How to Communicate the Launch of a New Church, Part 2
Many church leaders could write out a list of tasks and priorities for launching a new site. More challenging is having an effective communication plan and solid timeline for sharing the vision, building the team, and creating anticipation that leads up to the launch.
What steps are most important to start with? How much time do you need, from start to finish, to build a core group and launch a new site? When is the right time to ask people to make a commitment? What should we be doing to get the word out?
All of these are critical questions that need to be answered in order to effectively communicate the launch of your new church.
In Part 1 of “How to Communicate the Launch of a New Church,” I identify key lessons churches can learn from Chick-fil-A’s success as a “multisite” business. Here I will focus on the three essential phases of communicating the launch of a new church.
Discover the best practices of the church multisite model, including when and where to expand and how to teach across campuses.
Phase 1: Internal Vision and Information
Help Them See What You See
Before you get into the what or the how for launching a new site, you have to start with the mission and the “why.” Casting vision is critical in laying the groundwork for any new project, especially a new site.
This phase of casting vision to your team and your current congregation should last for months. Much more than announcing on one particular Sunday, use every service as an opportunity, in big and small ways, to connect people to your vision.
One pitfall leaders can fall into is getting too far in front of everyone else. You’ve been pondering and praying about things for so long, and in a burst of excitement you share the vision publicly for the first time, only to be met with half-hearted excitement.
Key staff members may need some time to get up-to-speed, to see what you see. This is even truer for the average congregation member who may just be hearing about this idea of a new location for the first time.
When people know the why and they feel invested in the mission and the calling just like the lead pastor, the campus pastor, or others on staff, they will be willing to jump in and give sacrificially, serve sacrificially—to invite their friends and neighbors. But they have to be brought along with the mission and the vision.
Before you even get into what you want people to do, help them see what you see. And that takes time.
Phase 2: Internal Commitment
Create Action Steps
After investing time in sharing your mission, take the vision and start creating action steps. In this phase, begin asking everyone to pray and consider what their part is in the launch.
While continuing to communicate the mission and the “why,” begin giving more concrete information. Hold preview meetings, have a Q&A session, and ask people to get specific in how they will be involved throughout the remaining phases and launch.
- Ask people to make specific commitments. Resist the temptation for general agreement and lead people through a specific moment of commitment.
- Commision those who are going and those who are staying. You are sending people out to start something new. Bless them and send them out to do the work. What about those who are staying? Create an understanding that as leaders leave to launch a new site, new leaders are needed to step up, recommit here and serve, give, and invite more.
Phase 3: Community Building and Promotion
Build a Drumbeat of Communication
This phase is all about the committed and commissioned group heading out to launch the new site. Planning, training, and preparing is the focal point from here until opening day.
Rallying the core group and the community you are going into will take a lot of communication, so make sure you are looking at all the tools and strategies you have at hand to create a constant drumbeat of communication.
- What stories are you telling? Online, through your blog, by video? What messages and methods will be most effective in this specific context?
- How are you empowering people to make personal invitations? To reach neighbors, friends, and coworkers, use yard signs, t-shirts, traditional media, or practically anything someone can wear or use in the community.
- What are you doing online? Create social media campaigns that people can share and create buzz and anticipation as you move toward launch. What Facebook ads or other advertising are you using? Is your website up-to-date and speaking to those who don’t know about you?
- What is unique about this community? Every community is different. How you launch one site and what you do to create a buzz in one community will be different from what you do in another community. Go back to your targeted audiences: Who are they? What do they need? Create tactics that really connect.
In this final stage, timing is huge. There are obvious times when we know people are more interested or receptive to messages that a church has to offer (Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, etc.) Set up the greatest opportunity for success by getting creative with these unique times of the year.
As you move past launch, pay attention to social media analytics. Seek out evaluation through quick email surveys or interviews. Listen to stories from staff, guests, and the congregation. As you begin to evaluate all of this information, be flexible and nimble. Try not to panic when you hear one piece of hard feedback, but to really pray and ponder what you can do as you're hearing stories, as you're watching the data, and strive to make adjustments.
Do Less, Gain More
As you consider these three phases, it is very easy to want to do it all. Custom website, Facebook ads, billboards, yard signs, t-shirts, flash mobs...all of it! An important question to ask yourself is:
“What can we execute with excellence?”
If you have a smaller team or fewer resources, choose to do less with greater excellence as opposed to spreading yourself too thin. In doing fewer things well, you are more likely to have a bigger impact. You can always expand your strategy and grow your efforts as your team or your volunteer base grows.
About Leah Norton
Leah Norton serves as Director of Client Strategy & Partner at Fishhook, an Indianapolis-based communications agency that collaborates with churches. Her best days at Fishhook are partnering with church leaders to help a church or ministry brand and cast vision, build an engaging online presence, connect with guests and others in the community, and clearly communicate so that more people will take next steps to grow in their faith. Leah’s 20-year communications career has included both corporate communications and public relations agency work. She has been helping to grow and lead the team at Fishhook for the past 12 years. An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, Leah is a graduate of Anderson University (Anderson, IN). She and her family are active at Northview Church where they helped to launch and serve at Northview’s fifth campus on the northeast side of Indianapolis. They serve each week by helping with set up, guest services, and social media for this location.