Earlier this week, I posted some tips on communicating to the students and families in your youth ministry. To follow up, I’d like to share a bit about how we communicate to students and parents at our church. I hope these notes are helpful. Here are our basic communication avenues:
We are blessed to have a Communication Team (made up of paid administrative assistants) that’s responsible for overseeing all our electronic and print communications for our church. The Communication Team puts our youth information in church-wide communication, including the quarterly print newsletter, huge pre-printed bulletin boards in high traffic areas, the monthly “Inside Trax” email that gets sent out (as well as printed for those who don’t want to be on our church’s email list), and weekly bulletin announcements.
Because we’re consistent about making our information available in these publications, parents know that they can keep up to date on what’s going on. Note: these communication avenues work because we plan ahead at least one quarter, if not longer. Good communication requires good planning.
For the first six years I was a youth pastor, I always did a monthly print newsletter. For the most part, parents liked it because it always included a monthly calendar to post on the fridge, and students liked seeing their faces in the photos (I always kept careful track to include as many students over the course of the year as possible). However, that’s a lot of money when you add in postage. So, the only print communication we do these days are nice postcards/brochures and posters that we hand out for events. For 2-3 special events a year, we pay the postage to have them mailed out. I was hesitant to stop the monthly newsletter, but the world has not crashed down around me yet.
I send out a weekly announcement email (see my note on YouthTracker.net below) to everyone I have an email address for. Enough parents appreciate it that we still send them out, even though this method is becoming less and less effective. I try to keep the announcements short, and point people to our website for further information.
We send text updates through YouthTracker.net (see below) a few times a month. This is a great communication tool, and relatively inexpensive (our plan is $20/mo for unlimited texts). Typically, there are reminder texts to alert students and parents about registration deadlines or a change in our regular schedule. Where appropriate, I’ll include a bit.ly link to our website.
We have a group of students who produce our weekly announcement videos, and they’re a lot of fun. It gets the message across, and we make sure to encourage students to take some kind of action (fill out a sign up sheet or grab their parents to fill out a registration form). I also post the video on YouTube and Facebook, but it doesn’t get more than a dozen or so views throughout the week.
We have a high school ministry website that’s powered by WordPress. It’s a pretty basic setup that’s designed to 1) let web visitors inquiring about our church know what’s going on in terms of high school ministry and 2) create a place where parents know they can find event information and registration forms. I’ve never asked our web guy what kind of traffic we get, but I know several families count on being able to download forms off the website to get things in on time. Of course, if you have a website, don’t look foolish by not having it up to date. I usually post events three times a year (each semester and summer), and then I only have to do minor updates once a month or so.
We put events on our Facebook page, as well as reminders, updates and such. I’m not sure how effective for us Facebook is in terms of communicating what’s going on, but I know some families like it to keep them updated. We do have a lot of students on Facebook who “like” our page, so I see this as a good way to simply keep our stuff in front of students.
We use YouthTacker.net as our database tool, and it includes tools to send mass emails and mass texts. It’s super-easy to use, and the customer service is great. They have been great at updating their service based on our feature requests, and it really fits what we do. Their email and texting interfaces and features are a bit bulky, but they get the job done. There are some other good email and texting services out there (think Constant Contact and SimplyTXT), but the benefit to us in using YouthTracker.net is that we don’t have to manage separate databases; we can manage students, events, emails, and texting all from one interface. If you are looking for a database program or service, I’d definitely recommend checking them out.
I think I’ve covered all the bases of what we do. I realize that some of these avenues rely on some paid staff that not every church has–such as Amazing Angie, our youth and children’s administrative assistant–but I believe that for the most part, just about any youth ministry can communicate well in their context and within their budget. It just takes a little effort and a lot of consistency.
What communication avenues work well at your church? If you’re a communication guru (which I’m not), what advice do you have to offer?