"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.
"Hey, bro, those graphics were totally lit this morning!" is kinda nice and all (I guess), but c'mon...We can do better than this, right?
We can do better than the Sunday morning side hug. We can do better than the friendly wave from across the sanctuary. And, yes, we can even do better than the occasional, "Can I refill your coffee?" (Although you really can't go wrong with coffee. Just sayin'.)
We've already seen that Church Communicators are making lots of sacrifices behind-the-scenes. They're working long and intense hours on projects throughout the week and things that you will never know about this side of Heaven. And, just like the rest of us, they need prayer more often than they're willing to admit.
I was talking with a churchgoer recently who knows little to nothing herself about graphic design, marketing, public relations, digital and social media management, and audio/video editing. At one point she said, "Geez. If you think about it, the stress level of your job is pretty much the equivalent of people who do all of that in the corporate world. But no one thinks of it that way because, like, you know, it's just church."
Throw in the reality that, above all else, our job is also Christ-centered, Kingdom-focused, people-minded, and others-driven, and you have the perfect recipe for high levels of self-imposed pressure, distress, discouragement, exhaustion, burnout, and even frequent bouts of depression and isolation.
So, if you want to dare to take that extra step, and actually go beyond prayer, why not actually, you know, encourage your Church Communicator? I know, I know. It's a pretty radical idea. Like, so far out of your comfort zone, right? It's not like, you know, we're commanded to "encourage one another and build each other up" or "bear one another's burdens" or anything weird like that.
The truth is Church Communicators need your encouragement. And it isn't as hard as you're making it out to be. It just takes a little thought and intentionality. Here are eight simple things you can do:
#1. Thank them for what they do during the week.
You know this whole Church Comms thing is more than a Sunday/Wednesday gig, right? And it's usually more than a 8-5 or 9-5 thing as well. We work crazy hours. We work early mornings. We work late nights. We work on-the-go between shots of espresso. Some of us work overnighters. But your average Church Communicator would be the last person to bring this up, admit to it, or especially brag about it. I have a hard enough time myself even typing it. We prefer to humbly serve the Kingdom out of the spotlight, far removed from public view. Appreciate the fact that we put untold hours and an entire week's worth of work into what we do. (Pro tip: Appreciate it verbally to our face.)
#2. Take them out to lunch.
Head off that whole isolation possibility way before it ever materializes. Invite your Church Communicator out to lunch. Let them pick the restaurant. Pay for the meal. Invest time in getting to know them outside of church life. Talk about non-church subjects: family, hobbies, good books or movies they've recently indulged in, the trip they just returned from, and — more than anything — ask how they're doing. This is your opportunity to get to know them and befriend them on a personal level.
#3. Ask how you can volunteer.
I promise your Church Communicator is probably overwhelmed. The research backs it up. The stats show it. They're juggling the workload and roles of multiple people; multiple positions. It's unbelievably encouraging when someone steps up to the plate and says, "Hey, I'd like to help with that." Even if you need a little bit of training for a particular niche, that's ok. I'd bet my next paycheck that your Church Communicator would be more than willing to provide that training. It might be something as small as helping with daily social media posts, manning a camera during the service, or uploading audio files to the website and podcast. But believe me when I say that there's really no "small" in this ministry. In Church Comms, building a team matters, every role matters, and every teammate matters.
#4. Counteract criticism on their behalf.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Even the best technology isn't flawless 100 percent of the time. So, when your church's livestream goes down or your soundboard crashes for no reason whatsoever (and it will), don't join the criticism choir. (And yes, they're always out there.) Instead, deflect it. Stick up for your Church Communicator, who was already mentally and physically managing 118-and-a-half different things simultaneously. They're likely beating themselves up over it anyway. Remember that whole perfectionist-OCD-thing? Pat them on the back, shrug it off, refill their coffee, and tell them that the morning was awesome as if nothing even happened. And, while you're at it, help other people see the good side of your Church Communicator's work.
#5. Buy them a gift. (Seriously.)
And no, I'm not talking about a USB drive. (Please, for the love of all that is holy.) If you've taken the time to do #2 above, then you should have learned a few things about what your Church Communicator enjoys. Purchase a gift that they will appreciate. It doesn't have to be outrageously expensive or extravagant. It could be something as generic as an Amazon or Apple gift card. (Techies love these.) It might be a book by their favorite author. It might be a gift card to their favorite restaurant or local coffee shop. If you know they have a specific need — like a car repair, overdue bill, or upcoming trip — recruit several people and/or families in your church to donate to the cause. Nothing says "we appreciate you" quite like a specific gift or financial blessing that indicates you have been paying attention to their world.
#6. Give them time off.
And speaking of trips: When a Church Communicator works all year long without a break, the weekly grind can be nothing short of physically and mentally exhausting, as well as spiritually and emotionally draining. This is when burnout creeps in. (I wrote about how to avoid it here.) Figure out how to give your Church Communicator time away from their role. That might look like a family vacation. It may look like a personal trip. It may just mean your Church Communicator attending for a few Sundays without having to DO anything except enjoy the service. If the latter is the case, make sure your church people, staff, and volunteers clearly receive the message too!
#7. Say good things about your church.
Your Church Communicator puts a lot of time, energy, and effort into presenting an inviting and beautiful local church, both in the digital sphere and in-person through print and marketing materials, sign layouts, photography, audio/video quality, atmospheric vibe, and so much more. When you speak highly of your church or, better yet, invite someone to attend, it honors the work that your Church Communicator does and encourages them all the more in their ministry.
#8. Raise their pay.
Most Church Communicators — like many other full-time ministry roles — are significantly underpaid for all that they do. Not to mention that most of them are putting their personal money right back into the church itself. They're purchasing ad space on social media. They're buying stock photography for digital media implementation. And they're paying their monthly design software subscriptions out of their own pockets. (I can see all my fellow Adobe users nodding their heads in agreement now.) In addition to this, there are the church-related lunches and coffee meetings where they pick up the tab. Many Church Communicators are bi-vocational these days. Some are tri-vocational. Others are just making ends meet and figuring out life as they go along. If you can afford to raise their pay, you should. Not every church can, and that's understandable. But a raise in pay, no matter how small, shows that you value their Kingdom-work and their servanthood to your church.
These things aren't difficult. Not sure where to start? Just choose one at random and be a blessing and an encouragement to your Church Communicator this week. They probably need it more than you even know.
Oftentimes when we think of praying for people in our church, we think of the folks who are struggling with "larger than life" issues. You know who I'm talking about.
The addict whose marriage is being torn apart at the seams because he can't win the battle against alcohol. The overmedicated college student drowning in a sea of depression and anxiety. The father of four whose wife was tragically killed in a car accident. The young millennial who was diagnosed with a neurological disorder for life. Or the family who just lost everything in a house fire.
It might even just be the missionary who knelt at the altar during your worship service last week as the church rallied around him in prayer.
But, my guess is that your Church Communicator(s) didn't make the cut. For whatever reason, you didn't jot their names down on the list. If anything, you only included your pastoral leadership and maybe the elders/deacons. (I'm assuming a lot here.) Volunteers, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, secretaries, administrative staff, media team members, worship band personnel, janitors/maintenance crew — These people probably didn't even cross your mind. Let's face it: Behind-the-scenes often equals out-of-mind.
I get that it might initially seem weird to pray for our pastoral leadership, church staff, and volunteers. After all, aren't they the ones who are supposed to be praying for us? Serving us? Aren't they the ones feeding us spiritually on Sundays and all throughout the week? That's how this whole thing works, right?
While it's true that our leaders do pray for and encourage us, it's as equally true that they need prayer from us. And your Church Communicator is no exception. Moreover, Scripture commands us to do so. (James 5:16) The Enemy would love nothing more than to sabotage, eradicate, and ruin your church's digital and social media ministry. The Internet is a dark place and Satan longs to stamp out what little Gospel light remains there.
With that in mind, here's eight ways you can [and should] specifically pray for your Church Communicator [in no particular order]:
#1. Pray for their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual endurance.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating here: In full-time ministry, there may be no other role — excluding that of the senior pastor — which faces the probability of overwhelming burnout more than that of the Church Communicator. This person juggles multiple responsibilities, tasks, and projects simultaneously and is constantly under intense pressure to please, encourage, and inspire other ministry leaders, the congregation, and even faceless visitors who land on the church's website and social media platforms. Sure, you can sit there and say, "Oh, well all of that pressure is self-imposed." But for those of us who understand marketing, audience demographics, web design, graphic design, social media engagement, video editing, and public relations — and the standards for all of these things in 2023 — we know that every single person who visits our building, our church's website, Facebook page, Twitter profile, Instagram page, podcast platform, or glances at our in-service print and digital media, has officially become one of our judgmental and opinionated bosses. That's not sarcasm or snark. And it's not even necessarily a bad thing. It's just simple human nature. It's just reality. And we want as many of those people as possible to:
For any or all of this to happen, Church Communicators must go to exorbitant and arduous lengths to create a presence and a community in the digital space where people engage with the Gospel and receive regular encouragement, truth, humor, and much more. This is no easy undertaking. This is not a "whenever and however I feel like it" hobby. This is a divine calling from God. Ministry is hard. The call to serve is one of suffering. (2 Timothy 2:3-7) Church Comms has a way of inducing exhaustion that cannot be easily explained. Some Church Communicators will see the fruits of their labor. Others will not. And even the ones who do see fruit will often long to see more as they grow weary of the infinite demands.
Pray that your Church Communicator(s) would endure through the rigors of ministry and that God would inwardly renew them on a daily basis. Pray that they will see most (if not all) suffering as a normal part of ministry. And, perhaps most of all, pray that they would be "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all perseverance and patience;" (Colossians 1:11)
#2. Pray for their marriage and/or relationships.
Pray that your Church Communicator(s) would thrive in all of their relationships. If he's married, pray that he would love his wife as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25) If she's married, pray that she would unconditionally love her husband and/or her children. (Titus 2:4) If they're single, pray that they would display Christlike love in their friendships at all times. (Proverbs 17:17) The burdens, strains, stresses, tensions, and intense pressures of ministry life impact Church Communicators and their families in unimaginable and often untold ways. Spouses and children are thrust into "the glass house" and forced to live their lives in public view of the church. Crazy work hours means crazy family life. It means canceling plans and rescheduling vacations. It means juggling who's picking up which kid on which day in-between what ministry requirement. It means family drama and conversations you'll never hear about this side of Heaven. And, furthermore, the nature of this ministry role — as with many full-time ministry roles — is such that building close relationships and friendships within the church can be difficult, perhaps even awkward at times. Pray that your Church Communicator(s) would develop a tight group of friends both inside and outside the church. (Both are needed. Both are healthy.)
#3. Pray for their safety.
Anyone in ministry has a giant and unmistakable target on their back. Your Church Communicator has been called by God to bring your church's message of hope, redemption, and salvation through Jesus to your community, city, and, ultimately, the entire world. Satan wages a bloody, gruesome, and unrelenting war against such men and women. This is spiritual warfare. And this is as real as it gets, people. Pray that your Church Communicator, like the Apostle Paul, would "not be outwitted by Satan," always aware of the enemy's designs and schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11) Pray for their spiritual walk. Pray for protection against "the fiery darts of the enemy." (Ephesians 6:16) Pray that they will stand firm against attacks on every front. It's not a matter of if they will come. It's a matter of when.
#4. Pray against discouragement.
In the midst of criticisms, complaints, declining attendance, paralyzing stress, and suffocating pressures, it can be easy for any Gospel laborer to begin drowning in hopelessness and pessimism. I can personally assure you that your Church Communicator has or will battle discouragement more than once. It's easy to take things personally in ministry. And it's hard to watch people and families you've known forever walk away from the church, even when it's God-ordained. Pray that your Church Communicator remains optimistic and grounded in the security and hope of his/her ministry calling.
#5. Pray that they will be invisible.
Ask God to keep your Church Communicator(s) hidden behind Him and behind the cross at all times. When people see your church's digital and social media and marketing and print materials, they need to see Jesus. Your church — which is your people, not your building — will play a neat little role in the middle of all that. But, at the end of the day, everything in and about your Church Comms ministry should be designed to point, guide, and lead people to the Savior of the World and His unfathomable grace.
#6. Pray for their financial situations, concerns, and needs.
It's not exactly breaking news that most church leaders — from pastors to other miscellaneous full-time staff — are either underpaid or completely volunteer. Most of them are not in this for the money. Most of them are not chasing fame, status, and glory. In fact, your Church Communicator may be bi-vocational. They may be freelancing or have a side gig in addition to their ministry position and their full-time job. They may even be scrambling for income in ways you can't imagine. There may be months where — like many of us — it's all that they can do to make ends meet. Pray for the financial obstacles and hardships that they will inevitably encounter. I once heard a churchgoer declare that, "Ministry leaders shouldn't get paid at all because it ensures they rely solely on Jesus and it keeps their egos in check." (True story, bro.) And, to be honest, I couldn't believe my ears.
#7. Pray for their humility.
Speaking of egos, ask God to keep your Church Communicator far away from the Enemy's trap of pride. (Proverbs 16:18) This ministry niche involves a great deal of creativity and opportunities to display and exercise talents. Those of us who serve in this field often receive compliments, praise, and applause for our work. Pray that your Church Communicator always remembers that these talents are gifts from the Lord to be used for His eternal Kingdom. We are servants of and for Jesus Christ. (1 Samuel 12:24; Colossians 3:17; Colossians 3:23; Joshua 22:5)
#8. Pray for their ability to multitask.
This is a skill that does not come natural to every Church Communicator. For some, it must be learned and developed over time. Juggling several projects simultaneously throughout the day, week, and month is an ordinary part of this role. Pray for your Church Communicator's sanity and their ability to eventually slow down and rest somewhere in the midst of hectic schedules, deadlines, and tasks.
Do you want to see your church take the Gospel into the culture in ways that previous generations never could have conceived of doing? Do you want to shine the light of Christ into the darkest corners of social media? Do you want your church to develop strategic ministry partnerships and relationships throughout your city that will bring the message of hope and salvation through Jesus to men and women of every age and lifestyle?
Pray for your Church Communicator(s). A healthy Church Comms ministry is an essential, fundamental, crucial, and indispensable part of a healthy church.
Take 10 minutes somewhere in the course of your day and send up a prayer for your Church Communicator.
You just might have an impact that will last for Eternity.