Church Management: 45+ Simple (and Effective) Tips

What is Church Management?

The definition of church management: Church management is combining the spiritual and the organizational.

In a practical sense, managing the staff of a church takes the same skill-set as managing any other staff, because at their core, churches function much like small businesses.

What Do Administrators Do?

A church administrator is in charge of: The majority of the managerial duties that encompass day-to-day tasks and overarching goals.

From filing taxes to encouraging tithing to choosing and updating software to drafting newsletters and facilitating volunteer programs, church administrators really do it all.

Do Pastors Administrate?

Where pastors and administrators overlap: In rare cases, a pastor finds himself or herself completing the duties of a church administrator.

But more often than not, the two jobs are independent of one another. Pastors and administrators work closely together on some aspects of management, but they’re not likely to overlap often.

Actionable Advice for Church Administrators

Starting out as a church administrator can be overwhelming— even daunting. It’s important to get your administration off on the right foot right away. These simple, actionable strategies should help you to maintain consistency in your church management.

Establish a system of checks and balances with your pastor

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What is the Strategy?

Before you step into the role of church administrator, have a meeting with your pastor to ensure that you’re on the same page. Set up boundaries and clearly define where your duties overlap and diverge. Institute a system of checks and balances to make sure that each of you fulfills your end of the bargain.

Why Implement It?

It’s easy to assume that your pastor knows the job description of the church administrator, but you know what they say about those who assume (They’re often wrong). In order to mitigate any confusion, establishing two-way expectations early is vital to the success of your relationship and the church’s overall well-being.

Break each goal out into daily, weekly, and monthly to-dos

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What is the Strategy?

The best advice for a church administrator with a goal (from large goals like organizing the Christmas pageant to small goals like switching coffee providers) is to break each goal down into the most granular tasks that comprise it and create a timeline that displays each goal as it’s broken down.

Why Implement It?

Church administrators often get bogged down by the enormity of tasks they’re assigned and the frequency with which they’re assigned them. The only way to tackle such gigantic tasks is to turn them into smaller tasks that can be taken one day at a time.

Hold standing meetings to save time

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What is the Strategy?

There are dozens of meetings that church administrators have to run and be a part of. The way to cut down on any wasted time in those meetings is to hold each one while standing. Make this your policy as soon as you start arranging meetings, and you’ll notice that no one lingers past the ending time.

Why Implement It?

It’s true that a meeting will take as long as it takes (you can get the same amount done in 30 minutes as you can in an hour if you truly focus). To avoid that kind of excess, encourage those around you to get to the point by making them stand during meetings.

Financial Best Practices for Churches

As the church administrator, one of your chief duties to the ministry is to make sure that the finances are all in order. Because churches are actually more like small businesses than not, there are a lot of financial factors to consider. You’ll need to be aware of what paperwork to file, how to manage a bank account, and most importantly— how to avoid any fraudulent activity.

Have at least two people count donations to ensure proper counts

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What is the Strategy?

It’s a sad truth, but even churches aren’t immune to fraud. To ensure that no funds are being allocated for personal use or purposes other than their original intent, have at least two staff members (separately) count donations and petty cash. Have a third person be the one to deposit the cash in the bank, just to be absolutely sure there’s nothing fishy going on.

Why Implement It?

Churches should be immune to fraudulent activity, but unfortunately many people will try to take advantage of the lack of oversight and the atmosphere of implicit trust to skim “a little off the top.” When there’s someone else to hold your cash counter accountable, they’re less likely to pocket that extra $10 donation from the offering plate.

Allocate room in your budget for an emergency fund

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What is the Strategy?

Each month or quarter, set aside an agreed upon amount expressly for emergencies. If at the end of the fiscal year, this money has not been spent, portion some of it out for an extra fun event and allocate the rest for next year’s emergency fund budget.

Why Implement It?

Because your church relies on the generosity of its congregants, there’s usually not an excess of funding flowing your way. That’s why it’s vital that your church set 10% of its monthly tithing away each month in case of a disaster or an immediate need.

Seek out the help of financial professionals before tax season begins

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What is the Strategy?

As you’re preparing to file your annual information return with the IRS, there may be several questions you have about exemptions and particular circumstances that feel unique to you and your church. For those questions and any other concerns you may have, you should enlist the help of a financial professional well before April 15th.

Why Implement It?

We all like to think we’re capable of completing every task on our own, but the truth is: there are professionals out there for a reason. There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t know how to file the paperwork associated with being a 501(c)(3). Even that name is complicated and reminiscent of convoluted tax codes.

Hold quarterly budgetary meetings to ensure you’re meeting your marks

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What is the Strategy?

Every 3 months, it’s important to have a check-in meeting with your church’s board (as 501(c)(3)s, churches are required to have managing boards) to ensure that you’re sticking to the budget you set out at the beginning of the fiscal year.

Why Implement It?

Three months is not long enough for your budget to be irreparably set off course. If you catch mistakes or oversights in funding allocations early enough, you can redirect and correct them in the coming quarter.

Conduct internal as well as external audits once a year

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What is the Strategy?

Separate from enlisting the help of a professional to help file your annual taxes, conducting an annual audit, both internally and externally, is a good way to minimize fraud. It also ensures that everything within your organization is working as it should. External audits can be performed by independent CPAs. Internal audits should be conducted by an audit committee assembled by members of the church.

Why Implement It?

No single person should be in charge of such a massive undertaking as controlling all of the money that flows into and out of the church. Having multiple layers of accountability makes it so that embezzlement and fraud are far less likely to occur. Conducting internal as well as external audits once a year will ensure that your church stays on the proper financial track.

Maintain petty cash systems for everyday church running

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What is the Strategy?

Not every service can be paid for by a credit card. Have a certain amount of petty cash in a locked safe within the administrator’s office that can be allocated for things like water cooler maintenance and yard work.

Why Implement It?

Having petty cash around ensures that you’ll always be able to pay a service industry worker for their time. It also makes filing expenses at the end of the year quicker and easier.

Advice for Church Membership and Management Software

One of the many jobs of the church administrator is to be in charge of buying membership and management software (emailing services, CRMs, etc.). To get the most out of these services and software platforms, the church administrator ought to take note of these best practices.

Have an Automated System in Place for Welcoming New Members

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What is the Strategy?

Have pre-written emails, letters, and welcome packets so that as soon as a new member submits their membership paperwork, you can shoot it all off and not give it a second thought.

Why Implement It?

More likely than not, you’ll have multiple members sign up at once. Having a streamlined system in place will make the process of bringing new members into the fold more painless.

Segment your database to better serve various levels of membership

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What is the Strategy?

Separate your existing donor database into brand-new members, members who have been with you for less than a year, members who have been around for 2 years, 5 years, and so on and so forth, up to your longest-standing members.

Why Implement It?

Segmenting your database will ensure that you have less confusion about how to address and communicate with different demographics— and everyone will receive only the most relevant info.

Learn up-to-date details about members through mobile giving software

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What is the Strategy?

Mobile giving software has built-in info capture to learn more up-to-the-minute details about your donors and members, from their latest email addresses and phone numbers to their preferred giving and contact methods (and more!).

Why Implement It?

You can never know too much about your church’s members. Not to mention the fact that more congregants have their phones than their wallets with them at any given time— meaning they’ll be more inclined to give via mobile than with a check.

Arrange demos with at least 3 vendors to decide on management software

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What is the Strategy?

As you’re deciding on which software platforms to purchase for your church, it’s important to test-drive your favorites before finalizing any arrangements. Arrange demonstrations with your top 3 favorite contenders and narrow your selection down from there.

Why Implement It?

Demos allow you to see what you might be getting into without committing any money or much time to any particular service. With a demo, you can expect a vendor to explain the platform and walk through the interface with you over the phone or in person.

Create a system for transitioning those that leave the church

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What is the Strategy?

Just as you should have a system in place for new members, you should also have pre-formed letters of transition or transfer in the event that a member wants to leave the church altogether or transfer to another church in the same denomination.

Why Implement It?

People want to transfer at the drop of the hat for any number of reasons (death in the family, new job, a better fit, etc.). You’ll want to be prepared to turn that transition around in as short an amount of time as possible.

Tips for Church Administration and Tithing

In addition to being actively involved with financial matters after donations have been made, church administrators are also deeply invested in the process of encouraging tithing and offerings. That’s why it’s crucial for a church administrator to be aware of the latest trends in charitable giving.

Implement text-to-tithe as an alternative to the offering plate

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What is the Strategy?

Texting-to-tithe is a great invention that allows your congregants to give to the church even when they’ve forgotten their wallets and checkbooks. All they need is a phone and the ability to text!

Why Implement It?

More often than not, churchgoers forget to bring checks to church, but it’s unlikely that you’ll catch anyone without their cell phone. With fewer barriers to tithing, churchgoers will be far more inclined to give.

Let churchgoers give straight through their email inboxes

A generous church member sends a recurring gift through a church online giving portal.

What is the Strategy?

Email donation buttons are another technological advance that is making it far easier for churches to raise money from congregants. To tithe, all a church member has to do is click on the button and follow the subsequent steps. That way, they can give in just 2 clicks!

Why Implement It?

As a church administrator, you probably send out dozens of emails a day— and many of them probably go to the church’s main mailing list. If you include an easy way to tithe within one (or all) of those messages, you’ll be sure to see a spike in gifts.

Offer an option to tithe on a recurring basis through your website

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What is the Strategy?

There are several online tithing tools that your church can employ to raise more money for administrative purposes and good works. One of the best solutions is to add a giving portal directly to your church’s website. That way, visitors to your site could have a simple, swift solution for their tithing and recurring gift needs.

Why Implement It?

Having multiple ways for churchgoers to give increases the chances that they’ll do so. Installing a giving portal on your church’s website is yet another option that makes it easier for members to give from wherever they are.

Use social media to raise significantly more money for your church

Church online giving works best when the website is clean and uncluttered.

What is the Strategy?

Get a handle on your church’s Twitter handle, face facts with your Facebook, and add some snappiness to your Snapchat game. To put it plainly: in order to encourage more offerings, your church will have to look into social media best practices for each social media site and adhere to those guidelines.

Why Implement It?

More than half of your congregants (65%, to be exact) are checking social media at least once a day. Because of that simple fact, there’s no better way to get the word out about a fundraiser or tithing initiative than tapping into the double-tap culture.

Advice for Daily Risk Management in the Church

Risk management (and minimization) is another one of the many duties that a church administrator must have on their docket at virtually all times. Here we have some basic best practices that should be applicable for every church, regardless of size or circumstance.

Perform background and credit checks on all volunteers and employees

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What is the Strategy?

It typically takes $20 and some time spent at the local or county courthouse to perform a background check on any potential employees. Employees and volunteers who wish to work within or with the church in any capacity should fill out the requisite paperwork, pay the nominal fee, and deliver the forms to the appropriate authorities before they’re allowed to perform any of their duties.

Why Implement It?

Church employees should be trustworthy. To put your mind at ease about any new hires, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve run all the necessary checks on them to see that their credit history is mostly spotless and that they have no criminal background of which to speak. Few things could be worse than discovering 6 months down the line that you’ve hired a convicted felon to teach Sunday school.

Make your church disability accessible

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What is the Strategy?

Build ramps and exits for those of varying abilities. Include elevators as well as stairs if your church is more than one story. Have someone who can translate for your deaf members (or have a transcript of the service available for those who need one). Include Braille on all major signs.

Why Implement It?

The church is meant for all those who want to worship and learn about the word of God. Opening up those activities for everyone in attendance is important for the happy, healthy functioning of any church or house of worship.

Church Administration and Fundraising Events

Typically pastors, leadership, board members, and church administrators bear the weight of event planning together. That being said, it’s still important for the church administrator to be on top of fundraising event planning from beginning to end.

Start planning and organizing events at least 6 months in advance

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What is the Strategy?

Fundraising wisdom has dictated that most fundraising events take at least 6 to 8 months to plan, which means that if you’re planning a Christmas pageant to raise money for your Sunday school, you’ll need to start budgeting and making arrangements in May or April.

Why Implement It?

There’s nothing worse than scrambling to put together an event with only a few weeks to plan. The best way to achieve the most profitable and well-thought-out events is to start early and leave yourself some wiggle room for extenuating circumstances.

Keep notes and files on each of your recurring events

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What is the Strategy?

As you’re planning recurring events, be sure to keep detailed notes (ones that even someone who doesn’t know you could decipher). That way, if you’re ever not in charge of planning, the events you plan will still be able to go off without a hitch.

Why Implement It?

From year to year, you may forget small details (like who the cheapest caterer was), so it’s important to keep all of the pertinent notes and details in a safe spot— somewhere like a well-organized filing cabinet or in a shareable Google Doc.

Have your eyes open during events, and be prepared for accidents

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What is the Strategy?

Even when everyone is praying or closing their eyes during an event, it’s crucial that the administrator has their eyes open to keep tabs on everything. They should also be prepared to prevent disasters (like someone catching their skirt on fire with a candle).

Why Implement It?

It’s just a fact that accidents are far more likely to happen when everyone is in the vulnerable state of having their eyes closed. Someone needs to be aware of the congregation’s surroundings at all times, and that job is often the church administrator’s.

Update your church’s database as soon as the event is over

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What is the Strategy?

Once the fundraiser is over, be sure to update your church’s CRM or other databases to ensure that all of your info is accurate and fresh.

Why Implement It?

Sign-up sheets can get lost; you can forget to update a member’s new email address. Eliminate this margin of error by inputting data as soon as you possibly can.

Thank fundraising event participants within 48 hours

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What is the Strategy?

Whether it’s emailing a quick “Thanks” to your event participants or following up with a phone call or handwritten letter, it’s critical to send some kind of acknowledgement within the first 2 days after an event.

Why Implement It?

Wait too long, and participants will begin to believe that your church isn’t grateful for their gifts. Get rid of any question of your gratitude by following up within the first 48 hours after the event has ended!

Tips for Managing Church Volunteers

Often, church administrators are left in charge of all things volunteer-related: recruitment, approval, training, and acknowledgement. Again, that can be overwhelming— unless you have some nifty best practices to help you through the toughest times.

Create a process that approves (or rejects) potential volunteers in 48 hours

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What is the Strategy?

Streamline your volunteer approval process so that it takes less than two business days to approve or deny a request to volunteer. This could mean creating shorter, easier-to-fill-out application sheets, or moving the current system you have online.

Why Implement It?

The more barriers you have to volunteerism, the fewer hands you’ll have to help you out. If, of course, you have an expedient, painless process, your church can get more done— in less time!

Let volunteers allocate $20 out of the church’s budget to a charity of their choice

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What is the Strategy?

A fundamental charge of the church is to do good works throughout the community. A simple way to achieve this is to put it in the hands of volunteers by letting them choose local charities they’d like to support using the church’s philanthropic budgetary allowance.

Why Implement It?

Not only does this idea help meet the church’s goal of doing more good work in the world, it also incentivizes volunteers to get involved. This way, they’ll feel that their voices are being heard and their opinions and causes they support are being taken into consideration.

Develop a volunteer leadership training program

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What is the Strategy?

To make sure your volunteers are continuing to use their skills fully, institute a volunteer leadership training program— one that will equip volunteers to become better leaders inside and outside of the church’s halls.

Why Implement It?

Developing a volunteer leadership training program will ensure that the people who are working with and around you are up to the tasks and growing their strengths (and squelching their weaknesses).

Have a pre-written thank-you letter drafted for every volunteer

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What is the Strategy?

Draft up a generic (but still thoughtful) thank-you letter that you can easily fill in at a moment’s notice so that you can promptly thank each volunteer or donor for their contributions.

Why Implement It?

Thanking volunteers is part of what keeps them coming back year after year, month after month. Having a pre-written template will make this involved process that much easier.

Church Leadership and Management Tips

Every church administrator is also inherently a leader within the church. As such, it’s crucial that there are standards and expectations set early on for those who work with and underneath the church administrator. These tips should help you be the best leader possible.

Create a list of pet peeves and best behaviors and post it up in your office

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What is the Strategy?

Make your expectations crystal clear by stating them expressly and in a way that doesn’t need to be reiterated. Type up a list of reward-worthy behaviors and unacceptable pet peeves (things that annoy you as well as actions that aren’t okay with your administration).

Why Implement It?

There can be no equivocation where there is absolute clarity. In other words, when people know what to expect, they’re far less likely to make silly mistakes or step on toes. Few things could be clearer than a list taped to a door.

Set aside time every month to acknowledge staff for their hard work

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What is the Strategy?

Each month, set up a meeting or meetings to communicate to your staff that you truly appreciate the hard work that they put into their jobs.

Why Implement It?

In order to incentivize hard work, it’s important to positively reinforce workers with praise so that they continue to give it their all.

Delegate at least one task you usually have total control over each quarter

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What is the Strategy?

Let go of at least one to-do item that you’d normally take full ownership of each month. It’ll free up your calendar and allow those around you to have a greater sense of accomplishment.

Why Implement It?

It’s hard to let go of the reins. Many church administrators are perfectionists who like to be in control. But this job is impossible for one person to do alone, which is why there are volunteers and staff members to delegate to.

Cultivate a culture of trust with staff by fulfilling promises consistently

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What is the Strategy?

If you say you’re going to take care of the flowers for Easter, but you forget and lay it on another staff member, your staff members will be less and less likely to trust you, especially if this lack of stick-to-it-iveness becomes a habit. Instead of over-promising and falling short, make sure that you promise only what you can achieve.

Why Implement It?

When your fellow staff members feel that they can trust you as an administrator, they’re more inclined to come to you with problems and praises. The best way to establish that trust is by keeping your word. If you say that you’re going to arrange Sunday’s flowers, be prepared to follow through.

Figure out your own workflow (even if it doesn’t adhere to norms)

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What is the Strategy?

Not every church administrator needs to work a regular 9-5 Monday-to-Friday schedule. And that’s okay. It’s important to set hours that you can keep to— and actively let people know when you’re available (and when you’re not).

Why Implement It?

If you’re not careful as an administrator, you could end up working 24/7. But you can’t work well if work is all you do. Assessing your best workflow will ensure that you don’t run into this problem.

Advice for Overall Risk Management in the Church

Overall risk management will allow your church to minimize the possibility of disasters taking a larger toll on your congregation than need be.

Have a procedure in place in case of a fire

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What is the Strategy?

Install smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers throughout your church. Also be sure that everyone in the congregation is aware of the procedure in case of a fire. Run drills and test fire alarms and sprinkler systems quarterly.

Why Implement It?

Fire rarely announces where or when it’s going to strike— that’s why it’s important to be ready and fully prepared at all times. If your congregants are practiced in the procedure, they’ll be less likely to cause accidents in their disorderly panic.

Prepare for natural disasters with insurance and drills

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What is the Strategy?

In case of a flood or a tornado, you, as the church administrator, need to be fully versed in your church’s various insurance policies and procedures. You also need to be prepared to guide the congregation in event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake. Drills should be performed.

Why Implement It?

Much like it’s important to have a contingency plan for fires, it’s also important to set up procedures for all sorts of disasters. You may have more advanced warning when one strikes, but it’s nearly impossible to predict the extent of the damage until afterward. That’s why it’s important to properly prepare for any eventuality.

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Church Administration Communications Tips

Not only do church administrators have to be miracle-workers behind the scenes, they also have to be great communicators— calling members, writing newsletters, and updating blogs. It’s a lot of plates to keep spinning. Use these tips to help you balance them all at once.

Create a script for yourself to make calls to members smoother

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What is the Strategy?

There will be several standard types of calls that you as an administrator will have to make. In order to keep them short and to the point, create a script for yourself for each common type of call you encounter.

Why Implement It?

It’s easy to be thrown off track over the phone. Eliminate as much small talk as possible to get to the heart of what you’re saying. Having a designated script will ensure that you never forget to make your point.

Email blast your church’s quarterly financial goals and challenges

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What is the Strategy?

After your quarterly budget meetings, draft up an email blast to the whole congregation to keep them informed of the goings-on in the church’s budget. Let them know the financial goals you’ve set, how they can help, and any challenges you may be facing in reaching those targets.

Why Implement It?

Transparency in budgetary matters will help maintain an atmosphere of trust. Not only that, but also giving your congregants full transparency about your goals will encourage them to help you because they’ll be able to see just how much help you need!

Update your website and blog on a regular schedule

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What is the Strategy?

Just as it’s important to be consistent in the other aspects of your job as a church administrator, it’s also incredibly important to maintain the website and blog of the church on regular basis. Decide what that schedule is, whether it’s daily, weekly, every other week, or even just monthly, and stick to it no matter what. Remember, it’s okay to delegate tasks like this one if you feel overwhelmed.

Why Implement It?

When you update the website and the church blog on a regular schedule, your members are more likely to check it and glean useful information from it. Imagine their disappointment when they go to check the website for the most recent information about the goings-on in the church, and it hasn’t been updated in 4 months. They’d never want to check it again!

Take advantage of spell and grammar check to avoid common mistakes

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What is the Strategy?

Install spell check and grammar check software onto your work computer to ensure that you don’t make easily avoidable mistakes. If the software is already installed, make sure that it’s functioning properly by running a few test documents through it (with errors that you know are already there).

Why Implement It?

Few things are more embarrassing for a church than having a blatant error in the newsletter, program, or bulletin. Grammar and spell check will help to catch those minor errors before you send anything to be mass-printed. It also doesn’t hurt to have another person in the church proofread anything that you send out.

Publish and pass out a monthly or weekly newsletter

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What is the Strategy?

In addition to keeping members informed of events in the church, newsletters should contain messages from the pastor and leadership. Just as you should commit to updating the website on a regular basis, your church administration team should also aim to publish your newsletter on a consistent schedule.

Why Implement It?

Some of your church’s members won’t want to check the website or blog to keep current with the happenings in and around the church. For those members, it’s important to have something physical or easy to access via email so that everyone can keep informed.

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