Kelvin Co gets to do what he loves as the creative media pastor of The Oaks Fellowship in the Dallas Metroplex area. He’s been on staff since 2007, but has worked in nearly every aspect of creative media, including live stage production, TV, radio, marketing, donor development, communication, web, social media and more since 1987.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known when you were getting started in church communication?
Kelvin Co: I wish I knew that the most powerful and important communication weapon in any church’s arsenal is its congregation. The natural tendency in marketing is to focus on saturation of the market through various forms of advertising and promotional campaigns. There is absolutely nothing wrong with mass communication. I’ve learned that most people start coming to a church because of relationship [Editor's Note: Sound familiar? That's something we heard earlier this year from Peter Haas]. Now imagine a communication/marketing campaign wherein the congregation knows about it; they understand the heart behind it; they know their part in it and are excited about it. The marketing efforts provide them with “air and guerrilla support,” teeing them up to do relational evangelism. The result is optimal.
Sounds like our recent Power to the Pews series. Love it. If a church is just starting to get serious about communication, where should they start?
Kelvin: “Serious” being the operative word, start by answering this question: Who is the leader that will own communication? I believe that all churches want to have great communication but it is often relegated to an admin function. There is often a disconnect between expectation and assignment when it comes to communication in churches. Considering how specialized, public and influential that function is, the owner needs to be empowered to come in alignment with the church’s vision. That person must have a voice and a seat in key leadership meetings.
What’s the biggest headache in church communications and how can newbies get over it (or get used to it)?
Kelvin: Regardless of the “official” process in place for requesting promotion, navigating the organic (or real) process is always a pain. Communication is typically one of the last things people think of when planning events. And they tend to either not provide the most important information or have a lot of ideas that do not get to you at the right time or in the right way. As a result of those symptoms, the communication function often turns simply into an announcement-cranking machine. The best way to get around it is through relationship. Find opportunities to connect with leaders (owners of events) to know their heart for ministry and for them to know your heart and how you can help them. Communication is an art. It is hard to relegate it to a fill-in-the-blank form for people to complete. Building relationships with those you serve helps set the stage for the art to happen.
How do you deal with congregations that are stuck in a ‘That’s how we’ve always done it,’ mindset and are resistant to trying new things?
Kelvin: Helping people focus on the “why” is the best common ground to reach when dealing with change. For example, both hymnals and projection systems help people know the words to worship songs, therefore enabling them to participate in worship. Worship is the “why.” One solution is more effective in delivering it. I find that helping people see that the “why” behind methods are the same between the old and new way sets the table of their heart for the conversation of change. Celebrating what they’ve accomplished and inviting them to be part of the solution because of their track record helps win them over. But of course, you can’t win them all. There is such a thing as “season.” Sometimes the change involves people. That’s a whole other conversation.
What was your first great success as a church communicator? What made it work so well?
Kelvin: Being in communication, there are a lot of opportunities to lead from behind or lead up. Not necessarily my first success but one of my favorite as a church communicator is helping shape and launch what defined us as a very strong community engagement church. About four years ago, it started as a meeting with our missions pastor regarding their webpage. I did not focus on the task of putting content on a page and making it look pretty. Instead I tuned into what their vision, opportunities, strengths, pain points are and channeled all of that information toward the shaping of a strategy.
What was your first great failure? What lessons did you learn?
Kelvin: Errors! Still dealing with that failure. The two most important lessons I learned on this are:
- There’s no short cut to proofing. Dedicated time, energy and attention by multiple people need to be devoted to it. And because everything we do as communicators is so public and influential, it is worth it.
- As a communicator, my number one role is to be my audience’s advocate.
That mindset helps shape my attitude regarding proofing.