Church Communicators face many challenges to doing our jobs with excellence and sustainability.
With the growing pressures of a divided congregation, the already-heavy demand of our jobs, and the lack of funds to hire staff or coordinate volunteers, communicators face some specific challenges unique to our profession.
No matter the level of expertise, size of our teams, or amount of budget, digital spaces need attention and churches are (mostly) not prepared for it. I often say to others that Square 1, the basics of communications in a church of any size is a full-time job!
And that’s just the execution side of getting things done. Who has time to pick their head up and see the big picture issues that we face?
I think there are four main issues that communicators deal with that have nothing and everything to do with the execution of our tasks. If we don’t address them, they will eat us alive without us even knowing they are there. In no particular order, here they are…
TL;DR: Empathy, staff communication, & communication upward with leadership
Here’s how I define internal communications: it’s the things you do to make sure staff are informed of what’s going on and how well vision is transferred to leadership.
It’s preventing your staff (or yourself) from learning about an event from the stage at the same time your people do. It’s helping your leadership understand the digital decisions you’re advising them on. It’s being the CEO of Knowing What the Heck is Going On.
It’s what makes what we do at Church Comm Team unique. We not only help churches execute the external means of communication like email, social media, and updating your website. We also focus on internal communication by helping with your project management and requests, coaching your leadership, and working with your pastor to better understand their role in digital communications.
It’s a big challenge going forward and communication directors are in the middle of it. It requires empathy for each other to understand how the actions and attitudes of one affect everyone else.
So, that’s why you have to put in a request and no more of these “stopping in the doorway to make a quick request” shenanigans. Pastors are the lead team-players.
TL;DR: Loneliness and overall mental health due to social media.
We have to work in the social media space every day. Plus nights and weekends. So, it’s really hard for us to escape the negative aspects of it.
Listen to our podcast on mental health where we discuss the Netflix documentary The Social Experiment to learn more about how the social media algorithms are harming us. We have to swim in that self-soup all day long and it’s dangerous.
We also tend to feel that no one understands what we do or how it affects us. All of these pressures lead us to feel as if we are alone.
If you feel immense loneliness, let me encourage you to talk to someone. Find a counselor who can help you work through some of these heavy emotions.
Also, many churches offer insurance and your insurance may have some provision to pay for some of your counseling. Talk to your HR person (or whoever runs your insurance plan) about the possibilities.
At the least, you can always talk to me. I’ve been where you are and don’t mind talking to you at all. Set up a 30 min call with me and I’m happy to let you vent or scream or whatever.
TL;DR: Not podcasts or books you like, but actual theological education.
We must stop fearing education in the church. Every time I hear that old joke “I went to cemetery…uh, I mean seminary” I cringe. Ugh…get a new joke already.
Education does not put one of us over the other even though, unfortunately, this attitude has been part of the problem. Seminary students (I went to seminary, btw) often come out of it with a little bit of arrogance about it. Luckily, I went back into youth ministry afterward and teenagers have a way of reminding you just how little ANY of your life’s achievements matter to them because I just “don’t understand them” or whatever…
However, even though this problem exists, the answer isn’t to treat education as if it’s dangerous. Teenagers are dangerous.
You will need to be able to handle more, so proper education is a must. Find out what books are used for seminaries and get them. Audit a class or find a person who went to seminary and ask them to coffee to do a personal Bible study together.
If you want one my incredible professor’s notes he built over years and years of study and teaching before he died, check out Dr. Constable’s notes from Dallas Seminary HERE.
These notes are a must for study and contain more information than you may ever need or want about each book of the Bible including background, history, and line by line exegesis. It’s completely free.
TL;DR: There are lots of gurus trying to sell you something but that doesn’t mean they have your best interest at heart.
It seems like every week there’s a new company or product or personality vying for your attention. They all promise to “grow your following” or “raise your giving” or “rank higher on Google” etc etc etc.
The problem with the guru culture is that many of these gurus have zero idea how your church works. We buy subscriptions and products that are really great but are often never used. The sale is better than the need.
It’s wasteful. Wasteful of your money and your time. If you want to know how bad it is, just ask for recommendations for just about anything in any of the large Facebook groups. You’ll get the same answers over and over for the 2-3 products that have representatives in the group that do a really good job promoting in the group.
Be careful to buy the best product for your church, not just the best sales pitch.
Gary V is on record explaining that the reason he often speaks in extremes is that it motivates people to buy. It’s true. Being confident of your product and promising the world can deliver sales, but it doesn’t always deliver results.
I’ve seen many Instagram influencers with over 50k followers tell us that the key to that many followers is a solid profile, using hashtags properly, and quality content. It’s true, these things are necessary.
But they don’t tell you about the promotion they ran with bigger influencers, the money they paid for either followers or ads, or about the years they spent grinding content out with no response before one big post put them on the map.
Face it. Sometimes, it’s just pure luck.
But this is the wrong thing to focus on. We’ve been conditioned to think about numbers and performance instead of ministry goals and connections.
Who made us this way? Gurus. They show us a success story and promise that it can happen to us too. Finally, we’ll be able to justify to our bosses who think communications is stupid that we deserve to exist!
Gurus selling products do not know what is best for your church, nor do they always align with your ministry goals. You have to decide this before you buy. However, be wary of the marketing disguised as friendship and watch out for those who speak in extremes.
The ones who aren’t speaking in extremes are the ones thinking with you, not selling to you.
Take some time
I know it may feel counterproductive, but take some time to really think about these four issues and where you are with them. Do any of them need your attention? Do you need to spend more time on internal communications this first quarter and less on slick videos for social?
What subscriptions or products do you pay for that you really don’t need? Can you cut them loose and do something else?
Is there an area of theology you need to grow? Who can help you?
Do you have friends who aren’t coworkers? Are you reaching out just for a zoom call or texting memes to each other to hang out and avoid being alone?
Whatever area you need to address, make the time for it.
I used to tell my staff that they had permission to make room in their workday for what we called “white space.” Just like in design, you need white space around designs and logos to “let your eyes breathe” and understand the design and how it fits into the space.
White space helps design make sense.
It is a period of time each day where they didn’t have to knock out tasks and be productive. They could pursue something that inspired them, practice a skill they wanted to develop, read a book, or whatever!
I encourage you to do the same. You need it. Let yourself breathe and work on the big things that make all the little things better.
Seth has been in ministry for over 20 years, recently serving as Communications Director at a thriving church in North Dallas. He is also the host of The Seminary of Hard Knocks podcast, blogs at sethmuse.com, and has his Masters of Arts in Media and Communications from Dallas Theological Seminary. Seth specializes in helping church communicators use social media and content marketing to find common ground with their audience to empower them for spiritual growth.