For several years I enjoyed being the Communications Pastor at two large churches in the Houston, Texas, area. And while I found the experience to have been both challenging and rewarding, I often reflect back on those experiences and ask myself what I would have done differently.
Of course hindsight is 20/20, but the best lessons learned are often the ones we learn from experience. Here is what I learned and what I firmly believe every Communications Leader should do.
Push and push senior leaders to consistently think about vision
If you do not know who you are and where you are going, all communications are pointless! Yes, I said pointless. Knowing who you are and where you are going allows you to narrow down key messages and to maximize the time you have in front of your audience.
Understand local culture and audience
Take the time to truly understand the people of your church and community. I did not take the time to understand the thinking, background and decision-making process of the very people we were messaging!
Take the time to pull and analyze demographics. Use Mission Insite for local demographic studies. Conduct surveys and focus groups. Be dogmatic in your pursuit of understanding your audience.
Develop and execute brand guidelines
Nothing bothered me more than when a fellow staff member blatantly violated the brand of church. But these staff members, who were great in their fields, knew ministry, not branding.
Guidelines help guide people. That’s the point of them. And it’s your job to give people guidelines about the what and why’s of communication. These brand guidelines should cover logo use, font treatments, as well as colors and applications of church publications.
Act as the “expert”
It took me a long time to understand this point. Your staff team needs and expects you to be the expert.
Oftentimes I allowed a Student Pastor or Adult Pastor to lead me on design and marketing projects. But just as you do not walk into the Student Pastor’s office and tell him how to minister to teenagers, you should not allow him to be the expert in Communications. You are the expert.
Operate in a posture of “yes”
Because you are the “expert”, it is easy to always say “no.”
- No you cannot have an announcement.
- No we cannot design a banner for your ministry.
If you consistently say “no”, ministry leaders will go around you to execute projects. And trust me, that is far worse than you taking the time needed to find solutions for their needs.
Have this mindset when it comes to serving the ministries of your church: “We want to help your ministry succeed and we can find effective ways to help you communicate.”
Ask for help
Now that I am a Church Consultant, that is easy to say! But it is true. When you work on a church staff, your learning can come to a halting stop as you are neck deep in day-to-day projects. You need a fresh and reviving view of your work.
Bring in consultants, other local thought leaders and/or staff members to help you learn and grow. You will be surprised how creativity and innovation grows with your humility to solicit help.
One of these churches I supported did a large serving campaign. The number of people wanting to serve in Marketing and Communications far exceeded any other serving opportunity. More people wanted to serve in my department than any other ministry of the church!
The bottom line: Use volunteers.
Spend most of your budget on storytelling
At the end of the day, stories move people. Effective storytelling is always more effective than just another event announcement. Vigorously find and celebrate the stories of people within and outside your church.
Finally, I am starting a 6 session Communications Pastor Network where I will coach each Pastor on vision clarity, branding, communications, processes and systems. Contact me if interested.
Which point is most helpful for you? What would you have done differently in the area of church communications?