Communication Contest 2017 Winners Recognized at Conference

Date Posted: 6/8/2017

In these case studies, the top three winners and several other entrants in the third annual Best Idea competition share the backstory on the ideas that led to recent communication successes.
Communication strategies paid off for several churches this year, in areas ranging from improved stewardship to volunteer recruitment, sermon enhancement and long range ministry planning. The Communication Committee of TAC volunteers chose the winners from entries in categories ranging from Web/Social Media, Video/Photography, Print and Free Form using criteria such as 1) use of creativity, 2) storytelling and ministry effectiveness and 3) overcoming obstacles.
2017 LARGE CHURCH WINNER: Chapelwood Houston
Communication Challenge:
“Every year we have a student ministry mission trip called SUMMIT,” shares Chapelwood’s Brad Coleman. “The purpose of the trip is to allow students to discover servant leadership by serving others. We want the students to see that God’s world is larger and more expansive than their own world of home, school and community. They get to experience the satisfaction of hard work and the joy of serving others for a week.”
The students love this project so we often have a great turn-out among the youth. However, we must have enough adult volunteers to provide an appropriate ratio of adults to youth for supervision. “We set out to figure out how could we successfully communicate that adults loved it and call for more volunteers without making a video that felt promotional,” Brad explains. “That’s when we had the idea of picking one adult leader that has made a big impact as a volunteer at SUMMIT to share why he volunteers. We set out to tell his story just for the sake of telling a good story. We knew that if we just showed what God was doing, it would move people to volunteer.”
The video titled “Executive Servant,” profiles a successful businessman that isn’t afraid to get dirty and volunteer with students. “We wanted the viewer to see the contrast of him in a suit in his office and him wearing old clothes on the mission field,” he adds. “We created a custom graphic to go with the video and help define the title - so we set out to do a double exposure of Mark in both settings.”
The video was shown during worship services  -- the first video ever shown that resulted in a standing ovation. “ The story is incredibly moving and has had great response by being shared over and over on Facebook and in generating a big spike in adults wanting to volunteer this year,” says Brad. “It was fun watching Mark in the hallways after the service and the number of people that came up to him saying he had inspired them to volunteer.”
Communication Committee Chair Kelsey Johnson adds, “I was impressed by this video because it so effectively inspires adults to invest in teenagers and mission work. So often the church makes announcements that spell out the event dates, locations and deadlines and leaves it at that. This video, in contrast, clearly shows the why of the event—it provides a real window into the life transformation possible when someone makes a commitment to serve."
2017 MEDIUM CHURCH WINNER: The Story, Houston (St. Luke’s UMC)
Communication Challenge:
The worship arts team created a video entitled, "He's Got the Whole World" starring pastors and worship leaders to promote new Bluegrass worship service on Sundays at 5pm. Rev. Eric Huffman shares, “We wanted to feature the sort of instrumentation that would be in the new service as well as provide faces from the service that the mission field target can relate to.” Church leaders showed the video in Sunday morning worship, online and most prominently in Edwards Cinemas in Houston just miles from the church. Between mid Jan-March, The Story had 25+ join as members, saying they saw the video. According to Eric, dozens of others in attendance in the weeks following the debut of the service mentioned coming because they saw the video in the theater.
Communication Committee member Lisa Martinson comments, “The Story Houston looks like a place that a seeker could have fun, too. Great idea to share at movie theaters - light hearted, but great music.”
Communication Challenge:
Pastor John Warren challenged the congregation and Facebook (FB) followers to "flood" FB with their favorite nativity scenes each day of Advent. His goal: to refocus the community on the coming of Christ rather than the turbulent election etc. Notes John, “The campaign landed posts from across the country, some beautiful, some humorous. Interactive initiative drew over 2000 "likes" and 22 shares and hundreds of comments.” Kelsey adds, “What a fun, creative idea—and with $0 spent, it's possible for any church to do! Not only did they share engaging content, First UMC Orange also encouraged others on Facebook to post their own photos. This served to build community and create an exciting buzz throughout the Advent/Christmas season.”   
A few of the other “Honorable Mention” submissions impressed the Communication Committee members as well. Holy Covenant UMC, Katy entered the Free Form category with a unique and affordable solution for planning the church calendar by mapping key events for the year on a wall. According to Rev. Fred Willis, ”At a staff meeting, we identified that part of the communication problem in a congregation this size was due to silos -- areas of ministry that functioned well but did so independently and without regard to the other areas. We wanted a way to physically show what was going on church wide (in addition to an online calendar) but in a year at a glance sort of way.” The Facility Coordinator suggested painting the walls with magnetic paint. After that was done, staff members bought reams of thin magnet paper, cut them to size for each event, color coded each paper with the ministry in charge, and slapped them up on the wall to make a moveable/removeable year at a glance.

Adds Fred, “Every ministry team that meets in our new War Room can automatically see what is going on over a year's time from every aspect of the congregation.” Additionally, it helped align different areas of ministry that have never previously coordinated with one another -- to not only schedule events that compliment each other, but also bridge from one project to the next.  “For example,” he explains, “our Trunk or Treat planning team noticed they were three weeks out from a crafts fair, so they created free giveaways that bridged people back to the next event.”  
Many of the volunteer judges loved this practical solution. Notes Kelsey, “Sometimes the simplest solutions make a big difference. Holy Covenant's magnetic wall calendar is an effective tool for long-range planning. Its central location and visibility to multiple ministry areas offers the chance to plan events more collaboratively and to buddy up on initiatives."
Other honorable mention entries included two videos from Good Shepherd, Houston. One, entitled “Around the World in 80 Days” helped promote a sermon series, and the other served as a Christmas special that was broadcast to thousands via live streaming. .”I thought the 80 Days video was a very creative way to increase interest in world missions,” adds Lisa.
In addition, FUMC Fairfield submitted a special communication initiative that provided recipients with in depth background information on the hymns and musical pieces featured each week in worship. For a sample of this, contact Richard Heyduck. One of the judges on the panel praised this project as a “very thoughtful use of the pastor’s passion for history and importance of music and hymns, and gives the congregation a unique view of the upcoming Sunday.”
Among the honorable mentions is St. Phillip’s UMC in Houston. To help alleviate the issue of stale or outdated news, Allen Grant lay leader and volunteer webmaster for St. Phillip’s created an eBulletin. This just-in-time email document helps approximately 115 families stay up to date. St. Philip’s has 130 in worship on average. See more about the church at

Two of this year’s entries showcased ways to enhance stewardship campaigns. Chapelwood Houston highlighted all of the various “niche” worship services and ministries in one printed stewardship brochure to provide members with the big picture impact their contributions are making. “We pulled all of the communities' information into one piece in an effort to unify our communities and keep everyone in all communities informed about what is going on in the other parts of our church,” shares Communication Director Karen Firenza.
The Communications Committee was also impressed with the Pearland UMC entry of stewardship videos that documented specific ministry success stories to illustrate tithes and offerings “in action.” Communication Director Rebecca Llenos says, “By sharing these stories, our church family was getting the information they wanted to know, but also learning about the many ministries and programs they were supporting. Sharing this information in a more engaging way has allowed us to have these videos on our website for potential visitors to learn more about FUMC Pearland and to share this information electronically with our members.”