32 simple public relations moves that’ll make your ministry shine.
Why are there more than 122,000 public relations specialists in America? Because bad news travels fast and lingers longer, while good news is rarely heard above the din of bad news. Politicians and corporate presidents understand that it’s critical for their image-building to shout good news year-round. In the same way, good public relations is your key to helping people inside and outside your church understand your ministry’s vision and strengths. What you do internally to create a positive image for your children’s ministry can make or break your children’s ministry, in good and especially bad times.
Like it or not, you have a public that demands you feed it good news. Your public, of course, starts with children, parents, and teachers, then extends to your church staff, congregation, and community.
The following are 32 practical internal public relations strategies that are as simple as they are effective.
1. Publish your good news.
Sometimes people don’t know what to think about your ministry because you don’t tell them. There’s nothing like the printed word to establish an impression of your progress. Don’t forget that newsletters can be emailed as well as mailed. And they can be handed out after class or put in your bulletin, too.
2. Deliver more than you promise.
It helps to publicize events, but make sure your results speak louder than your hype.
3. Celebrate every success.
Did you tell anyone and everyone about the stories that brought tears to your eyes at the mother-daughter retreat? Go ahead and make them tear up, too!
4. Share your stories with “megaphone members.”
There’s always someone in your church who’s the first to know everything. Rather than hide news from these amplified voices, take them to breakfast once a month to fill them in on your secret successes. They’ll love the insider information, and you’ll find that your stories will become legend as they’re repeated throughout your church.
5. Attend the right meetings.
Do you attend your church’s board meetings or staff meetings? Make sure you’re present when your ministry is evaluated and your goals are set or assessed. Remember, don’t wait to react to questions; be proactive and share positive successes.
6. Make the good better.
Yesterday’s fully staffed nursery can quickly become tomorrow’s no-show Sunday if you’re spending your time putting out fires rather than nurturing success. I love what Peter Drucker has stated for any newcomer to ministry: “Do what needs to be done first, then do what you want to do.” You must fix problems before you set goals.
7. Change the wattage of your light bulbs.
Making your ministry brighter can be as simple as changing light bulbs. Use fluorescent bulbs wherever you can since they distribute light evenly.
8. Change a stinky diaper in the nursery.
Once, when I walked into a nursery to encourage the volunteers, I noticed something terribly wrong. One of the toddlers needed to be changed in a hurry. By picking up that child and spending the time to change the diaper, I unwittingly became a legend among the nursery staff. They knew instantly that I appreciated what they did and I understood how hard it was to do it.
9. Create PowerPoint presentations for your board, staff, or church.
If you don’t know how to use PowerPoint, enlist those who can to create a compelling media display that correlates with your vision.
10. Put your message in many mouths.
For you to stand at the pulpit and make the announcement that the 2-year-old department needs volunteers creates a glaze across the audience that rivals anything Krispy Kreme doughnuts could create. Instead, have one of your nursery volunteers share a story of how his or her life has been enriched because of spending time with a young child.
11. Win your critics.
In fact, take your biggest critic to Starbucks and ask for advice. For extra credit, bring a notepad and take notes.
12. Let your light shine.
Stand in your church lobby at the conclusion of each service to smile and say goodbye to people. Greet everyone by his or her first name.
13. Be there for people.
Attend every funeral at your church. Greet the family, and don’t sit in the back.
14. Don’t play hooky.
Attend at least one church service each Sunday. It’ll do your heart good, too. Attend with your family and sit together. For extra credit, sit together toward the front.
15. Cover the basics.
Fill out a regular attendee card and put it in the offering plate. It’s amazing to me that even the office staff loves you if you aren’t above the tasks you ask others to do.
16. Give faithfully.
Put your offering in the offering plate — not for show, but because it’s the right thing to do.
17. Display your crowd-pleasing wares.
Display the preschool and kindergarten crafts in the lobby one Sunday. Have the kids file up to the front of the church to sing a few songs. Show videos of your children’s ministry — with lots of choice quotes from kids of all ages.
18. Have an open house.
Twice a year, invite parents to attend Sunday school with their children. Ensure that every class is well-staffed, and provide special refreshments afterward.
19. Show that you care.
Visit someone who’s sick in the hospital or at home. Send anniversary and birthday cards to your board and staff members.
20. Read about good public relations from the sources.
Any business publication such as Fast Company magazine (www.fastcompany.com) can speed up your learning curve in the field of public relations.
21. Visit classes.
Visit every classroom and teacher every Sunday so they see you seeing them. People rarely remember what you say, they rarely remember what you do, but they’ll never forget the way you make them feel.
22. Work on positive staff relations.
It’ll show. Say good things about your senior pastor’s sermon at the next staff meeting. Ask the choir director if you can sit in on practice one night just because you want to. Ask the youth pastor what you can pray for this month. Be kind and considerate whenever you speak to the custodian. For extra credit, help set up a room sometime. Attend the board retreat. Listen and ask questions rather than making statements or observations.
23. Communicate well.
Update your phone message daily, stating where you’ll be that day. This little task takes less than a minute, but you’ll be amazed at how many people will be impressed by your initiative and industry. Let everyone know when you’ll be on vacation.
24. Serve in other areas.
If your church has a clean-up day, make sure you show up to work. For extra credit, help out in the men’s or women’s ministry area of the church, or scrub the church sign out front — work somewhere besides your area. Serve lunch at a Habitat for Humanity site, compliments of your children’s ministry.
25. Go online with your public relations.
Start a Web site for your children’s ministry that communicates the vision for your program as well as coming events. Add a link to your site on the front page of your church’s Web site, too. And update it regularly.
26. Improve bathroom odors.
Have you ever walked into a restroom and just felt repelled? A simple act of changing the air freshener or getting automatic fragrance dispensers will overcome the nasties.
27. Broadcast good news.
Submit a bulletin insert before the deadline, and have something positive to say in every church monthly newsletter. Create press releases for your main ministry events that are open to your community, and share results afterward.
28. Get involved at school.
Attend Open House Night at school with your children. Or attend even if you don’t have children. Spend a lunchtime with kids from your ministry at their school. Chances are they’ll invite their friends and become the envy of the school if you bring fast food.
29. Wow your volunteers.
Serve snacks to your volunteers each Sunday morning. Include flavored coffee that’s different from the normal coffee offered to the church. Feed volunteers’ children, too.
30. Say thanks first.
Thank volunteers for serving in children’s ministry before asking them if they’d like to volunteer for next year. Even better, thank them in front of the children they serve, the parents they support, and the peers they serve with.
31. Provide signage that’s visitor-oriented and child-friendly.
Ask a colleague who doesn’t attend your church to visit one Sunday and review what you need to do to communicate to parents and children more effectively. Imprint polo shirts with your children’s ministry logo for all your team members.
32. Proofread your public relation letters.
There’s nothing like a misspelled document to communicate carelessness, laziness, or ignorance. If necessary, have someone else proofread for you.
Keith Johnson is the former national field services manager for Group Publishing.
Want more articles for children’s ministry leaders? Check these out.