Main Session Notes from That Church Conference

This week I had a great opportunity to attend “That Church Conference” in Atlanta, Georgia for the first time. That Church Conference is hosted by founders Van Baird and Justin Dean. They have brought together digital communication experts from all over the Church world to encourage, inspire and share practical tips for social media managers and digital church communicators.  Here are some things that stood our from the main sessions.

Tim Schraeder (@timschraeder)

What is our goal? What is what we are striving for? More likes? More video views?

“Take complex things simple; make simple things compelling”

What you do matters.

  • there is eternal significance in what we do. A flier you design, a series trailer you worked on, a quote image you created…all you create can help someone in their journey in their redemption story with Christ.
  • Our job is to help people find their way home!

We live in a world full of fear yet we have a story that is full of good news and hope

You matter.

  • Although we are more connected, we can become disconnected with what matters most

Learn to disconnect so you can reconnect with God. Find ways to disconnect for God to speak to us.

Love is never found in the hustle.

You matter more than what you do and what you do matters a lot


Phil Bowdle (@philbowdle) 

Lightbulb moments:

  • Know your role – be an advocate for your audience.
    • Think about the person you are trying to reach and think how you can get them connected. What do they need? What are the barriers?
  • Start with questions before answer. Questions can lead you to clarity.
    • What do you want to accomplish?
    • What’s the problem to solve?
    • What are the barriers?
  • Quit doing announcements – start dong next steps
  • Get proactive with a communications plan
    • What are the 1-2 next steps you want your audience to know?   Then build a communications plan for each week of the year focused on those next steps.
  • Are you Healthy and Sustainable? Do you know your limits?
    • Don’t let the fear of being disliked cripple you from being effective
    • Embrace stewardship over excellence

Announcement tips

  • Create standards for what is communicated during services (does this announcement reach 80% of our audience, is it a key on ramp to a ministry)
  • Make them care
  • Get creative with your methods (switch up your methods)
digital communication
Me with Darrel and Katie Allred

Darrel Girardier (@dgirardier)

3 different lies we believe about success

  1. Don’t be an air traffic controller – you aren’t making any progress
  2. We are unique in our jobs – you have a tendency to become a super hero…you want to save the day. It feels good but that high wears off and it won’t be sustainable.
  3. Comparing yourself to the church down the street and how you measure success


  • Meet up weekly with other ministers face-to-face or on phone to make sure they are promoting their stuff.
  • Salesmanship is part of the job. You need to sell what you are doing for them.
  • You have to align content around the scorecard. If you don’t know what it is, ask your pastor, or then go back on worship services and see what is celebrated.
  • Align everything you do around the mission and vision of the church (Are you more align with social media or digital communication than Christ?).
  • You run the front door of the church. People will check your church out online first before they come to your physical church.


Dave Adamson (@aussiedave) 

Images are the language of the 21st century – Dr. Leonard Sweet

Photos on social media will tell the story of your church

Photos give people the chance to visit your church before they visit your church. Social media is the pathway that lead people to the front door of your church.

  • 81% of people skim content they read on line – create content that will make them stop
  • By 2018, estimated 84% of communication will be visual.
  • Posts that include images produce 650% higher engagement than text only

The goal is to stop the scroll of social media

  • People love to see people in images…but not too many people
  • Doing little things like changing angles

Any size church can create a great volunteer photography team

  • Ask people to serve in a photography team

3 goals for volunteer team

  1. They would leave more in love with Jesus
  2. Be relationally connected
  3. Get better at their craft

Coach Volunteers

  • Where to stand in auditorium
  • When to shoot photographs (take it in the 1st 5 minutes, take it when there is a pause in the speaking)
  • How to process – figure out what your church’s voice is and tell the story (vsco filters and a6 filters)
  • How to photo share (iphone share folder)


Steven Dilla (@stevendilla) – Cultivating Sistainable Faith in a Digital World

You have to find a way to leverage technology to disciple people

There is no such thing a s “Church online”. The church is where people connect face to face. When you try to solve it with the internet it doesn’t work.

We should focus on integration. The Bible should be integrated. The focus has been on distribution.

2 books to read:

  • Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turtle
  • Platform revolution


Carrie Kintz  (@carriekintz)

 What is NOT Empathy:

  • Sympathy
  • Compassion
  • Pity

What is Empathy?

  • The ability to understand and SHARE the feelings of another – this is the key to digital communication

What does empathy have to do with Church Communications?

  1. Data without empathy can be cold, hard and calculating
  • learn to read the data and remember that data represents people
  • Is there a gap in your content? Is it quality? Is there a connection gap with your audience?
  • Do no rely solely on date to tell you about your audience. People are more than numbers.
  • What do you want them to do? How do you want them to connect?
  1. Emotions without empathy can be wild, uncontrolled and selfish
  • Learn how to read emotions being expressed. Remember emotions come from people
  • Do not respond emotion-for-emotion with your audience all the time
  • Take people on a journey to the end result
  1. Data + Empathy = Engagement, relationship & growth
  • Use data to identify you key audience and use emotion to take into your audience’s hearts and minds
  • Use empathy to tie data and emotion together into highly shareable, conversational content

The first key to empathy is to listen. Listen to what they are trying to say. Listen to understand.

Reaching your audience through empathy:

  • Ask Contextual questions
  • Tap into common human experiences – it’s what makes digital comes alive
  • Connect yourself to your audience
  • Consume the word


Chris Dunagan (@thedunagans)

What is content strategy? Mobilizing resources to achieve a goal in support of the vision of your organization. Tie your content into your Church’s mission/vision

You can create or curate your content to share.

Curation – you can take old content you shared years ago and do 4 things

  • Refine
  • Revise
  • Improve
  • Recycle

They share content that connects people to something the Church taught them or something they are going to learn. If you know the pastor is talking about baptism coming up, post baptism videos and articles prior to that to prepare them.

Timing is key. What is the frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly)? When are you going to post it?

Evaluate objectively: Feelings will lie to you. Data doesn’t.

4 Keys:

  • Listening: What are they (the people) saying?
  • Messaging: What we want them to say?
  • Writing: How we say it?
  • Distribution: Where we say it?

Content Strategy

  • Learning Algorithms
  • From digital to face-to-face
  • Promoting events without “billboarding”
  • Objective evaluation
  • Which platform should I use?


Brady Shearer (@bradyshearer)

Extraordinary communication = timely + timeless

Online video accounts for 50% of all mobile traffic

By 2018 experts predict video will take up 79% of mobile traffic

Video is most dominate medium of our time.

Video is the most timely medium. But video on it’s own is not a silver bullet

Storytelling is the most powerful form of communication.

35% of his time Jesus spent teaching he used stories.

Storytelling is the only form of human communication that forces our brains to focus

If your church doesn’t have attention you can’t have people take action

Extraordinary = video + storytelling

5 Step Video Production Process

  1. The Interview
  2. The Story
  3. The Visuals (plan out the video)
  4. The B-Roll (actually shoot it)
  5. The Editing

662 of 1600 pastors (40%) said they need most help with sermon illustration

3 step storytelling formula

  1. A lead with a problem (introduce the lead to the audience)
  2. A mentor with a blueprint
  3. A result from a decision (the climax of the story)

Position yourself (your church) as a mentor with a blueprint to the problem


Overall it was a great few days with learning from some great people about Church communication. I learned a ton from these presentations. Hearing from the experts about the importance of video and images, how empathy plays a vital role in social media, and how we can be storytellers with images and photos were a few things that really stood out.

However, what Steven Dilla presented made me think the most. Although I didn’t agree with everything he shared about Church Online, I do completely agree with him that we have to find a way to leverage technology to disciple people. Technology is so apart of our world today that we have to utilize it. Digital communication is here to stay and will continue to evolve over time. That is why it is so important that churches continue to find ways to use digital communication to reach more and more people for Christ.


What about you? What stood out to you from the notes I shared? And what about the church and digital communication that you see are growth areas? Share below or on social media using #ymsidekick.

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Tom Pounder

A father of 4, Tom is the Online Campus Pastor as well as Social Media Director at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. He blogs, vlogs, periscopes and podcasts regularly about student and online ministry stuff. Check out his work at and on iTunes (search YMSidekick).

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