This week we talk with Kem Meyer, the communications director for Granger Community Church. She left 15 years in the corporate world to help churches communicate simply and clearly. You can keep up with Kem by checking out her book, her blog or her Twitter feed.
You got your start in corporate communications before coming over to the church world. What’s different? What’s better and what’s worse in the church world?
Kem Meyer: Projects take two to three times as long in the ministry world than they did in the corporate world. Especially with so many volunteer stakeholders, the “people” equation takes more time and is a whole double-barrel of complex. Why? Because, without power or paycheck to motivate people, project management chops take second place to the soft skills of emotional intelligence. It’s easy for all of us to fall back on lazy luxuries when they’re available to us. But when they’re not accessible, we’re forced to press in, learn about ourselves and improve our approach with others.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen churches do to communicate in the past year?
Kem: Honestly, I’m most excited to see churches stop defining communications and branding as a logo, graphics and four-color, glossy print pieces. Just a few years ago, many churches were scrambling to get their message out by trying to yell as loud as everyone else around them. But now, I’m seeing more and more churches work hard to learn about new audiences by taking risks, listening to people who aren’t “just like them,” building trust and earning the right to be heard before they start pushing an agenda. It’s a lot less self-centered. It’s so refreshing to see churches work hard to personalize messages for people and stop force feeding a one-size-fits-all approach.
You started a new communications coaching network group this fall. What things have you learned from coaching fellow church communicators?
Kem: We spend less time talking about corporate communication techniques and more time wrestling with our own interpersonal communication skills. Even with diverse experience, eclectic backgrounds and a variety of ministry expressions—we are all in the business of persuasion. At the end of the day, if we’re successful, we’ve inspired someone to move out of a comfort zone. That comfort zone might be a system, a schedule, a belief, a spending pattern, an environment—and opening a mind to the idea of change (even our own mind) is no simple task. To paraphrase a quote from a gathering we had recently—“Communication is an art form, prepping the canvas for good art takes time.”
What’s the current state of women in church communications? The gender gap in the pulpit is pretty obvious, but is there a big gender gap in comm departments?
Wow. Have we come that far that gender equality isn’t a big deal anymore?
Kem: The bottom line? It’s just not an issue for me. I typically avoid the whole gender issue because many times it’s not even relevant. I don’t even know to speak to it.
I don’t believe gender “equality” is a productive objective. When that’s the goal… too many people are put in roles they may not be qualified for or a fit for just to cover the “diversity” spread. I’m in the get-the-right-person-for-the-right-role camp. Don’t look to include or exclude someone because of their ethnicity or gender. If I had personal experience with gender discrimination (different than equality), I might be more passionate about it. But, since I haven’t—I don’t feel qualified to answer this just because I’m a woman.
What do you see down the road for the Center for Church Communication specifically and church communication in general?
Kem: I believe we will all be stretched, as individuals and churches, to glean fresh observations about audiences we need to know better. Communication is more complex in a multi-dimensional, visually-layered, media-pace, wiki-driven culture. We’re going to need to look harder at what people are already doing—how do they want to be communicated with? I think we need to find ways to facilitate messages that rally people around core principles and allow them to experience them in different environments. That means everything we do needs to be shorter, portable and interactive—basically we need to spend less time creating content and more time helping people connect with and make sense of content that already exists.