Church Communicators face many challenges in doing our jobs with excellence and sustainability.
With the growing pressures of a divided congregation, the already-heavy demand of our jobs, and the lack of funds to hire staff or coordinate volunteers, communicators face some specific challenges unique to our profession.
No matter the level of expertise, size of our teams, or amount of budget, digital spaces need attention and churches are (mostly) not prepared for it. I often say to others that Square 1, the basics of communications in a church of any size is a full-time job!
And that’s just the execution side of getting things done. Who has time to pick their head up and see the big picture issues that we face?
There are at least four big issues that communicators deal with that have nothing and everything to do with the execution of our tasks. If we don’t address them, they will eat us alive without us even knowing they are there. In no particular order, here they are…
TL;DR: Empathy for co-workers, staff communication, & communication upward with leadership
Here’s how we define internal communications: it’s the things you do to make sure staff are informed of what’s going on and how well vision is transferred to leadership.
It’s preventing your staff (or yourself) from learning about an event from the stage at the same time your people do. It’s helping your leadership understand the digital decisions you’re advising them on. It’s knowing what is going on and helping others to know what’s going on.
It’s what makes what we do at Church Comm Team unique. We not only help churches execute the external means of communication like email, social media, and updating your website. We also focus on internal communication by helping with your project management and requests, coaching your leadership, and working with your pastor to better understand their role in digital communications.
It’s a big challenge going forward and communication directors are in the middle of it. It requires empathy for each other to understand how the actions and attitudes of one person affect everyone else.
So, that’s why we insist that “you have to put in a request” and no more of these “stopping in the doorway to make a quick request” shenanigans. Pastors must lead the way for team-play.
TL;DR: Loneliness and overall mental health are issues for communication directors due to working with social media.
We have to work in the social media space every day. Plus nights and weekends. And holidays. So, it’s really hard for us to escape the negative aspects of it since we’re in it so much. We have to swim in that self-soup all day long and it’s dangerous.
We see so many perfect depictions of life that it can leave us feeling alone or like we are not accomplishing enough in life. These very real feelings are the cause of anxiety and depression in many who work with social media every day.
If you feel immense loneliness, let me encourage you to talk to someone. Find a counselor who can help you work through some of these heavy emotions.
Also, many churches offer insurance which may have some provision to pay for part of your counseling. Talk to your HR person (or whoever runs your insurance plan) about the possibilities.
TL;DR: Not podcasts or books you like, but actual theological education is becoming more and more important for communicators.
We must stop fearing education in the church. We must also define what constitutes a quality education in theology.
Education does not put one of us over the other even though, unfortunately, this attitude has been a problem. However, the answer isn’t to treat education as if it’s dangerous, but to seek it with humility. After all, isn’t growth partly knowing more and more about God?
Communications directors are in a position of dealing with theological questions on social media more and more as people become more vocal or critical of our church’s positions, so proper education is a must. Find out what books are used for seminaries and get them. Audit a class or find a person who went to Bible College and ask them to coffee to do a personal Bible study together.
One incredible resource is the cumulative notes of Dr. Constable from Dallas Theological Seminary available online for free HERE. He spent his life adding to and building these notes and they are as thorough as anyone could ever want in a book by book commentary on the Bible. They include background, history, and line by line exegesis. It’s completely free.
TL;DR: There are lots of gurus trying to sell you something but that doesn’t mean they have your best interest at heart.
It seems like every week there’s a new company or product or personality vying for your attention. They all promise to “grow your following” or “raise your giving” or “rank higher on Google” etc etc etc.
The problem with the guru culture is that many of these gurus have zero idea of how your church works. We buy subscriptions and products that are really great but are often never used. The sales pitch is greater than the need.
It’s wasteful. Wasteful of your money and your time.
Be careful to buy the best product for your church, not the best deal.
Many marketers speak in extremes because it motivates people to buy. Being confident of your product and promising the world can deliver sales, but it doesn’t always deliver results.
There are many Instagram influencers with over 50k followers who say that the key to gaining that many followers is: a solid profile, using hashtags properly, and quality content.
While those things are important, they don’t tell you about the promotion they ran with bigger influencers, the money they paid for either followers or ads, or about the years they spent grinding content out with no response before one big post put them on the map.
Face it. Sometimes, it’s just pure luck.
But this is the wrong thing to focus on. We’ve been conditioned to think about numbers and performance instead of ministry goals and connections.
Who made us this way? Gurus. They show us a success story and promise that it can happen to us too. Finally, we’ll be able to justify to our bosses that we deserve our paychecks!
Gurus selling products do not know what is best for your church, nor do they always align with your ministry goals. You have to decide this before you buy so watch out for those who speak in extremes.
Take some time
I know it may feel counterproductive, but take some time to really think about these four issues and where you are with them. Do any of them need your attention? Do you need to spend more time on internal communications this first quarter and less on slick videos for social?
What subscriptions or products do you pay for that you really don’t need? Can you cut them loose and do something else?
Is there an area of theology you need to grow? Who can help you?
Do you have friends who aren’t coworkers? Are you reaching out just for a zoom call to hang out and avoid being alone?
Whatever area you need to address, make the time for it.
I used to tell my staff that they had permission to make room in their workday for what we called “white space.” Just like in design, you need white space around designs and logos to “let your eyes breathe” and understand the design and how it fits into a space.
White space helps design make sense.
It is a period of time each day where they didn’t have to knock out tasks and be productive. They could pursue something that inspired them, practice a skill they wanted to develop, read a book, or whatever!
You to do the same. You need it. Let yourself breathe and work on the big things that make all the little things better.