Before I begin, I should probably offer a disclaimer. I have strong—really strong—opinions around what I’m about to write. Since you can’t hear or see me, I’m concerned you’ll read obnoxious into this message. Please read impassioned instead. Here goes.
It seems there are two approaches to church communications. The first, which I gather is more prevalent, is Communications Staff = Information Sharer, whereby the communications director returns from lunch to find a hastily scrawled sticky note on his computer screen: “Stewardship campaign title is Giving: Up Yours! Please order envelopes.”
The second approach is Communications Staff = Culture Shaper. In this model, communications directors are considered high-level leadership. They’re key players whose voices are invaluable in long-range planning. Their ideas are sought-after, trusted, and implemented. They weigh in on message series planning and they feel the heartbeat of your people—both inside the church and those you’re hoping to reach. (For a great example of how the difference plays out, check out Roland Gilbert’s thoughts.)
I bet some of you are thinking, “Nah. Our communications director just does the bulletin and stuff.” Well… why? Who else on your team is reading books like Church Marketing 101, Surprising Insights, and Church Unique? Who else lives and breathes the church calendar and can speak into how the decision you’re making might affect what’s already in play? Who else is paying attention to Barna research and feels personally responsible for protecting the church’s brand—the brand beyond the logo, I mean?
Two of you just crossed your arms, raised an eyebrow and offered a smirkish, “As a matter of fact, yes. We have all of that under control.” Gold star for you!
The rest of you, though? I wonder if you’re thinking something like, “Well, not really. But our communication director’s too busy for all that.” Well, what do you expect? Are you looking at church communication as PR or as DNA? Is your director task- or strategy-driven? Have you given him or her permission to lean in and actually direct? Have you allowed the margin required?
Yes, I went there. I used the m-word. If your communications staff is going to shift from Sharer to Shaper, priorities will necessarily change. Reading takes time, analyzing and interpreting data takes energy, and important conversations take both. Protect the space they’re creating. They, like you, are deeply committed to connecting people to the life-giving love of our creator.
I’ve been in the thick of ministry, and fortunately I was led by a pastor who truly gets it. Your communications staff needs that same support and permission from you. Please. It’ll make a world of difference; your church and community will benefit, and your staff will be immeasurably grateful. And impassioned.
Former Director of Communications at Morning Star Church