Category Archives: Communication & Evangelism

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

 

Around the Fireplace – September 2016

fb_img_1474947771097

Put it on your calendar for 2017!

Social Media Sunday a Big Success

Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

Congratulations,Social Media Sunday participants! The hashtags you used aggregated approximately 10 million Episcopal impressions churchwide! Wow—imagine if we all did this every Sunday.

There were lots of creative initiatives in our parishes. Some of you went live on Facebook with your sermons or music. A couple of parishes made videos previewing their worship or providing a mini-tour of their church. Many others posted photos of people and activities on Sunday morning via various social media platforms. Lots of you checked in on Facebook from your church. Some parishes even encouraged congregants to stop and do that during announcement time.

Whatever you did, I hope it was a fun experiment and that you will continue to explore and try new social media tools in the days and weeks to come. Is Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram,or maybe even Snapchat something that could help your parish reach newcomers or share something new about your ministry?

Whatever you ended up trying or decide to try in the future, here’s hoping you’ll share with the rest of what happened and keep experimenting!

 

Around the Fireplace: Get Ready for Church Social Media Sunday #SMS16

FB_IMG_1467774740314

Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

Sunday, September 25

One of the clergy in our diocese asked me a  few months ago if we would ever again have a churchwide Social Media Sunday.  I half-jokingly said, “Well, isn’t EVERY Sunday a church Social Media Sunday?!”  But, we do, indeed, have a designated Sundayrapidly approaching in which we are called as Episcopalians, churchwide, to give some special attention to how we engage the world via social media.  So, yet another clergyperson invited me in to brainstorm with him last week about some things he and his parish might do to more intentionally embrace social media, particularly Facebook.

Facebook has been around for a good long while now but continues to evolve. Paralleling the development of mobile technology, Facebook has emerged as a primary tool for church shoppers.  Research has shown that Facebook has become just as important, or even more important, than church websites when people are seeking basic information about a church these days.  Why?  One of the reasons is that people initially just want to get a quick and easy basic sweeping sense of what a church is doing in real time.  What are its members talking about and working on these days?  What do the photos and/or videos and conversation tell us about this church and how it may or may not be a good fit for us?  What have other guests experienced?  What events are coming up we may want to connect to?  Websites, even greatly mobile-optimized ones, are increasingly becoming more second-line resources, while Facebook pages and open groups have become more frontline first impression tools.

So, what are some things we can all consider about better using Facebook as—for starters—Social Media Sunday 2016 approaches?  Here are a few that have emerged over the past few weeks in discussions at various parishes.

  1. Have something—anything—relatively current posted on your Facebook page or group,  By relatively current, we’re talking at least within the past month, preferably the past couple of months.  Not last Easter or Christmas and definitely not in over a year!
  2. Always post a visual with any bit of news. This can be a photo, meme, infographic, or video.  Posts with visuals get lots more attention and, with a simple Google search, you can find many resources out there that will help you import or create simple visuals right on your phone. The more visuals and multimedia people can access on your page, the more your Facebook presence will reflect a real sense of what your parish is about.  And, while beautiful and general church memes can be effective, what always works best and appears most authentic is images of real people in your church engaged in ministry and interaction with one another.
  3. Use Facebook to increase your pastoral care potential. The general rule about Facebook is to use 20 percent of your time with it to share your own news and 80 percent to interact with your followers or friends.  It is a rich and very personal tool for offering care for those going through a life transition, experiencing illness, or even celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
  4. Use Facebook for starting conversations, posing questions, and generally keeping the dialogue going between Sundays. Talk about the lectionary coming up the following Sunday, what your midweek Bible study group has been discussing, how a mission project is going and what is needed to better support it….  The ideas are endless and newcomers can easily be invited and encouraged into your conversation.
  5. Learn a bit about Facebook metrics and “pushing” posts about your page, your church, or an upcoming activity or project.  For a very small amount of money—often as little as $10-$20, you can push your post onto Facebook news feeds that you select by variables such as geographic area, extending your reach dramatically.

One of Facebook’s best new tools is “Go Live” and we will be using/demonstrating that here in our diocese on Tuesday, August 23, 7 p.m. for our special Media Monday.  If you have joined our Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis page, all you have to do is go on Facebook at that time, where you will see a message “The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis is live.”  Just click it on and you can participate via comments and posts.  If you happen to miss it, you will be able to access it later. This tool holds much potential for any parish.  Using a smartphone, you can live broadcast on Facebook a sermon, music, or even your entire worship time or church school program.  How cool is that?!

So, hope to see you on August 23 as we learn together, and brainstorm together, how we can make Episcopal Social MediaSunday on September 25 the best ever and add new tools and possibilities to our longer-term social media profile!.

Around the Fireplace – July 2016

Success social media concept: arrows hitting the center of target, Red Community on wall background, 3d render

Cultivating Sunday Morning Church Guests through Community Recognition

by Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

Last month, I covered a lot of simple ideas for getting newcomers in to your parish on Sunday mornings.  All of these ideas centered around the basic concept of nourishing recognition in your community.

To build on those ideas, here are just a few more that can deepen parish-community connection and get more people into your buildings on Sundays and at other times during the week.

Consider offering a form of Community Mission Minutes during your Sunday announcement time. Get out the calendar and look at all of your Sundays for a designated period of time. Advent or Lent may be an excellent time for you to experiment with the success of this.  Identify and invite one community organization or project in per Sunday.  Think broadly—-everything from an animal rescue to a service group like the Elks or Rotary Club to a local food pantry.  Offer these organizations three minutes during church announcement time to inform your congregation about what they do, who they serve, and how it impacts the life of your community.  Encourage them to bring multiple members of their organization and visuals demonstrating their work. Invite the groups to stay after church with a table of information during coffee hour time.

Even in a very small community, if you consider social service organizations, school and college groups, ecumenical partners, and offices and organizations related to local government, you can find an endless supply of groups to highlight. These invitations can bring a different group of newcomers into your church each week and also inspire your congregants to look beyond their own walls, learn, and explore your community’s needs much more intentionally. New, life-giving ministry may emerge from some of these presentations and connections.

Also consider asking community leaders and groups to teach and share skills in your parish. Most people love sharing what they are passionate about and inviting engagement.  Again, you could actually construct a series of two-minute teach and learn experiences during announcement time.  Examples—how to write a letter to your Congressional representatives on an important issue, how to prepare end-of-life directives, how to screen caregivers for family members, how to most effectively direct your personal gifts for the community’s homeless. These quick teaching/learning efforts again mean more new people experiencing worship and your church and getting to know people in your parish.  This can create a lot of synergy all-around!

It always amazes me how many parishes say they can no longer offer adult church school because no one will prepare and lead it each Sunday. The answer?  Focus on community needs and issues. Tap into your community resources for longer teaching experiences, as well as quick bits during announcement time.  Then, all you need is someone to introduce your guest/s, monitor time, and thank them.

Picking up on the idea of teaching and learning via community programs and leaders, you may also want to try getting this concept out of the realm of Sunday mornings and develop a weekly/weekday  experience where both parishioners and community residents can gather for a social and learning time from someone in the community.  Such experiences could also end with prayers and social time in the parish hall or at a nearby restaurant.  How might people in your small community view your parish hall if you renamed it the St. Swithen’s Community Center or Community Learning Center?  More food for thought!

More ideas next month…. So, what are you trying now that is already working in your parish?  Tell us here.

Until next time,

Kathy

Around the Fireplace: June 2016

Part One: How to Attract Multiple Guests to Your Church on Sunday Mornings with Minimal Effort or Expense

by Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

Huh? Seriously? As a matter of fact, YES! It is actually much easier than you think. Over the summer months here in The Gathered Community, I’ll be offering some simple techniques that may work for you and your parish as you seek to create greater awareness and attract new energy and community connectedness to your own Sunday morning experience. All of these techniques have a common root—recognition. I would define recognition as discovering what small but important things are happening in your community and creatively exploring ways they can be integrated into the context of your Sunday morning worship experience.

Let’s say you just read on social media or in the newspaper that a local middle school band ensemble of 12 just won first place at a recent state music competition. This was actually a real-life scenario for one of our parishes I have worked with recently. Chances are these students, in the midst of feeling pretty good within their own circle of family and friends about what they have achieved, are feeling as though their achievement isn’t particularly important to the rest of the world.

What if you contacted their director and told them your parish had heard about their recent honor and wanted to invite them to perform one Sunday morning and receive a Community Spirit Award certificate from your church? The July 4 weekend is coming up. Perhaps that would be a great opportunity to have a school band group like that perform an arrangement of one of the national songs in our hymnal during Offertory?

Anyone can produce a nice certificate on their computer and print it on a piece of quality paper. Nice frames are available for as low as $1.00 at the Dollar Tree or Dollar General stores. You could present the award during church announcement time and take a pic and/or video, disseminating it on social media and submitting it to your hometown newspaper. It would also be great to video their performance and post it up on social media, as well. Maybe this would also be a great time to stream your worship service through Facebook’s new live tool. All of this positions your church as being very community-minded and as a place that values and celebrates the talents and contributions of local youth.

Best of all, think about the possibilities for what happens when 12 young people from a local middle school perform just a simple piece of music in your church? You get those young people there but also some of their friends, mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, school officials… you get the idea. In extending just a simple act of recognition and hospitality, you will be able to introduce many new people to your church, many of whom are likely unchurched or de-churched.

The possibilities for this strategy are endless. What if you committed to trying it once a month, recognizing the talents of different individuals or groups of achievers? Consider:

• Giving a lauded community theatre group an opportunity to interpret a Biblical story from the lectionary

• Inviting a winning dance school group to share through liturgical dance

• Encouraging local honored student painters or sculptors to listen to the lectionary and express it through their art as your worship proceeds

All you have to do, especially in a small community, is to scour through your local newspaper and social media to discover lots of possibilities and persons who could be recognized for their achievements. Good luck and let us know (thegatheredcommunity@gmail.com).what you tried and how it worked!

Until next month,

Kathy

Around the Fireplace – April 2016

AdobeStock_99054167April Miscellany

A joyous Eastertide! I’m just beginning to slide into Spring following a terrible bout of pneumonia and bronchitis. It has been a rather scary time and I thank all of you for your prayers and notes of concern. I’m gradually working my way back to full power!

That said, I wanted to give you a few general updates.

 

Mystery Guests

If you have requested a visit by a mystery guest, we have been absolutely overwhelmed with requests since Vestry College in February. The GOOD news is we are finally beginning to get the visits caught up and, if you have requested one, a mystery guest has already or will very soon be visiting your parish and getting their report together. And, as usual, if you haven’t had a mystery guest visit and would like one, please contact me anytime. Mystery guests are skilled, trained laity who will anonymously visit your parish (note: WITH your clergy’s approval) and provide your leadership with a written report on their entire experience. The mystery guest experience is great for helping you get some outside perspective on everything from hospitality, to your building and grounds, to the general flow of your Sunday morning experience of worship and education. It can provide an excellent framework for discussion with your vestry, bishop’s committee, or other parish committee or task force.

Parish and Programmatic Web Sites

If you are in the queue for a new web site, the current list of requests for parish sites (either through the mychurchwebsite platform or WordPress) should be ready within the next two weeks. Some additional search optimization work will take a bit longer. And, so will a couple of the programmatic sites in development. If you receive an invoice for parish hosting from mychurchwebsite, ignore it. (They have been told repeatedly that it bills to the diocese but occasionally seem to have new persons handling their billing!) If you would still like to explore the possibility of developing a new site, please contact me anytime.

Instagram

Are you an Instagram user? Does your parish or program have an Instagram account? The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis Instagram account is back in business following an earlier security breach. Please follow the diocese and share! Thanks!

And, what’s new with you this spring?! Don’t forget to share it with us all via The Gathered Community!

Kathy Copas
thegatheredcommunity@gmail.com

Around the Fireplace – February 2016

coffee drinkersWho Do You Know—Really?

by Kathy Copas
Coordinator of Communication and Evangelism

About a month ago I was at a party that—among many guests—included about eight friends of guests who didn’t really know one other beyond basic names.  As the hour grew late, most of these people seemed to sort of gravitate to one room of the house where the conversation began to uncomfortably lag.  So, I decided to pose a question. “What is one thing we could know about you that may surprise us?” Things were quiet and thoughtful for a moment. Then, the extroverts got things rolling.  Soon the introverts followed.  Then, along came some others who were just hearing bits and pieces of some of the stories and stopped to share theirs.
What we all learned that night was incredible. One quiet man had spent some years as a champion Midwest figure skater before injuries finally grounded him.  Another man had a harrowing tale about his time serving in the war in Afghanistan.  A couple of folks had experienced fun, unusual, close encounters with a celebrity. Someone had flown in the Goodyear Blimp.  Still another one lived in a house full of frightening supernatural activity that ultimately ended in a move to another home.
Friendships were made that night among relative strangers, all from the sharing around this one question and the conversation that followed.
                              
Segue to the other day.  I was with a group of Episcopal friends and an interesting topic emerged.  How many people do you actually KNOW in your parish?  Thinking about some categories—people you are close friends with, casual acquaintances, those you regularly see at worship whose names you may know but not much else, and those who are completely unknown to you.  The answers were pretty shocking.  A significant portion of folks fell into the latter category.
Now, some of this has to do with parish size.  Those of you who worship in parishes with maybe 25 people will likely know everyone pretty well.  But, once attendance gets beyond that, things get a bit more amorphous. Defaulting to human nature, it can be easiest to hang with our friends or family, gravitate to those most familiar, and just lose sight of others in our midst.
Perhaps a question this Lent may be how can we know each other better right there in our own parish?  What types of simple questions could we be asking to jump start the telling of our stories?  What could parish life be like if, during Lent at coffee hour, we would all covenant simply to spend the first five minutes learning more about another person—someone we know less well—rather than immediately huddling with our closest friends?  What could we offer as a parish that would encourage us to learn more about each other?  Maybe something as simple as having a question of the day we could ask one another?
There’s no question that the more we know and are known by others the more meaningful the experience of parish life can be.  What can you and your parish do to help intentionally make that happen?  If you try something, tell us what you did and what happened because of it!
Until next month, Kathy