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I Must Be Doing This Wrong

I Must Be Doing This Wrong

April 16, 2014 by

My official unofficial title is, “The Accidental Director of Communications.” Working in the church world was absolutely not what I had planned when I signed $30,000 in promissory notes for a graduate degree in something that had nothing to do with church or marketing. I don’t have a public affairs background, graphic design training or theological anything. Regardless—long story short—here I am, in my ninth year of working for the church.

Given my lack of “professional training,” I spent the first two years of my church communication career with a prevailing sense of “I must be doing this wrong.” The work was tough, and when I began to implement what seemed like basic best practices, things got ugly:

  • Yes, that’s what I said: You cannot have a separate logo for your ministry.
  • No, we can’t mention your event ‘just real quick’ from the platform this week.
  • Oh my gosh, NO, you can’t display your homemade, bedazzled poster in the lobby. And by the way, I threw away that clip-art-and-comic-sans masterpiece of a flier you snuck onto the counter last week.

People were not happy with me. So again: “I must be doing this wrong.”

Now, I was incredibly fortunate to have the full confidence of church leadership. They trusted me implicitly, which should’ve given me a sense of empowerment, right? Well, instead, I developed what a friend of mine calls Fraud Demons. “I don’t know what I’m doing, they’re going to figure that out, and I’m going to disappoint everyone I know. Including Jesus.”

Not one of us has it all figured out, but all of us have something figured out.

Over time, I found helpful blogs. I created a Twitter list of communication and marketing experts—both church people and normal people. I read a whole bunch of books. Know what happened next? In addition to feeling like I was doing it wrong, I began to feel completely overwhelmed by information and a growing fix-it list.

Have you been there? Are you there now? Are you, like me, filling a role that was not even in the same room as your radar? Or, even if you have some communication-related education and training, have you discovered that church world only barely resembles those marketing case studies?

Boy do I have good news for you: You’re probably doing it wrong—at least some of it. And so are the rest of us. Not one of us has it all figured out, but all of us have something figured out. The best thing we can do is admit where we’re falling down, ask questions, seek advice and talk to one another. Share stories. Commiserate a bit. Laugh about tough lessons learned.

If you’re new to this gig, I want you to know that you’re doing just fine. You have a lot to learn, and I’m quite sure you could teach me a thing or two. Don’t listen to the Fraud Demons. Don’t assume you’re wrong just because people are getting frustrated. Shake free of the idea that you should have it all figured out by now. Surround yourself with people who can help you take your best next step. Pray. Take a deep breath. And get back to work.

That whole “share stories, commiserate, laugh, ask questions” thing? It’s happening live in June. A group of us who’ve been at this for a while will be spending time with 50 of you in Atlanta—talking a little theory, offering gobs of practical wisdom, and learning from one another. It’s called the Certification Lab, and it’s going to be awesome. You should probably be there.

Post By:

Kelley Hartnett


Kelley Hartnett spent five years as director of communications for a large, established church, but has now shifted her attention to new churches. Currently, she’s serving as director of culture and connections for The Way, a missional church plant in a suburb of St. Louis.
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29 Responses to “I Must Be Doing This Wrong”

  • Jared Brandon
    April 16, 2014

    Great thoughts, Kelly! Timely, too. It helps to remember that church communications is anything but cookie-cutter. It is driven by nuance, and creative solutions to complex challenges.


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 16, 2014

      True story! I try to remind myself that there are very few right-and-wrong situations; for the most part, there are just multiple versions of right.


  • Daniel Flucke
    April 16, 2014

    Thanks for this post, Kelley! I completely agree. The more I read and learn about the right way to do church communications, the easier it is to start feeling overwhelmed with everything I see that’s not being done right. Nobody’s perfect! One step at a time.


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 16, 2014

      Yep yep! It’s SUPER difficult to keep that in mind when everything seems to need attention RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Your suggestion to take one step a time is a great reminder!


  • Julia
    April 16, 2014

    I’m so glad to know I’m not alone! I’ve been in this role for a year and a half now and am just starting to get slightly more comfortable, though I still have many days when the Fraud Demons (great term!) sneak in with their little lies. I’ve found that when I’m feeling at my worst, prayer and Scripture revitalize me and remind me that God is the one doing the work, not me. He is our biggest advocate, and he has specifically chosen us for this very role!


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 16, 2014

      Definitely not alone! And you offer GREAT advice: It all belongs to God, and we were called to our positions “for such a time as this.”


  • Paul Loeffler
    April 16, 2014

    I really appreciate your honesty about this. Like you, I’ve been kind of thrown into this gig, and sometimes my pastor, who’s much better at it than I am, lets me know as graciously as he can, that I’m doing it by the grace of God because nobody else wants to, but it’s certainly not my strength. However, I am getting better. My question is: What blogs (besides this one) and other methods have you used to get better? Neither our church nor I can afford to fly out to Georgia, so that’s not an option. However, those other methods sound good, if you can help me out. This isn’t my only, or even primary, role at the church, which makes it all the more difficult, so any help you can give would be appreciated.


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 16, 2014

      Wowzers, it sounds like you’re in a tough spot, Paul. God bless you for picking up a ball no one else wants!

      If you’ve not already done so, invest in CMS’s “Getting Started” Series of eBooks (http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com/read-this-first/). Then, if you can pay attention to one another blog besides CMS, Phil Bowdle offers wonderfully practical insights (http://philbowdle.com/).

      I have LOTS more resources to offer, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. If you’d like more ideas on books, blogs, or websites, please feel welcome to email me: kelley.hartnett@livingdifferently.org.


  • Dave Shrein
    April 16, 2014

    Kelley, I have absolutely love this post. You hit the nail right on the head for so many different topics. I really appreciate your transparency and openness. Glad they have you on the certification team!


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 16, 2014

      Thanks so much, Dave!


  • Tonja
    April 16, 2014

    I’m right there too. My fraud demon says, “Who do you think you are, that you should get to voice an opinion about anything?” I’m working on it. Thanks for the pep talk. I also won’t be able to make it to the lab, but would love to find another avenue for feedback that I can access from here.


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 17, 2014

      Oooooh, I have that exact fraud demon, especially when I seem to be the only person with a particular opinion. In regard to avenues for feedback–I know some folks have experienced great benefits from getting together with people from nearby churches who have similar roles. Also, Church Marketing Lab (https://www.flickr.com/groups/cfcc/) is a great place to ask questions and get feedback.


  • Bethany
    April 17, 2014

    Thank you for the encouragement! As the church secretary for a small-ish congregation, I alone run the website, weekly bulletin, all printed publications, PowerPoints, and, well, a little bit of everything! I often (and even this afternoon, I confess) have struggled with feeling inadequate, at the limits of my skills and creativity. My heart feels as weary as my hands and eyes and feet that haven’t stopped running for weeks! This job is not just a 9-5 paycheck–there is too much crossover for that. This is heart and soul along with hands and feet.

    The minute we forget that, the minute we focus in on ourselves and everything we CANNOT do or FEEL INADEQUATE to accomplish, we forget that this is not about us, but about God and furthering His Kingdom, even through color & copy. He has called me to this for His glory and for my sanctification, and He has given me every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)–the answers on how to handle all of this are found in His Word and through the community of the body!

    Thanks for letting me ramble–I guess I needed to work out some of what I’ve been thinking and feeling! And thank you again, Kelley, for your encouragement and wisdom.


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 17, 2014

      PREACH!

      And yes, there’s tons of crossover–the work is too important to say “I’ve done enough.” At least, that’s what I struggle with. (I’m looking forward to Gerry’s talks on boundaries at CertLab, because that is definitely something I need to get figured out.)

      Clearly, your church is lucky to have you–for not only your good work, but more importantly for your good heart. Hang in there, sister!


  • Dave shrein
    April 17, 2014

    Bethany, I admire you greatly. I could use a little bit of what it is your feeling. I start to get caught up in the processes and procedures and forget that what we do is so much more than a job. Thx for the reminder!!


  • Jennie Priebe
    April 17, 2014

    Thank you Kelly, I could definitely relate to this post! Never in a million years did I think I’d be a church communicator back when I was going to cosmetology school in the 80′s. Ha! God had other plans!!


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 18, 2014

      Mhm. He sure does. I fine sense of humor, too. :)


  • Matt Reed
    April 21, 2014

    Yes! Thanks Kelly… sooo glad I caught this link on Twitter. I just stepped into director role and sometimes feel like I’m making it up as I go… doubt lingers with each new idea, but I need to push through. Feeling encouraged!!


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 21, 2014

      Matt, I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling encouraged! And yep – I actually *still* tell people I’m sort of making it up as I go along. :) Congrats on your new role!


  • Paul Loeffler
    April 21, 2014

    Thank you, Bethany. Yours was a good reminder, also. It’s not just about getting a job done. Church communication is a ministry, too, and an important one.

    Kelly, thank you for the blog idea for Phil. I’m going to take a look at that one. I already like his thoughts on spaghetti and sticking. I’ll email when I’m ready for another bite of resources.


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 21, 2014

      My pleasure, Paul!


  • Lisa Christjans
    April 22, 2014

    Wow, this is exactly what I’ve been going through. Thanks for the encouragement!


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 22, 2014

      You betcha, Lisa. Hang tough!


  • Julie
    April 22, 2014

    It’s a little weird how the first 2/3 of this is exactly what I’m feeling, but I never was able to put it into words. Thank you for writing this!


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 22, 2014

      Julie, you’re very welcome. I’m sorry you’re feeling the struggle–and it’s going to be okay! (I’m a big fan of “and” rather than “but.”)


  • Cate Eaton
    April 29, 2014

    Oh my, reading that was like having someone read my diary. Wait! I don’t have time for a diary…. Thanks for posting this encouragement. I needed it.


    • Kelley Hartnett
      April 30, 2014

      You’re welcome, Cate! It’s great to hear that you were encouraged.


  • Cindy Ford
    May 3, 2014

    Loved your post, Kelley! The three bullet points actually gave me a chuckle and felt sooo familiar. I am so looking forward to Atlanta!



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