It’s a problem as old as time itself. Ok, maybe not that old, but since people have been communicating important information to people who may or may not be interested the problem has always been the same:
How do we communicate this information so that people won’t tune out and that it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the story. In our case, it happens to be church announcements. Over the years, television marketers and advertisers have found ways to engage audiences via effective commercials so it CAN happen.
Why are Announcements Problematic?
Pressure and Tradition: These 2 words are generally negatives when thinking about church announcements.
Especially in smaller to medium sized churches there is a tendency for groups to pressure the pastor/leadership to include their important announcements, with much of this pressure coming at the last minute. Churches tend to have a problem prioritizing what should be announced in person, via video, in a bulletin, on a screen, or via social media.
In many smaller churches, tradition is a driver. “We’ve always had announcements, so we’ll always have announcements” is the attitude. This is not necessarily wrong, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
In Nine Observations About Announcements In Worship Services, Thom Rainer says:
Pastors also receive pressure from different groups and individuals to make certain their announcements are made. Most every church member has his or her own idea about priorities in the church. One pastor recently told me that a church member got mad at him because he did not announce that the member’s daughter was named salutatorian of her senior high school class.
Most church leaders believe that the retention rate of announcements by members is low. If retention is indeed low, it would indicate that most times of announcements are done due to pressure or tradition or both.
Smaller churches (under 200 in average worship attendance) are very likely to include announcements as a traditional part of the worship service. Excluding them would likely cause some level of conflict in the church.
How do we make church announcements exciting and engaging? Well, here’s a few pointers:
Inspiration Before Information
There’s a big difference between a person who has heard all the details and a person who is inspired to act regardless of the details. People can follow up and find the information, what we need to impart is inspiration. The WHY of the event or opportunity is more important than all the whens and wheres.
In Five Ways To Make Your Announcements Awesome, The Leadership Collective says:
“The location or date of the event doesn’t matter to the hearer as much as WHY they should attend the event. Look at a movie trailer to see this concept done visually- it’s not just information, it’s about inspiration. If you inspire them to attend the event- they will seek out the information on their own.
A great question to ask is “why should these people care about this event?” Make sure the person doing announcements is given clear information so that they can fully understand the event- this will help them make it exciting & allows them to be the authority on the subject.”
Clear Calls To Action
Don’t bog your people down with all the details. Provide a very simple and memorable way for them to follow up and get all the details.
In Seven Elements of Effective Church Announcements, Unseminary says:
Clear next steps: Make sure every announcement has a obvious call to action for your people. Where can people go to get more information? How do they sign up for the class? You can’t make this too obvious or straightforward. Reduce the friction in getting them involved.
Say Yes to The Big Things, No To The Little Things
Right off the bat, there’s room for misunderstanding here, so let’s be clear: calling something big or little does not mean that it’s any more or less important. What it does do, is help us prioritize the things that we believe the SPIRIT is speaking to us to emphasize. We often bombard our congregations with so much information about events and opportunities that they often miss out on the more Kingdom-oriented-BIG-foundational-opportunities of growth and discipleship. We should be careful to maximize the time that we DO have with our faith family. To do that we need to minimize noise.
In How To Make Your Church Announcements Efective, Steve Fogg says:
If you announce everything your church congregation will hear nothing. What is really important to your church? You have around 52 hours in a year. Your average attender may only attend once or twice a month. What are your top ten messages you think they REALLY need to know and act upon. Why ten? I would imagine that most churches shotgun blast around ten to twenty messages per week.
If you can reduce it down to the most important what would they be? Now I personally think ten is too many. So how about your top five? What are they? Now focus on them for a month and see if you get an increase on the those really important goals or priorities. To put it another way, say yes to the big things and no to the little things.
Thank As Much As You Ask
A lot of times we can get caught up in the asking, and forget about the connecting. One of the best ways to connect people to vision and to community is to share gratitude. It’s not about selling a product, it’s about plugging people in to Kingdom family and mission.
In 8 Tips For Better Church Announcements, The Vision Room says:
Thank Before Ask – You should be publicly thanking at least as much as your are publicly asking. Make sure to thank people for financially giving to your church. Thank them for volunteering. Be a thanking machine! Keep this ratio right and people will gladly listen to you.
Violate Expectations, Engage The Brain
When you see something out of the ordinary, something that defies ordinary expectations, the brain pays attention. This is true in announcements as well. When you creatively throw in variation and deviation from the norm, it can be used to benefit. In the case of announcements, if you always do them exactly the same way, people will check out and tune you out. But if you throw a wrench in the spokes, people will (at the very least) be curious as to what’s going on. What you do with their attention is up to you!
In How To Make Boring Church Announcements Memorable, Charles Stone recounts:
One church I visited met in a simple warehouse. About ten minutes into the service a man walked on stage with a microphone in one hand and a hotdog in another. He made a couple of announcements between bites. Then another guy walked up on stage with a mike and a hotdog. They began a dialogue about the church hot-dog cookout that followed. I’ll never forget that creative announcement. Even as I write this post I’m getting hungry for a hotdog.
Although these two guys probably didn’t have the brain in mind when they made that announcement, they exemplified a basic rule of attention. The brain pays attention when expectations get violated. I expected the normal talking head to make announcements. But my brain was made more attentive because what I expected didn’t happen.
Tips For Better Announcements:
- Mix it up. Don’t do it the same way every time.
- If you utilize video announcements, shoot in different locations.
- Use humor or the unexpected.
- Keep them short and to the point.
- Thank as much as you ask.
- Prioritize information.
- Inspire, don’t just inform.
- Work BIG church-wide opportunities into the message.
- Learn to say no.
- Create levels of emphasis. Every announcement doesn’t have to be given during the service time. Use twitter, facebook, video, email, bulletins, etc. to highlight details.
What are some ways you’ve made your church service announcements more engaging and memorable?
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Russ Hutto is the Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church, where he mentors, oversees and helps lead Family and Student worship environments. He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community and at HighestPraise.com.