"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.
Most people have a fairly decent idea of what Church Communications Directors, AVL technicians, social media managers, graphic designers, production assistants, videographers, and photographers do...on Sundays. You'd practically have to be blind to not see us flying around the room like decapitated chickens performing last minute checks, flipping on cameras, monitors, and soundboards, running audio cables, maneuvering lighting into position, frantically typing sermon teaser copy for the livestream, booting up presentation software, double and triple-checking song and sermon media, and gulping large amounts of Starbucks between every other task.
But, the reality is that few people have even the slightest grasp on the amount of time, effort, energy, and personal sacrifice that goes into this sacred, difficult, and exhausting calling. We don't see all of the behind-the-scenes work required to launch a new ministry, brand and market that new ministry, draft and design a sermon series template all week long, update and manage a website, implement and manage a months-long social media campaign, create endless, original and high-quality graphics on a regular basis, foster digital and social media engagement, or edit several hours of audio content or video footage down to the neat little packages that you enjoy in your Newsfeeds and podcasts throughout the week. The honest truth is this: Most of us don't have a clue what it takes to lead, operate, and maintain a Church Communications ministry. All we know is that it exists and it [hopefully] works the way that it should [especially on Sunday morning.]
After 20-plus years in the Church Comms space — particularly in the small church world — I know firsthand the challenges, demands, and unseen truths that accompany this often overlooked, misunderstood, and under-appreciated role.
Here's 10 things that your Church Communicator [probably] won't ever tell you:
#1. I spend my own personal money on a lot of digital media, software, and/or equipment.
There are countless things required to produce the various forms of media you see, hear, and enjoy from your church on Sundays and online during the week. One of those things is cash. Quality design programs like the Adobe and Affinity suites don't come cheap. High-end video editing software like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, and DaVinci Resolve aren't freebies. Laptops, tablets, and cameras cost an arm and a leg. And stunning graphics, visuals, and stock photography [which are needed on a daily basis] all add up over time. The average church doesn't have funds set aside for any of this. It's usually the last thing they would even think to work into the budget. Most Church Communicators are pulling out their own debit and credit cards to acquire these things, oftentimes without ever telling a soul. They're creating personal accounts with Lightstock, iStockPhoto, and a slew of others. They're buying their MacBook Pros, their software subscriptions, their iPads, and much more all on their own dime. They're making sacrifices and cutting things out of their own personal budget so that the Gospel can go forward through the use of digital and social media.
#2. I work while the rest of you are asleep.
Many Church Communicators are bi-vocational or have other personal and family responsibilities during the day. Quality graphic design takes a lot of time, drafting, and redrafting. This inevitably leads to absurd work hours (including posting social media content while on-the-go) and many long nights of graphic design, video editing, and much more. [It doesn't help when pastors send us their sermon notes on Friday or Saturday evening.] It's not uncommon for Church Comms folks to stay up until midnight or later toiling away on their latest projects. Yes, they really are sleep deprived zombies. Yes, they really do survive on coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
#3. I can't solve every technological problem or perform miracles.
If a piece of equipment dies midway through a service, there may be no reviving it. These things happen. It's called reality. Even the best technology isn't flawless 100 percent of the time. Remember that the next time your church's livestream goes down or the soundboard crashes for no reason at all. You may be complaining about missing the service because you were elsewhere that day, but your Church Communicator is enduring a barrage of criticism for failing to solve an unsolvable issue.
#4. I sometimes skip out on family time and turn down invites from friends.
Due to the nature of their work, Church Communicators practically live behind computer screens — at home, in the office, during the worship service, and all throughout the week. It's not uncommon for them to work straight through a lunch break, cancel plans with family, or reschedule with friends so that they can edit video, design graphics, send the weekly e-mail newsletter, and update social media. They take what they do seriously. They take pride in their work. They want to meet their deadlines. And, most importantly, they want the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the digital space and to "the uttermost ends of the earth."
#5. I battle perfectionism and grapple with being a workaholic.
The balance between work life and personal life is a hard one to find. It's different for everyone. Church Communicators are constantly thinking about how they can better serve and care for their congregation, their local community, and the world through the use of digital and social media. They never stop striving to improve their skills and abilities. They draft and redraft until designs are perfect. They edit and edit again. They possess a strong urge and desire to see the local church fulfill its mission and reach more people for the Kingdom. Yes, this is a high calling. Yes, these passions are virtuous. But when the emotional, physical, spiritual, and social worlds collide, it can wreak havoc. It's often difficult for Church Communicators to "turn off" creative-perfectionism-work-mode in order to focus on rest or family time.
#6. Being a Church Communicator can be lonely.
Earlier I mentioned that Church Communicators often miss out on family and/or friend time. Moreover, it can be overwhelmingly challenging for them to find anyone outside of the church world who can relate to or understand what they do. And sometimes it can be difficult to befriend anyone inside of the church itself. There's also the occasional difficulty associated with being both a Church Comms Director over a team, while still being a close friend to fellow staff members and other techies. In an ethical quandary, you may find your strong, assertive, and decisive leadership traits completely at odds with your empathetic, supportive, and compassionate tendencies. In other words, your role as a leader may battle and jockey against your position as a friend. Some Church Communicators tend to isolate themselves in these situations.
#7. I'd like to participate in prayer times or altar calls, but often can't.
In many live worship service settings, a Church Communicator cannot just up and abandon his or her post. This is particularly true for camera operators, videographers, sound and audio technicians, and livestream managers, but applies just as much to content creators, photographers, and engagement leaders as well. Many small and midsize churches are understaffed and/or completely volunteer-based, particularly the digital media and communications teams. When the pastor opens the altar for prayer, it's often the Church Communicator who cannot participate because he or she is manning a piece of important equipment that requires their full attention. In fact, it's not uncommon for social media managers and livestream operators to be praying with and for online viewers in realtime as they submit prayer requests in the digital space during these moments. To do this, they have to remain at their screens.
#8. Yes, believe it or not, sometimes I want to talk about subjects outside of ministry and technology.
In case you're unaware, Church Communicators are people too. Contrary to popular belief, they're not aliens from outer space. Yes, they are weird. But they have other interests. They have likes and dislikes and hobbies. They even have favorite foods, music, movies, and sports teams. (Shocking, I know.) While they may wrestle with working too much or being perfectionists, they also find great relief from stress in having conversations about their most recent fishing adventure, the new restaurant or coffee shop they just discovered, the TV drama they can't stop watching, or the captivating book that they haven't been able to put down.
#9. I miss Sunday School hour or small groups because I'm in pre-service prep.
Most Church Communicators arrive an hour or more before the main worship service starts in order to launch digital media, boot up presenter software, test microphones, check band instruments, mix audio levels during worship band warm-up, run cables, double and triple-check livestream platforms, and perform a half dozen other tasks that will ensure a smooth and error-free morning for everyone in attendance. When a mistake, error, or problem is discovered before the service, they scramble to resolve it to the best of their abilities. They arrive early enough to account for the possibility that on any given Sunday this could occur. (See #3 above: No piece of technology is perfect 100 percent of the time.)
#10. Sunday is not my only work day.
Those in the Church Comms ministry world have a saying. It goes like this: "Social media never sleeps." — Just like most other full-time staff positions, Church Communicators work every day of the week, whether from the office, from home, or the local coffee shop. They have an abundance of complex and demanding responsibilities. They juggle a wide assortment of tasks and projects. And they shoulder an immensely heavy, stressful, and often utterly exhausting workload. Graphics, videos, photos, sermon audio, regular social media posts, website updates, marketing materials, logo designs, ministry branding: These things don't magically appear on their own out of thin air. Someone has to spend exhaustive hours behind a screen creating, crafting, customizing, and designing them. Videographers and photographers will work on large projects for weeks or months at a time. In addition to all of this, a good Church Communicator will also spend Monday through Saturday prepping for the next Sunday (and don't forget Midweek service), while remaining in regular contact with pastors and fellow staff members. Last minute digital media design and implementation is the stuff of nightmares and they avoid this as often as humanly possible.
If there's one thing you can take from this list, it's this: Church Communicators are not perfect people. They're just as broken as the rest of us. But they're called by God to use their gifts, talents, and abilities to lead and minister to other broken people; to show the love and grace of Jesus to their church, community, and the world; and to trumpet the Gospel forth through every visual and auditory medium possible. This is the passion and the calling that keeps them going during those long nights and even in the midst of criticisms.
And remember: they're doing the very best they know how.