We've all been there. Don't pretend like you haven't. Ministry is awkward. It's difficult. It's intense.
A pastoral leader has to be removed because of sinful behavior.
False accusations are leveled against senior leadership.
A core family leaves on bitter terms after squabbling with another family.
The husband who taught the marriage small group for 20 years decides to divorce his wife.
A church member winds up behind bars.
Gossip. Rumors. Backbiting. Fallout. Damage control. Ministry can be ugly. Sometimes you're in the trenches. This is real life, people.
In a Digital Age where everyone is connected 24/7 across social media platforms, tensions can often escalate faster than Apple's next MacBook Pro release. Our culture has never been more divided, ostracized, and argumentative, and now — thanks to networks like Facebook — it's easier than ever to fire shots at other people anytime we feel like it. Obviously, we have some control over our social feeds when it comes to who we decide to friend, follow, or retweet, but there's one thing we tend to have less control over: that pesky comment section. This is especially true for administrators of public pages. Even the "share" feature on a post can be used for ill purposes when someone exploits it in order to take a jab at a fellow believer. The content itself is usually innocent. A verse about friendship. A sermon reel on unity in the Body of Christ. But, in the wrong hands, they can be weaponized against a brother or sister-in-Christ where a grudge or root of bitterness has laid dormant for years and, before you know it, you've got a mess on your hands. These things happen.
As a church communicator tasked with managing social media, how do you proceed? Let's be honest here: People in those comment threads can be downright brutal. Social media is a two-edged sword because it propagates obscurity and anonymity. It's easy to ratchet up the intensity of your attack when you're not on the receiving end and when you can't visually see the person you're ripping to shreds. How do we go about disarming some of those shots and alleviating the tension?
1. Take the high road.
"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself." [Proverbs 26:4] It's that simple. Don't engage. Don't enter the argument under your own personal profile or as the church. Don't throw coals on the fire. There is absolutely no reason, under any circumstances, to ignite an all-out social media war on your church's public page. Also, don't stoop to that person's level. If they are posting content with the intent of gossiping, badmouthing, insulting, or disparaging, rise above that. Post positive content that encourages, ministers, and deescalates the situation. This is the heartbeat of digital ministry. And, whatever you do, don't poke the bear.
Mark Twain famously said, "Never argue with stupid people, because they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."
2. Never hesitate to delete or hide comments.
These features and settings are available for a reason. If you continuously receive rude, negative, offensive, or divisive comments from someone — whether it be a church member, previous attendee, or random troll — you can always delete or hide their comments. The hide feature will keep their comment from being seen by other people who follow your page, giving you greater control over the tension of the situation. Also, the person who left the comment will not be notified that their comment was hidden, keeping you safe from any recourse that person may wish to take against the page or against you as the admin. In fact, that person will still see their comment on the page as if it's actually there [even though it's hidden from everyone else.] As a last resort, you can always delete the comment entirely and/or block the individual. The latter should only be done in extreme cases and, in my humble opinion, with your pastor's permission or, at least, in tandem with notifying your pastor that you plan to do so. And, no matter what, don't poke the bear.
3. Integrate humor.
Nothing defuses tension and drama better than comic relief. When a bitter or angry person is hellbent on leaving rude comments or weaponizing your page's content against someone else for the sake of petty spats, it will be harder for them to do so with posts that are lighthearted, silly, and downright goofy. Of course, you can't post funny content for several days or weeks on end. You don't want your church page turning into the meme bin of the Internet. [Ok, maybe you secretly do want that.] But, you can sprinkle sporadic humorous posts throughout your standard content or even lace your pastor's next sermon series graphics and branding with a dose of whimsey or wit. Be creative. Know your audience. Pray before you post. [Pro tip: Funny reels and video content work wonders here.] In the midst of it all, don't poke the bear.
4. Enter PR-mode.
In some rare situations, you may have to work tirelessly to protect the image of your church in the community. This is a good place to mention that Jesus certainly does not need our talents or require our services in order to defend His bride. He's perfectly capable of doing this Himself. However, He will often use willing and obedient servants as part of His plan. When you are confronted with social media tension — particularly when it involves someone dragging your church's name and reputation through the muck and mire of the Internet — you may find it necessary to post social media content that counteracts the negativity or criticism. For example, let's say that a former disgruntled member, who left on bad terms, is bashing your pastor online. If all attempts to contact this person prove futile, it may be necessary to post positive photo/video content of your pastor. His involvement at the next homeless outreach; his pop-in with the kids ministry on Sunday morning; or his last missions trip. You get the idea. Granted, this is likely stuff that you would be posting anyway, but you will need to be more mindful of it in these situations. By the way: Don't the bear.
Always post the sort of content that fosters positivity, builds ministry, and elicits cheerful engagement. You are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the digital sphere. Serve, love, post, design, edit, market, brand, and communicate with love and grace.
And remember: Don't. Poke. The. Bear.
Let's put all the cards on the table from the beginning. No mucking around here. Being a Church Communicator — particularly in 2023 — is sometimes overwhelmingly difficult, incredibly challenging, repetitively frustrating, maddening beyond belief, and downright burdensome.
The Local Church is often guilty of mischaracterizing the entire profession, painting a false picture that depicts Church Comms as a ministry life full of immense blessings and constant fun. I can't tell you how often I've heard Technical Directors tell volunteers-in-training: "Oh, it only gets easier from here on out!"
And then there are all of the church leaders, pastors, elders, etc. who don't even have the slightest grasp on everything that Church Comms ministry entails and, quite literally, think it's "just a bunch of young people playing around on Facebook and Instagram."
This could not be further from the truth.
It's as if we're terrified to mention all the hard work [often unpaid], the overtime hours, the twilight hours, the countless all-nighters, the behind-the-scenes phone calls, loneliness, discouragement, pessimism, financial struggles, and the suffering that are part of this role. Spiritual warfare is legit, folks, and if you commit to full-time ministry, you can bet your latest Apple gadget that the Enemy is coming after you in full force. [Pro tip: He'll be coming after your family, too.]
No one hates announcing bad news more than me. But, in regards to preparing Church Communicators for career-level ministry, I believe we have failed miserably in a few areas.
Here are some things that I wish someone would have sat down and told 17-year-old Josh. I've spent the last 20-plus years discovering these firsthand through intense stretches of adversity and gut-wrenching cycles of defeat.
#1. It will be the toughest journey upon which you will ever embark.
You really have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Like, for real. I think Owen Wilson as Oscar in 1998's "Armageddon" sums it up nicely here:
#2. There will be many days when you will long for [and even look for] a "real world" career.
Whether it be for financial security, health insurance benefits, retirement options, or bi-vocational income, you'll likely face days where you will grapple with the reality that your ministry job is unable — and likely never will be able — to afford to pay you a livable wage by the standards of 2023. If you're a single person, this will make life all the more complicated. Oh, and sometimes, no matter how much you are earning, you'll just be so exasperated by ministry in general that you will be super tempted to apply for that open drive-thru position at your local Wendy's. Just a heads up.
#3. People will assume you can fix anything...and everything.
"Oh, you're the techie person! Listen, our office computer caught fire last night and exploded and we need you to rebuild the motherboard using the remaining charred components and nothing but this broken screwdriver and bottle opener as your tools. And we need you have it up and going by Sunday. You got this!"
#4. You will battle cynicism, resentfulness, and even despair.
You're human. You have emotions. God gave them to you. And this is real life. Remember to turn to Him when this happens.
#5. People will measure your success by the number of followers that the church has on social media.
I wish this weren't true. But it is. Rather than looking at your church's digital ministry footprint — which has very little to do with the amount of followers you have — people will gauge your accomplishments based on how popular your church is on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. [Never mind that a visitor got saved last week because they found your church's website and joined a small group.]
#6. You will have money issues, financial challenges, and income difficulties.
I refuse to sugarcoat it. It's reality. The majority of ministry positions are vastly, often embarrassingly, underpaid. You'll make less than half of what a person with your qualifications would be making in the business world. You need to accept this now and resolve to do what it takes, even if it means being bi-vocational or tri-vocational for a season. [Is tetra-vocational a thing? Asking for a friend.] I am going to say this as bluntly as possible: Be prepared to not be paid what you are worth. Period.
#7. A lot of church people will have no idea what you actually do.
"Yeah, um, why are you here? And what do all those fancy buttons do?"
"Wait, we have a sermon podcast? OMG! When did that happen?" [It happened 12 years ago, Karen. Twelve. Years. Ago.]
#8. You will always be less-than-stellar.
Despite your best efforts, there will always be people who just flat out don't like you. Your design skills will never be up to snuff. They will nitpick your work, critique the church website, complain about that one typo on a worship slide, find a perceived flaw with every social media post, or tell the pastor that their Sunday School class of three people needs its own logo, Facebook page, and branded merchandise. It will be impossible to please everyone. Don't even try. This isn't your job. You'll drive yourself into an insane asylum long before you please everyone.
Be chill. Serve Jesus. Serve your church. Serve your community. Leave the whole Savior of the World gig to Him. He's better at it.
#9. People will assume you do side work for free.
If you're good at what you do, people will take notice. You will be in demand. Sometimes, very high demand. Small business owners will want video work. Authors will want book cover artwork. Resturaunt owners will want logo designs. Families will want photoshoots.
So, let's be clear here. Your personal time is just that. It's your personal time. If it's not a church-related responsibility, you're under no obligation to do it. And, if you do decide to take something on, you have every right to charge for it. You do not have to be Mr. or Ms. Freebie just because your client is a "church person."
Pro-tip: Don't let anyone guilt-trip you about charging a church member for a non-church-related project. Learn how to draw healthy boundaries and borders between church work and professional work.
#10. You will need a lot of coffee.
Can I get a real hearty, Baptist-style "Amen" here?
#11. Workaholism will masquerade as a goal, but it will destroy you and your family.
You will have to balance ministry with your personal life, spiritual life, family time, and friendships. Don't juggle. Balance. There's a difference. Jesus will help you find the rhythm that works for you.
#12. There will be a lot of immature drama.
Ministry involves people. People can be dramatic and immature. Enough said. Moving on.
#13. You will have to resist the impulse to compare your communications ministry to that of other churches.
Every church is different. Every church's budget is different. The comparison game is a black hole. Avoid being sucked into it. It will never satisfy and you will always lose. Don't even go there.
#14. You will often consider quitting.
Some of us just refer to this as "Monday."
Remember the criticism I mentioned in number eight? The Enemy will use it to discourage you. Don't let him win.
#15. You might lose close friends, fellow staff buddies, or team members to other churches.
This happens. And it can hurt. Draw close to God, trust His sovereignty, and trust His view of the bigger picture.
#16. People will assume that you are available 24/7.
The Internet never sleeps. So people will presume that you do not.
#17. You will be expected to perform miracles with a shoestring budget, out-of-date equipment, and your personal laptop.
I'm just being real, guys. When I say that the vast majority of churches have no idea what goes into Church Communications, I mean it. You are basically Ethan Hunt. You've just accepted an impossible mission. Congratulations.
#18. You will disagree with fellow team members and staff.
You won't always see eye-to-eye with your fellow techies and Church Communicators. Handle these moments maturely and in a Christlike, biblical manner. [Pro tip: Don't throw your coffee at them.] And, at the end of the day, you might just have to leave the fancy new camera on top of the cardboard box and call it a day.
#19. Ministry will impact your family.
In good ways and in bad, ministry will affect your spouse, children, and loved ones. Some families come together. Others separate and drift apart. Some become stronger. Others collapse. Some ministry kids enter adulthood resenting the Local Church. Others resent God and walk away from their faith. You will have to fight for your family.
#20. It will be the most incredible, worthwhile, and Kingdom-focused adventure of your life with eternal rewards that will last far beyond this life and into the next.
There's really nothing better than faithfully following God's call on your life.
You will endure hardships. There will be trials. But, in the end, it will matter forever. And that makes it all worthwhile.
Accepting the call to full-time Church Comms ministry — with all of its uncertainties — is still one of the best decisions I've ever made. I've seen individuals and entire families changed forever by the Gospel and my little God-given gifts got to play a role in that. It's one of the coolest things in the world.
If it sounds like there's negativity in this post, you've simply mistaken it for reality. Also, it's only because I love so many things about Church Communications ministry that I am able to speak to the difficulties and hardships.
The next time you see your Church Communicator(s), give them a hug. My guess is that they probably need one.
"Josh! How did you do that?!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down and show me where to find that setting."
"Wait! You mean this program is affordable? And this other one is a one-off payment?!"
"Okay, okay, now tell me what stuff you use."
If I had a dollar for every time I answered these questions and had these conversations with Church-Communicators-in-training, I could probably afford to retire early and move to...well...never mind.
So, in the spirit of being raised by a mother who always taught me to "play nice" and "share with others" — not to mention Fred Rogers insistence upon the whole thing — I thought I'd take a minute to share and briefly discuss a few of the elements in my personal Church Communications tool box [or tool belt for those frequently recurring moments when I'm on the go.] Essentially, these are the things I use every day and couldn't possibly live, operate, or function without. Honestly, in regards to a few of them, I wouldn't dare attempt to survive in this ministry niche if I did not have them.
I know, know. Stating the obvious upfront. I mean, this should just go without saying, right? Unfortunately, it isn't said enough, let alone practiced as often as it should be, so here we are. No matter your ministry niche, the importance of prayer simply cannot be over-expressed. This applies to Church Communications ministry just as much, if not more. Philippians 4:6 reminds us to "let our requests be made known to God" through prayer and supplication. James reminds us that "the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul even goes so far as to challenge us to "pray without ceasing."
As your digital responsibilities expand, your prayer life will need to expand. As your church's influence, reach, and audiences on social media grow, your prayer life will need to grow, blanketing everything that you do in personal, intimate time with Jesus. Your study of analytics, trends, demographics, statistics, feeds, algorithms, and data — while necessary and important — must never supersede your connection to Him and your desire to see your platforms reach exactly who He wants you to reach. Always ask Him to lead, guide, and direct you as you manage and oversee your accounts, designs, and digital media implementation on a daily basis. I don't dare venture into anything regarding Church Comms ministry before I've bathed it in prayer.
#2. Affinity Designer 2
At the intersection of illustration and graphic design stands Affinity Designer — the award-winning vector graphics software from Serif Labs — which continues to become an industry standard for many professionals around the world. The super-smooth, fast, and intuitive software is available for Windows, macOS, and iPad and boasts more features than you shake your Apple Magic Mouse at. As a poor, broke graphic designer working in Church Comms, I'll be the first to admit that I was searching very early on for an alternative to the Adobe creative suite, which, as we all know, requires a paid monthly subscription. For the extent of my own work requirements, I found that answer in the Affinity Suite, which also comes with Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher. As much as I love the Adobe suite — having utilized it throughout college and in many professional subsequent work environments — it was not a realistic option at the time. I look forward to the day when I can add it to my toolbox.
As Comms Director for 6:14 Ministries and Northside Bible Church, I primarily use Affinity Designer to create concept art and social media graphics, sermon series artwork/templates, logos, print projects, icons, and other various illustrations and graphic design items.
For a full look at Affinity Designer's features — including pricing and new features in version 2.2. — and system requirements, visit the Tech Specs page on their site here.
#3. Affinity Photo 2
Leaving your Mac's iPhoto/Photos in the dust, Affinity Photo is truly the last photo editor you'll ever need as a creative. Well, maybe I'm only speaking for myself. Either way, it has met and surpassed all of my expectations and continues to rival Photoshop with its abilities, features, and options. Fully equipped with hundreds of time-saving tools and a breathtakingly beautiful UI redesign, it has made my photo editing experience more seamless, flawless, and altogether enjoyable than ever before. Seriously, I can sit here and edit photos to my heart's content.
I love having the Affinity Suite across my iMac, MacBook Pro, and iPad Air. But that isn't the best part. This software, much like its Designer and Publisher counterparts, is trusted by professionals around the globe and exhibits breakneck speed, tremendous power, and pinpoint precision. From RAW Editing, Focus Stacking, Batch Processing, Unlimited Layers, and more, I have everything that I need for editing my photos to absolute perfection. Affinity Photo is capable of editing in real-time, even with massively large files, which means no more sitting in your office chair watching an icon wheel spin as you wait on that next edit or layer integration to load.
I could go on forever about why I love this software, but for a more in-depth look at features and system requirements, check out the Tech Specs page on their site here.
#4. Canva Pro
Utilizing the professional premium version of Canva, I love pairing this digital graphic design platform up with my Affinity Suite to create simple social media graphics, as well as collaborate with teams, manage branding, access a depthless stock photo library, boost productivity, keep all of my assets in a centralized location, and even schedule social media posts. In combination with my other tools, it truly is one worth having in the box for multiple reasons, not the least of which are its user-friendly UI, video editing/implementation tools, unlimited templates in the Pro version, and gigantic font library [to which you can add/upload your own custom fonts as often as you like.]
On a side note: It's Canva's user-friendly UI that makes it perfect for handing responsibilities over to a design-ignorant/inexperienced volunteer, and you really might not get back a graphic that causes you to vomit onto your keyboard. For that, it gets all sorts of stars in my book. [It will do half the training for you.]
Speaking of stock photos, there's simply no better source for faith-based stock photography and video than Lightstock.com. For just $19/month, you can have access to an unlimited library of digital assets that will enhance your design resources for social media, sermon graphics/templates, event promotions, web design, and anything else you can imagine. If you choose to forgo the monthly subscription and just buy-as-you-go, then each photo is $8.00. The amount of money I have (and continue to) spend here out of my own personal budget is honestly a little embarrassing. (Ok, a lot embarrassing.) But, I wouldn't have it any other way. I consider it part of my tithe to my church and my personal contribution to further the Gospel within the digital sphere as we shine a light into this dark place that we call the Internet. You seriously can't go wrong with this one, guys. Check it out.
#6. Affinity Publisher 2
Optimized for Windows, macOS, and iPad, the award-winning publishing software hails from Serif Labs and, like its sister programs, has been repeatedly chosen by Apple as Mac App of the Year. From books, brochures, pamphlets, magazines, resumes, portfolios, fliers, marketing and promotional materials to social media templates and website mock-ups, Affinity Publisher can handle it all with smooth control and powerhouse speed. Whether I'm working on something that's digital or print, I'm able to craft and design killer layouts and templates completely from scratch, incorporating the exact degree of complexity or simplicity that I choose. The collaboration features are also downright amazing and useful as you'll be able to transfer things to colleagues and share documents/elements back and forth. You just can't go wrong with the Affinity Suite and Publisher 2 rounds it out very nicely.
Created by Slack Technologies [currently owned by Salesforce], this is a cloud-based freemium messaging app that allows professionals to connect with one another and cross-share information within a digital organizational platform that is truly unparalleled. We use Slack at Northside to bring our work teams and staff members together, schedule meetings, keep track of calendar events, send DMs, and much more. It's also phenomenal for moving requests and information in ways that are far quicker and often more secure than standard email. Learn more at slack.com.
A lot of churches I know — including the small ones I help through church revitalization with 6:14 Ministries — absolutely loathe the current structure and setup of their database systems. They're dying to find an alternative, but they have no idea what to use or how to put it into practice. Mailchimp is a free email marketing automation platform with an extremely simple and user-friendly UI. It is designed to help you manage and talk to all of your clients, customers, subscribers or — in the case of churches — your congregants, attendees, and visitors. It implements very practical contact management principles and utilizes beautifully-designed email campaign templates and features. We use it at 6:14 Ministries to send out our monthly email newsletters. I recommend it to countless churches for the same.
Yes, I know it's a third-party app. But, here me out. Here's my philosophy: I think it's essential to build a good toolbox for yourself. And sometimes you need a wrench instead of a screwdriver. Rather than constantly trying to find the ever-elusive Church Communications Swiss Army Knife — that one amazing tool that does everything you could possibly need — try to find 10 tools that each do one thing really well. Then, dump all of those tools in your toolbox and go do ministry for Jesus [who, by the way, was a carpenter. Just sayin'.] Do your best to integrate those tools when you can. But, if they won't, it's ok. Personally, I'd rather use Mailchimp and create visually stunning e-mail campaigns that elicit fantastic views and results than be stuck with an in-house database software that isn't reaching any of our people.
Buzzsprout is one of the easiest and best ways to start and host a podcast. I use it weekly to keep Northside's sermon audio on all of the major podcasting platforms and I also ensure that as many of our messages as possible are SEO-friendly as Buzzsprout allows you to implement endless search tags and keywords. Once you upload an audio file to your account, it will automatically be published on all of the top podcast directories, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Pandora, TuneIn, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Podchaser, and dozens more. Once inside your account, you'll have the option of setting up and customizing your podcast's own personal Buzzsprout site, and you'll also see places to enter your Podcast Info [title, description, artwork, category, host(s), etc.] and options to view detailed stats on how your podcast is doing in regards to downloads, top episodes, and top apps people are using to listen to your content. There's even a handy Podcast Predictor that lets you know how many downloads you'll most likely receive for your next episode based on previous stats/data/algorithm information. When it comes to getting your church sermons out there — taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth — this is a must, along with video, website video/audio, and Facebook Live.
Side note from years of experience: Your podcast will only be as good as its content. I simply cannot overstate this. Even the best search tags and keywords are only designed to draw people TO your podcast platform(s). Once there, they have to find the content itself — which includes your pastor/speaker or podcast host(s) — engaging, intriguing, and worth listening to. If something doesn't connect, they'll leave before getting 80 seconds into the audio. Don't be offended by that. It's the culture in which we live. Don't let the analytics discourage you right off the bat. Keep learning, growing, and getting better at what you do. God designed us to pursue excellence. Learn from your mistakes [and you will make them, I promise] and then keep practicing.
A web-building platform that helps churches create, maintain, and manage visually-stunning professional websites, Ministry Brands really hit the nail on the head here. I took several web design courses as part of my Broadcast/Digital Media degree in college from 2005-2010, and utterly loathed every minute of writing code and learning HTML. Although this software doesn't negate the need for this completely, it does make building sites for churches and ministries one-thousand times easier than they have been in decades past. With a myriad of gorgeous themes, unlimited templates, and more customization options/abilities than you'll be able to discover in a lifetime, CloverSites makes it easy to create, design, build, implement, and regularly manage a church website that prioritizes communication, online giving, engagement, and much more. With amazing tools and features like their one-of-a-kind sermon audio/video players, prayer request forms, prayer walls, event sign-up/registration forms, calendar integration, contact management system, and more, you'll have a clean and professional website that will allow your church to minister both to the local community and the world. I personally use CloverSites both at Northside and 6:14 Ministries and have recommended it to dozens of pastors/church leaders and trained several volunteers at small churches on how to use it. Five stars from me.
For pricing, features, and more info, check them out here.
Remember, your toolbox is only as good as you are. These are just a handful of the ones that I use on a regular basis. [I left out about 15 smaller tools.] Yours may be different. Don't clutter your toolbox with unnecessary, irrelevant, and useless gadgets. You'll only be hurting yourself. Even worse, you won't be able to function, operate, excel, or minister at the highest levels possible within your Church Comms niche. Find out what tools work for you and use them to reach your church, your local community, and the world with the Gospel as you strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus within the digital sphere.
Editing endless hours of sermon audio and video content. Uploading file after file after file. After. Stinking. File. Tediously designing countless original digital and social media graphics on a daily basis. Creating, drafting, sketching, producing, and branding your pastor's sermon series artwork and note templates completely from scratch. Rounding up professional graphic design and video editing software on your own dime because the church you serve doesn't have the budget for it. Faithfully manning cameras and laptops during the morning worship service. Feverishly running power cables, mic cords, and instrument direct boxes across the stage 20 minutes before that pesky countdown video hits the screens. Double and triple checking the livestream software only to watch it gloriously implode as your lead pastor utters the most brilliant and impactful line in the last 20 years of his preaching.
This is the labor of digital ministry, right? Isn't this what we all signed up for when we said we wanted to be one of those fancy Church Communicators?
Eh, well, sort of. But, not really. Something is rather amiss here.
It's easy to only perceive the "exterior" of Church Communications. You know: the digital content, the technology, the hardware, the software, the extravagant visuals. After all, that's what we "take in." We experience that part with our eyes and our ears. We see devices. We see graphics. We watch and listen to video. We hear sermon audio podcasts.
But, the beating heart of true digital ministry — at its core — is an unmistakable, ever-present factor: ministry. See, our eyes tend to gloss right over that word because the word "digital" sits in front of it. And for whatever reason, particularly in the Local Church of 2023, these two words are assumed to be oxymorons. There's just no way they're supposed to coexist. Give me 10 minutes and I'll give you 10 pastors who would actually argue that they shouldn't coexist. [Seriously, I've had these conversations.]
I beg to differ. These two things are meant to coexist. So, for the sake of simplicity, let's break this down with a little "is not" and "is."
Digital ministry is not the ability to design an incredible graphic and post it to your church's three social media platforms in under two seconds flat.
Digital ministry is the ability to manage those three social media platforms with a pastor's shepherding touch so that community is built, connection happens, people are drawn to Christ, relationships grow, lost sheep desire to walk through the doors of the church, faith is strengthened on a daily basis by recurring Scripture and truth, and lives are forever changed because of the Gospel of Jesus.
Digital ministry is not editing video content for the sake of editing.
Digital ministry is editing video in a way that brings the message of Jesus, the hope of the Gospel, and the anthem of His love and grace to an entire demographic of individuals who may never have even heard it until they stumbled across your church's platform and digital content.
See the difference? This isn't rocket science.
I tell pastors and church leaders all the time that I like to think of digital ministry sort of like your town or city's best local coffee shop. It's that place, that thing, that special environment around and in which people gather, build relationships, converse, dialogue, meet with family and friends, laugh, cry, and network with one another in ways that they might not elsewhere. Sure, the coffee shop is cool. You might even argue that it's essential. But, at the end of the day, it's not the primary focus. It's not about the lighting, the tables, the number of beverage flavor options, or even the catchy jazz tune playing over the in-house audio system. The focus is what's happening between the people. The focus is their experience. Are we allowing ourselves to be brought together in a united way as the Local Church — as the Body of Christ — so that we can be restored, healed, increasingly Christlike, and always partnering with our Savior in His mission to love, ransom, and deliver this broken world?
Yes, digital ministry is still ministry.
And, for the sake of lost souls across this world who desperately need Jesus, you should totally care about it.
It might not look, smell, act, or function like the "ministry" you're used to. It might utilize different tools, gadgets, and gizmos than you ever dreamed possible.
But don't get lost in the "how."
Digital ministry is less about the "how." It's more about what we're doing, why we're doing it, and, ultimately, it's about who we are doing it for. [That's Jesus, by the way.]
What do you think? 🤔 How do you define digital ministry? 💻🙏 Drop your thoughts into the comment thread below. 👇
Life is full of questions that deserve a resounding, emphatic, obvious, and instantaneous, "No."
"Would you like to sample the vegetarian-friendly cauliflower chickpea patties today?"
"Pastor, will you prayerfully consider letting us perform a Beyoncé dance number for the Christmas Eve service?"
"Mom, can I enter the Indy 500 with our minivan?"
"Sir, are you interested in the 294-year-extended-lifetime-transferable-to-the-next-seven-generations-of-your-family-bigger-than-the-Waltons-family-double-extended-hyper-extended-premium warranty?"
These are easy. No. No. No. And, for the love of all that is holy, no.
Ministry, however, is a whole different ball of wax. It's chock full of seemingly endless requests and queries that beg us to answer "yes" every single time. And the situational contexts and circumstances are not nearly as black-and-white as the ones I spewed out at the beginning of this post. In fact, they're often gray areas. The lines between what deserves a "yes" and what merits a "no" can be as blurry as that family photo your 89-year-old grandpa took with his Nokia 7650 at the last family reunion. For this reason, we feel the need to continuously answer "yes." It's easier that way. Besides, we're the ones in charge. We're supposed to be able to handle it all.
Church leaders, by their very nature, are people pleasers. It's at the core of who they are. And that's not always a bad thing. A happy church body can create a positive vibe and an uplifting atmosphere.
But, it's not your job to make people "happy." It's your job — it's your calling — to serve Jesus. And sometimes that will mean saying no to people, opportunities, or both. (Side note: Not everyone was happy with Jesus.)
Here's a reality check: You're exhausted. You've already logged 58 hours this week and Thursday is nowhere in sight. You're desperate to slow down, pump the brakes, and just catch your breath — even if only for a moment. But you're a team of one. Slowing down is bound to upset someone, right? Something won't get done. A logo/branding project will go unfinished. Daily social media management will cease to exist. That video footage won't sit there and edit itself. Weekly website updates will be a thing of the past. Graphic design tasks will be incomplete. The weekly newsletter won't happen. And Sunday's digital media will magically vanish into the Twilight Zone.
So, what do you do? You let out one more heavy sigh. You reach for that next cup of coffee. And you ignore the fact that it's five 'til midnight. After all, these are just your main responsibilities. The random requests you receive throughout the week are burning up your inbox faster than the fuse at the start of a Mission: Impossible movie.
Is any of this familiar? Am I describing anyone else's life right now? Oh. Just mine. Good.
Listen to me, fellow Church Communicator: I cannot do it all. Neither can you. You are not Superman. You are not Superwoman. You're not even Ethan Hunt. And you are not God. You cannot be all things to all people. You cannot save the world. You do not have the bandwidth. You do not have the time, energy, or the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual stamina. As much I love saying 'yes' to people and projects and opportunities, I have learned the hard way that I must balance my 'yes' life with my 'no' life. This isn't always easy. And I have not mastered it. I doubt I ever will. But I am learning.
Maybe we can learn together. Here are 10 ways to say "No" as a Church Communicator:
#1. I love that you came to me with this idea, but, in order to make it happen, I would have to devote a lot of time and energy that I'm currently giving to other significant projects.
This response acknowledges how much you appreciate the fact that they thought of you, while simultaneously making them aware of your competing priorities. By using a qualifier like "currently" and an adjective like "significant," you are professionally informing the individual that a day may come when you are free to work on their project (but it is not this day) and that your present responsibilities take greater precedence.
#2. I've spent a great deal of time in prayer about this lately and I believe that I need to temporarily/permanently step out of _____________ ministry niche.
This is the part where you fill in the blank. If you're anything like me [and most other Church Communicators], you're wearing multiple hats. In fact, Church Comms may not be the only area in which you serve. Maybe you're teaching a Sunday school class or leading a Tuesday evening Bible study. Maybe you're on the worship team or the student ministry staff. If you've spent time on your knees with God — and you feel a peace about it — it's time to take off one of those hats and lay it aside. This may be temporary. It may be permanent. It may have certain caveats. God will tell you. Leading your response with, "I've been praying..." openly reveals that you are listening to His voice and following His guidance and direction.
#3. My workload is crazy at the moment. Do you mind if we meet up for lunch this afternoon?
Honesty is the best policy. If you're slammed, the person needs to know. Casual dialogue about things that are totally unrelated to your current tasks/projects aren't going to help anyone. You need to be able to focus on your work so that you can meet deadlines and get things done. But be nice about it. Do not dismiss their concern/proposal. Schedule a mutually convenient time and place where you can connect in-person to fellowship and discuss their question/topic/issue.
#4. I definitely agree we should implement this. Unfortunately, I can't fit it onto my plate. But, I do know who would be perfect to handle it.
Sometimes the most helpful and empowering thing that you can do is delegate. If there's someone on your team, your extended staff, a volunteer, or even someone outside of your church who you believe is willing and able to handle a particular task or project, then assign it to them. This response accomplishes two important things:
#5. The timing is not looking good for me right now. [I have a lot happening with my family, personal life, health, etc.] Would you mind keeping me in the loop for next time?
Being upfront, straightforward, transparent, and genuinely authentic will go miles in helping this person believe you and trust you. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell them some specifics about what's transpiring in your world. (Who knows? You may wind up praying for one another.) When this response is sincere — as it always should be — it will let them know that, although you're dealing with a lot, you are still willing to help at a later time in the future.
#6. This week doesn't work for me, but let me shoot you my [e-mail address/Google Calendar/Calendly/Acuity/GoTo Meeting/LinkedIn/Facebook Messenger/etc.] and we will get something on the books!
Church Communicators are notorious for overcommitting themselves. It happens to the best of us. Fortunately, there are some great digital appointment scheduling softwares out there that will allow your clients/colleagues/friends/church members to book meetings with you when YOU are available. And, of course, if all else fails, just have them send you an e-mail, text, or other digital message and you can reply when it is most convenient. This response is open, honest, and closes with a very practical solution/option for the individual who is in need of your services/time. Kindly handing them one of your church staff cards is always a nice touch.
#7. If this is a priority, I'm certainly happy to dive in and start working on it immediately. But you should know that I'm currently in the middle of [project/assignment/task X] and I will have to move that to the back burner temporarily.
You cannot be in two places at once. The same rule applies to your mental capacities with large work assignments. You cannot spread yourself too thin. If the requested project is so big that you would need to devote all of your time and attention to it, then you should make your pastor/leader/client/colleague aware of this — particularly if they are the one who assigned you the other competing project. They may be assuming that you can accomplish both simultaneously. (Reality check #2: Some pastors/leaders have zero understanding of everything that goes into Church Communications and are therefore unable to relate or empathize. This isn't necessarily their fault.) Wording your response this way helps this person realize that you will have to pick one or the other.
#8. As neat as this concept is, it doesn't quite fit our branding/marketing/design model/production schedule/budget/software compatibilities/church values, etc. What if we did this instead? [Fill in the blank here.] Let's meet for coffee this week and see how we can retool it or create something new.
Sometimes saying no is as simple as offering a very brief and elementary explanation as to why the request is incompatible with your church's set-up/structure. This response leads by complimenting the idea. It gives a short reason as to why the idea is incompatible (so as not to leave the person bewildered, confused, or frustrated.) I recommend two to five sentences maximum. And it closes by offering to help bring the idea to fruition if need be. Sometimes the request will vanish on its own after the person realizes it is not beneficial and you'll be off the hook altogether.
#9. Personally, I think this will work better for one of our future sermons series/events/community outreaches, etc. Let me talk with the pastor and get back to you.
Other than God, no one knows you better than you. You know when you're hitting your limits and when your workload capacity is at red alert level. Instead of saying 'yes' and throwing on one more task that will inevitably sink your ship, you can politely defer. Use this response to create a "delay" in the system so-to-speak and to slow down your workload pace. (You should not feel like you're on a hi-speed Japanese bullet train 24/7.)
#10. I'm sorry, and I know this may be disappointing, but we have already committed to going in a different direction. [I'd still love your thoughts/input/critique of what we've produced/designed/put together, etc.]
Leading with a sincere and heartfelt apology, in addition to some empathy with their inevitable disappointment, will tend to soften the blow. Remember: You can say 'no' without using the word 'no' and you can do it with a lot of grace. If possible, include them in the project in some way — even if it's just by keeping them posted on how it's going or asking them for feedback once it's completed.
Saying 'no' does not have to be gut-wrenching or induce a panic attack. Time and again Church Communicators will leap headfirst into a project or take on an assignment that wasn't even theirs in the first place. We overwork ourselves to the point of borderline burnout despite the fact that we're already running on fumes and almost out of volunteers, resources, or manpower. Be wary of shouldering responsibilities that were never even yours. You may have the talent to create/design/produce/edit something, but it does not — in any way whatsoever — mean that you are required to do so.
Church Communications may be a complex and difficult ministry niche. Saying 'no' does not have to be.
Remember: 'No' is not a curse word.