Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. – Psalm 105:1 (NLT)
Over the last few months, over 2400 leaders from all of our family of churches around the world have been going through a healthy evaluation of the ICOC as a global movement. Three of the strongest topics of consensus have been:
- Q1: 90% participants answered “Yes” to “Should we be a global movement?”
- Q2: 77% answered “Yes” to “Do we need to be organized globally?”
- Q5: 80% answered “Yes” to “Do we need to significantly upgrade our global communication infrastructure?”
Based on the ICOC Regional Families Discussions Report, five task forces were formed to address these needs. The Communications Task Force was asked to evaluate our current global communications among leaders and members and to present concept choices for consideration at the 2017 Delegates Meeting in Chicago.
The need: Story after story reveal that many of the ministry staff and lay leaders are unaware of our Delegates System and the Service Teams that provide global leadership and facilitate decision making. Despite the fact that these structures are detailed at DisciplesToday.org and icocleaders.org and that ICOC HotNews has made three videos describing these leadership events, this information simply hasn’t made it down to a large percentage of disciples and leaders.
Our two main methods of communication of our leadership are media and delegates giving feedback to their groups.
- Our ICOC media publishes all the information about our leadership including the structure and reports, yet it is not getting the attention of our leaders or members.
- As discussed at our global leadership meetings over the past two years, our leadership has not successfully communicated our global structure or service to our regional or local leadership and membership.
We need to fix these and feel we have a few possible pathways forward:
1. Leadership Communication Options
- Option A: Every Regional Family of Churches commits to:
- Reading and passing on global leadership information to the leaders in their region
- Providing leadership information from their region to be added to the ICOC eNewsletter distribution list
- Devoting time at each Regional leadership gathering to educate their leaders about the ICOC leadership and current decisions being made.
- Option B: Continue the same methods of communications currently employed.
2. Media: Subscription Model vs Collective
Disciples Today (DT) began in 2004 by faith on a subscription model and content was only available to individuals who were willing to pay a monthly subscription. When it became apparent, in 2007, that Disciples Today would not survive under this model, the Delegates recognized this was neither sustainable nor a good way to communicate to all our members across the world. So, we came together with churches collectively contributing so that DT websites and newsletters could be free to all. In 2016, 66% of ICOC churches representing 77% of our membership donated support to Disciples Today.
Right now, ICOC HotNews is being run on a church subscription basis, videos are made available to almost 600 subscribing churches, but they are not available for sharing on social media or YouTube. If the evangelist of a church doesn’t deliberately make a time slot available in the Sunday service none of the congregation has any way of accessing these inspirational stories from around the world.
This is unfortunate and short-sighted because video is the future! YouTube currently has 1.5 billion viewers on their site every month. Video contributes to 51% of all internet traffic and it is estimated to account for 81% by 2021. Mark Zuckerberg has said that video will dominate Facebook in the near future and they have planned a channel called Watch to compete with YouTube. Twitter has found that video content is 10 times more likely to be retweeted than any other form of content.
We need to free our video content to be shared on social media sites, posted on YouTube and bypass the bottleneck of only being available to be viewed during church services. Non-Christians can be impacted and drawn to our family of churches by some of the amazing stories of life-change and inspirational service to the community in these videos.
The other main trend in media is to mobile. For the first time in 2016 more people accessed Disciples Today (DT) through mobile devices than computers or tablets. As a first step to meet this demand, the team at DT is currently developing a cutting edge ICOC app that can be downloaded onto any smartphone. The app is customizable to any individual church and yet also contains global information, church news and details of worldwide events. It is next-level impressive! For any individual church to develop such an application would be prohibitively expensive and for many second and third world churches, impossible! However, if we band together collectively, this is something that can be made available for everyone for free. From Los Angeles to Lagos, Haiti to Helsinki we can be connected. Stories, videos, and disaster relief fundraising efforts can easily be sent to mobile devices and the user can quickly share them directly from the app on any social media site. A collective effort can make a big difference.
Currently, due to a large donation and a generous development partner, DT is able to provide the app free for the first year and then let churches subscribe, if they like the functionality provided. This seems a reasonable option for many first world churches, but there would need to be some thought around how that impacts second and third world churches. US dollar-based subscription services can be prohibitive in many parts of the world.
Media Support Options:
- Option A: Collective Support for Disciples Today and ICOC Hot News through a mechanism like the Kingdom Unity Fund as proposed by the Finance Task Force
- Option B: Continue supporting Disciples Today and ICOC HotNews directly by individual church.
3. Media: Branded vs Unbranded
Since we are wanting to be a global organization, we are going to need to pay attention to our branding. A greater and greater proportion of people who come to visit our churches will first visit our websites. In fact, according to Christianity Today, 17 million people searched online for a church before attending one. Our online image is an area we can no longer neglect.
If you search for us, what do you find? Every website and every logo is completely different. Even our global websites differ considerably in look and feel. It is as if, we are an uncoordinated, disconnected, disjointed group. With a little bit of consolidation and a clear vision we can start to look like the global movement that we actually are.
Great brands are intentional about using elements like their logo, website, and tone to portray not only who they are, but who they want to be. It’s like cleaning the house before guests come over; you want to put your best foot forward.
The visual, tangible aspects of a brand give the audience images to remember it by and associate it with. For example, when you think of McDonald’s, you probably think of those iconic yellow arches. When you think of Nike, you probably think of that simple, popular checkmark. Branding gives your audience a picture to associate you with.
Right now, we also have a unique opportunity to grab some valuable web real-estate. The newly formed .church domain is largely unused. We can grab all the domains now that will make it easy for disciples to find our churches no matter what city they are in. For example we can have:
No longer will it be difficult to find the web addresses of any ICOC church worldwide. We would simply own the domain of the city name followed by .church These city links can also redirect to established church domains like www.bostoncoc.org but they will provide an opportunity that no matter what city any disciple finds himself in, he/she knows how to search for the church or give direction to potential visitors.
Even our global sites could follow the same pattern:
You get the picture!
Now to be clear, we are not proposing every ICOC church adopt a common local logo, but we should at least have our global websites, news, leadership, ministries (singles, campus, families etc…) and maybe Mission Societies with a coordinated look and feel. And if every individual church would simply add the ICOC logo with a link somewhere on their homepage, it would connect them to the fellowship.
Media Branding Options:
- Option A: Each ICOC media presence use a standardized ICOC branding. And each church use that branding in reference to ICOC media.
- Option B: Do not standardize the ICOC branding.
4) Clear Channels of Communication: Centralized vs Decentralized
With our 684 churches in 150 countries, global communication is a big challenge. Also, from our discussions, it would seem that many times the women are left out of the leadership communications loop. So, while we believe in having an official channel of communication, we also believe that decentralizing certain aspects can only benefit us.
Current communication strategies for the entire organization are built upon voluntary access. As a loosely affiliated organization, communication for the entire organization starts at a local level and then is sent to the one international entity (DT) that people can access. This access is based on a voluntary will to reach out to DT and see what is happening within the global brotherhood.
A current communication flow chart shows information flowing from the service teams to DT. Key articles from DT are posted on a series of ICOC Facebook pages and some other social media. The most effective distribution is the DT eNewsletter that goes directly to over 30,000 subscribers, but only averages a 17% open rate. DT also sends the ICOC Leadership eNewsletter to over 1600 leaders around the world, but averages an open rate below 50%.
This current model provides for a bottle neck that may or may not trickle out to the churches and members it serves.
A recommendation from the Communications task force is to create a Regional Communications Director for each family of churches. This person could be male or female, and would be tasked with the charge of communication flow.
- They would keep the DT information for each local church current and updated.
- They would be the contact for getting relevant information to and from key players, working closely with the Global Communications Director, thus facilitating the easy flow of information.
- These Regional Directors would be members of the Communications Service Team.
The primary benefit of such an arrangement would be utilizing our strengths as a brotherhood, relationships, to keep us well connected and informed. With someone directly responsible for communication, we have a far greater likelihood of it actually occurring. This kind of connection within our churches is what has promoted closeness and unity. Within the last decade, the separation of our churches is felt by members and yet by restoring this hallmark of communication, relationship and family, we can promote just that: family.
Clear Channels of Communication Options:
- Option A: Each regional family leadership appoint a Regional Communications Director for their family of churches.
- Option B: Keep the current flow of information system.
One of the most obvious ways of improving our communication with leaders and members around the globe is to increase our translations of articles and videos. The costs for this are decreasing but still requires funding. Free translation tools are not effective.
- Option A: Fund translations of our web and video communications.
- Option B: Leave all of our communications in English.
Thank you for all your prayers. For next steps please see ICOC 3.0 Update #3. We are looking forward to discussing these ideas in Chicago. Once these concept decisions are made, we look forward to preparing more specific proposals for consideration in 2018.
The ICOC 3.0 Communications Task Force:
- Chairman – Justin Renton, Johannesburg – Evangelist; Chairman, Southern African Family of Churches
- Matthew Aguirre, Johannesburg – Student, South African School of Motion Picture; runs a YouTube channel
- Edy Budiman, Jakarta – Runs a cloud hosting company and oversees the multimedia, website, and digital ministry for the Jakarta, Indonesia church
- Christian Ray Flores, Texas – Evangelist; Co-founder of Third Drive, a business development and marketing company
- Lynne Green, Berlin – Missionary to China and Germany; Masters degree in Communication and Leadership
- Kevin Hoecke, Toronto – Evangelist with a passion for social media
- Jeanie Shaw, Boston – Women’s minister and author; Women’s Service Team
- Vida Li Sik, Johannesburg – Professional journalist with over 20 years experience
(Video infographics from websitebuilder.org.uk)