setting.

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