First things first...
Before I even launch into this post, allow me to be totally candid: I’m not writing this because I consider myself to be the Jedi Master of Church Communications. In fact, totally the opposite. Even after over a decade of experience and a bachelors degree in Broadcast Journalism/Digital Communication, I haven’t achieved Yoda-level status at this stuff. Some days I feel more like the exhausted Luke Skywalker on Dagobah who can’t even summon up enough strength in The Force to yank his spaceship out of a swamp. What a loser.
In all seriousness, though, I appreciate what I’ve gleaned from those with more experience in this field. Sometimes there’s nothing better than bouncing ideas and questions off of leaders who are 10 and 20 years down the road in your line of work. This is particularly true when you’re in ministry. So, if you’re just starting out on this exciting journey of Church Comms, I invite you to tag along as my Padawan learner for a minute and — although you are temporarily on the council of my blog — I do not yet grant you the rank of Master. [Ok, enough with the Star Wars references. Let’s do this.]
Here are a few attributes and qualities I believe are necessary to be an effective Jedi, er, I mean, Communications Master...Minister:
#1. An unparalleled ability to multitask, meet tight deadlines, and work well under pressure.
You would think these would be no-brainers, right? Man, I can’t tell you how many newbies fail to realize that, oftentimes, — especially at smaller churches — you’re going to be responsible for literally everything digital and print. Most small churches either have limited comms staff or none at all. Why? They can’t afford to pay them or there’s just no one else with the knowledge base or the willingness to volunteer. That’s not necessarily a slam on small churches, it’s just reality. (It’s also why ministries like 6.14 exist.) Whatever you do, don’t freak out. There’s no need to panic.
You might be the only one juggling website management/design, social media management, weekly on-screen worship media, graphic design, print media, video production, sermon audio editing, etc. etc. The list is endless. And there will be specific things that have to be done and completed by specific times. If you’re lucky — like me — you may have one or two folks who are good at things you utterly detest (like audio and video production/editing.) So together, you make a great team. At my church, I handle everything web/social/design/print while my buddy Mike handles everything audio/video. I completely loathed the audio/video editing courses I took in college and Mike is leagues better than I could ever hope to be in that field.
Either way, you will often feel the pressure of cranking out that perfect sermon series graphic design template by Sunday or crafting those flawless Christmas invitational cards that meet the pastor’s approval. This pressure is normal. Expect it. Adjust to it. Thrive in it. Manage your workload like a pro. Use task management apps on your smartphone or tablet. Do your best to tackle your responsibilities like a champ. But yes, there will be nights when you’ll be neck-deep in Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer until 3:00AM.
Bonus point/thought: If you’re not willing to pull those 3:00AM-ers, you might need to ask yourself: How much do I really care about the Church (capital “C”) and my calling to Church Communications as a ministry? (That’s free. No charge.)
#2. An innate understanding of the church's brand.
It’s one thing to have a grasp on your church’s weekly announcements, promotions, and social media posts. It’s a completely different thing to come to a full understanding of and an intimate awareness of your church’s brand. (Throwback: I discussed a few points about branding last February.) In case you’re utterly clueless here, your brand is the overall ambiance of your church. To be acquainted with this, you’re going to have to experience the tone and feel of your church for an extended period of time. This can take some work — and may include attending more than just Sunday and Wednesday services — but eventually you should excel at developing content that reflects the true identity of the church. Here’s one way to think of it: If your church was a person, the brand would be your church’s personality and character. I discuss this more in-depth in this episode of Rescuing Churches.
#3. No concern for the spotlight or recognition.
If you're signing up for this whole Church Comms gig because you’re hoping to one day be applauded as the Picasso of your field, then you might as well quit while you’re ahead. First of all, this is ministry. It’s about the Gospel. It ain’t about you. Check your motives. Keep the big picture in mind.
Second, church communicators have a unique role in that they are typically support staff. This means that most folks in the church will be utterly oblivious to how much work you actually do because nearly all of it takes place behind the scenes at your laptop or tablet. In fact, some people may assume you hardly work at all because they never see it with their own eyes. But, that’s because they’re not at home with you as you burn the midnight oil creating and perfecting everything that will be posted to your church’s digital platforms and everything that will magically appear on the screens from week-to-week in the worship services. (Not to mention all of the other side projects you’re likely juggling.) This isn’t their fault and it’s not because they don’t care. It’s just because you aren’t in the spotlight. Your work is, but you aren’t. It’s a weird dynamic.
This means you probably won’t get a whole lot of credit for your work. You need to be able to handle this without taking it personal. Also, most of the people in your church — including the lead pastor and your fellow staff members — may never really understand the difficulty of what you do. That’s ok. If they’re not tech-savvy or knowledgeable about such things, then let it be.
#4. A talent and love for the art of storytelling.
Storytelling matters, even if you’re at a small church. (I discussed this in-depth in a previous episode of Rescuing Churches.) It increases connectivity and promotes engagement. People need to see the positive things that are happening within your flock. There are many ways you can go about doing this, but the ultimate goal remains the same: Communicate the truth, goodness, wonder, beauty, and splendor of God and the Gospel in ways that impact and influence people to their very core or even in ways that motivate them to take a particular action (like, say, invite their friends, family, and coworkers to church?)
#5. A willingness to coach when necessary.
There will be times when you have to train another creative individual to handle a particular digital or communications responsibility. Maybe it’s something that needs to be taken off of your plate. Maybe you need to expand your team. Maybe there are other creatives who can’t or won’t do it correctly or who won’t do it within the established vision and brand of the church. And depending on the size of your church, you could be building a team of multiple individuals. Whatever the case, it’s your responsibility as the Communications Minister/Director to coach, instruct, and develop these creatives and to help them not only adjust to their roles, but to ensure that they understand how their roles fit within the overarching mission of the church.
There’s about a million other qualities that a good comms director must possess. I’ve only expanded on five of them here. We didn’t even get into basic requirements like creativity, a sharp eye for design, leadership, loyalty, patience, written and oral communication skills, etc. The list could go on forever.
Drop your thoughts in the comment thread and let me know what you think is required to make it as a Church Comms Director!