On June 5 of last year, I published a blog that still remains the most popular, most viewed, most commented on, and most shared post on this site to date. You might remember "10 Things Your Church Communicator Won't Tell You."
In that post, I discussed several things that the average church communicator likely struggles with and faces in this ever-evolving ministry niche. I covered a lot of issues ranging from personal battles with perfectionism to working late nights or even the occasional overnighter. But, if you recall, the very first statement in the list was this: "I spend my own personal money on a lot of digital media, software, and/or equipment."
Over the last few days, that statement seems to have sparked some interesting dialogue and debate concerning what actually constitutes fair practice in this regard, with people landing on both sides of the fence. (And a few people straddling the fence.) Before I get into that, let's clarify one thing. The statement would probably read better like this: "I may sometimes spend my own personal money on a lot of digital media, software, and/or equipment."
Now, let's look at the arguments, opinions, and thoughts that are coming in via social media and email and see if we can tackle this thing from a rational and Scriptural perspective.
I think it's safe to assume that I've got followers and readers across the church communications spectrum, hailing from all sorts of different ministry backgrounds, walks of life, situations, and scenarios, including those serving in big church world and others in the small church world. This is very important to keep in mind because the ministry niche in which you serve will often, even if it happens subconsciously, influence how you see things like this. You may not even be aware that the way you think about a particular issue has been influenced by the years or decades that you've spent in a particular type of church or ministry.
With all that being said, I think we can also agree on the fact that every person/church/situation is dramatically different. There is no rule of thumb here. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Many small churches, like the one where I serve, would never be able to even remotely dream of affording the digital tech and resources that larger churches take for granted. At my small rural church in south Alabama, I serve on staff as full-time volunteer Communications Director. I easily put 30-40+ hours/week into the digital and social media management, graphic design, print design, marketing/promo content, photo/video editing, website management, and much more on a weekly basis. I am essentially a team of one. I do not receive a salary. I never have. I've been in this position since around my freshman year of college in 2005. Yes, I am well aware that there are church communicators in larger churches who are doing exactly what I am doing and being paid a full-time, livable salary for it. This is not news to me. I know the stats. I know the numbers.
But, here's the thing: A lot of small churches across America, like mine, are usually doing good if they can keep the lights on every week and pay their water bill. In fact, ever since the PC in our tech booth died, I've been using my personal MacBook Pro to run the Sunday morning digital media. Also, in all transparency, my church has a gym that is, quite literally, falling apart. My church is in need of a new roof. My church has bathrooms that need repair. My church has rooms that need new carpet. I could go on for two more paragraphs, but you get the picture. The building was constructed during the 70's and has many shortcomings, defects, and structural problems. From a financial perspective, these issues are far more pressing and relevant than finding room in the budget for Josh's monthly Adobe CC subscription or his sporadic purchases from sites like Lightstock and iStock. Is Josh using Adobe CC for his church? Yep. Do his Lightstock and iStock purchases show up in digital worship media, sermon series graphics, social media graphics, web design, event graphics/promo campaigns, and half a dozen other things all the time? Yep. But, Josh would have to be The World's Biggest Jerk to expect his blue collar/no collar church to pay for that when his church is supporting missions, inner city faith-based rehabs, saving for building repairs, and doing 100 other Kingdom-focused things that require funds which they do not have, but that they know that God will provide. [And He always does.]
Now, my situation is slightly different because, in addition to my unpaid volunteer position at my church, I am also the full-time Comms Director for a church revitalization nonprofit organization. This is where I earn my salary, such as it is. (In effect, you might say I am bi-vocational.) Some, but not all, of my digital and tech needs have been factored into the budget here and are covered by the organization, which has been nice. For example, I work remote and they purchased my iMac. They also cover the cost of a few of my design softwares on a monthly basis. And I usually have the green light to use the company card for digital purchases like stock photos and other various design elements. So, I am usually not spending personal money on THIS SIDE of my ministry/work world. They did not, however, cover the cost of my MacBook Pro. I bought that myself. And when I decide to upgrade my MacBook Pro to a newer model, I will probably have to do that on my own. But, you know what? That's ok. (Side note: I also use my tech and software for freelance work and side hustles, so that's a factor worth discussing in a later post or in the comment thread.)
So, back to the church/volunteer world. Since I am not a paid staff member, I do not have the expectation that the church pay for things that I, out of servanthood and personal sacrifice, choose to pay for myself. If the church had extra money lying around, I would prefer to see them put that toward building repairs, missions, rehab ministry partnerships, etc. before trying to factor digital media expenses into the budget or trying to give me a salary.
See, here's the thing: If I have been blessed by God with the financial and digital resources, and the time and talents, to give my small church a professional and attractive presence on social media and the Internet, and to have nice worship service visuals, why would I NOT do that? Moreover, I consider the digital design resources that I pay for on a regular, monthly, or recurring basis — as well as the ones that crop up unexpectedly and spontaneously — to all be gifts for my church. Think of it like tithing. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul has been asking his Corinthian readers to marvel with him at the evidence of God's grace in the lives of the Macedonian believers. Remember this? Despite the poverty, persecution, and difficulties that they endured, these Christians in Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi gave generously, abundantly, and sacrificially in order to meet the needs of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. You might remember what Paul said of their giving in verse three: "For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord." (ESV) The New Living Translation says it like this: "For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will." (NLT)
I've seen a lot of arguments that no church should ever expect or force a church communicator (or any other staff member) to pay for ministry resources out of their own pocket. That's certainly fair and true. Let's not force anything. But, if we're being honest here, that was never the point of my blog post or my Facebook post, was it? The reality is that small churches are the majority in America and it's these churches that usually [often] do not have a budget for digital media ministry. In fact, it's typically the farthest thing from their mind. They've got more pressing financial dilemmas to overcome. Some of them are trying to figure out how to pay the pastor(s).
And, in the end, the overarching point and bigger picture here is this: If you're a Church Communicator who has chosen, of your own free will, to give generously, sacrificially, and abundantly — over and above — to the work of the Kingdom, you are storing up treasures in Heaven. [Matthew 6:19-21] This applies no matter what size church you are serving. (And, please remember, "serve" is the key word here.) It doesn't make you any better than anyone else. It doesn't make you more spiritual. It doesn't make our other Church Communicators enemies. It just mean you're in a different boat and, because of your situation, you choose to operate differently. I have ministry friends, worship leadership friends, and Church Comms friends who work/serve in both the big church and small church arenas. I have very close friends who work/serve at big churches that have all of the cool toys, all of the resources, and the budget to make it all happen. And, let me be clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I love my friends in the big church ministry space. A lot of those churches are able to do a lot of good work for the Kingdom. In fact, I've worked in and been a part of the big church world myself.
But, that simply isn't the case for a lot of little churches — like the one I have been at for 20 years now — that are filled with blue collar/no collar people. There are countless churches where tithing is a rarity and monthly income is irregular and unpredictable. In fact, through my work in the church revitalization space, I personally know a lot of churches where the lead pastor is bi-vocational so that he can support his family and he isn't even taking a salary from the church (because they can't afford to pay him one.) These churches have digital media, worship instruments, soundboards, lighting, coffee, and much more all because of the personal sacrifices of individuals within the church, oftentimes including people who are on "staff." They love the church enough to give over and above what is expected of them.
I understand the argument that when ministry leaders pay for their own resources it can potentially lead to an enablement mindset. I understand the argument that it can set expectations high. I understand the argument that it can potentially set an unhealthy precedent and potentially override personal boundaries. And, as we've said already, no church should ever force this sort of thing to happen or expect it.
But, I have to ask: Should small churches just go completely and utterly without technology, digital media, and/or worship instruments for the sake of "potentials"?
I just have to wonder how many of the Macedonian Christians were worried about those things. I would think that, in 2024, the least we can do is buy an $8.00 stock photo or a guitar capo every once in a while. The least we can do is pay for our monthly software subscriptions to win souls for Jesus. I mean, it's the least we can do, guys.
Also, I have to wonder how many of those arguments will wash when we're on our faces before Jesus, our risen King and Savior, who still has nail scars on His hands. I have to wonder how many of those arguments will matter when it's time to lay our crowns at His feet. I have to wonder how He would respond if I said, "Well, you see, Jesus, there just wasn't enough money in the budget." or "Sorry, Jesus, the finance committee just wouldn't approve that."
I have to wonder.
When all is said and done, it's obvious that there are pros and cons to both models and both situations/scenarios. But, budgets and personal expenditures and personal choices aside, I do think there's one thing on which we can all agree: It would be super cool for the big churches and the little churches to work together more often for the sake of the Gospel and the call of the Kingdom.
It was somewhere around 2005 when I accepted the calling to Church Communications ministry. I was a clueless college freshman and had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. (Perhaps you can relate.) All I really knew is that my dad's sermon PowerPoint slides looked atrocious and I felt compelled to rescue him from the pit of poor design. In fact, at the time, I didn't really think Church Comms would be my full-time career in life. The future was bright and loaded with endless possibilities. I was working my way through a bachelor's degree in Communications with a track in broadcast journalism and had dreams of becoming a famous reporter and traveling the world. If anything, church work would just be an occasional side gig. God, however, had other plans. (Doesn't He always?)
As the years went on, and I immersed myself more and more in worship leadership, graphic design, and media ministry, I sort of cultivated this notion of what it might be like to work in Church Comms at the full-time level. What I envisioned in my mind's eye had made this a glamorous job full of perks, benefits, status, style, and recognition.
Buying all the latest Apple tech and Adobe software. Spending endless hours in coffeeshops sipping on expensive lattes and cappuccinos as I designed jaw-dropping sermon series graphics. Bringing my church into the 21st Century with a stellar social media presence that would make us look like a church of 1,000 rather than 100. Rocking my designer jeans and dress shirts as I multitasked between leading worship, playing guitar on stage with the band, running busily around the room, responding to online prayer requests and direct messages, and manning the tech booth and livestream during the remainder of the service. Building, designing, and implementing a stunning website that would bring half the city through the doors of our building in less than a year. People would flock to our congregation, I thought, because our digital presence would be that good, that professional, and that engaging. I pictured it all looking and working a certain way. And guess what? It was all rather glamorous.
Fast-forward 15 years. Church Comms is now my full-time calling and career. It is not, nor has it ever been, glamorous. It is [usually] grunt work.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I'm just speaking the truth here. Now, don't misunderstand. I have a deep affection for my job and am passionate about the work I do. I love the mission and calling of Church Communications and the niche in which I have been called to serve. But, the fact of the matter is that there are a great many things about digital media ministry and the work of Church Comms that are overwhelmingly dull, monotonous, and exhausting on the good days and, on the bad days, utterly gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, mind-numbing, and spirit-sapping. Those of you who have been in this branch of ministry for as long as I have (or longer) know exactly of what I speak.
There's nothing glamorous about spending 40-plus grueling hours at your screen for an entire week designing, building, and implementing the church's new website, only to have the powers-that-be tell you to change 138 different things about it. There's nothing glamorous about unveiling a new logo — after an ungodly amount of drafts — just so that Brother Billy can tell you to go back to the drawing board and start over again from scratch. There's nothing glamorous about spending two weeks designing, styling, branding, and implementing the pastor's new sermon series slide graphics and matching/corresponding social media promo content, just so that he can tell you on a Saturday night he wants to make a change to the Sunday morning media which has been finished and ready to go since Friday. There's nothing glamorous about spending an entire weekend immersed in video/graphic/social/print editing so that your church can be excited about baptism or discipleship, when you could be going out to dinner with your family, spouse, or significant other. There's nothing glamorous about working with an entire staff of people who don't understand the amount of hours it takes to design original graphic artwork, sermon series media, etc. There's nothing glamorous about being a one-man or one-woman comms team for over a decade and realizing you need to build and train an entire group because, let's face it, you won't always be around. And there's definitely nothing glamorous about juggling two, three, or four jobs and streams of income so that you can make ends meet, pay for the software and hardware you need, and simultaneously hold to the ministry calling you know that God has for you.
This is real life. And the reality is that, especially in ministry, someone has to do the grunt work. Someone has to do the heavy lifting.
In Director Rob Reiner's 1987 medieval classic "The Princess Bride" — based on the 1973 novel of the same name by William Goldman — André René Roussimoff (André the Giant) became famous around the world for his portrayal of the behemoth Fezzik. In the movie, we learn that Fezzik was a former member of something called The Brute Squad. This group of tough guys are in the employment and service of the evil Prince Humperdinck and it is their responsibility to do the thankless and menial tasks and perform the physical labor which no one else can do. (Including, but not limited to, hauling supplies, chopping down trees, beating people up and removing large groups of peasants from forests. But, that's a story for another time. Go watch the movie.) In short, these are the guys who do the grunt work.
When it comes to Church Comms ministry, it's the grunt work that is often critical. It's the grunt work that is paramount to your church's ministry efforts. And it's the grunt work that will see eternal results for the Kingdom.
You may utterly despise and altogether loathe staying up until 3:15 in the morning, sipping on coffee, in order to finish the social media updates, wrap out the sermon series graphic design content, and put the final touches on website updates. But, when one of those social media graphics prompts a lost person to visit your next worship service because their friend invited them to follow your church on Instagram, it will be worth it.
You may detest the headache you have every single time you plunge into a long night of video editing. There may be days when you swear you'll never design another brochure or update another website ever again.
But when that single mom who's been drowning in depression for over a decade finds your church because of a handout a coworker gave her, it will be worth it.
When the visitor who's been watching your website livestream for six weeks finally shows up in-person and gets saved a month later, it will be worth it.
Do the grunt work, Church Communicators. And do it well. Form a Brute Squad if you have to. There's strength in numbers. But do the work nonetheless.
Souls are hanging in the balance. Jesus is trusting us. And the Kingdom is counting on us.
'Tis the season. Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. I mean, that's what the song says, so it must be true, right?
But, it can also be one of the most stressful, chaotic, and utterly overwhelming times of the year, particularly for those of us in ministry. This is especially true in Church Communications. Not only are we juggling our regular weekly responsibilities — such as prepping digital media, designing graphics, managing social media, solving technical errors, operating livestreams, shooting and editing video, updating websites, overseeing AVL, marketing sermon series, and responding to countless e-mails — we're also trying to spend time with family and friends, plan and cook meals, and get our shopping done. The Christmas lights on our trees and throughout our towns and cities may be burning bright, but many of us are on the verge of burning out.
I call it the "Christmas Freak-Out." Perhaps you're familiar with it. Whether by firsthand experience or vicariously, you've found yourself at the intersection of extreme stress, tight deadlines, high expectations, and — on the other side — no sleep, substandard nutrition, and a myriad of family obligations.
When these elements collide, the "freak-out" — or, at least, the temptation for it — is all but inevitable. Christmastime, and all of its accompanying stresses, comes at the end of an already busy year, making it extremely easy for staff to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, even bitter and resentful. The deep-seated desire to meet the needs of your congregation, combined with an intense pressure to ensure everything runs smoothly, can easily conjure up a whirlwind of emotions. And when things don't work and deadlines go unmet, it's easy to freak out.
But, the good news is this: You don't have to freak out. You don't have to pull your hair out. You don't have to burnout.
By implementing a little bit of strategy, planning, and a whole lot of grace and prayer, you can thrive in Church Comms this Christmas season. Here's how:
#1. Start projects early.
I know, I know. I sound like your mother at this point, right? Or maybe I sound like mine. I don't know. But the reality is that Christmas comes at the same time every year. There's no sense in procrastinating. So why do so many of us keep doing it? Maybe it's just human nature. Maybe it's sheer laziness and apathy. Whatever the case, you can save yourself a lot of stress, anxiety, and frustration by planning in advance. [And, if you're like me, avoid a lot of migraines.] Ask your pastor to give you the details of his Christmas series two or three months out so that you can begin brainstorming graphic design, marketing, digital media, videography, social promos, etc. Waiting until the end of November to start working on things will only make it worse. Christmas in ministry world is not limited to one single service. Christmas is an entire season of services, events, kids programs, dinners, banquets, and so much more. Each of these things requires endless hours of preparation. The earlier you start, the better off you will be.
#2. Feed your soul.
Avoid the pitfalls of spiritual malnourishment or starvation during the chaos of Christmastime. It can be easy to subconsciously slip into a task-oriented routine of prioritizing performance over presence. When this happens, things like morning devotions and prayer tend to go out the window. Slow down and carve out some quiet time with the God who we're asking everyone else to focus on during the holidays. Turn on your favorite worship music and reflect on the richness and messages of the songs. Thank God for all that He has done for you and your church and family this year.
#3. Assemble the volunteers!
Your church's Comms Ministry should not operate solely on the backs of your full-time staff members. Volunteers are essential and this is never more true than in the midst of the stress and chaos associated with Christmas. Ideally, you should have volunteers in place to serve in areas where your staff members cannot. No staff member [or, for that matter, volunteer] should be stretched too thin. Of course, this will not be possible in every scenario. There will be times when the workload seems insurmountable. But a healthy supply of volunteers makes for a healthy church and, in this case, a healthy Comms Ministry. Once you've mapped out your Christmas projects and tasks, you can begin delegating.
#4. Don't be a Grinch.
It's easy to sink into worry, pessimism, and even anger when you're under large amounts of stress, trying to meet seemingly unreasonable demands. But, Scripture is clear: "Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you." [1 Peter 5:6-7]; "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." [Philippians 4:6] There's no need to worry or fret, as tempting as it may be. It's a total killjoy and will always usher in unnecessary stress. This will ruin Christmas faster than you can say, "Fah-who foris, dah-who doris."
#5. Do be a David.
David wasn't just a warrior on the battlefield with Goliath and other enemies. He was a warrior in the spiritual realm with the weapon of prayer. He used prayer to discover the will of God and seek guidance. [1 Samuel 23:10-12] He used prayer when in need of forgiveness for his mistakes, deficiencies, and weaknesses. [2 Samuel 24:10] And he used prayer for everyday conversation with God and to grow closer to Him. [Psalm 23] Just take a look at any of the Psalms. Prayer is our way of communicating with a God who is holy and powerful, as we regularly remind ourselves that He is sovereign and in total control. No matter how chaotic, stressful, and disorganized things become for us — in our finite and limited understanding as humans — God has never once lost control of a situation. Not once. Take your anxieties and concerns to Him in prayer. He can handle them.
#6. Use multiple communication channels.
The news of the Savior's birth was heralded across the earth through multiple channels. From angels and simple shepherds to wise men, prophets, kings, a virgin girl, and a carpenter, God the Father would write the epic story of the Messiah's arrival by using dozens of select people. When it comes to our church's internal and external communication, we must do the same. Follow God the Father's example and embrace a multi-channel approach. Don't limit yourself to just group texts or just Slack. Have backup plans and communicate in a way that will resound with your audience and leave lasting impacts, no matter who that audience happens to be.
You really can avoid the Christmas Freak-Out and thrive in your Church Communications role this year. You do not have to experience burnout during this or any other season. With a little strategy and a whole lot of grace, you and your comms team can emerge stronger than ever!
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.