Archive for the ‘Connection’ Category

Classes

Next week, we’re starting a pilot program at Oak Leaf Church called Oak Leaf University. It’s a series of four week courses that will happen on Tuesday nights from 6-8. They cost $20, and include snacks, course materials and childcare.

While we’ve offered Journey Groups since our church began, I think Oak Leaf University will meet a different need.  The courses are short term (four week commitment), meaning that it’s easier for many to attend.  We’re providing childcare, which is easier for parents with children. It’s a little more classroom-oriented, which appeals to a different kind of learner.

The four courses that we are offering in the first semester are Theology 101 (I’m teaching…here’s the student book that we prepared), Introduction to the Bible, Parenting and Finances.  Two “Bible” topics and two “Practical” topics.  So far, we have had 100 people sign up for July, which is about 15% of our adult weekend attendance.

The idea is to run it for one month, with two months back to back, and then take two months off.  That will give us six semesters a year, and we’ll offer different classes.  We are currently working on a course for new Christians, something on Leadership, and a Church History course for the fall.

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Communication @ Oak Leaf Church

Here’s some principles that we try to implement at Oak Leaf Church about communication, promotion and making announcements.

1. We only announce one or two things from the stage during the service. It has to apply to the majority of the people in the room. I think if you’re making more than two announcements, you’re really making none.

2. We send out a weekly e-mail vis Constant Contact. We currently have about 600 people on our list. People can subscribe from our site. We also add people if they provide an e-mail address on a connection card.

3. About 50% of the e-mails we send are actually opened.  Constant Contact gives you some pretty helpful stats.  Don’t assume that sending an e-mail is the same as communicating.

4. I’ll generally communicate via e-mail (my preferred method of communication) with people that I know also communicate with e-mail.

5. We look for ways to communicate with the target audience. For example, we put a parent dedication sign at kids check in. That seems like a logical place. People that don’t have kids don’t need to be unnecessarily exposed to kid friendly announcements.

6. We send letters and postcards from various ministries to targeted mailing lists inside our church. Parents of kids will get a letter from the preschool director. Figure out ways to communicate to the people that need to know – don’t waste communications capital when a targeted announcement will do the trick.

7. When we start a new series, we will usually do a mass mail out to the community OR a postcard mailout to our entire database.

8. We use preservice slides in the service to announce events. When we are making an announcement live, we always make sure there is a corresponding graphic.

9. We give out a weekly handout with information. I would not announce everything that is happening, but highlight the most important things. We’ve used a 8.5×11 handout with printed info on the inside. We’ve also custom printed them for a whole series from psprint.com.

10. We try our best to funnel people to our website. That means we try hard to keep it up to date and put the correct information there. We have a long way to go, but everyone in Cartersville isn’t web friendly.

11. For important things (like our move to Woodland), we’ll use one of those automated phone services to send a recorded messages to our entire phone list. Callingpost.com is pretty easy to use and it seems to be cost effective. I would not over use this.

12. For really important things (there shouldn’t be a really important thing every week), we’ll use as many mediums as possible. Letters, phone calls, personal e-mails, e-mail blasts, videos in the service, etc. But you have to be careful not to do this for every event or ministry, or else it will quit working.

Talking to Each Other

The other day, I went into my local Stabucks and didn’t have the experience I know they were going for.  The problem was not with my Pumpkin Spice Latte.  The problem was that the three or four employees were all behind the counter, engaged in their own conversation.  They weren’t that focused on making drinks or making change.  I felt like I was a bystander rather than a customer.

If we’re not careful, our church services will become like that.  Greeters (who are naturally social people) have then tendency to talk to their friends or other church people.  We all get caught up in our thing and forget why we are there.

Calling Guests…Calling them Back

Our connections pastor has invited a team of people to help call first time guests a few days after they visit. We just call to say thanks for coming and ask if they have any questions. Sometimes, we leave messages. Sometimes, people ask a few questions. For us, calling people is an important part of our connections strategy.

But a second, and I think more vital part of this strategy is calling these guests back one month later. The same person that made the first phone call makes a second phone call one month later. They ask if the person has had the chance to come back. Maybe after a while, they have some questions. The point of this second phone call is to ask people that have come back to jump into a small group and to serve somewhere.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

Sometimes, we don’t talk about things that are very comfortable. Jesus said we were to take up our cross (be willing to die). Disciple left behind their nets (quit their jobs). The truth often hurts because the Word of God is sharp and it cuts.

I don’t know who originally said this, but we want to create a safe place for people to hear a dangerous message. So while we may communicate some uncomfortable truths, we want to create a comfortable environment for guests. We want people to come in and feel like they belong there – like they are not an outsider. We design our Sunday morning experience with guests in mind, because we don’t want people to stay guests. Here’s some things we do to help create this environment:

1. We play secular tunes in the lobby and as the preservice. People connect with music. Hearing a song they recognize will calm people. It let’s people know that you don’t have to know a secret setlist of songs to attend church here. I personally make a preservice play list, mostly out of songs that are on the iTunes top 100 list. Background music is really important, and it’s one of the silly little things that I don’t delegate.

2. We serve coffee. Why do people like to keep drinks in their hands at a party? Because it’s comfort zone thing. It gives people something to put in their hands. It’s a lot more natural and relaxed to talk to someone when you have a cup of coffee in your hands. We go ahead and spend the extra money to have good coffee. We actually get comments from guests about this all the time.

3. We explain stuff. Every week in the service, I speak to guests. I thank them for coming. If we’re talking about something that is more for the church family, I give that disclaimer. From time to time, we explain why we stand up and sing (a church and a baseball game are the only times when this really happens in our culture). I explain what the offering is about. We don’t assume that people know what’s going on. Our church people hear this stuff every week, but that’s okay…it’s not for them.

4. We ask people for their information. I ask people to fill out a connection card and provide boxes to check if they want information. I ask them to fill out as much info as they feel comfortable sharing, let them know that we are not going to pester them, and tell them that we won’t give out their number or e-mail address to other people. They can drop their card in the offering buckets (easy, plus it allows them to participate at that point of the service).

5. We prepare for and expect guests. I look at things from a guests point of view. I’m a perfectionist about that kind of stuff. We also prepare gift bags for guests and let them know they can stop by and pick them up. They have stuff about the church, but also some candy or some other kind of freebie. We give out a bunch of these each week. Not only is it helpful, but it lets guests know that we prepared for them. During my prayer time each week, I pray for the guests who will be at OLC each week. I think if you don’t plan or prepare or pray for guests, then you will never have any!

Gift Bags for Guests

We give all first time guests that come to Oak Leaf a gift bag.  I usually let them know this during the welcome.  We ask them to fill out the connection card and invite them to stop by the info table on the way out and pick up the gift bag.  Inside, we stick:

  • a candy bar or some other kind of sweet stuff
  • a message on CD, one of our "greatest hits"
  • an issue of relevant magazine (they give us month old issues for just the cost of shipping)
  • a book – 50 reasons why Jesus came to die by John Piper
  • a journey groups brochure – we do not load up the bag with propaganda from our church, but we give one clear next step item.
  • any current series invite cards that we may have

We put all this in a brown gift bag that we buy for about $.40 from Target or Hobby Lobby.  Actually, we just ordered 1,000 of them custom printed with our logo for about the same amount of money.  We used these folks. I think the money we spend on gift bags is money well spent, because it’s for our guests.  I believe it is one of the reasons guests return…because they know they are valued.

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Guest Surveys

We send a thank for coming e-mail to every first time guest.  In that e-mail, we provide a link to a guest survey.  We use a free service called Icebrrg. Here’s a link to our survey.

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