When I first started working my for my church, I was given a pretty big head start. Before I even showed up on campus, our communications minister, Steve Smith, had already written a digital strategy. It was a solid strategy with plans for social media and online resources. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.

The Two Most Important Essentials of a Digital Strategy

At first, I assessed our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. I drew up a content calendar and begin to get content flowing. However, despite some immediate success, I knew that we were missing something big.

Then it hit me…

I soon realized that by focusing all of our efforts on social media, we were forgetting the two most essential parts of a digital strategy. It wasn’t intentional, but we were ignoring the two essentials that should be the cornerstone of every church’s digital strategy.

Today, I want to walk through these two essentials and why they should be the main focus of your digital strategy. My hope is that you focus on these first, and then grow your strategy around these essentials. Here are the two most important essentials to your church’s digital strategy:

Your Website

Your website. That’s right your website. Now why is your website an essential part of your church’s digital strategy? Well, first let’s think about your church website in terms of what you control.

Do you have 100% control the look and feel?

Do you have 100% control of the content?

Can anyone at anytime search Google to get to your website?
Yes, assuming it’s SEO friendly.

Can you decide what get’s top billing in terms of promotion?

Now, let’s contrast that to social media…

Do you have 100% control the look and feel?
Well, not really. You can change some elements, but not the whole thing. (Twitter backgrounds?)

Do you have 100% control of the content?
Again, not really. You post content, but you can’t customize sizes or types of media.

Can anyone at anytime search Google to get to your social media?
Yes, assuming it’s set up correctly and the social network let’s Google search it.

Can you decide what get’s top billing in terms of promotion?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that your content will be getting in people’s news feeds.

As you can tell, in terms of control, your church website comes out on top. Remember, you own your website. Facebook or Twitter can change the way your content is presented or how many people will see it, but your website won’t change unless you direct it to.

Second, your website acts as the home for your content. Your Twitter and Facebook should ultimately drive people your website. The content that goes on social media networks, should be an outflow from the content on your website.

When you adopt the mindset that your website is the home for your content. You begin to see it less as a static place that shows worship times and location, and instead tells stories about the life change that is going on inside your church.

Now this is not an easy mental change to make. In fact, it’s still difficult for us to maintain and keep content consistently appearing on our website. While, we have grand visions for what it could be, we’re constantly checking those ideas against what we can do well.

If you find yourself spending more time on social media than you do on your website, you may need to reassess your digital strategy and take a hard look at your goals. If those goals are shaped around getting people to your church (which they should be), then your strategy needs to focus on your website.

Your Church’s Email List

Email? Isn’t email dead? Don’t most young adults ignore email and just use text messaging and social media to communicate? Why should I invest my time in an outdated piece of communication like email?

Okay, I get it. Email is not exactly the flashiest technology in a world driven by smartphones and social media. However, just like your website, you own your email. More specifically, you own your church’s email list.

As I stated before, social media doesn’t control that you can rely on. So unless, your church’s emails start getting blacklisted by spam filters, email is still one of the consistent, reliable ways to communicate with your church congregation.

Getting the most out of Email

If you’re going to concentrate on using email as an effective communication tool, then there are two things you need to consider. First, you need to think through how to write emails in such a way that there is value for the reader and the subject line is intriguing enough to get people to open the email.

Recently, I recorded an episode of Ask Darrel where I talk through how to write for the web. A lot of the same principles apply here. Without rehashing the entire podcast, when you writing an email for your church, you need to make sure do the following:

  • Provide value to your reader.
  • Engage your reader with unique subject line.
  • Keep the email text short. Use bullet points if possible.
  • Provide a clear call to action.

Second, there’s not point in sending emails unless you measure their effectiveness. If you’re sending email through your church database (i.e. Fellowship One) or through a service like (Mailchimp) you need to make sure your keeping tabs on your open rate (how many people are opening the email), delivery rate (how many emails got the inbox) and click rate (how many people are clicking on the links in the email).

If you’re not using email service like Mailchimp to send email, consider using a service like Mandrill to monitor the three measurements mentioned above.

Making it All Work

I realize that a lot of you control just one aspect of your church’s communication. You may have control over the social media, but your website and email is controlled by another ministry. Currently my team controls all three, so it’s easy for me to see why they should go together.

So what do you do? Well, first if you haven’t done it yet, create a digital strategy. Here’s a post on creating strategy for your social media to get you started..

Second, sit down with people that run your church’s website and email lists and have honest discussion about what the goals of each of those communications channels. You may find that the issue lies in not everyone’s goals being aligned. If you can align everyones goals, then getting all three communication channels to get work together will become much easier.

If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry you don’t need to have all of this figured out. Start small. Create clear goals and craft a strategy to get your church there. If you need more help, just hit me up on Twitter or over here.