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Communicate in lots of ways to inform all Print E-mail
By Ken Satterfield, Word&Way   
Thursday, July 26, 2012

"I like your column, but I often have no idea what you are talking about," my mom once said.

A danger in writing this column is unintentionally ignoring those who aren't using the Internet -- just like my mom.

Statistics often cite the number of people on the Internet, but look at those who are not "wired." According to a Pew Research Center survey released in April, those who did not indicate they are online include:

• 11 percent of Gen Xers

• 7 percent of Millenials

• 10 percent of Americans earning between $50,000 and $74,999 annually

• 3 percent of Americans earning more that $75,000

• 37 percent of those earning less than $30,000

• 57 percent of those without high school diplomas.

Overall, a full 47 percent of older Americans (aged 65+) do not browse the Internet or use email. Eight percent of all Americans using the Internet don't use email, according to Pew Internet in 2011. According to a Pew Research Center 2011 survey, 17 percent of adult Americans do not own a cellphone, and about 55 percent overall don't receive text messages because of the phone they own, personal choice or their calling plan.

When Grey Matter Research and Consulting reported last month that 22 percent of adult Americans had visited a place of worship's website in the prior six months, a lot of eyebrows were raised -- but still, almost four of five adults had not visited.

Public agencies are making less information available to those not online, too. The Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World reports much information is available only by computer or smartphone, and some can be obtained only by request, or by going to a library.

That's a lot of people who do not read your email, prefer you not text them and aren't visiting your church website. They aren't mad at you -- they are literally on a different channel. Our churches need to set a higher bar than local government.

Despite arguments that may be made about reducing print and mail costs and the Internet's worldwide reach, churches have to ask: How do you keep all members and potential members informed about your church, church events and prayer needs?

Multiply the message. Communicate in multiple ways -- email, newsletters, worship announcements, projection screens, websites, Sunday School classes, mail, texts, phone calls -- to not only reach those not wired, but also people who learn and retain information visually, audibly or by physically holding a communication.

Poll the people. It helps to keep in mind certain categories of people when you plan communication -- shut-ins, families, college students, winter "snowbirds,” etc. Don't do this to label people, but to put a face to recipients. Consider how they will be able to receive -- and respond -- to your message. Make this a part of your publicity.

Going a step further: Consider a communications audit for your church as a long-term solution. This is included in a good collection of communications resources from United Methodists (tinyurl.com/CommAudit). Or gather some focus groups representative of the congregation and ask how they prefer to receive information.

Like the library. If your church has a well-organized library, make it or a church welcome station a place to find information, especially when the church office is closed.

Make allowances. Each member is worthy of contact. Budgeting for printing and mailing should not be a burden to the church or a source of guilt for recipients. Better communication over time, with or without electronics, means people are better informed, leading to greater participation and word of mouth.

Ken Satterfield is advertising coordinator for Word&Way.

 
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