Reaching the Unplugged

Reaching the Unplugged

June 25, 2012 by

The rise of the Internet, new media and mobile technology has ushered church communications into a new digital era. As a result, churches have worked hard to create a flawless user experience, engaged social networks and search engine optimized websites. We’ve come far but I fear we’ve left people behind. Meet the “unplugged.”

Myth: The Unplugged are all Senior Citizens
The unplugged are not just those eligible for the AARP. Simply put, the “unplugged” are those in our pews who are not regularly visiting the Internet or socially engaged online. They think Facebook is a mystery or a joke. They may have an email address, but rarely access it. They tend to be employed in vocations that don’t require frequent computer use. To label any one age group is a vague generalization that dismisses the idea that everyone needs access to information despite their tech level. So how do we keep up our online strategies while still caring for the unplugged?

Think Hub and Spokes
I look at communications as a bicycle; two wheels (online and offline) move the bicycle forward. Just like using Facebook, twitter, email and other tools to bring everyone back to points on your website, use platform announcements, signage, posters, people, etc to point back to one central hub with all your communication pieces.

  • Designate a central area in your church where all your communication connects (Information/Visitor Center). If this doesn’t already exist somewhere in your space it’s time to make one.
  • Determine whether the space should be staffed or stand-alone and the pros and cons of each.
  • Place it centrally in your space and visible from as many points as possible.

Begin With the End in Mind
Undoubtedly, you’ve spent much time thinking through and strategically addressing your online audience. If you haven’t, consider crafting content that can translate easily from web to print. Each page on your website exists because it presents valuable information to the curious churchgoer.

  • Display the information on printed cards, recycling website text and adapt it as needed for an offline audience. Remove the hyperlinks and include any titles of documents to pick up, the name of a person to contact or how to register.
  • For dynamic online content that changes week to week such as calendars, blog posts, email campaigns and prayer requests, compile a stapled booklet of printed copies and make it available as a weekly or monthly touch point.

Maintain a Simple Event Registration Process
Keep the offline registration process simple, universal and immediate. Rather than create a new way to register every time, create a one-size fits all system that people become familiar with using and point them to the same system for every event. Every time you announce an event from the platform there should be a universal event registration card in the seat-back that can be filled out and placed in the offering (or however it is collected).

Use Face Time
Never underestimate the power of the personal invite or time spent casting vision for involvement by a staff member. Communications is every staff member’s job. Full buy-in from your senior leadership is vital for the rest of the staff to jump on board.

  • Convince senior leaders of the need to be involved in the communications process as well as promote and use it.
  • Be sure they are familiar with any systems of recruitment or registration.
  • Craft clear objectives for weekend service conversations by staff with members of the congregation. Include an idea of volunteer needs for upcoming church-wide events, event attendance goals and other pertinent communication points.

Some Final Cautions

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. The “unplugged” typically represent a small percentage of your overall audience. Create a simple, sustainable way for them to have access to the same information that the “plugged in” do.
  • Avoid conflicting systems at all costs. Someone will always want to post a sign up sheet for something even if you’ve created a thoughtful process for collecting registrations. Conflicting systems only confuse people and weaken the system.

Remember, it takes both wheels spinning together to make the bicycle move forward and it takes an online and offline system to move the people in your organization toward the unique calling God has for them.

Photo by jenny downing
Post By:

Jon Rogers

Jon Rogers currently serves The Salvation Army Empire State Division as the director of communications and marketing after more than 10 years of full-time ministry within the local church. A five-time Creative Missions-ary, Jon is passionate about three things: functional digital tools, good espresso and purposeful messaging.
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9 Responses to “Reaching the Unplugged”

  • Evan Courtney
    June 25, 2012

    Awesome post Jon. Much needed.

    Most of our events we do online registration for. A Sunday a couple weeks ago we were doing a huge push for an event so we had stations in our lobby for them to sign up right then and right there. Genius right.

    Except all of our stations were MacBook Pros.

    This became a problem people were looking for a mouse, a click button and had no clue how to to two finger scroll. We walked away knowing that we over teched the process for our audience.

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    • Jon Rogers
      June 25, 2012

      Some great additional thoughts there. Sorry to hear about your registration issues. That’s where having a manned station might have been helpful but it can be very difficult to plan for all the possible scenarios!

      A great takeaway for the rest of us to learn from your misfortune though. Thanks for sharing!

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  • David
    June 25, 2012

    You’re a genius. Clone yourself. Do it.

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  • Chris
    June 25, 2012


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  • Jon Rogers
    June 26, 2012

    Thanks Chris!

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  • Gretchen Hastings
    July 5, 2012

    Can I post this or a link to it on our e-magazine? Thanks, Gretchen Hastings, Communications Director, Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      July 9, 2012

      Hey Gretchen, I’m the editor here at Church Marketing Sucks and just sent you an email to follow up on this. Thanks!

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