We’re in the midst of hearing from the newest board members of our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication (CFCC). Last week we talked with James Martin and this week we’re hearing from Emily Elgin. Emily is the creative director at Christ Church outside of Washington, D.C. She’s an award-winning designer and does one-on-one and team consulting with pastors, executives and creative teams across the country.
What kind of cool communications things are you working on at your church?
Emily Elgin: [Nerd Alert] We’ve just launched a new organizational system, and it rocks! More on the admin side of communications, this new system is mainstreaming all the moving parts and pieces: a superhero pairing of a communications queue and an all-inclusive request form for staff and lay leaders.
Sounds boring and yes, investing the time and energy in creating these formulaic building blocks sucks the creative life out of you. But it’s a worthwhile bout of misery. On the other side emerges a well-oiled, autonomous machine. Suddenly (many) things become predictable.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen churches do to communicate in the past year?
Emily: I think churches have embraced a new boldness when it comes to communications methods. We’re finally jumping on board with some universally accepted communications methods within society. It’s exciting to see churches harness the power of social media and all the web has to offer.
What’s helped you most as a church creative director?
The Church Marketing Lab keeps me from getting too comfortable. Seeing what others are doing provides this challenging edge to stay fresh and innovative, and also provides a supportive peer network of church communicators and artists. The genuine encouragement and advice coupled with constructive criticism and suggestions to “take it further” make the Church Marketing Lab a weekly must.
CSDI has been an invaluable tool for me with set design and creative worship elements. It takes the mystery and anxiety out of starting a large-scale project because it’s just a bunch of us creative church folk explaining what they did, how they did it, what it cost and where to get the materials. There’s nothing else like it out there!
In the communications and first impressions realm, my most valuable practice has been: watching commercials. I look for themes in commercial advertising because they’re incredibly educating. Here’s how I see it—I don’t have a team with hundreds of highly-qualified professionals like marketing strategists, PR experts, psychologists and businessmen. But the billion-dollar companies that can afford 60 seconds during prime time do, so I pay attention to how they’re trying to cut through the noise and reach people.
Overall, I get a lot out of Sunday Mag, a free online magazine about the church and creative process. I love this resource because it touches on pretty much all aspects of my job. Sunday Mag covers a wide variety of topics across six sections: the creative process, visual, worship, leadership, tech and communication. Of course there are resources out there for each of these individual pieces, but it’s important for them to work together as a cohesive team so I appreciate the scope and integration of topics in Sunday Mag.
What’s the single greatest thing you think churches can do to communicate better?
Emily: The single greatest thing churches can do to communicate better is to evacuate the building. To go out into the real world and experience what church is not like. As church staff we can really get cozy in our little bubbles, and nothing could be more dangerous for a church communicator. It is critical for church leadership to remain inquisitive about the surrounding world. To ask ourselves, “Who are we trying to reach?” And “How do they hear things?” And not the all-too-common, “How can I articulate this to people…What do I want to say…How do we normally promote this opportunity…” Also, for churches who tend to operate in the rhythm of receive-feedback/respond-accordingly, honestly ask yourselves this: whose feedback are you not hearing? And what can God reveal to you about that?
What do you see down the road for the Center for Church Communication specifically and church communication in general?
Emily: As we launch many new projects within CFCC, it will become a more widely known and utilized resource across the country. Every type of church communicator will find something of great value to meet their needs. I’m most excited about opportunities for some in-depth mentoring and coaching. I think this type of firsthand support will be the difference-maker for many of us out there, so I’m eager to see how God grows this seed in the coming months.