Since the church shutdown began in March of 2020 I’ve been telling pastors that while outreaches like missions, education, and children’s ministry are all important, during this pandemic it’s the communication and media team that’s been keeping your church in business. If there’s been a remotely positive outcome of the virus, it’s been that church leaders are finally realizing that their online congregation matters, and communicating and connecting with that congregation is more important than ever.
As a result, churches around the world have been re-thinking their communication strategy, and particularly the lead role of “Communication Director.” Our team at Cooke Media Group has been deeply involved in these conversations, so I asked our Lead Strategist, Dawn Nicole Baldwin to share a little about how she sees this transition happening and what church leaders need to consider:
Dawn: “Communications” wasn’t always considered important in most churches. Actually, there was a time when it was not considered at all— church secretaries updated bulletins and even websites in their free time using whatever clipart they could find.
As ministries evolved, most created a dedicated Communications Director position and built departments with supporting roles as needs required. But these roles were still primarily designed to serve the needs of ministries, and typically were not allowed to say “no” to requests. A drive-thru mentality became the standard operating procedure, with many ministry leaders filling out an order form of sorts, listing all of the ways they wanted to promote their event. (Do you want fries with that?)
This led to ministries inevitably competing with each other for the congregation’s attention, and “success” was determined by how many people showed up at an event.
COVID-19 changed all of that. Without live events many ministries are forced to reconsider their end games, and the role of communications has shifted once again to become more strategic than ever. People still need to feel connected and belong, even if you’re not meeting in person. They need to know how the church’s vision may have adjusted to meet immediate needs, and what role they have to play in all of this moving forward.
This is more than just deciding who gets logos and what the next sermon series graphic should look like. This is about communicating vision & keeping people connected.
Ultimately the senior/lead pastor is responsible for communicating that vision, but typically he isn’t involved with the nuts and bolts of all the different tools and channels available to make this happen. Or how this fits with everything else that’s going on at the church. Or how the assimilation process is communicated along the way to ensure people aren’t falling through the cracks (or slipping out the back door).
A communications department is usually responsible for the social media, digital, and print touch points to reach your congregation, the community at large, as well as the staff. This is a lot to put on one person’s plate, especially if this same person is also responsible for executing everything. You need someone who isn’t drowning in the day-to-day to help communicate where the ship is headed.
So if you think your church may have outgrown its previous communications structure, here are a few key characteristics to consider for a great Communications Director moving forward:
• Strategic thinker—Able to see the big picture, this person typically is on the executive team or working closely with senior leadership
• Team builder— Even if your church is in a hiring freeze, these skills are invaluable as it includes building teams of volunteers. You’ll only grow as far as the person leading your efforts, so aim high.
• Collaborator — This person needs to work with various ministry leaders as well as creative types. So knowing how to understand WHAT needs to be communicated and HOW to translate that creatively takes spirit of collaboration (and the ability to speak fluently in the languages of both strategic thinkers and creatives)
And this is very important to understand: creative technical skills like graphic design or video are helpful, but much lower on the priority list since these can be outsourced if needed.
It may be time for you to move your communication director role from a “technical” position to a “leadership” position, because it’s difficult (if not impossible) for creative or technical expertise to overcome a lack of vision.
If you’d like to talk to someone about what this could mean for your church, feel free to contact us here.