Category Archives: Communication & Evangelism

Communication Corner: August 2017

Being Present During Tough Times

Kathy Copas 
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism 
Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis 
502-345-6406
KathyCopas@aol.com 
Communication@indydio.org

Here are just a few things you can consider doing amidst this tumultuous time in our country and world to reach out to your community.

1. Open your doors for interfaith prayer vigils, community listening sessions or discussion events, or events in cooperation with local educators to help children sort out their fears and concerns. If you need media contacts or other assistance to share what you have planned, please get in touch at communication@indydio.org or KathyCopas@indydio.org,

2. Initiate a weekly community study around dismantling racism or peacemaking in times of war. There are many resources available at www.episcopalchurch.org/racial-reconciliation and www.episcopalchurch.org/library/topics/peacemaking.

3. Get out those “Light a Candle, Pray for the Nation” yard signs and other resources provided by the diocese last year and hold another candle lighting reflection event in your community.

4. Bring your children and youth together to create a piece of art or a clothesline full of drawings for your front lawn promoting reconciliation and peace. No parish lawn? Try chalk sidewalk drawings.

5. Provide community comfort during hard times with your best hospitality, like a Friday afternoon ice cream social or giving out cups of cold water on a hot day at a busy community location. Simply be present, listen, and chat with those who are feeling anxious, isolated, confused or just wish to share.

6. Partner with your local veterans organizations for an event to talk with your community about their experiences of war.

7. Become a place of encouragement and hope through your social media posts, offering and pushing positive hashtags.

8. Offer a summer movie or two on the church lawn this summer, showing popular films that promote peace in times of war and building reconciliation/dismantling racism. Consider holding a post-movie discussion time.

9. Mobilize your parish singers and musicians and their friends and offer a community concert for peace.

10. Announce a flash coffee house at your parish with an open mic format. Have one or two parishioners primed and ready to share their personal stories around themes of war, racism, or related issues and get ready for others to join in.

Need help or more ideas? Contact communication@indydio.org or KathyCopas@indydio.org or call 502-345-6406. (And, be sure to share what you did and how it worked.)

 

 

Social Media Sunday is Coming—September 24, 2017

Six Ideas to Try to Make Your Celebration a Success

1. Pick out six members or communicants from your parish, selecting a variety of persons who represent the scope of your congregation. Work with each of them to really drill down and capture real personal stories/quotes in just a couple of sentences about why your parish is so important to them.

Examples:

  • Cliche — “St. Lucy’s is like family.”
  • Keeping it personal and real — “When my dad died suddenly, six people from my church met me in the hospital ICU, swooped me up, and carried me through a time I was literally too paralyzed to function. That’s chosen family. My St. Lucy’s family.”
  • Cliche — “St. Lucy’s is a welcoming place.”
  • Keeping it real — “My partner and I wanted to find a good church home but so many of the churches we tried just acted sort of distant. Our first Sunday at St. Lucy’s we laughed ourselves silly at brunch with some people who quickly became amazing friends.”

Share via social media these quick quotes with individual photos of the people who offered their two-sentence stories. Encourage your parishioners to share the posts. This is a great thing to do in the days leading up to Social Media Sunday.

2. Get some conversation going. If you have a parish Facebook group or are on Twitter, pose a question and promote some lively interaction.

Some possibilities:

  • You have three questions for God. What would they be?
  • Name a time you felt especially close to God.
  • What piece of scripture brings you the most comfort or sense of purpose?
  • What was your earliest memory of church and what were your kid questions about God?

Anyway, you get the idea. Just stir up some conversation, invite others in, and keep it going.

3. Use Facebook Live to webcast a great piece of music from your choir or a soloist, a sermon, or even your entire worship service.

4. Offer a 360º or virtual tour of your parish for potential church guests.

5. Assign someone to the task of taking and posting at least one parish photo to social media per week. Try it for two months and see what type of reaction you get.

6. Hashtag it like crazy!

  • #sms2017, #episcopalIN, #episcopalchurch, #jesusmovement: These hashtags can gain the attention of The Episcopal Church and
    the diocese so we also have the opportunity to share them with others.

Have a great Social Media Sunday 2017 and be sure to let us know what you did.

Around the Fireplace July 2017 – Look Out—Here Comes Social Media Sunday!

 

Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

Churchwide Social Media Sunday is a little more than two months away. Now is a great time to begin to do some creative thinking around how you and your parish can participate this year.  Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

  1. Gather a couple of people from your parish and take a look at what, if anything, you did for Social Media Sunday last year.  Ask yourselves what went well, what didn’t go as well, and what you may like to try this year.
  2. Send a request to join the churchwide Facebook group Social Media Sunday 2017.  There, you’ll find help such as notices of upcoming web conferences and how-to ideas and successful strategies other parishes have tried.
  3. Consider approaching Social Media Sunday with a week prior and a week following plan to get the most out of your SMS efforts this year.  Some simple ideas:  Introduce the Sunday lectionary a few days in advance on your Facebook group site.  Pose questions and discuss it on your group site during that week.  Or, experiment with setting up a Facebook group site for your parish to hold an ongoing “come as you can” Bible study.  Evaluate it after a couple of weeks and determine if you wish to continue or retool it in some way.  Another possibility. Have your clergy do a Facebook live event to introduce the upcoming Social Media Sunday lectionary.  Then, after church, go live again with some of your parishioners unpacking what the readings meant to them.
  4. Set up a day-by-day social media plan tied to what you really want to accomplish.  HootSuite is a good, free tool that will allow someone in your parish to schedule social media posts at the days and times you prefer.  You can discover other such tools with a simple Google search.
  5. Some other simple things you can try over a simple week or two-week long time period around Social Media Sunday.  Every day on your Facebook page, or even your Twitter feed or Instagram account, introduce a different member of your parish with a photo or video sharing why your church is important to them.  Accompanying this with a coordinated plan for your parishioners to share these posts with their own friends list can really boost your exposure. You can also use a similar strategy to share a daily post about a different outreach ministry in your parish or different programs that you offer, from pub theology to Vacation Bible School.

More ideas to come. (Please share your ideas, too!) But, in the meantime, this is a great month to just start planning and building excitement in your parish.  Have fun with it and try something new.  If something isn’t working for your parish, you don’t have to do it forever.  (The world is full of abandoned Pinterest boards and Snapchat accounts!)  But who knows what you may try that will engage guests and help keep your regular parishioners better connected, too?!  Exciting possibilities await.

 

 

Google AdWords Increases Your Parish’s Free Advertising Potential

Ever wish your congregation or ministry had a $10,000 monthly advertising budget? Well, now you do! Good Samaritan recently heard through the church planting grapevine that software giant Google grants all nonprofits with open and affirming hiring practices, including religious organizations, with up to $10,000 monthly use of Google AdWords, a way to increase your organization’s visibility when someone is doing a Google search. So, you can target someone in your neighborhood who might type in “church that serves” or “open minded” or “volunteering.”

We applied online here, and all we needed was our taxpayer employer identification number (EIN) to start. (You can get that from the diocesan office.) Approval took about three business days. Once we were approved, we followed the instructions to use our free AdWords.

To create the ads, you select keywords of audiences you’d like to target and then write two short headlines of 80 characters each, along with a one sentence description of your congregation and a link to your website.

Good Samaritan targeted the cities of Avon, Brownsburg, Whitestown, and Clermont in the metro Indianapolis area and typed the following keywords: Jesus, Episcopal, Anglican, open-minded, gay-friendly church, gay, progressive, liberal, service, volunteering, community, faith, and diversity.
The process is a little wonky and requires some patience. But I’d be glad to help you get started! Just drop me an email at the link below. And enjoy your new advertising budget!

The Rev. Dr. Gray Lesesne is Vicar of Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Brownsburg.

Around the Fireplace – May 2017

When Hospitality Transforms Lives

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook have already heard a shorter version of this story. But, I wanted to flesh out this tale a bit because it is more fully a tale about church hospitality. It is a story about how easily our simple and genuine hospitality can be transformational in people’s lives, even when you may least expect it.

A man with a slightly familiar face came up to me last Friday at a dinner and said, “You’re Kathy, right?” He went on to say he just wanted to stop by and thank me for changing his life. Wow—what?!

It turned out that I had a random conversation with him and his wife in June of last year—an encounter I barely remembered at first—but he went on to describe how my welcome and our conversation that afternoon set into place a major transformation in his life and put he and his wife on a positive new path.

The situation was this. I was sitting on the front steps of one of our churches, waiting for someone who was bringing me a document from the church office. (The parish shall go unnamed to protect the couple’s privacy.) He and his wife were strolling down the sidewalk. I smiled at them and said a simple hello. They smiled back and mumbled a greeting in return. I said something about how it sure was a hot day and I was glad to be going into an air conditioned church. They stopped and he said, “You know, I’ve always passed by this church and wondered about it. It looks very old.” I said, “Actually, it is very historic. Would you like to come in and take a look around?” He and his wife glanced at each other and nodded in the affirmative.

They came inside and, at first, were obviously interested in history. I began with that, providing some simple historical facts I happened to know about the building and then sharing some words and examples about how the very architecture of the church imparted a story and a theme of journey. It was a pretty quick leap from there to a bunch of questions about what different objects in the church were and how Episcopalians worship, what they generally believe. I quickly discerned from the nature of his questions that he and his wife were on a bit of a journey, struggling and seeking. So, I went a little deeper. We took a look at the Book of Common Prayer, at a couple of the hymnals the parish was using, and even at a church bulletin from the previous Sunday. I told them a personal story about how and why I became an Episcopalian. And, I invited them. I gave them a couple of names of folks at the church I knew they would likely love meeting (including the clergy) and I thanked them for stopping by, wishing them well. The whole encounter was maybe 15-20 minutes.

So—to segue to last week’s encounter. He told me that, while our conversation may have seemed pretty simple, he and his wife were really dealing with some things that day and it had put them on a new path. They did decide to visit this church the following Sunday and meet some of the people I had suggested. They came back the following week and then every week after that over the next year. They became a part of this church and it became a part of them. And, as he put it, he and his wife had both been “positively transformed” and are still being transformed. He saw me across the room and just wanted to share where our simple conversation led and offer thanks. What a joyous encounter!

When I talk with parishes about evangelism, one of the things I often say is that, when you personally attune yourself to being truly open to listening and encountering others, in random situations, opportunities for “evangelism” will seem to fall right out of the sky. Maybe in line at the grocery store… on the bleachers at a track meet… or maybe just out on the sidewalk. And, it isn’t so much about bringing newcomers into your church as it is about nourishing the love of God in their own lives. A growing, vibrant parish is just another blessed outcome.

Who will you meet this week? Who can you encourage? If you experience a random encounter that leads to an important faith conversation, tell us about it! Until next month….
Kathy

Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism
Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis
502-345-6406
KathyCopas@aol.com
Communication@indydio.org

Around the Fireplace – April 2017

Broadening Your Reach With News Media

Spring is a time when a lot of us host some fantastic parish events. From strawberry festivals to ice cream socials to parades, these events are a great way for us to get out there in our community, meet some new people, and help others discover the amazing love of God and our wonderful holy hospitality.

News media can play a big role in the success of parish events. In my home parish, St. Paul’s New Albany, we host an annual art fair that now attracts thousands each year. It is a unique and very high-quality event that has grown for a lot of reasons but the participation of news media has been an incredibly important part of that growth and development. Each year, we get tons of free media coverage, to the point that other festivals have asked us how we do it. Here are just a few things we do that may help you in thinking about your own parish event.

  1. Put somebody in charge of it who doesn’t already have a thousand other responsibilities for your event. It should be considered a major, time-consuming responsibility associated with your event. Let someone focus just on media. Don’t make it an afterthought for an already burdened person on your committee.
  2. Start early and have a plan. Our parish art fair is an annual event so we basically start on the following year as soon as the current year’s festival is done. Even months before our festival, we’re getting ourselves on digital media and local magazine calendars and mentioning it to producers of local TV talk and public affairs shows. We chart out a plan month by month and even week by week as the time draws closer.
  3. Spend a lot of time cultivating contacts. The diocesan communication office can help you get off the ground with this one. We maintain a very up-to-date database of media all over our diocese and beyond. For example, if you are having an event in Evansville, we can hook you up with Owensboro media right across the river. If you’re in Lawrenceburg, we maintain contacts for Cincinnati-area media, as well. A lot of this is about knowing who to write or call. Once you have a good list of names, you can also do some asking around in your congregation about who has media contacts in your community. You may be surprised who among you is related to (or friends with) a reporter, producer, or editor.
  4. Hone your message and figure out how you can make your event very visual. For our art fair, we pitch stories or live interview slots with our artists demonstrating how they are creating their art. We also pitch musical groups for tv slots, particularly early morning variety shows. We sometimes offer bits on children’s activities or the preparation of food that will be served at our event. If you aren’t sure what you could do that would be visually attractive to media, let our diocesan communication office brainstorm with you! It is all about being creative and sometimes putting a different but simple spin on things.
  5. Prepare a news release or media advisory. If you don’t feel comfortable writing one, the diocesan communication office can help. Send your release to multiple contacts at the media outlets in your community generally about a month prior to your event. (Don’t assume they will share among themselves!) Think about who among you would be effective and comfortable spokespersons for your event.
  6. Be sure to take special care with your Facebook page and/or website during this time. When media get a release from you one of the first things they will do is search out your digital presence and decide if they are interested from that.
  7. Do really good follow up. Make calls, be kind and helpful but not overbearing. Say you were calling to see if they had any questions or needed anything from you.
  8. Be reliable. They need to know you will do what you say you are going to do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And, always show up when and where you say you will be present. Always deliver what you promised. This will help your parish build a solid reputation that you are a source they can truly rely on.
  9. Always be accessible and ready to respond quickly and calmly to changes. Don’t freak out if they have to change dates or times for interviews or photo shoots. News happens. Plans change. Things move fast in the world of media. Be easy to work with and go with the flow.
  10. Thank them for their good coverage. Handwritten notes are best but emails will suffice. Again, it is all about building relationships. Another tip—compliment them for their other stories during the year that have nothing to do with your event. Remember—everyone likes to receive sincere affirmation for their work.

Strategic use of media can help your parish raise more friends and funds than you ever imagined possible, taking your events to the next level. Want some help or want to know more? Please get in touch!

Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism
Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis
502-345-6406
KathyCopas@aol.com
Communication@indydio.org

Personalized for Your Parish Web Videos for Lent, Triduum, and Easter available free upon request.

Watch our Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis Facebook Page or the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis Facebook Group for samples. Contact Kathycopas@aol.com or communication@indydio.org to place your order. Include your parish name and contact info you would like to highlight, as well as your service times for Lent, Triduum, and Easter.

 

New Service for Parishes: Digital Sleuth

So, here’s the idea. An Episcopalian from a city/state outside of our diocese receives a parish’s name and the name of that parish’s city or town here in the Diocese of Indianapolis. From there, the skilled, trained Digital Sleuth goes to work, with the assignment of figuring out what your parish is really like simply from your digital imprint.

The Digital Sleuth writes a report to share with your parish leadership about what he or she has learned about you, making a guess about what your parish is really like without ever having visited you. You get to compare what you ARE like with what the Digital Sleuth THINKS you are like and perhaps work to reconcile that in your future approach to electronic communication.

The ground rules for this program are the same as for our popular Mystery Guest program. The service is free on a first-come, first- served basis. Requests must be made by clergy or with the permission of clergy. Want to know more or get on the Digital Sleuth’s schedule? Contact KathyCopas@aol.com or communication@indydio.org.

Around the Fireplace: Keeping Facebook Fresh

Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

It was great to see everyone who stopped by our Communication Corner at Vestry College this past weekend! One of the topics of discussion, proposed by two different parishes was, “So, how do we get more followers to our Facebook page or group?” Here are just a few simple ideas that may help.

1. Get a plan in place to keep content fresher. For one small parish in our diocese, we devised a plan for four different people in the congregation to each agree to take a different week of the month and post at least one thing as administrators of the parish page. It could be a photo of some outreach ministry, a video of some music or a sermon, even just groups of people at coffee hour or a church social event that you tag. (Lots of tagging is great!) If four people agree to do at least one post in a week, that is at least four things a month that get posted. And, that’s a start.

2. Send messages or notes to other churches and organizations in your community and invite them to like your page.

3. Ask your own parishioners to share some of your posts to their friends.

4. Rev up interest in your local neighborhood or community on Facebook “Throwback Thursdays” by posting and tagging businesses, people schools, churches, or the area with some of those old historic photos hanging around the church office.

5. Get out your local newspaper and read about the many awards, honors, and successes going on in your community, from winning sports teams to businesses expanding, to service clubs celebrating anniversaries to scout groups receiving recognition. Offer congratulations on your page from your congregation and tag them on your Facebook page.

6.. During announcement time at church, consider providing a moment to encourage parishioners to check in on Facebook and say a word about the lectionary message/theme, sermon, music, or even post a picture of something happening that day. 

7. Get some conversation going in the form of inviting comments or questions. Example: Lent is almost here. What does it mean to you, personally, to keep a holy Lent? Reply or react to the comments. 

8. Do a lot of linking back and forth to your website and any other social media that you do. 

9. Use Facebook Live or video messages as a tool for encouraging parishioners to share their personal stories about why their church and faith is personally important to them.

10. Experiment with paid posts. Facebook paid invitations to your next event or your parish in general can be quite affordable. You can focus your paid posts on very specific areas and to specific interests. Start small, review the Facebook analytics to determine who you have reached and connected with, and determine if paid posts are a worthwhile investment for your church.

11. Be creative with images and memes. Whenever possible, show it more than say it!

12. Connect with people via current events. If someone in your community is having a meeting on the opioid crisis or homelessness, use your page to promote these events. People who are interested in these issues will sometimes make a connection with you, particularly if they are thinking of seeking a church.

13. Offer a “share and post” contest, offering a drawing for a small prize, such as a scented candle or bouquet of flowers for all who will like and share your post.

These are just a few simple ideas. Feel free to submit your own, including what you have tried and how it worked! See you next month!

Kathy Copas
kathycopas@aol.com

Around the Fireplace: Strengthening Your Street Presence at Times When Your Church is Closed

Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

Did you ever take a walk or a drive by your church when it is closed? What could someone learn about all of the great stuff that goes on inside your parish when seeing your closed building after hours?

Chances are, more people stroll past your building—or at least drive by—than you may imagine. As we prepare to move into warmer weather and later sunset times in a couple of months, this is a great time to develop a plan to generate greater interest in your parish at the times you are closed. Here are a few no or low-cost ideas to consider.

1. Take a tip from real estate agents. Place a weatherproof plastic box out in front of your church with a page of basic information.

  • Contact information including web and social media contacts.
  • Worship times and a calendar with times for other events, from Bible study to music or arts presentations.

Outdoor plastic information boxes can be purchased very inexpensively from “big box” office supply stores, such as Office Depot. Or, building a custom outdoor literature holder may be a nice project for someone in your parish who is handy with tools and materials.

2. Build or strengthen your after-hours sidewalk ministry. A few examples:

  • Some parishes have already adopted sidewalk lending library boxes, where passers-by can remove books from a simple wooden box, as well as contribute books.
  • A twist on this is a food box, where those who are hungry can remove whatever food they need and persons in your parish or community can contribute food to the box.
  • There are a lot of other variations on this idea, too. A baby box could offer diapers or other baby supplies to those who are in need. And, parish or community friends could help stock the box.
  • A school box could offer pencils, paper, or other simple school supplies.

Again, creating a box would be a great project for a woodworker in your parish. But, you could also ask your local newspaper to donate an old street side paper box you could repaint and re-purpose. Or, order a simple plastic box from a plastics specialty company such as Uline and customize it to your effort.

What else could you collect after hours in a box by your sidewalk or in your churchyard? Eyeglasses? Boxtops? Anything that could be leveraged for mission?

Whatever you do, be sure to include basic information about your church in anything you offer! And, don’t forget to publicize what you’re doing via local media and social media. I can help you with a list of media contact information for anything you want to publicize in your area.

3. Put up a banner or sign that imparts real information about what your parish does—something beyond your basic worship hours and contact information. Remember that each parish in this diocese is eligible for up to $250 per year from the diocese to use for signage. We can create a banner or sign for you or reimburse you for a banner or sign created by someone in your own community or online. So, figure out what you would like to tell your community about what you’re doing and just get in touch with me anytime to make a request!

Until next month,
Kathy Copas
kathycopas@aol.com