When most people think of what it takes to succeed in the role of church communications, they think you need a “creative type” that has a good eye for design. While that is part of it, after 8 years of being in the church communications drivers seat, there is much more to it than making pretty graphics. Here is a list that I came up with…no particular order. Please note, some of these I have in my current role, some of these I wish I had. But I know from experience, ALL would be helpful.
Be In The Meeting – Not every meeting…but the one where big decisions are being made. If you are not in these meetings, you’ll always be getting information second hand. As a trusted member of the team you need to be a good sounding board and help influence the decisions that are being made. When you know both the what and the why a decision is being made, you’ll be able to better communicate to your team what the goals and expectations are.
Support From The Top – This is true especially when you are trying something new or changing a long-held practice. You need an advocate who will help keep things calm as you are busy making waves. Eventually, as people get use to the “new normal” things will subside. In the meantime, someone that can give you the permission to try new things and hold the hounds at bay, while you get the kinks out, is a tremendous gift.
Adequate Funding – It was the Israelites, as slaves in Egypt, who were asked to make bricks with no straw. It shouldn’t be you. While it will never be as big as you like, you do need an adequate budget to get what you need done. It’s hard to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear. Never forget…what is a priority gets funded. Period. People can talk a good game about how important good church communication is, look at the ones that do it well and you will see churches that put their money where their mouth is.
Responsibility AND Authority – If you have been given the responsibility for church communications, you need to make sure you have been given permission to say NO when things are not right or don’t meet your standards. Of all the people on staff, You should never be the one surprised because you should be on the “inside” information loop and one of the first ones to know about big decisions that are going to be announced.
Tools & Technology – While tools don’t dictate your creativity, they can help improve your productivity. Having access to industry standard hardware and software is non-negotiable. In this day and age, a smartphone & tablet has to be considered standard gear for the creative professional. You may not need the latest and greatest to do well, but you can’t afford to lag too behind if you want to attract good talent.
Talented Team – Whether the work is being done by you, a paid staff person or a volunteer, you will rise and fall on the material you create and distribute. The job of your graphic designer, photographer, videographer, writer/editor, production coordinator, etc is to make you and your church look good, without having to pull teeth or loose your sanity in the process. Having a team that that has talent, that trusts you and has good working dynamics is a big step in the right direction.
Relational Smarts – In this position you are going to be dealing with a cross section of the entire church, from the Senior Pastor, volunteers, ministry assistants, etc. You have to learn to communicate ideas and vision with grace and humility. Not everyone will “get it” at the same time…some people will need to taught and be brought along gently.
Clear Vision and Direction – It’s not the Communication Department’s job to set vision. We can help craft and polish the verbiage once it has been determined, but it is critical that Senior Leadership (especially the Senior Pastor) buys in. Communications is the megaphone of the church…we amplify what is being said by leadership. The saying is still true, “If it’s foggy from the pulpit, it’s cloudy in the pew.” The last thing you want is the Communications Department blowing smoke.
Reasonable Explanations – You need to develop a philosophy of communication that helps people understand why you are saying yes or no to a certain promotional requests. It can be as simple as an “A, B, C” priority list or whatever your calendaring system dictates. You don’t want to be seen as unreasonable or giving favoritism. Over time your people and pastors should learn to trust that you are there to support them and that they will get what they need to succeed.
Cultivated Curiosity – The world we live in is constantly changing. What worked five years ago, might not work today. While you don’t need to be on the bleeding edge, you should be looking at the cutting edge to see what’s going on…and what’s coming down the pike. This way you won’t be caught flat-footed. You’ll be ahead of the curve and have a much better idea when it’s a good time to try something new.
The Ability to Prioritize – Things will be coming at you fast and furious. Deadlines are looming. Sunday is coming week after week. Don’t let your department be the bottleneck. Get things out of your court as soon as you can.
An Objective “Big Picture” View – Because it’s so people-centric, in this role there will be lots of opportunities for you to get distracted. It’s easy to get bogged down is politics and petty decision making. You are a professional and don’t have time for this. As long as you keep the forest in view and you will do what’s best for the trees.