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.