High Impact Comms: Alex Wood
In the summer of 2016, Alex and Liz Wood planted Harbour Church from St Peter’s Brighton. Harbour Church is a City Centre Resource Church in the heart of Portsmouth. They took a team of 15 people, and two years later they have a congregation of 500 over 3 sites. My husband and I had the privilege of going on the church planting team with Alex and Liz and we worked with them and learnt from them for 2 years. I’m so grateful that Alex has written the article below and I hope it helps with focussing your communications strategy.
Getting your message out there is one of the most important things to think about when planting a church.
When you think about your potential channels of communication to a new city – Facebook, Instagram, Website etc then you want to think about who each of these platforms are aimed at.
Decide who you are communicating with
Just before we planted a church in Portsmouth, my wife and I went to Washington D.C. to visit Jamie Haith. He gave me an incredibly helpful piece of advice that I’ve really held on to – “Don’t be happy with reaching 500 Christians when you’re not connecting with 50,000 people who don’t go to church”.
This advice has shaped how we focus all of our communication at Harbour Church – we are aiming to reach people who don’t go to church yet, and so our social media platforms are primarily aimed at the city rather than at our church or at Christians. This informs the type of language we use (we don’t walk about joining us for fellowship!) as well as the pictures and the markets to which we boost our posts.
It might be that you decide to use one an online platform to speak to your church or Christians, and if that’s the case, consistency is the key. If your posts and website use language that is aimed at your church and expects a level of knowledge and information about you or the Christian faith, then don’t expect it to connect with people who are outside the church.
You need to decide who you’re trying to reach and be consistent in communicating to them. Use hashtags to access different people, follow the kinds of people you’re trying to reach and boost your Facebook posts to audiences that are specifically targeted.
Imagine your audience
A helpful tool can be to create two or three sample people and get to know them really well. For example, create an example of the type of person you’re hoping to reach and then name their interests, likes and habits.
Tom (someone who isn’t real, but we’ve created)
Tom is a 24 year old graduate who moved to Portsmouth for university and stayed for a job in IT.
Tom checks Facebook every day and uses it primarily to stay in touch with friends. He has an instagram account and follows lots of coffee shops, bars and art groups in Portsmouth and Southsea.
Tom isn’t a Christian but met a friend at uni who regularly attends church. He is open to the idea of Christianity and faith, but doesn’t have the motivation to explore it further.
Tom is finding his job boring and mundane, he recently broke up with his long-term girlfriend and is searching for a job with more meaning and purpose.
We then use these characteristics to help us better understand how to reach Tom. Every time we think about a communication, we might filter it through what Tom would think. Over the years we’ve got to know Tom better and better and have increased the information we believe to be true about him.
Communicating with the church
We aim our Instagram, Facebook and website at people who don’t go to church yet. We want them to be a shop window in to our church. This makes communicating with our church a bit more tricky – how do we let the church know that there’s a prayer meeting happening on Thursday night? We use email, phone calls, texts, a “Sunday vision shout” and Facebook messenger to reach the congregation with information they need to know.