- Covid-19 Shelter in Place protocols forced St. Barnabas to pivot when indoor worship was no longer permissible
- Much of what the church does had always been face to face, including building relationships
- Creating a digital experience that mirrored attending worship, which is a ritual for most people. It is a place to feel closer to God, be a better person, and build a moral foundation for children.
Client Description & Prompt
St. Barnabas Lutheran Church in Cary, IL is an ELCA church located in a small town, a little over an hour from Chicago. They set themselves apart from other churches with their “All are Welcome” mantra, and mission to build community near and far. As the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world in 2020, not even churches were immune to the changes that were to come. While St. Barnabas was quick to pivot to online worship; it was when restrictions began to lift in the summer of 2021 that more challenges arose. Not everyone felt safe and comfortable with an ever-changing virus still out there.
In a time where church attendance has dropped 28% over the last year, and folks have gotten comfortable at home, St. Barnabas was met with the challenge to push forward and both maintain the attention of the current audience, while simultaneously growing the congregation. This is where Datasign Marketing began its relationship with St. Barnabas.
Datasign Marketing stepped in to develop an on-going strategy to bolster the digital footprint and general awareness. After getting to know St. Barnabas and their goals, we were able to better define and segment their audiences, building different approaches to best serve each. One of the goals of St. Barnabas is to expand the congregation, and the best way to reach Gen Z and Millennials is to continue with digital presence and offerings.
Datasign recommended starting by defining their “brand” & saying goodbye to the almost decade-old website. These first steps would drive the overall look and feel of the digital identity, giving St. Barnabas a logo and color palette to be discernable from other churches of the same name. Doing this also helps to build recognition in the communities both in their town and online.
After establishing the branding foundation, it was time to strengthen the bond with the existing audience. St. Barnabas was active on social media prior to our relationship, but they did not have a clear strategy or developed plan. One of the first tasks Datasign performed was a brief social media audit. In the audit, not only were the KPIs of St. Barnabas examined, but other churches in the area as well. This allowed us to see what had been working for St. Barnabas, what was working for other churches, and giving insight on best ways to boost engagement going forward.
As can be seen by this graphic, St. Barnabas is currently achieving better engagement rates than many of the churches in the nearby vicinity. In addition, in just the time that St. Barnabas and Datasign have been working together, the organic engagement rate has increased 5.4%. To put this in perspective, according to Outreach.com, churches with follower counts similar to St. Barnabas tend to have a 1.18% post engagement rate. In the last month, the engagement rate averaged 11% on the St. Barnabas Facebook page. The organic social media strategy we have been implementing far exceeds the metrics for churches of St. Barnabas’s size
As the engagement of the current audience continues to increase, it became time to work on the next goal, reaching new audiences. In the organic content strategy, we try to include posts that are not only engaging to the members of St. Barnabas, but also informative and inspiring to those that may not be familiar with the church. We are trying to reach a younger demographic, so the use of stories and polls has been successful in boosting visibility. The growth rate has been steady.
To conclude, there is still much work to be done and more avenues to explore for St. Barnabas. We have plans for the future to expand into other social media platforms. The church is upgrading its streaming software and audio capabilities. We’ve updated the website with a direct live stream, so that viewers do not need to rely on Facebook or YouTube for their streams. In addition, a budget has been created for paid advertising in 2022 to reach an even broader audience.
There are still challenges to overcome as far as getting people in the door, but at this point, we are seeing more views on the live streams, along with growth on all the platforms we’ve been focusing on. Given the time and budget constraints, we are very pleased with the results. St. Barnabas is a wonderfully kind and creative place of worship. Datasign Marketing provides the strategy and creative deliverables to expand the reach and generate awareness, but the people that make up the church are the reason their audience stays.