Kenny Jahng is the media and innovation pastor at Liquid Church. It’s a multi-campus church in New Jersey and online. Kenny handles public relations, social media and is the pastor of the online church. He also runs Big Click Syndicate, a strategic communication consultancy that works with nonprofits and cause-related ministries and churches.
If a church is just starting to get serious about communication, where should they start?
Kenny Jahng: There are two places to start: 1) Listening to the community, and 2) figuring out what the church stands for. What mark does the church want to make on the town/neighborhood? Asking good questions is important with both of these areas.
What was the greatest help to you as a new church communicator?
Kenny: Having peers to bounce ideas off each other, brainstorm together and dream together. Finding others that care about your craft in a similar way has been important in various roles I’ve been in the past and it is the same as a church communicator as well.
What’s the biggest headache in church communication and how can newbies get over it (or get used to it)?
Kenny: Criticism. Everyone has opinions, including those that are qualified or not, informed or not, sensitive or not, strategic or not, etc. It is easy to get side tracked with all of the “suggestions” that come your way as someone who has influence on what is published on various channels. This is why in my opinion, it is important to do the upfront work of being thoughtful in your work. If you take the time to be strategic, it typically leads to better outcomes in terms of awareness and engagement.
What was your first great success as a church communicator? What made it work so well?
Kenny: In this particular role at Liquid Church, some of the recent successes can be represented by coverage of our church’s efforts by national and international media like CNN, Fox, ABC and a bunch of other outlets. We’ve been able to portray the church as an active and positive contributor to the community—loving our neighbors in such tangible ways. I believe one of the reasons why we’ve been successful in this area is that we approach media relations by prioritizing the journalist’s needs in our activities. This means spending the time to build out online press rooms with anything and everything a writer covering our story could imagine needing. By putting them first, we’ve made it that much easier for them to learn about the story and cover it.
What was your first great failure? What lessons did you learn?
Kenny: One mantra that I subscribe to came from my early days in entrepreneurship: Failure is failure if you don’t learn from it, and if you don’t move on from where you are right now. If I’m doing my job right, I’m failing all the time, small and large. It is the only way to learn. The only way to get better at what you do. You have to pick yourself up, figure out what the teaching moment is and then move on.
What’s the most important thing to know about starting any kind of online church service?
Kenny: Technology is still a limiting factor for mediating distance-based relationships to varying degrees depending on what you want to do with it. Because of that we need to stay on top of emerging technologies and approaches in order to reduce the friction involved with connecting, building and maintaining relationships in this manner—both in live and time-shifted environments.
Basically, anyone who says they have “figured out” church online is fooling themselves. We have a long way to go. All of us.
How have all things digital (social media, mobile, etc.) changed things for the beginning church communicator?
Kenny: It has made things both easier and harder at the same time. But the outcome depends on how you approach the flood of new technologies, platforms and tactics emerging everyday. But the good news is if you’re strategic and disciplined in your planning, you can utilize the potential for any given platform you choose to embrace.