Nothing has become more synonymous with "cheesy church" than the dreaded Sunday morning announcement time.
The ongoing need to inform and (sometimes) promote the ministries and activities of a local church can turn part of our services into "infomercial" space. But while we are bending over backwards to try to get an announcement out, most of our church community has tuned us out. So what is the answer?
I have seen it handled various ways in different churches. A few general thoughts that might be wise to consider are given below.
Percentage principle - does the item that "needs" to be mentioned matter to a broad portion of the church. Pick a value that seem right for your church (30%, 40%, etc). When deciding if you will do an announcement about it, determine if the information/announcement will impact your threshold percentage of people in your local congregation. In other words, using Sunday morning time to mention the upcoming class on learning to play the kazoo in worship, that might not be the most effective use of your Sunday morning time. But perhaps mentioning the community-wide BBQ that is for your entire church and your local area would be a good application of the % principle.
Priority Principle - While making sure things impact lots of people is one way to evaluate if it deserves Sunday morning "face time", another thing to consider is the core values and mission of your local church. What has God identified to your community and leadership are the most important expressions of your values and mission? Feeding the poor might not initially seem like it would be "popular" with a lot of people- but as a core component of a Christlike life, we need to communicate essential things like this to help pastor people into loving discipleship. If it's important enough, and speaks to your most core values, it should be getting some Sunday morning "face time".
Prepared Principle - anything worth saying, is worth saying well. Most people don't realize that communication is a *practiced* skill. Even the most gifted speakers hone their craft through practice, so that every word counts, and the message is not only clear but warmly received. Make it a "rule" that all "announcements" are to be prepared and practiced ahead of time. The presenter should have a deadline for requesting the "announcement" time (perhaps they should submit the request by Tuesday, and have a sample script or mp3 for the pastor/coordinator to review by Thursday or Friday). The bottom line is that any communication done should be as articulate as possible. Your artistic and spontaneous leaders will have a hard time with being asked to do this type of preparation, but when they see the increased effectiveness of their efforts, they will be thankful.
- keep it short and strong. Decide the amount of total time you will accept for ALL your announcements on a given Sunday. Hint: 2 minutes is about the longest you can expect people will listen to ALL your announcements, unless some programmed, engaging methods are used to keep their attention. Some churches who prepare media, movie clips and mini-skits as ways of making announcements can stretch out the time guideline to 5-7 minutes, but this is rare and must be done exceptionally. After you have decided the total time you will allow to all announcements, then decide how many different announcements you will allow. Hint again: 2 or 3 works best. More than 3 and the information becomes filed away in the "white noise" cabinet of people's minds. Finally, divide the amount of time given to ALL announcements, by the number of announcements you will allow on a normal Sunday. The result will give you the total amount of time for each announcement. For example, if you give 5 minutes total, and have 3 announcements, each announcement must be no more than about 1minute and 30 seconds long (this leaves you with 30 seconds of transition time). All this might sound like tedious micro management. But imagine being the person sitting listening to the announcements- does it feel like a couple short, clear, well presented things of interest? Or does it feel like 5 long winded people droning on about something I don't care about and don't understand?
- Sometimes the best way to achieve high engagement with a short communiqué is to present it with media sensibilities. Some of the best announcements I have seen were short videos, skits or media presentations. Because of the power of images, a great presentation can be more effective than a person who can't visually convey a message as clearly as a video, music or picture. The effort and energy of good video production forces the presentation to a whole other level of clarity and impact. It also allows you to know exactly if the announcement will be within the time limit allotted. But perhaps even more beneficial than anything, a produced media presentation is a tool that can be used repeatedly (for multiple services or events) in a short time span, which can insure a clear, consistent, well done communiqué. Gateway Church does a great job with these, and they double as great informational content for their website (see Gateway's video announcements
Protection Principle - Treat the time and attention of your local church community with pastoral care and protection. Nothing is more estranging than to hear a pastor or member of a staff get up and give an announcement on something that has little or no connection to the local community. Advertising is even worse- don't use the announcement time as a business commercial for something. People are quickly distrustful of sales pitches masked as church announcements. I know many pastors who have a flat out rule- no one gets the microphone who they don't know personally, and what they are going to say. Especially be careful when allowing visiting ministers or their assistants un-reviewed opportunities to make announcements. One time, I saw a 1 minute announcement turn into a 15 minute sermon from a visiting minister pitching his wares- then had to endure a 45 minute message from the same guy. Not pretty.
Personal Principle - If possible (and it may not always be), try to have the announcement presented by an individual who is personally involved in activity or content of the announcement. It is never so ill-advised (or awkward) than to see a young assistant pastor of men's ministries make an announcement about the nursing mother's class. The point is, there is something genuine and compelling about a person involved in a ministry to communicate an important point about it. Be careful, however, that you don't place this principle over any of the others. It's a common mistake to have someone zealous make an announcement that shows obvious enthusiasm, but lacks clarity or content.
Purge Principle - Do not fall into the trap of having "standard" announcements. Regular communications about things that recur often are best done through flyers, handouts or online calendars and emails. Unless you have an essential need to keep an announcement front and center, don't. Also, once you find an effective method to deliver an announcement (a video, presentation, etc) realize that the next time around that method will not be as effective. Showing/giving the same announcement each year about the Christmas play or the launch of new small groups is never as effective as the first time around. People know this and they tune out.
Well, that does it for the "P's" of Sunday morning announcements. But what about the "Q's"? There is just one:
Question Principle - Ask ourself this question periodically: "can we get rid of announcements entirely for this Sunday?" I find it remarkable that there never comes a day in most local church communities when they don't do announcements, even for a single service. Consider whether or not it wouldn't actually help your community to spend the 5 extra minutes praying for one another, encouraging one another, worshiping God or learning from the Word of God. Certainly, we can't bury our heads in the sand for a year and never communicate to our people via announcements. But when you can, you will be surprised how refreshing it can be for a community if you simply cancel all announcements for a week. Ironically, the change of routine alone will definitely get everyone's attention!
In addition to our above P's and Q's, I wanted to mention some additional resources online that provide more help in delivering Sunday morning announcements effectively. I like these, and they may help you too:
- Delivering Church Announcements Effectively - this article comes at it from a more traditional "sales" mentality- the goal is to sell the idea. This is not about being an evil salesman, it is about effective pitching of an idea. A good additional resource.
- Church Media web forums - this website is still one of the richest, most well maintained sites on church technology on the web. Lots of info, great discussion and real time attention for those who want to get with a community of people working through solutions to the same problems you are having.
- Doing Church Video Announcements - this PDF article by Chris Crowder has some very good specific advice on video announcements, if that is what you are going to look into.
Do you have suggestions or know of other helpful resources for Sunday morning announcements? Please feel free to post them below in the response area of this blog, as it may help many others.