How Much Digital Postage Do You Pay?

Jeff Lemke (Mankato, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Dr. Jeff C. Lemke, the VP of Admissions and Enrollment for Bethany Lutheran College, specializes in community outreach, marketing, and international recruitment. Before BLC, Lemke directed a city program that assisted new immigrants in transition, a role that included grant writing and community partnership development. Lemke then served as Director of Admissions, Marketing and International Programs for St. Croix Lutheran, interviewing and negotiating contracts with marketing firms that project the school’s brand throughout the community and globe. Teaching on the topic of Christian school financial management and enrollment sustainability is a passion; he serves Martin Luther College in online instruction and as a consultant for multiple international student ministries.
Your church and school likely have regular mailings that go out to families and prospects. These mailings carry important announcements, prompt critical action steps and develop a unified direction for your ministry. Mailings and postage are built into our organizational budgets. Since the days of Martin Luther and the invention of the printing press, the power of mailings as a communication method have become universally understood.

How likely is someone to share physical mail with their friend? Is written communication in letter format the best way to describe ministry initiatives? Is there another communication method that can assure you that a piece is read, that can track the message, and even develop responsive messages that change with the audience's specific needs? Paying your digital postage is the modern equivalent of using the printing press.

When we think of advertising, we think of TV ads or items that clog up our mailboxes. Digital advertising now accounts for 88.4 billion dollars, more than TV, print or radio advertising (Mullin & Flint via Comscore, eMarketer and Interactive Advertising Bureau, 2019). The number of Americans who read a newspaper daily has declined from 41% to 23%, while the number of Americans who use social media for information has risen to above 70% (Pew Research, 2018).

Email systems like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp are the most common ways that ministry organizations pay their digital postage. Using an organized email system allows you to:

  1. Design emails that are eye-catching, visually interesting, and therefore more likely to be read.

  2. Measure whether an email message has been opened by your audience.

  3. Track which links your readers find interesting and which online action steps they actually take.

  4. Analyze the regularity, length, and format that your audience prefers.

  5. Prevent messaging people who do not want it and avoid your primary email from being blacklisted as spam.

Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms originally carried a church's or school's message alongside that of any individual who posts information. Now ministry organizations, like any corporation, must pay for digital postage if they expect their organization's message to be carried far. Yes, your message can still be viewed by a few of your core followers without a monetary investment. Yes, interesting and emotional content is always more likely to go viral and be spread. However, a huge shift has occurred in social media platforms. If you want people to see your ministry's message online, your organization must budget accordingly and pay digital postage.

Facebook offers an easy way to reach users on both their platform and Instagram. Boosting a post is a simple way to pay digital postage, but you can always get more message reach and dollar-for-dollar impact by visiting the top right arrow drop down and working through the manage ads tab. Within the manage ads tab, you can target people by interest, affiliation to your organization, age, geography, and many other areas. You can send your message out in ways that focus on those most likely to click and visit your site, or most likely to view it, or simply reach as many of your targeted audience as possible, one time per day. The manage ads tab in Facebook opens up a world of possibilities for targeting your message and extending your reach.

Google AdWords has become an incredibly complex tool with an infinity of possibilities. How often do we marvel at all the things Google can do? Doesn't it make sense for your ministry organization to invest in learning to use this great tool of communication? There are ways to direct ads to visitors of specific web sites, Youtube channels, or by various interests, and target through an infinity of other possibilities. If "go and make disciples" is a core part of your ministry focus, an investment in Google Adwords has become the next wise step. Because of the complexity, it may require working with an outside vendor.

Optimizing your website is another way to pay your digital postage. While a focus on search engine optimization (SEO) can be free, there are costs that can ensure you do it well.

  1. There are assessment tools which determine the best layout, links, and effectiveness of landing pages.

  2. Domains, labels, and keywords can be adjusted to encourage traffic to your site.

  3. Mobile-friendly, loading time, and easy navigation are key and their mastery is an important science.

  4. Welcoming content which can communicate grace and truth is an art form and a blessing from our Lord.

The next time you review your ministry's annual budget ask "Are we paying our digital postage"? Consider what Martin Luther must have thought when he first saw the printing press. The Lord's richest blessings in your efforts to use all of our Lord's wonderful creation to proclaim His grace.

Dr. Jeff Lemke, Vice President of Admissions and Enrollment, presented at the 2019 WELS Leadership Conference on the topics of "Best Marketing Mediums for Outreach" and "Reach New Families with a Sustainable School." Dr. Lemke is scheduled to present in January of 2020 in Chicago at the WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership on the topic of "Financially Sustainable Models for Schools." Contact him through this website.

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Phil (St Mark) 2019-10-21 5:55:34pm
Facebook ads using the manage ad tab is a powerful and simple tool every church and school in the WELS should use. With WELS budgets often tight, Facebook ads get a big bang for their buck. I went through a class Dr. Lemke taught last year, and one of the topics was Facebook ads. I applied those principals to Trunk or Treat last year and this year. The ads reached over 30,000 people and resulted in hundreds of people attending both years! It was so successful this last Friday, we had a line of people waiting for candy (over 30 minutes!!!). With both ads, we spent a total of $125, and our return was much more valuable than the investment. We had someone join our church from the event last year, ad gained a ton of contacts from this year's event. Now more people are seeing the benefit of doing this, and we are planning to do more of these ads at our congregation with a very specific outreach plan!
Tiger Thomas (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 4:09:23pm
Having worked closely with the various social media apps I have an idea of how impactful the use of their advertising functions can be. If lucky, the return on an investment paid for advertisement on one of these apps could bring in a lot of viewers which is actually kind of scary.
Tmk (Vince) (Bethany Lutheran ) 2019-10-22 4:10:46pm
I totally agree with you,Facebook ads go along way to wider audience.if used effectively intended purpose will be reached.
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-10-29 8:24:33pm
Thanks for the great real world application and story. It makes such a difference to have real life examples like this. I do want to warn people who view this that some of the best results can be difficult to track. Word of Mouth is essential and unifies all good marketing, but these paid for social advertisements is an amazing mix of worlds. I hope your ministry has found it to beneficial to invest even more in digital postage.
Great to hear from you Phil.
Emily Sanchez (Bethany ) 2019-10-22 12:15:01am
When I think of advertising I think of exactly what you said. Many days now advertising does not work well and when we want to get the word about something of our own it can be dangerous because untrusted people may be able to view it since the internet is a big place. I remember back then teachers taught us about everything you post on the internet is there for everyone to see and even if you delete it people may be able to see it. We must be careful with everything especially social media.
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-10-29 8:36:32pm
Very true Emily,
It is wise for all of us to remember that what we put up on the internet is usually available to the masses. But as I reflect, I may have been too conservative in that regard. There have been opportunities in the past to share my faith with my network that I did not take advantage of because I was concerned people would take it out of context or that it would be around on the internet forever. Now I pray that I act, knowing that I am saved from sins of commission and sins of omission.
Alexis Gantner / Nathan Sargent (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-10-24 1:03:37am
Hi Dr. Lemke,

I've found your article very insightful due to the fact that I'm a PR major at WLC. Currently, Nathan and I are taking a PR class in which we had to create our own organization. Nathan's group created a hypothetical Lutheran School. Our teacher had given us insightful information regarding different forms of media advertisement, some of which included references to Mail Chimp. Our recent assignment was to plan a special event for our organizations. That meant we had to think about the strategies and tactics of getting the word out about the special event. It has become very relevant in this day and age for information to be exposed through digital media, especially those forms of Facebook and Instagram. In both of our organizations, we discussed using forms of Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to spread the word about our events. One of our key targets in the WELS is towards millennials and potential pastors and teachers, which we are in need of. In order to reach this target public, we can begin to connect on forms of social media because the world is becoming more and more tech-savvy. Facebook ads are becoming a popular thing, and as a member of the WELS, I think it's a vital tool for us to use in order to spread God's gospel. We should optimize these media tools to benefit our Synod in the best ways possible.

Thank you for your contribution!
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-10-29 8:21:42pm
Alexis and Nathan,
What a great project for your class! There are many who dream of what our schools and ministries would look like if we built them from scratch from the ground up. Would we name them the same and so forth? Particular with the younger generation, I get mixed signals of if good calls to action are moving toward events or toward other action items? That may be a good question to debate with some PR majors.
Blessings on your studies.
Josh A (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-24 3:24:54am
Some may balk at the statement "Paying your digital postage is the modern equivalent of using the printing press." However, using resources such as the ones mentioned by Dr. Lemke is crucial to diffuse any information in today's society.
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-10-29 8:38:57pm
Thanks for your comment, Josh. Yes, any metaphor or comparison has limitations.
Gabe Jacobsen (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:49:38pm
Dr. Lemke,

I am overjoyed to see that you are encouraging churches to make use of social media and online mailing (without skipping the postage). It is valuable to note that you brought an applicable historical situation with Luther and the printing press. Using the press cost money, but it was well worth it. In the same way Instagram and Facebook promotion and boosting can make a church's message go from only the congregation to the rest of the world! Your presentation was encouraging for me to read also, as a young person to know that focus is being put onto to reaching my age group as well as older age groups (teens and twenty-somethings do not typically take the time to read a piece of paper in the mail). Amen, and well said!

How would you advise a church to use social media, and to what extent?
Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-26 2:48:18am
Permit me to jump in here: in answer to your good question, Gabe, go back into the archives of previous GOWM conferences, linked to the front page of this one. There are several presentations with extensive answers to your question.
Kaitlyn Roux (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-25 1:41:41am
Dr. Lemke,

As one preparing to go into the teaching ministry, I found your suggestions for digital communication particularly interesting. I have recently become familiar with Facebook ads and Mailchimp through running the social media for a small business. I think that the ability to track and target posts and emails translates well into social media use for churches and schools to open “up a world of possibilities for targeting your message and extending your reach.” It is exciting that a church or school’s posts can reach such large audiences to both invite and inform.

I did have a question while I was reading your article. Social media ads have easily accessible pages to back them up, and emails are usually signed up for by the recipient. Your mention of Google ads had me wondering how viewers respond to Google ads for a church or school. I am usually wary to click on an internet ad. If using Google is a “next wise step” what are some things that churches or schools should consider doing to make their ads credible?

Thank you for the article you presented!
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-10-29 8:30:25pm
Hi Kaitlyn,
Great question regarding the use of Google ads.
Staying true to your message is a good way to keep ads credible. For example, I now see churches sharing publicly that worship will be either a contemporary style or traditional style. Some churches formerly took the stance that it should not matter if church is traditional or contemporary and would not communicate in advance about the style. Whether with Google Ads or the style of worship to expect, be upfront with who you are (who your church is) and people will click if interested.
More often, people will not click on the ads but the advertisement will still have some branding affect for the future and hopefully a visit to church.
Kaitlyn Roux (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:28:39pm
Dr. Lemke,

Thank you for your suggestions for Google ads. I like the idea of sharing the worship style; that is just another thing that people can look forward to when they come to church. Your response reminded me of some comments I read on the "T-Shirt Evangelism" post - even if people don't respond to outreach right away, the fact that they have seen it gets them thinking.

Thank you for the examples and suggestions!
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-11-11 2:46:24pm
Kaitlyn, Your wisdom regarding the evangelism process is far and deep. I often find myself thinking that new Christians need to move right to baptism and then confirmation, but as you point out, the Gospel works according to the Lord's time and methods. He shares what that is through the mustard seed and yeast examples in the Bible, but it can be difficult to impossible to "measure," as much as we may try. I also like the "T-Shirt Evangelism" discussion.
Nancy Roebke 2019-11-02 12:56:07pm
Great thoughts about Outreach here
Jenna E (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-03 7:45:32pm
This is a grand way of modernizing outreach! In this digital age, it is essential to reach people through a means in which they relate. Regrettably, our society is heavily impacted by media and it is the most efficient way to spread any kind of message. It is crucial to adapt to this social environment. Thank you for your article.
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-11-11 3:26:22pm
Yes Jenna, I enjoy how it is truly social and you have insight into the people whom you admire and respect and what they are reading, watching and considering.
Kaylan B. (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-05 3:07:39am
This article was particularly intriguing to me as my father is a mail carrier. Growing up, I got to see first hand how important letters and newspapers were. Now as the times are changing, we are beginning to see a shift into the social media realm. Advertisements specifically, are taking over social media and there are not many apps or websites that do not have some sort of advertisements. Facebook is a great way to promote ideas because Facebook has people of all ages on the website, where as other websites are steered more towards the younger generation. I think that adapting to the times is crucial, but social media is something that should always be monitored with caution. I overall enjoyed reading the article-thanks for sharing!
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-11-11 3:25:14pm
Thanks for your encouragement Kaylan,
Great use of social media is coordinated with old-school media and direct mailing postcard campaigns. If the two have related messages, branding and images, it has a magnified impact. Your father's role in it all is still a critical one, what a blessing the organized mail system of the USA is and what an opportunity for outreach.
Jessica N. (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-06 4:10:45am
Thank you so much for your contribution to this conference. As someone who is planning on going into marketing and PR, this insight into the nuances of modern evangelization is much appreciated.

Do you think that we have a greater advantage being able to optimize our reach, and if so, what do you think is the greater impact? Do you think there are any pitfalls with online marketing? Do we run the risk of overstimulating even in evangelization?

Thank you once again for your contribution.
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-11-11 3:22:48pm
That's a good question and could go a philosophical route rather quickly.
Some may say that America is full of over-stimulation, whereas you go to locations like some areas of Africa or Vietnam, the environment is much less noisy. People in America are much more familiar with their being a welcoming church at every corner, where other countries can have more of a spiritual void or vacuum. Brazil is the only other market that I know of that seems more "noisy" in terms of marketing than the USA.
In marketing they talk about "meeting your saturation goals." Thus, you pick an audience (demographics) that you want to get your message to and then pick saturation goals. For instance, in the three weeks of our digital campaigns we want our ad to reach 90% of the market (often called "reach") with an average of 15 impressions.
Back to your original questions - Yes, just like in the Pax Romana of the time of Christ, the Pax Americana or Pax Technicana (I just made that one up) produces some unique evangelism opportunities.
- Yes, misinformation of online marketing is concerning. Also, the online marketing world fuels the "feeling of spirituality" that can be void of truth and depth.
- I don't think we run the risk of overstimulating as much as we run the risk of being elbowed out because of all of the noise and political correctness that tech companies are driving.
Al Dickenson (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-06 5:16:12am
Really great article, and especially interesting to someone that wants to evangelize through actions. I am interested in the thought of how Youtube ads could be used for this sort of thing too, as someone interested in how people develop and change mass media usage throughout the ages. Do you think Youtube ads could also become part of this? I think a big part of this is simply using to tools God has given us, while also recognizing them as tools and figuring out how to use them properly and effectively.

Thank you for your time,
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-11-11 3:12:13pm
Great question regarding Youtube Ads, Al,
Yes, Youtube Ads are a tremendous tool, yet a little more challenging for some churches and schools to execute. The Google Ads forum delivers Youtube Ads at a reasonable cost and expertise. But most ministries may still need a Consultant or Vendor to navigate the Google Ads system, or a very gifted church member.
Nora S. (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-11-09 5:24:35pm
Though it can sometimes be tedious or difficult to find someone willing to do so, having active and up-to-date social media presence can be an effective outreach technique. As a college student, I often decide where and why I am going to a specific church because of what is on their website, and how well the website is layed out. Being appealing online can really help to boost you online ministry,
Dr. Lemke (Bethany Lutheran and MLC) 2019-11-11 3:09:45pm
Good insights Nora, Churches really need to hear from young people about what looks good and works in regard to website layout and social media messaging. It's interesting how visuals are needed, but don't need to be done perfectly. I hope young church members are bold enough to talk with a pastor and support front-end media efforts to engage a new generation of church-goers.
Ian Starkey (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-12 4:45:53am
From a student perspective, and someone who generally does little social media and email interaction, if I am receiving an email or message from a group or individual that I care about, I will open and read the email. Having to pay for email distribution and flashy backgrounds seems unnecessary especially for a ministry. I understand that from both a public relations point of view and for individuals whose inboxes are constantly being bombarded with messages this is a necessary cost for activity tracking and simplicity but, if staying up to date with topics and issues especially for your congregation is important to the congregations members (which it should be) this extra cost seems unneeded and easily avoidable.