Starting social media for your entire church may feel daunting. Making even a small change to a current social media strategy feels overwhelming. Use the concept of a lighthouse to ease those fears. A lighthouse is a partner for developing or enhancing your digital ministries. This article will further define lighthouses, as well as how to prepare for one.
What Is a Lighthouse
In a sense, your lighthouse ministry will light the way for others. They will become a beacon for other ministries in your church. This approach is like my article on breaking large projects into smaller chunks. Yet this involves breaking your church into smaller chunks. You move forward with an aggressive plan. Perhaps more regular website content updates. Use that content to launch a full-scale social media campaign. Then push that content out to weekly email newsletter updates. That is a difficult task to implement across your entire church. Yet not so much for just one ministry. Plus you can use the experience to create great "lessons learned" documentation.
Preparing for a Lighthouse
I do not want to make it sound like you need to become a salesperson, but you do. That aggressive plan I mentioned before has many benefits. Create a short presentation that outlines them. If you have data to support your points, have that ready as well. Outline your plan as well as your expected timeline. The only thing you cannot provide are expected outcomes. They are still guesses at this point. But part of your plan is to identify failures quickly. Reassure them that this is a partnership, and you will make regular adjustments.
Obtaining a Lighthouse
The last thing I want is for a communications team to go rogue. You should proceed with full knowledge of your senior leadership. Come to them with your presentation first. Let them know you want to make changes. But that those changes will be confined to one ministry. They may have ideas about which one is best suited for your plans. If you recall from my article on strategy, there are many layers you to this work. First, you need to align with leadership's policy and doctrine. Once you have that, you can tailor your previous presentation. Show how digital fits in with their strategy. Outline how new tactics will enhance and revitalize their ministry. Finally, get a verbal commitment to have them partner with you. You may be the expert on web technologies. But their experience in that ministry is invaluable. They will need to spend time working with you to review results and develop new content.
Utilizing a Lighthouse
You need to understand that you are going to do a lot of work. You are likely dealing with non-technical people. Eventually you will get to the point where volunteers from that ministry can pitch in. But for now you are responsible for driving that ministry's digital properties. Set a regular schedule to meet with a representative from that ministry. As stated before, this is your opportunity to discuss any results and statistics. Get a baseline of analytics before you start. That way you know how much better you are doing. Secondly, they need to turn over any new content they want published. You can edit it so it presents better on your website. Yet the original needs to come from them. This helps get everyone in the habit of putting out regular updates.
Lighthouse End Game
You need to have an exit strategy for your lighthouse. Running every aspect of their digital ministry is not the best idea for your team. At some point you will need to train volunteers and staff members. But that is not to say you leave them in the dust. Hopefully you have some good results to share with other ministries. Document your best practices and pitfalls to avoid. Take a break as you move back into more of a maintenance mode. Then get ready for another round with the next ministry that wants to partner with your team.
This article is based on a recent experience I had in my regular job. I traveled to meet with a client to discuss a product we wanted to build. We had a good idea of what it should be and how it should work. But we wanted people "in the trenches" to help us get it right. This started with what high-level functionality is most important. It will end with details such as labels on text fields. Regardless, we agreed to work together to create a quality product that will meet their needs.
Talk with church leadership to see what ministries would be most open to trying this. An obvious choice at many churches is your youth ministry. Your audience is the most open to using computers and smartphones. Plus these ministries are often smaller and easier to try out new ideas. But small and nimble does not mean this is a fast process. It should take about 4-6 months to test out your ideas. Expect to work hard, learn a lot, and make a few mistakes along the way. But in the end, this partnership will further integrate digital communications with your church.
Photo courtesy of Bill Davenport