"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.