As a new Communications Director with a degree in social work and experience in an adolescent psych hospital and an overseas youth ministry team (in other words, a complete rookie), I made a lot of mistakes and learned many lessons the hard way. With over 7 years under my belt now, here are some of the biggest mistakes I still find myself making (and maybe you are too?) – and how I’m working hard to move beyond them.
1. TELLING THE WRONG STORY
Our churches should all be telling the same story – that a loving God sent His only Son to redeem a broken world and restore relationships with sinful humans. And while I know that’s the story I should be telling through my church’s communications, it’s all too easy for the story to become something like this:
Our church has lots of services on Sundays with different kinds of music. We also have Celebrate Recovery and a women’s Bible study that meets on Tuesday mornings and next month we’re having a brunch that you should buy a ticket for now, because the deadline is next week. Also, we could really use more help in our Kids ministry and don’t forget that online giving is available.
As communicators, we need to constantly challenge ourselves to tell the story of Jesus and not of upcoming events – and to further the mission of the Church, not the activities of our churches. Your pastor isn’t the only one whose job it is to preach the gospel. The communications person/department is uniquely positioned to come alongside the pastor and make sure that your website, print materials, social media, and even church environments are all pointing people to the greatest story they’ll ever hear, the story of Jesus.
2. STACKING YOURSELF UP AGAINST THE WRONG COMPETITION
We all know that “comparison is the thief of joy,” as Theodore Roosevelt famously said, and yet as creatives and communicators we can’t seem to stop ourselves from doing it. Our Instagram feeds are full of amazing church graphics and we routinely stalk YouTube for innovative videos. We might as well be wearing WWNPD (What Would North Point Do?) bracelets.
But don’t let them steal your joy – or your confidence. Other than the obvious size, personnel, and budget discrepancies between your church and the big ones, there’s the simple fact that your church family doesn’t really care what mega churches are doing, because those churches aren’t their church – yours is!
If you really have to compare yourself to anything, it would probably be more strategic to keep your eyes on the things that are competing for your members’ (and potential guests’) attention on a daily basis: local advertisements, community events, school districts, and the large businesses and industries in your community.
Let other churches be who God created them to be. You be you.
3. SETTING THE WRONG GOALS
One of the most influential pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is to learn the difference between output and outcome*.
Output is the first thing most people think about when they approach church communications. Maybe you’re stuck there yourself. If you’re not, there’s a good chance a majority of your church staff are. Output is all about the product. A glossy brochure. An eye-catching poster. An announcement. A mass mailing.
As communications professionals, we have the opportunity to coach people to think one step above the output to the desired outcome. What would you like to accomplish? What are your goals? Let’s talk about what you’re trying to do, then figure out the best way to do it.
If we don’t ask these questions, we could get stuck in an output machine. And sure – we could create some really cool stuff and spend a ton of money making everything super awesome. But do we need to?
If your goal is to get people to sign up for an event and you can accomplish that goal with a website announcement and social media push, then maybe you don’t need a flyer. If your group is already full with a waiting list, then what is your reason for wanting to make an announcement about it? (Yes, I have really gotten that request!) If you need volunteers for VBS, maybe having a table set up outside the worship venue would be more effective than sending out a postcard to your entire database.
It takes creativity, flexibility, and a whole lot of trial and error, but if you can nail this one your whole team will benefit – and your finance department will thank you.
*This advice is from Kem Meyers who wrote Less Chaos. Less Noise. If you haven’t read it, go buy or borrow it immediately!
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