Jim Naughton and Rebecca Wilson’s “Speaking Faithfully” fully lays out how to communicate effectively. TL;DR? Don’t start at “we need a website.” Start at what you want to say to whom.
The first couple chapters of this book were part of the required reading for the “Digital Media for Ministers” course at Virginia Theological Seminary, taught by Kyle Oliver. If the class was more than a week long, I’d say to include the entire book.
This one is by Episcopalians. It’s really written for a mainline audience, which means it’ll feel much more comfortable to many Quakers than a lot of other books out there about church outreach.
It starts off about the common mistakes made in many churches and meetings. For instance, how many meetings have “the techy” doing their communications, because “you know how to use that internet stuff”? Seriously, this is why I do my meeting’s website and social media. It’s why my predecessors did the website. The difference is, I’ve been doing newcomer stuff in various volunteer organizations for years, so my heart is here. I studied up, including taking that course at VTS mentioned above, before I redid my meeting’s website. But so many meetings are relying on that one person who knows how to write a little HTML but doesn’t know anything about user experience, usability, design, or communications.
The authors speak to the reticence we often feel to sharing our faith. We feel nervous. We don’t know if we’re going to get it right. They discuss how just giving classes doesn’t really help people feel more confident. Quaker Quest’s “practice talking about your faith experience” advice is spot-on, from what they found.
Then the book tells you how to do it right. As you read this book, you’ll develop a full-fledged communications plan for your meeting. When I wrote a post here about advertising and audience, I was absolutely pulling from what I learned here. The chart it has you fill in as you read (and it provides a finished example on page 75) will be very helpful in all your outreach endeavors.
There’s a chapter in here on digital media, which of course comes after audience and message. What are the essential parts of your website? It rightly points out that the people are on social media, and you want to be where the people are, as Ariel sang in the movie.
Then there are two chapters on traditional media. One of those focuses on print and how to make use of it. The other is about talking to the media. You’ll learn how to be wise about your resources ($) for advertising and how to craft a press release reporters are actually interested in. “Church meets on Sunday” isn’t one.
Finally, there’s a chapter on crisis communications. There are good odds your meeting has no plan for this. That should probably change.
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