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The Ideal Length of Everything [Infographic]

Too short? Too long? How do you know if your headline, blog post, hashtag, or social update is too long… and how can you get maximum engagement? The awesome people over at Buffer have created an infographic to help you out as you create content for your church’s social accounts!

social-media-length-infographic

If your Facebook post is 40 characters you could see 86% more engagement than a post with more than 40 characters. Want to increase the open rate of your emails? According to Buffer, if your subject line contains between 28 and 39 characters, you could have an average open rate around 12.2%.

Check it all out here and get started creating better social updates now!

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Worshiping in the Booth

worshipbooth

Image from Lightstock.com

I love being on the graphics team at my church. I love being able to help people worship with easy to read lyrics that transition right when they need them to. I love choosing beautiful backgrounds that enhance worship and don’t distract. I love getting better at my role. One thing I didn’t really think I would love is my own worship on those Sundays.

I thought of it as a sacrifice. I’m so busy and focused on making sure the display is right for the churchgoers that I don’t really get to relax and worship myself. Sometimes I try to sing myself, but if I get too carried away worshiping with everyone, I will get lost and forget to transition at the right time. So I try not to do that. ​But it’s okay, I’m really glad I am able to serve in this way.

This past Sunday though I picked up on something, I think that I’ve felt before but never really stopped to consider. We were playing a new (to me) song called Good Good Father by Housefires. (Watch here, it’s really good!)

So I am adjusting the lyrics in ProPresenter in the morning, and running through the song with the band a bit later, and then running it again three more times during the services. I get to look at all the lyrics at once, over and over again, and these were sticking out to me:

You’re a good, good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are

And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

I became overwhelmed with emotion. I love worshiping on Sundays, but the lyrics just come and go and if I’m not really in the right place mentally or emotionally the lyrics don’t sink in like I think they should. But this Sunday they were just sitting there staring at me and they didn’t go away. Even when I had moved on to other slides for the church to sing the rest of the song, I was still seeing these and it was like it was being pressed into me whether I liked it or not, and these particular words meant a lot for me to hear at this particular time.

I think this has actually happened to me a lot on the Sundays I’ve run graphics. One or two verses in a song, or the chorus, will just stand out to me, and I see it over and over again and it just sits there on the computer screen no matter which lyrics are up on display. It’s really pretty awesome. I end up worshiping in a completely different way.

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Refresh The Christmas Season!

Today, we’re excited to talk about a great way to refresh your Christmas season and services with some great products from the Skit guys over at WorshipHouse and SermonSpice!

Christmas, regrettably, can be a source of great stress for churches as they work hard every year to provide meaningful worship services for the holiday. The tension rests between making sure to hit all the traditional notes while creating a fresh experience each year.

One approach to add meaning to your Christmas worship services is to utilize visual media, specifically the First Christmas and Gifts of Christmas collections from The Skit Guys.

First Christmas is a 6-part video series that depicts biblical characters such as Joseph, Mary, and the Innkeeper telling the Christmas story from their own perspectives. Gifts of Christmas is a five-part series designed to “…help your congregation enter the Christmas season with hearts overflowing with the love of God.”

Utilize Gifts of Christmas during the Christmas season to help teach your congregation and to shepherd them through Advent. It’s also a great tool to promote your Christmas Eve services. Next, use First Christmas during your Christmas Eve Service.

Our friends at SermonSpice And WorshipHouse have created a sample order of service for Christmas Eve that can help you see how you could do this to create a different, but wonderful, service that truly celebrates Jesus entering our world.  Note that the service template does not include specific songs, but rather has a good suggestion of where you could place them in your service. 

Christmas Eve Service
“First Christmas”

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-17
First Christmas: Elizabeth
(Song #1)

Scripture Reading: Luke 1: 26-33
First Christmas: Mary
(Song #2)

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-22
First Christmas: Joseph
(Song #3)

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-7
First Christmas: Innkeeper
(Song #4)

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-14
First Christmas: Shepherd
(Song #5)

Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
First Christmas: Wise Man
(Song #6)

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6 New Church Resources for October

It’s free resource time again! And we at the Church Media Blog have rounded up some of our favorites! These include three inspirational videos, a countdown that will have you drowning in anticipation for your next service, a song chart from Worship Central, and a stock clip. Use these new resources for your ministry and share them with your media-loving acquaintances and friends!

An Act of Worship Intro by Freebridge Media – Mini-Movie

Download the free Mini-Movie at WorshipHouseMedia.com. (Available through October 31)

 

Fearless (Worship Intro) by Centerline New Media – Mini-MovieDownload the free Mini-Movie at Sermonspice.com. (Available through October 31)

 

Underwater Adventure Countdown by Animated Praise – CoundownsDownload the free Countdown at WorshipHouseKids.com. (Available through October 31)

 

Christian Atheist by Journey Box Media - Mini-MoviesDownload the free Mini-Movie at videosforyouth.com. (Available through October 31)

 

The Way by Worship Central – Song ChartDownload the free Song Chart at christiansongcharts.com. (Available through October 31)

 

Stock Video by Pearl – Video ClipDownload the free video clip at lightstock.com. (Available through October 31)

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10 Things You Should Do Right Now to Prepare for Your Christmas Services

now4cmasSome of you read this headline in October, and thought: “WHAT?!?! Is this really a post about Christmas? Before Halloween?” Yes. It really is.

I spoke with some excellent leaders in varying roles in some very different congregations to ask them what they’re doing RIGHT NOW to plan for their Christmas services. After listening to their responses, I’ve distilled 10 things that you should be doing, even a few months out, to prep for your services.

1. Plan What You Want to Say at Christmas (and Before)
The most important thing you can do to begin your service preparation now is to plan what the core message is going to be. How we communicate the Good News that God has come to Earth to dwell among us should be our primary concern – the lights and the media and the program will all serve that backbone. I love how Camron Ware puts it: “focus on the message, and not what we do to tell it.”

John Upchurch, Senior Editor at BibleStudyTools.com, says that we should “go ahead and choose a topic or passage and begin praying about creative ways to get the word out via social media and word of mouth. If you have a bit more flexibility, plan a whole 3- or 4-part series that leads up to Christmas and builds excitement.”

Knowing what you want to communicate at your Christmas service will not only help you plan THAT service, but the series of services leading up to Christmas. Adam Fry, Ministry Environments Pastor at Central, says that even if we don’t know what the whole sermon will be, we should at least nail down the “so what” factor of each week.

2. Think Through Your Set / Stage Design
It’s not only important to think through what you’re going to say, but also where you’re going to say it. Dennis Choy, Communications Pastor at North Coast Church, says, “One of the things I do is to start talking about a set change – will we be in the same sermon series? Will it be Christmas looking? Do we want to keep everything non-Xmas on camera so it can be archived for future use and not time stamped?”

Thinking through these things now can set you up for success when that day arrives a few months from now. “Planning ahead for Christmas can be the difference between an amazing idea and a huge failure. Pyrotechnics? Waterworks? Complex lighting? Humorous play? Time ensures you can think through your creative ideas for Christmas and knock them out of the park—instead of accidentally setting the church on fire,” says Jonathan Malm of ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com.

3. Don’t Go Over the Top
Christmas services are a big opportunity for us to reach people who may only show up once or twice a year, so we want to put our best foot forward. In our pursuit of excellence, however, it’s important that we not go too far over the top. Why? Because, if we do our job and God stirs in folks’ hearts, some of them will come back the next week, and we want to make sure that the next week doesn’t feel like a bait and switch.

Chad Swanzy, Web and Social Media Director at Riverbend Church, says: “People rarely plan for the season after Christmas. They spend so much energy on the church’s ‘Super Bowl’ with the holidays that they have nothing compelling to offer that people want to be a part of the next weekend. ”

Bill Swaringim, Director of Technical Arts at The Crossing, agrees that this can be a pitfall: “While we do ramp up a bit of our programming and production we work hard to make sure they feel like our weekend worship service any other time of the year. We don’t want to welcome guests on these major holidays and pull all the stops out just for them to come back and the service look, sound, feel completely different.”

4. Listen to Christmas Music
Let’s face it. It’s really hard to get into the Christmas spirit this early in the year. I asked a good friend of mine at a smaller church what he’s doing right now, and he just laughed. They’re nowhere near planning three months out. I’m in Dallas and it’s still 95 degrees here.

Bill Swaringim said something that I think can help: “It is hard to think about Christmas at the end of summer and with all the details we carry as we step into a new ministry year. That is why Christmas music is often heard blaring from my office at church in the middle of August.”

I actually have been listening to Christmas music as I’ve worked on this post, and, believe it or not, it has helped a ton to transport my mind to December. It feels a little awkward at first, but try it.

5. Communicate Across Ministries
Donny Phillips, Executive Pastor at Gracepoint, told me that ministries need to be communicating with each other. You have to coordinate media and the choir and the teaching and communications and… you get the idea. Hopefully, you’re doing this all year long, but at Christmas so many moving pieces have to work together with precision, so make sure you’re communicating now.

Luke McElroy serves as a volunteer in the Youth Ministry at Fellowship Bible Church. His planning focus is making sure that calendars make sense for the whole family: “As someone who works with the Youth Ministry primarily, we have to be strategic on the DAY in which we celebrate Christmas. We can’t just do it on Christmas Eve and split the family up and we have to be careful to not promote a giant christmas event the night before finals or big end of year exams.”

6. Plan a Do-Able Theme and Start Working
Beyond planning what you want to say and where you want to say it, you’ll also want to start thinking about theme. This will affect everything you do leading up to Christmas. Elliott Moon, Service Programming Director at Browns Bridge Church, said his “goal is to hone in on what we would like to focus on, or a theme we would like to program around, and then to start chipping away at it each week in our planning meetings.”

Cody Bland, Creative Arts Pastor at Hillside Community Church agrees: “Keep it straight forward. Don’t bite off so much that you can’t chew, and don’t try to do too much with one service.” Figure out what you can do, and begin the work of making that happen.

7. Identify Your Constraints
Part of making sure your theme and plans are do-able is finding and naming your limitations. Kyle Kutter, Church to Church Pastor at LifeChurch.tv puts it this way: “Every church and ministry has constraints — in our budgets, service lengths, number of services, staff and volunteer needs, creative content. Sometimes we even feel constrained simply because we’re not the final decision maker. Whatever the constraint, you need to identify it. ‘Innovation happens where passion meets constraints’ is one of our axioms here at LifeChurch.tv; identifying your constraints is the first step toward innovating a way past them. And for truly ‘out of the box’ results, create your own constraints.”

8. Remember Those Who Struggle With the Holidays
For many of us, the season of Christmas is an incredibly joyous time. We walk around like Will Ferrell in Elf with visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads. For others, the holidays can be a really lonely, depressing season. Chad Swanzy diagnoses the problem this way: “The church has a tendency to forget that a ton of people struggle with the holidays. The consumeristic picture of the successful affluent nuclear family diving into gifts with joy hurts those who lost their job, will split time with their kids because of divorce, or maybe had someone pass away.”

While we’re planning our message and our services, we would do well to consider all the people who may be joining us, especially those who may be in need of a message of the Light that entered the world to be our Comforter.

9. Get Feedback from Everyone You Can
We’ve talked much about communication, and I think it’s important that we not limit that to the way WE communicate OUR vision and plans, but that we also elicit feedback from every part of our staff and congregation. David Gutekunst of WorshipTogether.com (and a worship leader at his church) recommends that we “Ask people in your church what their favorite Christmas carol is. More than any other time of year, people want to sing songs they know. Figure out what they want and give it to them.”

10. Get Inspired
As the leader – or a leader – of your church, you can’t take anyone farther than you have been yourself. For this reason, it’s vitally important that you feel inspired… and in some cases, do the hard work of finding inspiration. Justin Jackson, Creative Director at Central Christian Church, hits the nail on the head: “As the time gets closer, I find the most important thing is to be personally moved by some aspect of Christmas. Until it moves me (as an artist) I can’t move others… I start to read the stories, watch the movies and visit all the Christmas sections that pop up in stores. I make time to reflect so I can share whatever God shares with me. I think this is essential for all creative leaders. Otherwise, all I have to go in is my talent and cleverness—which is far more exhausting than simply being inspired.”

What are you doing? Share your Christmas prep secrets in the comments below.

*Special thanks to the guys who took the time to share their wisdom. You can follow them here: John Upchurch, Dennis Choy, Bill Swaringim, Camron Ware, Donny Phillips, Cody Bland, Kyle Kutter, Elliott Moon, Adam Fry, Chad Swanzy, Jonathan Malm, Luke McElroy, David Gutekunst, and Justin Jackson.

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