For this week’s getting started interview we head up north. Adam Legg is the creative arts and communications pastor at ChangePoint Alaska in Anchorage. He’s been a member of the largest church in Alaska for over a dozen years and joined the staff several years ago. He oversees all internal and external communication, including web, social media, design, print, video, photography, etc. Adam has a background in corporate marketing and this fall will start a two-year online seminary program to get the pastoral education he feels he’s lacking.
What unique challenges have you faced being in Alaska? How have you overcome those?
Adam Legg: Probably the most unique challenge about being in Alaska is the isolation. There are very few large churches here and even fewer people who are in dedicated church communication roles so I don’t have a network of people I can collaborate with here in Alaska. That has forced me to look outside of my physical location and make connections with people around the country. Opportunities like Creative Missions have allowed me to connect with many great church communications people who, while a great distance away, are only an email or Skype call from lending advice and encouragement whenever I need it.
What’s the biggest headache in church communication and how can newbies get over it (or get used to it)?
Adam: One of the biggest headaches that we face in the world of church communication is that there seems to be an increasing demand for what we create and a decreasing amount of resources to create with. When that happens our options are to get frustrated at what we can’t do or get creative and look at what we can do, even if it means doing things differently. A lack of resources needs to be viewed as an opportunity, not a setback. Some of the best things we have created at ChangePoint came out of us having to get creative with diminishing resources.
There’s a lot of pressure and expectations on a new communications person at a church. How do you handle the stress and pressure, especially for someone just learning the ropes?
Adam: This may sound like a typical church answer but for me this has all been about Jesus. The pressure, stress and expectations are there every single day and if I let those things control my life I am finished right from the beginning, however I really believe that Jesus meant it when he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I think that too often we forget those promises are for us.
Come to me church communicators who are tired, exhausted, burned out, stressed and crushed under the weight of expectation, and I will give you rest.
That’s the only relief I have found for my weary soul.
What was the greatest help to you as a new church communicator?
Adam: Red Bull.
Not the answer you wanted? Let me try again…
When I first started in my position as a communications director I knew the world of corporate marketing but the church communication/marketing world was totally new to me. In an effort to better understand the world I was getting into I began reading everything I could. I read the blogs of church communication leaders like Tim Schraeder, Justin Wise and others, I read Less Clutter. Less Noise. by Kem Meyer, and any other church communication book I could get my hands on and I think I read every past article here on Church Marketing Sucks.
Diving into great church communication resources that already existed helped me see that this was a world I didn’t have to go through blindly. There are so many great people who have blazed the way and created resources that help make getting started in church communications that much easier.
What was your first great success as a church communicator? What made it work so well?
Adam: When I started at ChangePoint the largest line item in my budget by far was the printing of our weekly bulletin. The problem is that each Sunday I sat in our auditorium and watched people set the bulletin on the chair next to them and pick up their smartphones. This communication piece that we were spending thousands and thousands of dollars on was basically a seat filler until the end of the service when people promptly tossed them in the trash on the way out of the building.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that we had to make a change. Based on website analytics, talking with members of our church and observing their actions it quickly became apparent that we had a church with a high percentage of people who were constantly connected via mobile devices. I saw that as a great opportunity for us to take a chance and change some of our communication methods.
I worked with the team at The Church App in Seattle to develop an Apple and Android app with the hopes that we could push out content electronically that we had historically been spending money printing and what a huge success that has been for us! We have not only cut our printing by thousands of dollars but we have seen a huge increase in people interacting with our messages, blog posts and other content included on the app.
The thing that made this project so successful is it began with getting to know who our audience was and how they were already communicating. It started with them. Too often we try and fit our people into the channels we create rather than creating for the channels that our people are already using.
What was your first great failure? What lessons did you learn?
Adam: Interestingly enough, my first great failure continues to be something that I battle on a weekly basis. I tend to be terrible at setting healthy margin in my life and there are always more projects to finish than hours to finish them. There is always another video to film, flier to create, website to edit or social media plan to implement, however when we let our calendar rule our life it can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. I would encourage any new church communicator to set healthy margin right from the beginning. Establish rhythms in your live that are both productive and restful and be OK saying no when you have to. Few people on church staff realize the work that goes into the projects we create and if we aren’t intentional with our time we will quickly find ourselves buried and discouraged. I know, I have been there far too often.
You just launched a fancy new website at ChangePoint. What did you learn through that process? Would you have done anything different?
Adam: New website? Piece of cake!
I seriously thought that.
Four months, 4,000 cups of coffee and a bajillion revisions later the site is finally live!
This was easily the largest project I have undertaken while at ChangePoint. Our old site had become outdated and was desperately in need of help. We knew from the beginning this wasn’t going to be a project where we put a fancy new paint job on the same old car. Instead we completely redesigned and rewrote every page on the site.
One of the most crucial decisions of this entire project was in deciding the partner we would work with to make our dream become a reality. I chose to work with the team at ChurchMedia in Keller, Texas, and they were absolutely amazing. What impressed me the most was how they continually pressed to get our vision for the site. They wanted to know the message we wanted to communicate, our values, what was unique about our church, etc. In the end we launched a site I am incredibly proud of. It feels like ChangePoint and it champions the things that we value as a church. It’s “us” and that’s exactly what I wanted!
If a website redesign or build is a project you are approaching make sure to partner with people who not only do great work, but get your vision and will work with you to make it happen.
- Check out the rest of our Getting Started interview series.
- The Certification Lab is coming to Nashville in October. This two-day training event includes six months of virtual mentoring and is designed for those new to church communication.
- Another resource that might be a big help is our new book, Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication. It covers a lot of the basics, from big picture strategy to practical stuff like sound and video.