Dave May is the communications director at City on a Hill church in Melbourne, Australia. After getting a degree in design he spent six years doing art direction in the music industry before going back to school to study theology. With education in both design and theology he came on board at City on a Hill as the communications director in 2011.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known when you were getting started in church communication?
Dave May: I’m a perfectionist and always spend more time on things than I should. While I endorse working hard and producing quality and original work we need to be careful that it doesn’t consume us. In church communications, there is always more work to do. A very talented designer once said, “You are never going to have time to work at 100%, so you better be happy with your 60%.”
I find these words comforting as there is a constant work flow and I need to be happy with the work I produce. As a Christian I know I don’t need to work for the approval of my pastors or church people—my heavenly Father is proud of the work I do.
What’s the biggest headache in church communication and how can newbies get over it (or get used to it)?
Dave: For me, the biggest headache is change.
I’m an organized person. I like to keep things structured and plan ahead as best I can. However, it is inevitable working in church communication that there will be change. More often than not, new projects arise and take precedence over current work. Technology fails. Volunteers leave. Staff resign. Responsibilities increase. You get the drift.
It’s hard working with people and products but the most encouraging thing is that God is constant. He never changes. He is sovereign and loving and is with us always.
So, yes you need to get used to it but find comfort in him.
What was the greatest help to you as a new church communicator?
Dave: Before coming on staff as communications director, I was running my own design studio. My business was a three way partnership. However, we rarely worked together as a team.
Although I loved my job, I wasn’t made to work solo. Naturally, after joining the staff team, one of the first things I did was to build a communications team.
I remember in my first year I needed a photographer for one of our projects. Sure enough a few days earlier, my pastor was telling me about a new guy who was a photographer. Never meeting the guy before, I called him up and the next day we met, had a beer and paraded the streets of Melbourne taking photos for our next teaching series.
Also in my first year, I was in need of some camera gear for filming our Easter services. Again a contact came to me and I called him up. I asked to borrow his gear but instead he offered to film the event and edit the video after the event.
My advice, recruit and give responsibility.
These two guys I had never met before are now key leaders on my team. Our God works in unexpected ways!
What was your first great success as a church communicator? What made it work so well?
Dave: Upon commencing my role at City on a Hill, in fact on my first day, I noted that we needed to re-develop the church website. The design was pretty cool and it was functional but its biggest flaw was that it wasn’t mobile friendly as it was built in flash.
Later that year we embarked on a 18-month project to re-develop the City on a Hill website, with the help of some hard working volunteers.
Since launching our website last year we have received an overwhelmingly positive response. Our mobile traffic has increased by 1800% since the previous year and our desktop traffic by 180%! Our podcasts have featured number one on iTunes Australia in the Religion & Spirituality category, and we are regularly being listed there in the top 100 podcasts. Our website was featured on numerous blogs worldwide and was even numbered in the top 40 church websites on ChurchRelevance.com. However, it’s not the numbers that count, it’s the lives that have been impacted by the gospel. We’ve heard countless stories of churches using our resources and content, as well as people listening to our podcasts and re-committing their lives to Jesus.
It’s such a joy to know the impact we can have online through our church websites. Invest in it as it is the primary vehicle for gospel communication!
What was your first great failure? What lessons did you learn?
Dave: I’ve had a lot of failures. What can I say, I’m a sinner. Thankfully, I worship an almighty God who is sovereign, even over my failures.
One of the first failures I made was a couple of months into the job. At City on a Hill we produce teaching books to complement our teaching series. This was the third series into the year and I decided to print the whole book in full color, where as previously I only did the cover in color. In order to meet the deadline, I didn’t think twice and sent the job off to our supplier. A few days later the invoice came through over three times the price of what I expected it to be.
Mistakes happen. However, since then I’ve always asked for a quote even if I have a tight deadline.
That teaching book is a little more involved than the standard sermon series graphic. How did that idea come about and how has it worked for you?
Dave: One of our core priorities is our teaching series. We want to faithfully teach the Bible through our Sunday preaching as well as our mid-week communities. We want to equip our people to dive into the Word of God and to use our teaching resources as a guide throughout the series. Far too often churches skim the surface and preach motivational pep talks rather than dig deep into the Bible. We have a high view of God’s Word and want to uphold that in our church.
So we decided to put energy into creating these e-books for our series. To be honest, our team have been producing them before I joined the church. So I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from. However, we see great value in these e-books. Not only does it solidify what we believe and what the purpose is of the sermon series but they are a helpful resource for our members.
Furthermore, we want to bless other churches around the world with our teaching resources, which include our e-books, Bible reading videos, podcasts, sermon series graphics (available upon request). God has blessed us immensely and we want to be generous with our teaching resources and serve the wider body of Christ.
What unique challenges do you face trying to communicate the gospel in Australia?
Dave: Australia is diverse. We are an extremely multicultural society. In fact, my grandparents moved to Australia from Hungary after World War II. However, among such diversity our nation has a rich Christian heritage. In 1911, the first census in Australia showed 96% of Australians were Christians. Today as little as 8% of Australians attend church once a month. With even less having a genuine relationship with Jesus.
What’s more, Australians suffer with an overly optimistic mindset. Even amidst the worst of trials, we put up a facade, with what we call a “she’ll be right” attitude. This is challenging when it comes to communicating the gospel because Australian’s think they are in no need of a Savior, for we all will die and that’s just life. They soldier on in life literally with the motto to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
So it is challenging to communicate the gospel to Australians due to its diversity, traditions and optimism.
More on Getting Started
Looking for more help getting started?
- Check out the rest of our Getting Started interviews and the series of Getting Started in Church Communication ebooks.
- Another resource that might be a big help is our book, Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication. It covers a lot of the basics, from big picture strategy to practical stuff such as sound and video.
- Who’s your hero? For inspiration, turn to our ebook, Church Communication Heroes Volume 1: Lessons From Those Who Have Gone Before.