Behind The Scenes – Lessons Learned In 2017 – Business, Effective Church Communication and More

Effective Church Communication is all about learning, practicing, and adjusting.

We’ve been doing this for decades, learning something new every year. And 2017 is no exception.

Here are our biggest lessons from 2017 when it comes to effective church communications and forming Church Training Academy as you know it today.


The Most Dangerous Number Of Business and Effective Church Communication

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Justin’s take:

I set out to start my own business in 2017 called Church Marketing School. It was the perfect business…writing content to teach effective church communication strategies.

The problem? I spent so much time writing content, recording/editing podcasts and youtube videos, SEOing, networking, and publishing… there was no room to actually create a product to earn a living.

I was developing an audience but had nothing to offer them because I was spinning my wheels doing content on my own.

Enter Dave and Church Training Academy.

In September of 2017, Church Marketing School and Church Training Academy merged.

What we’ve learned the most in our merger is by just doubling the number of workers we can 10x the amount of work we can put out (including an amazing Insiders membership)

Dave’s take:

Church Training Academy is something God put on my heart back in ‘99. Throughout the early 2000’s this thing was just sticking around my head. Then in 2011, I started walking down this path with some other buddies. But due to overwhelming client work, we just couldn’t make it happen.

Around 2015 I remember laying in bed saying, “God, if you still want me to do this thing I’ll do it. But it’s gotta be you making it happen vs. me trying to do something and get you to bless it.”

As I started going down this path, I quickly realized throughout 2016 just how hard it is being a solopreneur.

Kinda like how you can easily say, “I’m going to start a live stream at the church.” But you realize that to do things well the task list grows larger than you initially planned.

One thing you realize real quick with your charismatic heroes is they have a team behind their success. You can look at some like Leo Laporte from This Week In Tech and marvel at his output. But in reality, he’s got a whole newscast setup and a team behind him.

I’ve learned I don’t have to be in control of everything. This is God’s project. He’s doing this through Justin and me.

In 2017 it was hard to release the wheel at first. Justin could tell. But shifting from, “Justin is helping me” to “Justin is my partner against the world,” was a huge leap of faith for me.

But giving up control to accomplish the task is the largest lesson for me of 2017.


Saying “No” Is The Key To Business and Effective Church Communications

effective church communication means saying no soup nazi seinfeld gif

From Justin:

You experience this a lot in church ministry…and it’s hard.

If Susie comes with the idea to start a food pantry, who would say no to that? But the reality is that Susie is already involved ministry…and she’s going to have to say no something else. Meaning you may gain a food pantry, but you’ll lose your children’s choir eventually.

Sometimes we have to say no to new opportunities so we can focus on existing ministries. 

The same is true with church communications. You can’t promote everything everywhere. You need to keep your church announcements appropriate to the platform. This allows you to stay relevant to the most people in your church, funneling them to the biggest events.

I also had to learn this lesson in my own life this year since I decided to hustle with a side job.

I have said no to watching TV, video games, even reading comics. There’s a lot that I have to say no to now in order to make a lot of the content for Church Training Academy (like this article you’re reading).

My wife is learning the same lesson in this season of life in grad school. She says no to a lot of fun things in order to stay home and study for her master’s degree.

And this even trickles down to our daughter. She was in dance class last year and thrived in it…but this year she’s not. We want our daughter to be in private preschool, so we use the money we would’ve used for dance class to help fund her private school.

Dance class was nice and worth-while, but we said no to invest more resources to get her into the best preschool in town.

But looking down the road I know that in 2 years these sacrifices will be worth it to get CTA off the ground and running.

The same is true for your church. A church of 100 with 17 ministries is spread too thin. Either there are ministries that don’t fit the vision, ministries that exist only on paper that are neglected, or you’re spreading people too thin to the point of burnout.

And good luck trying to have effective church communications when you have 17 high priority church announcements every week.

This means you may have to say no to some ministry ideas and opportunities. But what you can do is find another church or ministry in your area and funnel your members to those providers.

Dave’s thoughts:

I’m a people pleaser, but I also don’t care what you think…how confusing is that?

I think one of my love languages, like Gary Chapman, talks about in his books,   is “words of affirmation.” When I get told I did good…that matters to me. I want people to know they can count on me, but I can’t do everything for everyone.

It hurts sometimes to say no. Justin hits it well on the “dying to self” angle. We can always go back to Netflix and finish TV and movie later. That stuff is all temporal.

Saying no hurts me in my heart because I want to say yes to people…but I know I can’t do everything. I have to find a lot of courage to say no to helping people outside of CTA and my church video ministry. But the truth is I just I don’t have the availability to help them.

Cliff Ravenscraft taught me that we have to say no. There is a difference between someone walking alongside you and getting your knowledge while you work vs. sitting down for a 2-hour training session.

I have to keep focused on the necessities right now which means saying no to helping with a 2-hour project. But saying no right now will help me get to the point where I am freer in my schedule to say yes down the road.

My stomach gets in knots when I have to say no…and I try to make exceptions where I can for a few.

But eventually, I will get to the point where I can do things like take a week and answer any and all questions that come to our inbox. The catch is to get there I have to say no a little more.


The Power Of Email in Business and Effective Church Communications

email is still an effective church communication strategy

Justin’s thoughts:

I was part of the church crowd that ditched email and focused solely on social.

Boy, was I wrong (along with many other church communicators).

Everyone still uses email. If you don’t believe me, come with me to my university call center. You’ll see just how many calls come in from 18-21 year-olds when their email account doesn’t work.

Email isn’t a hot topic, but it’s here to stay. And it’s a super easy and effective church communication tool.

For the most part, when you put a post out on social media, not everyone will see it (for free). You’re doing a good job if you get 10-20% viewership.

So social media is not a reliable communications tool. But email is.

In fact, 72% of people prefer communication from organizations be through email.

Emails give you a lot more flexibility too. It’s guaranteed to arrive, subscribers can read it on their own time, it can be short or long-form, include calls to action…email is still super powerful.

In fact, since I’ve started using email in my own business, I’ve tripled my income…just by using emails intentionally.

And in 2017 we received further proof of the power of email for churches from a completely online prayer ministry.

While email has been left by much of the church world, in 2017 I’ve discovered that it actually is still powerful when you do it intentionally and follow some basic email principles, it’s not dead at all.

Dave’s thoughts:

Email is not as sexy as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for churches…but I have friends who’ve made millions of dollars using email.

Email has survived the decades while others like Friendster and MySpace have not.

There will be phases of social platforms, but email is here to stay.


BONUS: How To Be More Reflective

Justin’s Tips:

Most days I try to write something down that I’m thankful for. It can be work, personal, or school related. Here’s a few of mine:

  • I’m thankful for a high open-rate email
  • I felt grateful when Jill came home learning how to count to 50 on her own because of her great preschool
  • I’m ecstatic that my wife was able to ace her test

When you do this you’ll give yourself something to look back on and give thanks. You’ll realize that you have moved forward in your life…even if your job title stays the same.

I do it in a generic journal, but you can also use something like The 5-Minute Journal  (which also comes as an iOS & Google Play app)

5 minute journal can help you learn gratitude and thankfulness

A bonus side effect is you become a more grateful and happy person.



Dave and I learned quite a lot in 2017…

Whether you’re in business or ministry, being alone is not ideal. When you bring on a team you can accomplish an exponential amount of work.

But being alone doesn’t compare to having to say no. We’ve learned that in order to accomplish great things, you have to say no to distractions…even when it’s a worthy cause.

What really surprised Justin this year was the power of email. Email outperforms your church’s social media when it comes to delivery, scalability, and convenience. It’s improved Justin’s own personal ventures, and it should equally work well for effective church communication.

What effective church communication lessons did you learn in 2017? Share in the comments below!

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