TCO Talks Tech

Question: “What is the one thing many churches tend to overlook that could significantly contribute to their growth…especially during COVID-19?”

Answer: Technology.

We live in the age of connectivity. If you live in Rochester, NY but want to worship with your friends down in El Paso, streaming technology has you covered. Want to post a video of yourself singing as part of a virtual choir? Video editing technology has you covered. And, if you feel like your church is losing its footing during COVID-19, technology has you covered. So, why invest in technological resources now? Because you have a unique opportunity to connect with your congregation.

The time is now to get creative! Start thinking of ways in which you can utilize and implement technology to engage members of your congregation. You can stream worship services, hold a virtual Bible Study, and post photos of your own unique faith journey to social media. If you have events that you hold at your house of worship, consider how you might make those events digital. Congregations need to stay engaged and feel God’s love during this crisis. Give them that gift by being proactive and creative when it comes to optimizing your church’s technology.

Be sure to follow The Church Online on our social media platforms for weekly tips on using technology and other avenues to engage your congregation during the COVID-19 crisis! We understand that churches are in uncharted territory, and it is our aim to do whatever we can to help your congregation thrive during these uncertain times.

TCO Talks Tithing

Question: What are three ways you can encourage giving within your congregation during the COVID-19 crisis?

Answer: Highlight your heroes, Offer digital offerings, Sprint to social media

Highlight your heroes: Chances are, within your congregation, there are people fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. If you highlight the important work these heroes are doing in the community, you show those in your congregation that you are supporting those on the front lines. Giving is spurred by empathy and exposure, and the more you expose your congregation to your heroes, the more empathy they will have for them and the mission of your church.

Offer digital offerings: Giving doesn’t have to involve cash and collection plates. As a matter of fact, plenty of church giving happens via digital platforms, such as the Cash App. If you give your congregation more avenues of giving their tithes and offerings, they will surely reward the extra effort. Additionally, you’ll give your church a leg up in the evolution of giving within congregations, as many millennials hardly handle cash anymore.

Sprint to social media: Social media has several things going for it: it’s fast, it’s accessible, and it’s free. Many members of your congregation likely have at least a Facebook account. Many more may take to Twitter or Instagram. By posting links where users can give, as well as promoting your heroes, you can increase that all-important empathy and exposure even more. Did I mention social media is free? You can pay to promote your posts if you wish, but if you just want to get the message out, doing so is free of charge.

Churches today need to get creative to bring in revenue, and this can be difficult, particularly without that reverent worship space bringing crowds every Sunday. However, with patience, planning, and a degree of ingenuity, you can ensure your church’s giving thrives during this time.    

3 Steps to Reaching your Target Audience on Social Media

Social media use continues to grow tremendously with 2.32 billion monthly users on Facebook, over 1 billion users on Instagram, and 321 million active on Twitter.[1]  There is great potential to grow your organization’s following through social media use, but don’t just post blindly. Use these strategic steps to begin effectively reaching your target audience on various social media platforms.

1. Define your Audience

Make sure you know who you want to specifically reach. Too often, we go crazy posting everything everywhere, hoping that it will reach everyone. Instead, define who you want to reach before you waste your time with ineffective posts. One easy way to do this is by creating a target audience persona [2]. A good place to start with your persona is by defining your target age, gender, and lifestyle interests.

2. Know Where your Audience Is

After you have defined who you want to target, consider social media trends and statistics so you know where to reach your audience. Out of all the different social media platforms, the most popular are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, with women consistently using all platforms more often than men.

3. Target your Audience

Once you have defined who your audience is and the platforms they’re using, you can begin to curate targeted content. Make sure to consider your audience’s general lifestyle and interests when curating content to be sure it sparks their interest! If you are trying to attract more college-aged students to your church, you’ll want to create more modern looking posts for Instagram. If you want to attract older adults to attend your conference, spend a little more time on Facebook. A great idea is to post real images of people that look like your target audience to attract them to joining a community like them.

You don’t want any information to slip through the cracks, so you may be tempted to post everything, everywhere, without change. It is ok to post the same information across all platforms but be sure to switch things up a bit. Twitter is great for short pieces of quick information, Instagram is better for visuals, Facebook seems to be a platform that can do it all, and YouTube features videos. By varying your content to the demographics and interests of your audience, you will begin to see higher retention, following, and engagements.

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Don’t waste any more time, make sure you find out who your audience is, understand where they are, and target them strategically.


[2] Downloadable Persona Template

Creating a Book Cover

Selling More Books with your Cover

When you think about the process of creating a book, most people jump right to writing the book. That’s the first step in a long process, but what will take your book from anonymity to bestseller is a compelling cover. Your cover gives a potential reader a first impression of your book, and a boring or generic cover means that they may never even pick it up off of a shelf or off of the table.
So, here are 4 tips for you to nail that cover design!

1. Choose colors that match the tone of your book.

When you first begin thinking about your cover, take time to think what colors the contents of your book evokes. If your book is a cold, hardboiled detective novel, you’ll want to choose darker, cooler colors, like blue and black, to help convey the mood of the book to your reader. If you’re writing a devotional or educational book, you may want to opt into warmer colors, like golds and reds.
When you choose a color that matches the tone of your book, you can connect with your target audience more quickly. If your book is designed for women over men, you may want to choose colors that resonate with women more than men. For example, blue is the most popular color across genders, but of men surveyed, less than 1% preferred the color purple. For women, however, 23% preferred the color purple.

Orange, however, is the most common least favorite color, followed by brown, and then purple and yellow. When you consider your cover, you may want to avoid these colors simply due to the subconscious impressions that they can leave on the minds of prospective readers.
Age is another thing to keep in mind because color preference changes as we age. Green is preferred by younger crowds, but as we age, purple becomes more popular. Those in the 70+ age group almost exclusively prefer blue and white. Yellow also isn’t popular unless you are targeting the 36-69 age group.

2. Look at other covers in your genre.

When you create a book, you are always writing within a genre, and often, you will find yourself writing in a subgenre as well. Your book may be a devotional, but it may also be a devotional for women based on the women of the bible. To differentiate yourself from other books in your genre, you need to make sure that your cover doesn’t come too close to theirs. Instead, you want it to look new and fresh.

For example, if the theme of your book is “adventure” you would want to start by searching for other covers in your genre. Then, take inspiration from the best ones that you see. Make a note about what you like about them. When you get an idea of what you like about the covers, take time to figure out if that is overused. If every adventure novel has a picture of a silhouetted person walking off into the distance, you may want to consider avoiding that cliché. You may also want to take a more stylistic or illustrative approach.
In addition to making notes about what you like, make a note about what you dislike. If you find that the common colors of the novels in your genre don’t resonate with your book, be sure to avoid those. If you’re writing a book on dieting and are tired of seeing images of scales and people going from heavy to thin, consider an abstract cover to draw in readers.

3. Pick a style

When you create your cover, you need to pick a style for it. This can be illustrative, photorealistic, abstract, symbolic, or even textured. To do this, it is imperative that you look at the other covers in your genre.

Almost all fantasy books have illustrative covers, so it might create dissonance or a false impression to your reader if you use a photorealistic cover. If your book is targeted at young adults, you may want to consider using either a photorealistic or illustrative depiction of a main character. Sci-fi tends to use symbolic covers. So, while you want to set your cover apart, you don’t want to alienate your audience, and you don’t want to hoodwink potential readers.

4. Ask for an honest opinion.

Whether you are a cover designer or a writer, it is important that you let others know your ideas before you implement them. You might think that a photo that you took of a sunset on your cellphone is the perfect photo for the cover of your book, but it is important that you ask others if that is a good idea. Oftentimes, we can get overwhelmed with excitement and make bad design choices.
When you ask for honest feedback from people who understand books and the market, you can make informed decisions. Then, you can access your widest possible audience.

Making Events a Breeze

4 ways to make event planning easy!

When events come up, you may find yourself stressed out, desperately trying to put together advertisements and e-blasts. Your team might be scavenging sold-out palm branches for Easter or buying over-priced poinsettias for Christmas, and you may even have a key member of your church play come down with a cold. While we can’t prevent everything, by employing some foresight we can make major events as pain-free as possible.

1. Keep a calendar

Often times, you will find that the same events occur at the same time every year. Christmas doesn’t change, Mother’s Day is predictable, and kids always go back to school. By taking the time to set reminders, sometimes two or more months out, about important holidays and events, you can save time and money. If you are buying school supplies for back-to-school events, you may want to purchase them up to a year in advance right after the back to school sales become back-to-school clearance. By preparing ahead, you will save yourself a last-minute scramble.

Additionally, by keeping a calendar and being prepared, you will avoid last minute stress and so will your staff and volunteers. Instead of asking people to run to the store to get last minute items, by preparing and planning months ahead of time, you will have time to think of everything that you will need.

2. Choose a theme early

Sometimes themes come with the event, like Christmas, but other times by preparing and choosing a theme ahead of time, you can make weeks of headway. If your theme for Watch Night is remembrance and thankfulness, the planning will look different from a “looking forward” theme. With this in mind, by picking a theme early, you can have advertisements done weeks ahead of time and sermons written well ahead of time, too.

3. Market ahead of time!

One of the best ways to turn your event into a success is to let people know early. While Martin Luther King Day may come around every year, attendees might forget unless they are reminded. People are much more likely to attend your event if you tell them about it well ahead of time. That way, they can mark the time out of their schedule before it fills up. This is especially important for weekday events or events on popular family holidays like Christmas and New Year’s. Often times a month’s advance notice will help people to plan their schedules to fit the Church schedule. If they don’t hear until a week before, they are much less likely to attend.

4. Get Creative

By getting your ideas together ahead of time, you have the opportunity to get creative with you advertising, event themes, and event planning. When you have time to be creative, your event will be a greater success. People who don’t typically attend your church may be wowed by the event from the advertisement to the execution. When you rush an event, the end product will be less creative and less impressive. By putting your best foot forward for events, you are more likely to attract involved, new members for your church.

Additionally, by taking time to be creative, you can set your event apart from other events in the area. If your Easter play is rehearsed and planned months ahead, you will have a leg up when it comes to marketability. Instead of having prospective members asking, “Why should I go see that play?” they will be saying “I heard that play is the best in town!” By practicing excellence and good planning, you can easily get people into the doors of your church.

Women in Ministry: Avoiding Overscheduled Lives

Women in Ministry: Avoiding Overscheduled Lives

We all know that bills, home repairs, children and their demands, relationships, and work stress can take a toll on us. When we add volunteer work in school, the community, or church, even hobbies and previously enjoyable ministry work can overwhelm and fatigue us. As women often entrusted with the role of family nurturer and caregiver, our instincts are to take on everyone else’s stress as well. Sometimes we are telling everyone else that it’s all going to be okay, and we are feeling quite the opposite ourselves: unable to sleep or function in our once calm and enjoyable lives.

We have the tendency to focus on the negative when we feel that pleasurable activities have become a burden. In our last post on women and burnout in ministry, we learned that we all go through the same stress cycle, and that many times this cycle is so familiar to us that we just allow, rather than stop, the destructive patterns of behavior. While we aren’t suggesting that any of us deliberately seek destructive patterns, we can all admit that we do tend to take on too much sometimes and then seem to think that it is our responsibility to handle the stress on our own.

However, if we remember that God sends so many truly good things our way, we can begin to focus on the positive in life again, despite having many roles as mother, wife, employee, and/or ministry leader. We can all enjoy the sunset at the end of a long day spent at work, tending to family, or working in ministry. And we can all appreciate the comfort of a warm bed, a meal prepared just for us, conversations with our children and friends, and the devotion of a husband or other close family member. These things help us. They refocus us. We need to begin to see as everyday blessings—the ebb and flow of a busy life that also allows for downtime and the simple enjoyment of the little things.

Crafting a Church Marketing Plan

Crafting a Church Marketing Plan

Jesus makes church marketing sound so simple. In His time, it was really that easy: go out into the world and spread the Word, then just wait for the masses to come. However, in our time, that verse would be weighed down by all the new technology out there and all the difficulty that now surrounds just reaching out and spreading God’s message. Nowadays, it would sound more like: “Go build a website, live stream all your sermons, do a Facebook paid ad, and start an Instagram family ministry page.”

And that’s just the beginning. We’re living in a time when online integration and marketing are advancing at such a fast pace, there are bound to be new sites and new methods of reaching out almost as soon as this article goes to print. The people we wish to reach are every day asking for more targeted involvement, more integration, and more connection with their church. It’s a game that is every day a greater challenge to play, and yet a game that, if we want to live up to Jesus’ call, we have to play nonetheless. So, where do we begin with a modern church marketing plan? Well, since we have to play the game, we might as well play it right. That’s where my G.A.M.E. approach comes in.

G – Gather information
• Determine the audience you are trying to reach, and then learn all you can about them. For example, if your church is hoping to increase attendance of new families or is near a college campus and wants to expand its reach to students, look into what these groups are concerned about. Talk to a few people within that community to help tailor your future efforts at reaching out more to their needs. Find out about their concerns and what they are looking for from a church.

A- Accumulate and analyze the data
• Once you have a little information about your target group, dig a little deeper. Find out where your audience gets its news and information from. Nielsen and Pew Research are excellent places to start finding communications trends for different types of demographics. Google Analytics can also help point you in the right direction for what type of users visit the church’s website and which pages are most popular. Also, using a survey card which could be filled out and turned in during services would provide valuable information about the demographics in your congregation and what the target group feels is lacking. Once you have that information, study it closely to see if any trends are apparent. Are there particular concerns or interests that crop up over and over again? Are there certain sites this demographic likes to visit? What about offline? Do people tend to gather at or visit a particular place?

M- Make a plan
• Use all this data to target specific communication mediums both online and offline to engage the people you are trying to reach. Write down all the ideas that will communicate the church’s message and prioritize accordingly to need, budget, etc. to reach the largest segment of your target group and communicate the most important ideas that separates your church’s vision from the rest. Make sure that the message fits the venue.

E- Execution
• This is the MOST important part of any plan. Ideas are only ideas unless they are put into action! Decide who will implement each part of the plan, set deadlines for those tasks, and follow up accordingly. Supervise tactics to see what is working and what can be improved and make adjustments as needed.

While we don’t have the luxury of easy marketing success, the means are still available to us to reach those we see in the community who could use Christ in their lives. Even in this modern, media-saturated world, there are still ways to get the message out, if we are smart about how we play the game. An organized, strategic, well thought out marketing plan is the best tool to advance your church’s communication goals easily and effectively!

5 BIG Tips for How To Make Videos Compelling

5 BIG Tips for How To Make Videos Compelling

Think about some of your favorite videos on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. What made them stand out to you? What made you want to share them, go back to that particular social media platform, or talk about what you saw? How did you find them? What did they inspire you to do?

Videos have to compete against status updates, photos, tweets, and links to other content on all forms of social media. This makes it all the more important for them to be eye-catching and to present information that stands out in this vast field of visual input.

At The Church Online, we work with ministries and organizations of all sizes to develop creative and eye-catching video content that is both viewable and shareable not only on their own ministry websites, but also on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and other popular social media sites.

Use these top five tips to improve your video content:

1) Zone In, Not Out

Make sure your videographer is paying attention to the action, not tuning out. You wouldn’t want to have your pastor out of the frame or have abrupt camera movements.

2) Stay on Top of Trends in Technology

Your video won’t be impactful if the content is poor quality. Stay up-to-date with cameras, resolution, and audio equipment.

3) Incorporate Animation

Keep your video lively and fun with motion graphics such as logo reveals, 3D text, and overlays.

4) Sound Effects

Use catchy sound effects and soundtracks. Make your viewers want to keep listening.

5) Start with a Punch

Start your video off the right way—with a captivating image or key phrase from your pastor.

How to Write a Book

How to Write a Book

So you want to write a book? We have some tips!

Christopher Hitchens once said, “Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

Here at The Church Online, we take a different view. We think everyone has a book in them, but some people just need a little help getting it out.

But how does it work? How do we take the book in your head and turn it into a book held in everyone’s hand? To find out, take a look at these five parts of the book making process at The Church Online.

1. Find the voice

As writers, the way we think and speak comes out on every page. Some people are blunt and direct. Some are elliptical and poetic. Most people are somewhere in the middle. First, we find out what kind of writer you are so that our words come out as your words and our edits reflect your voice and tone. We want to make sure that we are giving life to your thoughts in your book.

2. Pitch an original story

You want a book about how Jonah relates to the modern world, but here at The Church Online, we know there’s a bit more to the story than that. We help you find a new angle on Jonah that’s never been done before, a book that feels necessary and exciting in a world that may have heard the story before.

3. Plot the path

You have the idea. Now how do you get from alpha to omega? This is often the step that makes people put down the pen and give up. Once we have your story down, we break it apart into pieces, outlining every element. Each chapter needs to have an idea, each idea has to fit together, and each idea has to lead to the ultimate message of the book.

4. Keep a tight leash on the message

Speaking of the message, this little guy has a way of running away from you once you get into the thick of the content, usually midway through your book writing process. It’s important to always keep an eye on where your message is and to bring it around enough to remind your reader without sounding repetitive. It’s a careful art, and one we pride ourselves on mastering here at The Church Online.

5. Get feedback and edit, edit, edit

Finally, we get to the part that bores most people but remains one of the most important steps: the editing. This is when you take a roughly cut piece of marble and sand it down to Michelangelo’s David. We work closely with you to find out how you feel about each word in your book and tweak every detail until it is perfect. We’ll take as much time as necessary to make sure the book matches the vision.

So, feel free to prove Christopher Hitchens wrong. Don’t keep your book inside. Bring it to us, and we’ll make sure the masterpiece you envision becomes a reality.