Digital Strategy

Find below guidance on topics relating to church digital strategy – a more holistic and long-term approach to digital communications. This section is less practical and skills based, and more focused on the ‘why’ and the aims and objectives behind your approach to digital communications, including long-term planning, and intergrating your online content into the wider mission of your church.

Digital strategy, long-term planning, and being more strategic

This is a complex topic but very relevant as we look to the future.
 
What is a digital strategy?
A communication strategy helps you define whom you’re speaking to, when you’re speaking to them, and how you’re communicating with that audience. Your system creates guidelines that can help you say “no” to good ideas and “yes” to what’s best for your audience. It might just relate to social media, or be more holistic and encompass all communications channels (websites, email, print, etc.). In a church context, in addition to ‘communications’, our strategy might also include long-term planning for digital projects, such as staffing, funding, and equipment upgrades. A strategy for making our online worship, or live stream, sustainable into the future.
 
How do we develop a digital strategy for our church/circuit?
This could cover a range of approaches:
  • Having a strategic purpose (the ‘why’) for each communication channel / social media platform we use
  • Having a policy / social media calendar to be strategic in ‘what’ and ‘when’ we communicate online
  • Having audience personas to be strategic in ‘how’ we communicate
  • Having a long term vision for equipping churches, buying equipment, and digital training
  • Having a plan for how to continue online worship and facilitate live streaming

The below resources aim to help with some of the above. You may want to create a strategy that deals with all of the above questions, or just focuses on a particular one. 

Church Communication Strategy: A Guidebook (PDF from ChurchJuice)
A document to help you create a church communications strategy. Finding your audience and building personas.

Top five tips to develop an effective church digital strategy (CofE article)
An article with five tips for how you  should approach preparing a church digital strategy

How can your church engage different audiences on social media and the web? (CofE article)
Learn how to develop audience insights and tailor different social media posts for different audiences.

Social Media Calendar Template for 2021 (CofE article)
We know it can be daunting thinking about what to post next week, let alone the next few months, but, with a little planning now, the next few weeks and months will be much easier. We’ve taken dates from the Christian calendar, alongside national awareness days, and just-for-fun ideas. Add it to your own calendar alongside local services and campaigns, or use it as a starting block for ideas each month.

Here are some simple tips for being more strategic in our digital communications (particularly social media):

  • When resources are limited and you don’t have a detailed digital church strategy, try to focus on one specific platform (e.g. Facebook or Instagram, but not both) so you don’t spread yourself too thin – it’s best to do one platform well, rather than lots poorly.

 

  • Define your target audience very precisely – it can be tempting to say we want to reach ‘everyone’, but this isn’t possible and waters down our effectiveness. Focus in on excatly who you are trying to reach. Find a niche. See above resources on creating audience personas. This also needs to be tied into your mission planning as a church (see below tab ‘creating a social media strategy’ for more on this) – maybe your focus is reaching local families, or beinging an eco church, or maybe it’s inclusivity, social justice, mental health, etc. Define your demographics – you can’t reach millennials and those who are retired with the same content, you need to pick an audience and taylor your strategy.

 

  • Consider some simple questions: Are you using the right communication channel to reach your audience? How often are you going to post? (and on set days?) Do you have a visual brand (style guide, or simple logo, colours, and fonts for your church) to follow? What content are you going to post? (plan ahead and have a social media calendar)

One of the best places to start when thinking about digital strategy is with looking at your church mission plan. As such, the Mission Planning Toolkit from the Evangelism and Growth Team is a great resource for establishing your strategy for mission and digital in your context.

Here is an extract that is particularly relevant to also writting / thinking about a digital or social media strategy:

Once you’ve spent some time dreaming together, you are likely to have lots of ideas and possibilities that will need sifting. What will your church or circuit focus on as priorities this year? There is no point choosing too many priorities as it will scatter your energies too much. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Consider the four areas of Our Calling—worship, learning and caring, service and evangelism. One priority for each area is fine—and you may choose to focus on just one or two areas this year and to look at the others next year. 

Once you have decided on your priorities you need to decide what you will do to develop each one, who will do it and when. This helps you to keep each other accountable, makes it much more likely things will get done and ensures the work is shared out fairly.

You don’t need to do everything all at once. Some things can be actioned fairly quickly; others take lots of time to plan. You may decide to spread your activities over the next 18 months, for example. It doesn’t matter if your mission plan takes time to implement, as long as you are taking action. 

As well as considering what you will do, you also need to think about what fruit you hope to see. This is likely to take more effort to figure out. We are used to thinking about what we will do as a church. We don’t often think about the difference we want to make as a result of our actions. 

If we do consider the fruit we hope to see—guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit—it will be much easier for us to review our activities in the future. We will be able to see what is working and what isn’t. We will be able to make strategic decisions about how to spend our limited energy, time and money. 

You might also find this guide helpful:
New Places for New People: Starting new Christian communities – a practical guide

So Everyone Can Hear: Communicating Church In A Digital Culture by Mark Crosby (2019) – Communication lies at the heart of every healthy community; the church is no exception. In Matthew 11:15, Jesus says, ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear’. How do we make sure we are saying things in a way that invites all people – no matter their background – to engage with what it means to be church today? This colourful, engaging and practical book will help leaders and members alike be more mindful of how they ‘communicate church’ both inside and outside of it within our dynamic and ever-changing digital culture.

Details of how to recruit a digital role coming soon – including sample digital job descriptions, interview questions, expectations etc.

In the meantime you might find the chapters on recruiting a pioneer role in this guide helpful:
New Places for New People: Starting new Christian communities – a practical guide

These additional topics may be of interest, as they directly or indirectly relate to strategy:

Digital Evangelism

Digital Discipleship

Digital Safeguarding

Digital Training

External Resources

Contact our Digital Communications Enabler:

Elliot Crippen
digital@yorkshirenemethodist.org

Lessons from a year on social media – webinar
Holly Adams and Abi Jarvis from the ‘Evangelism & Growth’ Team of the Methodist Church chat about the highs and lows of a year running the Evangelism & Growth team’s social media channels, and how you can learn from our mistakes and successes. Contains some really good tips on strategy.

A practical guide for starting new online Christian communities (coming spring 2022)
An adapted document from the New Places for New People guide of the same name – focusing specifically on forming fresh expressions of church online.