A quick Google search for the term “multi-site church” yields quite a few results in the way of managing multiple church campuses—but hardly any when it comes to communicating effectively across them. Could it be that churches have adopted a “one size fits all” approach across their church body?
Perhaps. Many churches today have done well in adopting multiple communication channels to appeal to the wide range of needs and preferences among their diverse members. But what happens when those communications must be tailored to not only one congregation, but two or three uniquely different ones?
Luckily, there are a number of cost-effective tools and strategies available to churches today that make your job easier in disseminating information, but also greatly appeal to churchgoers of any age or demographic.
1. Website: Be Campus-Specific
Make space for your campuses on your website (most likely in a drop-down menu under a tab called “Campuses”). Northview Church in Indianapolis, IN does this really well by greeting new website visitors with a screen to select their campus before entering the site. That way, all information they consume while browsing will be tailored to their site. Newcomers will come searching for basic information:
- Where is the campus located?
- What are the worship times?
- What types of programs does each site offer?
But don’t overdo it—campus-specific details like event times and sign-ups are better left to more encompassing communication mediums like your all-church calendar or app.
Consider a short video sample of the worship experience and interior of the building to help first-timers get a feel for what to expect in that specific location. Whether the location is a mega church or in a strip mall, own it—don’t let someone be surprised at what they see when they get to your parking lot.
2. Bulletins: Save Money, Save Time
Three campuses means three bulletins, right? Wrong. With today’s digital resources, there’s just no reason to waste the money or paper. Use your bulletin strictly for broader church-wide announcements and leave other communication mediums to do the rest.
If it’s necessary to share campus-specific news in your bulletin, be sure to keep it short for general knowledge purposes, leaving details to your web and/or app. Peachtree City Christian Church in Peachtree City, GA does this well by using their bulletin solely for publicizing the most important programs and information, leaving details and other programming to other digital channels like their mobile app, social media, and website. Doing this has reduced the size of the printed bulletin, resulting in an average cost savings of $400 per month.
3. Calendar: Personalize for Manageability
With multiple campuses, you’re sure to have quite a few events on the calendar. But it’s too overwhelming to the churchgoer who just wants to find a simple way to get involved. Do everything you can to make the calendar as personalized and unique to the campus—and individual—as possible. Of course, keeping members at other campuses in the know about what’s going on is good for visibility and increased attendance, but save that for the big stuff—not everyday programming and regular meet-ups.
The toughest part about a church calendar is figuring out where to display it for easy updating and easy consumption by viewers. The thing is, church website calendars are notorious for being clunky and hard to manage. Find a church CMS that make this easy. Then, rely on your app to make it easy on members. Plus, the best apps will be able to pull in your website calendar so you only have to make updates once.
4. Live Stream: Start Small to Go Big
While in-person is always best, sometimes churchgoers want to hear a unified message—the same way their church peers at another site heard it. Luckily, there are a number of live streaming services to help you simulcast and/or post videos to your website and app for playback later, including Ustream, Livestream, and YouTube Live. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Camera. High-quality is best, but most any will integrate with streaming services. Use the same camera you record sermons with.
- Streaming channel. Create a channel with a streaming service, and test, test, test before you share on social media. Once you’ve got your bearings, pull the feed into your app so members can watch wherever, whenever.
- Screen/projector. Don’t forget about the members you’re streaming Invest in a high-quality projector and a large screen or wall space so overflow audiences can come as close as possible to the same experience as in-person guests.
5. Mobile App: Segment to Engage
Build an app for your church with a provider that offers multi-site functionality, allowing users to select their campus for the most relevant information, updated calendars, and location-specific directories. With multi-site capabilities, each campus can have its own feel and tailored content even though all of your church sites live in a single app.
Multilingual congregations benefit greatly from this feature, allowing them to create an app that can be viewed in different languages. Church of the Redeemer in Gaithersburg, MD does this well by providing a separate app experience for their Spanish-speaking campus, giving it a unique feel.
The best part about having an app is that you can take personalization one step further through segmented push messaging. Users can choose their message preferences based on available groups, allowing you to send more relevant messages to a targeted group.
Want more tips like these? Check out our latest Guide to Building a Multi-Site Communications Strategy for expert advice, research, and screenshots to help you create a more effective communications plan.