We’re thrilled to welcome Jenny Rain as a new Center for Church Communication (CFCC) board member. She will serve CFCC constituents by being the voice for church communication directors in their first five years of service.
Jenny has been the communications director for National Community Church (NCC) since 2013. She has 20 years of experience in training, leadership development, communications and marketing in the corporate and nonprofit sectors, and most recently in the church world.
What’s your church working on right now that’s fun?
Jenny Rain: What’s not fun at National Community Church? Working for an innovative leader like Mark Batterson who pushes the edges of creativity in the church because he believes “there are ways of doing church no one has thought of yet,” makes my job a blast.
Maybe I’m biased, but I do believe we have one of the best creative teams I’ve seen out there—and I get to sit in an open space with them. Simply being around our media creatives and seeing their willingness to take risks, go the extra mile and make everything tomorrow better than it is today challenges me to be better and more innovative at what I do. Although, the creative team has banned me from doing any design work in Photoshop… perhaps I’m just a designer in my own mind!?
We have a failure-friendly environment and are encouraged to take risks, so I’m looking forward this next year to seeing how I can push the boundaries of our advertising campaigns—specifically metro and our Easter campaign. Stay tuned!
As a communications director representative on the board, what do church communicators most need right now?
Jenny: Time, money and more staff. All of which are resources that church communicators don’t have, even in the most affluent of churches.
So what we really need are more God-ideas. We have a mantra around National Community Church that “one God idea is better than a thousand good ideas,” and I believe that. There have been roadblocks that I have stepped into because of lack of time, money or staff that have ended up being the coolest God-ideas that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience had we had time, money or staff.
The second thing is standards. I jokingly said that the first year on my job at NCC was “catching fireflies,” (i.e., uncovering all of the mysterious and informal communications channels that existed within NCC and codifying those into a standards & processes guide).
Because there was a communications hole before I arrived (I’m the first communications director), all of the different departments on staff were doing their own communications work. I had to go “catch” those communications paths and “jar” them up (like fireflies) and then “let them go” in the form of a standards guide. It was a year-long process, but really helpful!
What’s one thing that’s helped you get organized as a communications director?
Jenny: Our staff’s lack of ego. Kem Meyer at Granger Community Church talks about the “no-ego fly zone” that everyone on her team must follow. I think a lack of ego is a great character trait to hire for and NCC has done a super job of this. We have big personalities, but not big egos and that has made all the difference in me getting up to speed and integrating effectively into the staff.
When I arrived, people were willing to share info with me, explain how they had been doing communications for their department, be honest about their needs so I could do an effective communications assessment and then hand the communications processes over to me to manage.
Once I figured out the scope of the internal and external communications needs, figured out what was my hat to wear and what was not my hat to wear, then I began developing spreadsheets and processes for tracking, work-back schedules to keep us on track and processes to codify what we do for organizational (internal/external) communication.
What’s the single greatest thing you think churches can do to communicate better?
Jenny: Alignment. One thing I really appreciate at NCC is that our senior leadership is incredibly humble and they allowed me to come in during my first year and tighten up our core identity (mission, vision and values—although NCC has a manifesto and core convictions). What this did—and continues to do—for our organization is it gets everyone running after the same football, on the same field, in the same stadium.
Pastor Mark has preached, re-preached and shared our core identity; our discipleship team leaders have rolled in core identity to various training modules and our campus pastors are working to flesh out their unique expressions of our corporate core identity within their campuses.
The best organizations I’ve worked for were the ones who started with a core identity and aligned that messaging all the way from the top tier executive to the front-line worker.
When organizations knew where they were going (vision); how they were going to get there (values); and what the purpose was for their existence (mission)—and everyone from front line employees to executive leaders were able to articulate how their top three projects related to the core identity—it was an all-around win for everyone.
This critical communication item of “core identity” or “mission, vision, values” must be aligned through every sphere of the organization, across every system in the organization (media, promotions, hiring, evaluations, etc)— and if it is, the organization can be successful.
What do you see in the future of church communication?
Jenny: Our churches—no matter how innovative—are still decades behind the corporate world in implementing systems, but they are tracking right with them in creativity. Often, the problem for churches is not one of communication or creativity but of lack of effective organizational systems.
- If we have people on the bus to do the work of creativity, but we don’t have a system to support that (e.g., we have to run everything by the senior leader)—we are not optimizing our workflow.
- If we are still hiring only from within our congregation and not willing to use modern job boards, we may not be getting the best candidates.
- If we are relying on cheap or inadequate software to perform tasks that are the equivalent of CMS or CRM systems, we aren’t integrating the most robust technology platforms we could to make our operations as fast as they need to be.
I’m thankful that we have a leader who trusts his staff to do their job, we have hiring practices that encourage internal and external hires and our digital pastor who runs IT has decades of corporate experience. Though none of those is “communications” specific, they all are integral to communications being a success at NCC.