Taming the Flood of Church Notifications

zombies-aheadThe morning devotional is finished. The voicemails have been checked. The administrative assistant’s needs have been met. The coffee mug is within reach. It’s time.

With a brief hesitation and gathering-of-wits, I check my email.

Without fail each day, there’s a ton of Chinese spam which somehow slips past the firewall. But almost as numerous are the updates and action alerts and notifications from church entities. Emails from the church committees, district events, conference upcoming notices, and worldwide organizational calls-to-action or mundane updates. Each one claiming to be as important or time-sensitive as the rest. And don’t get me started on the Obama, Amazon.com, or other entities that also flood my inbox.

But email isn’t the only source. Increasingly, my pastor friends have been using Facebook and Twitter to do announcements and messages to their parishioners. Saturdays and Sundays are filled with “come to church on Sunday” updates that fill up my feed. They are my friends, so I’m not going to silence them, but it is still a glut of communications that people think will work and cut through the clutter.

So the question is: in this digital age, how do you get your message through? This question that was posed on a private forum on Facebook. One response that supports the above comments was this one:

The biggest challenge of [any] UM agency may be the overload of communications that come to pastors and members from all directions — including from every general agency of the UMC, every Annual Conference agency of one’s own AC, and every district, each of which might as well be marked “urgent.”

You didn’t ask me but I do have a few responses. I know there’s not a way to reduce the flood of notifications, but I do have a few suggestions to help church communicators think through making their notifications work better:

  1. Clergy on Facebook: separate your professional updates from your personal ones. I’ve outlined a way to do it here. But simply: start a page for your church and invite parishioners to “like” the page and post those updates there. That way if I want to hear how your church is doing or Scriptures-of-the-day, I can opt in while still being FB friends with you.
  2. Advocacy Organizations: Stagger your email and social media updates. It irritates me when I read an update on my email, then I login to Facebook and see it there, and still see it also on Twitter. If I didn’t check it then, it would have been lost to the flood. Instead, stagger them out: send the email, update the Facebook 2 hours later, send the Tweet 2 hours after that. Pay attention to your metrics to see when the maximum response time is and go from there. Some people may still get all 3+ updates, but at least you aren’t flooding your own advocates’ streams. Church folks with an iPhone: Buffer is your friend.
  3. Local Church updates: Topic AND meeting time in the email subject. That way my availability and my interest define whether I am able to attend and I can know at a glance. While as pastor I tend to go to everything, for everyone else that information needs to be in the subject so they can balance interest and availability.

Other suggestions for taming notifications?

  • Readers: Post your workflow for taming church notifications or your suggestions below! Thanks for your wisdom.
  • Church communicators: how do you have your message cut through the clutter?

Thanks for your comments!

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  1. Stephen says

    Facebook Pages, dedicated church twitter accounts, and church instragrams. I am your friend, want to see your tweets, and want to look at your pictures.

    I am really suprised how many pastors don’t do this.

  2. says

    Wow. Separate my church updates from my social updates? People who care about me and my life, care about my religious life – which is my life; I bring my faith home with me. People in my church care about my social life – they called a human pastor who has a life inside and outside the church which are remarkably similar and hopefully a good example; we are friends, often more like family. Whether I’m posting pictures and antics of my grandkids sharing my political point of view or bragging about “my” sports team, not all my friends agree but are as interested and polite as I am of everything they post. And of everything I send and receive my friends are more likely to post or re-post something that is apt to be offensive to me, but I don’t take offense. The descriptor “friend” is pretty tentative and shallow if my “friend” outside of church doesn’t care enough about me to expend whatever effort it takes to ignore a suggested or commented upon scripture reading or notice of a church meeting or even an invitation to church even if they don’t attend my church or any church.

  3. says

    Thank for this post, Jeremy. I really resonate with the Facebook piece. (Although, I have to preface this by saying that I have always really struggled to connect with fb, for some reason I just don’t spend much time there.) Not too long ago, I realized my fb feed was almost exclusively linking to blog posts I had written. It occurred to me that many of my friends, especially those from high school and college, might not care to read the latest post on the blog. I created a page for the blog and let folks know that I was going to shift blog related stuff there. Several people liked the blog as a result of that update, but more didn’t. I think this change will help me avoid alienating friends who don’t care about Methodism as much as I do! And I also think it gives you a bit more permission to share your blog stuff on the fb page, bc the people who see it did intentionally decide to “like” the page. In my mind the same advantages would apply in creating a fb page for your church.

    An advantage I don’t think you mentioned – apologies if I am the one who missed it – is that a page on Facebook for your church would be easier to pass on to someone else when the appointment changes. I think having a page where parishioners and folks in the community are already connected, and being able to hand this on would be a real gift to an incoming pastor

    To Rev. Devine’s point: I don’t read Jeremy as arguing for a separation between your life as a Christian and your “other” life. Rather, I hear him saying that folks often post information on their personal fb profile that is very geographically specific. An example: I had a friend who started a new church and part of his strategy was to announce the worship time and invite people to church every week. I found this to be a bit odd, because the invitation was being sent to a large percentage of people who were pastors (and so probably not looking for a place to worship on Sunday) or out of town (and so not able to worship with him on Sunday). I was not offended by the announcements or invitations, but the aggregate effect of many people doing that is “noise” that can’t serve much of a purpose. Jeremy, please correct me if I am misunderstanding what you are getting at here.

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