5 Ways to Do Church Communication on the Cheap

5 Ways to Do Church Communication on the Cheap

April 8, 2013 by

“If I had an unlimited communications budget, then I would _______.”

I would make a pretty confident bet that no church has dedicated an unlimited amount of funds to communications. In fact, most of us operate on what we consider a limited budget. This means we have to get creative about communicating with excellence. Here are the five ways that I have been able to make my limited budget go as far as possible:

1. Dig on Vimeo for Promo Videos
If you are like me, you see the value in moving pictures behind your ad. But it is not practical to hire a production company every time you want to promote an event or initiative. And there is too much junk on YouTube. You might already be using Vimeo to host your videos, but did you know that a lot of artists openly grant access and allow you to download it for free? Search some keywords be sure to check the box “downloadable.” Boom. Then you can spend your money on design and editing. (Make sure you’re only grabbing videos that are licensed for reuse. You can also set the search box to look for specific licensing. Also user beware, not every licensed video is fully licensed and good to go.)

2. Download Existing Designs for Marketing
It might surprise you to know how many large and growing churches use pre-existing designs, templates and other shared media. If you have a limited staff and budget, you probably should not be spending 10 hours working on a custom graphic for your men’s banquet or hiring a designer to do it. An example of a website that facilitates this inexpensive design sharing: CreationSwap. Most graphics are free and can be downloaded as a source graphic (i.e. Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.)

3. Target Market with Facebook Ads
If you are bummed that you don’t have the budget to do a mail drop to the 20,000 people in your market, then this will comfort you. You can reach an exponentially larger and more targeted audience for much less money by harnessing the amazing power of Facebook ads. For example: We ran a simple five-day ad on Facebook to promote our Easter web page. It targeted those who are friends with someone already connected to our Facebook page (approximately 1,800 followers at the time) who also live in a 10 mile radius from our church. The results?

  • Total individuals that saw the ad at least once: 8,491
  • Actions taken/clicks: 401
  • Total spent: $38.58

That’s like 401 people calling your church office after sending out 8,491 invite cards! There are so many great reports and articles out there that can get you started with Facebook advertising.

4. Piece Together a Web Presence
You might already know that your web presence needs refreshing. Maybe you need to start over. If you started to look for all-in-one packages like I did when I started out, then you are probably disappointed with the cost per/month. While there are lots of advantages to this option (web hosting, design, forms, email, etc. included in one fee), you are usually stuck in an expensive contract with little or no expansion possibilities. Instead begin to make a list of all web functions you require, then set out to get them individually. Remember you are reading about church comm on the cheap, not the easy. Example:

By piecing together services you also have the ability adapt to growth or get rid of an area that is not working while retaining control of all the pieces.

5. Dirt Cheap Printing
You can print high-quality, full-color pieces for cheaper than you think. Web printers like UPrinting, VistaPrint, ClubFlyers and others have very affordable prices. You can get 1,000 full-color, two-sided business cards for $25. Consider the possibilities of printing invite cards and doing a ‘bring a friend’ push for your next event.

Church communication doesn’t have to be costly. This just a quick sampling of ways you can promote your church without spending a lot of cash. How are you doing church communication on the cheap?

We’re thrilled to partner with Creative Missions (our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication, handles the Creative Missions finances). Learn more about Creative Missions and this year’s trip to Alaska and consider a financial donation to help church communicators help other churches communicate better.

For more helpful tips like this, check out Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication. It’s a booklet of articles by Creative Missions alumni offering a crash course in church marketing basics.

Post By:

Joe Porter

Joe Porter is the communications director at Whitewater Crossing in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area in addition to maintaining his photo and video business.
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22 Responses to “5 Ways to Do Church Communication on the Cheap”

  • Dale Argot
    April 8, 2013

    While it’s not completely free, our church has had great success with Weebly. That takes care of the hosting, the templates, audio and video hosting all in one place. I have been very pleased and it’s less than $10 a month.

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  • Christian
    April 8, 2013

    These are great resources, Joe. Thanks for sharing!

    I think a word is in order about “cheap” church communications, though: Before just up and deciding you have to do everything on the cheap, ask why.

    One of my seminary professors told a story about going golfing with a well-to-do business man who was parishioner in his church. The course offered a discount for pastors, which the professor — being a thrifty Dutch Calvinist — was happy to use. But the parishioner interceded and paid the full green fee, and said to the professor, “I wish you wouldn’t do that. It just gives them one more reason not to trust us.”

    The point being that when we seize on “cheap” or “free” in churches, there’s a collateral impact on our witness and ministry that we often don’t consider. Church communication is ministry, yes, but it’s also a professional job, and like all professional jobs, it costs money.

    One of our church’s communications committee members said to me a few weeks ago, following a decision to spend a lot of money on a website, “We’ve just got to remind people: This church is worth the investment.” Yes.

    Don’t choose cheap or free options just because they’re cheap or free; there’s inestimable value in paying for good work and in your church building relationships with other creatives. And consider your neighbors: For example, there’s probably a family-run printing business in your city who’d love to earn (and keep!) your business, rather than having you outsource everything to VistaPrint.

    In summary, read Mike Monteiro’s book Design is a Job.

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    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      April 9, 2013

      Christian, I’d agree with Joe’s point below. It would be ideal for churches not to cheap out and spend the necessary money on marketing like they should. As a communications professional I heartily endorse that. ;-)

      But there’s also the reality that many churches have meager budgets and church communicators need to make the most of what little they have. Hopefully by following best practices and making in roads with limited budgets and getting results, we can prove that even a little investment is well spent.

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  • Jeremy
    April 8, 2013

    I have a couple other thoughts here. First, I may be wrong, but I think Google killed the free version of Google Apps. Outlook.com does offer a similar solution for free though.

    Second, I’ve been using Amazon S3 for audio hosting. It’s been great, and its incredibly cheap.

    Finally, I do a lot of printing, and, while I have used both Uprinting and Vista, I have found that gotprint.net is much cheaper and just as high quality. I’ve probably done half a dozen orders from them and have never been disappointed.

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    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      April 9, 2013

      You sure about that? From a quick Google search, it looks like Google has gone back and forth on free for churches. Spring of 2012 it came back to free. I haven’t seen anything more recent saying otherwise (though it’s entirely possible it could have–what, Google kill something off?).

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  • Caleb Warren
    April 8, 2013

    These are good. I would also add that digital is cheaper than printing. Digital media has a farther reach, is cheaper and faster. For example, newsletters sent by snail-mail cost more, take a lot more time to make and take a lot more time to arrive in someones mailbox than an email newsletter. Email newsletters can be extremely effective and they don’t cost much through a service like MailChimp.

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  • Joe Porter
    April 8, 2013

    Great thoughts Christian. You’re right. The why should always drive the what.

    Some of us are blessed with a budget. Some have no budget at all. I would hope those with limited budgets would find this useful while continuing to show their leaders the need for a legitimate budget.



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  • Seth McGuinness
    April 9, 2013

    We’ve seen success from churches who use external signage to promote text messaging. This allows not only members to receive a message but also the community to get a message if they are interested, even without attending a service yet.

    While an unlimited texting plan could keep your cost down if you were to send text messages from a church (or members) cell phone, a self managed text solution allows for contact management and even multiple groups to send different messages all for usually cheaper than most cell providers charge per text.

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    • Christian
      April 9, 2013

      Seth: Do you have a recommendation for a mass-text solution? I researched some the other week and wasn’t very impressed by any of the options — especially given their costs. Would love to hear what others are doing here.

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      • Seth McGuinness
        April 17, 2013

        Christian: First, I hope you found Call-Em-All in your search and trials and if not, I’d recommend taking the 2 mins to setup a free trial and give it a shot.

        To answer your question the majority of the messages fall into two categories. Reminders and Bible Verses. For example we have a catholic church that sends reminders to those who are scheduled to help with the week’s Mass. We also have another church that offers their members a bible verse a week. And then we have many churches that create multiple keywords that apply to subgroups (choir, men’s club, youth group, etc) and send messages only to those specific groups.

        We also recommend that a church place their general keywords on their marketing materials such as neighborhood mailings, website (http://blog.call-em-all.com/txt-optins-website/), outside signage, and service programs. The reason is because it isn’t going to be the only communication tool, but it is a tool in the communication tool belt.

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  • Church Mailings
    April 10, 2013

    Targeting market with Facebook ads can really be one of the most cheapest mean of church communication. And it can target a lot of people effectively and generously.

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  • LJoy
    April 14, 2013

    Our congregation uses an application called Church Updates and it is AMAZING!!

    We are able to share our announcements, prayer requests (and have others let us know they are praying, and post needs (and have others sign up for those needs). Plus we get weekly updates about new information, and reminding us of our commitments we have agreed to.

    If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s at churchupdates.org.

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  • Josh
    May 15, 2013

    Another (the best) most affordable method for communicating with church members is a mobile app that they can download on to their phones.

    It provides the church with a constant connection with members and allows the church to send push notifications (instant message) to members phones.

    Other benefits include

    Watch full-length messages and sermons
    Display artwork
    Optimized for WiFi, 3G + 4G LTE
    Optimized for iOS, Android + Windows Phone
    Apple-approved video encoding
    YouTube compatible
    Vimeo compatible
    Live-streaming integration
    AirPlay + Apple TV integration

    App promotion and sharing web page
    Twitter sharing
    Facebook sharing
    Email sharing
    Connect with your online giving service

    RSS Reader for blogs, news, devotionals, etc
    ESV Bible with reading plan + audio
    Create your own customized Bible reading plan
    HTML text
    PDF (bulletins, news, training)

    Listen to full-length messages and sermons
    Place-holding (smart resume capabilities)
    Background audio for multitasking
    Integrates with native iOS controls
    Audio downloads
    Offline listening
    Optimized for Apple-approved headsets, remotes, docks
    Displays artwork
    Music player with album playlists
    Live-streaming integration
    AirPlay + Apple TV integration

    One-click publishing to all platforms:
    iPod touch
    Android phone
    iPad mini
    Windows Phone
    App sharing webpage
    Twitter sharing
    Facebook sharing
    Email sharing

    Pro API integration with your existing CMS
    Present sermon notes
    Web links
    Incorporate compatible services such as YouVersion, The City, Fellowship One, and more!
    Staff directory
    Ministries Page
    Ministry listing
    Custom color bars
    Branded launch screens + icons
    And much more…

    if you need help with this email me joshualbrunson@gmail.com

    God bless

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  • George Cruz
    May 15, 2013

    You can also use the services of MiamiPrinting.com they offer really good prices on Brochures. Great customer service and the quality is amazing. I used them for a few projects before.

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  • Becky Wilson
    May 30, 2013

    VistaPrint offers a Pro Advantage for those who do a lot of printing. You get a discount on top of the already low prices they offer.

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  • Jeff Kingsford
    March 3, 2014

    great Article… Another New and “Cheap” outreach program is a Non-profit EDDM mailer (every door direct mail).

    Churches (even if not a registered 501c3) can mail a 6.25×9 postcard to homes around church for .20 cents per piece (including nonprofit postage…Delivered)

    You can find out more at http://www.forhim.com/every-door-direct-mail/

    P.S. They will also meet or beat all other competitors printing prices (and its a site dedicated to helping churches)

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  • Ellen
    February 28, 2015

    I came here to find out about experiences with text reminder services. I’ve been doing some searching and there are tons of options, and the prices aren’t too bad. We have a small church, so we can get away with the lower-end costs. Interestingly, I haven’t found any service that allows people to sign up for text reminders AND donate via text. Now that would be useful! Wish I knew how to do that.

    Anyway, just to throw in my two cents…a really great web domain purchase and hosting service I use for my business domain is NameCheap.com. It’s slick, modern and…very affordable.

    MailChimp offers a free email design service for up to a certain limit, something like 2,000 emails/month. We don’t come anywhere close to that, so we use the free version at my church. You still get most of the tools you would need–auto-posting to social media; tracking opens, clicks, and email bounces (hard and soft); alerts for unsubscribes/subscribes; custom or pre-designed templates…

    I’m going to follow up on the churchupdates.org suggestion and see what an app solution looks like. :) Thanks for the article.

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  • Rachel Patton
    January 19, 2016

    Not too thrilled with Creation Swap. Even just to upload my artwork to share for free was complicated and annoying on this obviously for profit site. I think there are a lot easier ways to share design.

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