You’ve got the message – your church needs to engage with the digital world. So, who’s going to do it?
So, if your church has reached the point where you’re thinking – ‘Ok, we can see this is important and it’s something we need to look in to’ – that’s great!
Now who’s going to do it?
Perhaps it’s not even been as conscious a decision as this – maybe the church has *always* had some sort of online presence, and it’s just that someone has to make sure it continues. It could be that online doesn’t even come in to it – the usual flow of weekly newsheets, prayer letters, and powerpoints won’t make themselves.
In my experience, these tasks often come down to three types of church member.
One person often found in this quasi-communications role is the church’s ‘admin’ or ‘administrator’. On top of all the other tasks they have to perform, such as organising the minister’s diary, dealing with enquiries and sorting out any other issues thrown their way, the church admin often ends up taking care of the tasks that we would group under the church communications banner. For better or worse these creative tasks that I might take hours on fall upon those who probably have the least attention to give them.
The second character who ends up doing these jobs is the ‘obvious choice’ – the youngest church member, or perhaps, the oldest teenager, depending on how you look at it. In one sense, yes, an obvious choice, given that this young person will be a ‘digital native’. They’ve grown up with computers, the internet – even Facebook, having always been around. They are probably far more versed in the online world than your average church member.
The third persona is a difficult one. It’s the ‘web guy’ (sorry to gender stereotype, but I’ve found it’s usually a guy). This is the one who’s worked doing something with computers – no one really knows what – for as long as anyone can remember. The web guy probably built your church website, and created your church Facebook page. And your church Twitter account. And Instagram. Maybe even your Myspace profile (remember Myspace). He’s also the one you’ll go to when the leadership decides it’s time for a new website. This third person is someone who I’ve written about at length in the post ‘Stop Hiring Alan’.
Now I say this carefully, and lovingly, but perhaps these aren’t the best people to be doing these tasks. I say this because much good has come from these jobs being done by those who aren’t experts – staff and volunteers devote time and effort in to sincerely serving their Lord and their brothers and sisters in the church. To anyone reading this who feels they may fall even a little in to this category – thank you for your commitment. I believe God blesses such work.
Nevertheless, as church leaders, as ministry leaders, we have a duty to be wise stewards of that which God has given us to be responsible for. With so many tools and different media at our disposal for spreading the amazing grace of Jesus, should we not be putting care and attention in to how we use them?
I’m aware that in saying all this, it could seem that I’m in some ivory tower, claiming to have all the answers without knowing what life is like on the ground. I know that many churches, especially those with small memberships, may not feel like they have a lot of options here.
I’m also aware that these problems exist in bigger churches too. Large churches may have teams of creative volunteers. They may even have full- or part-time staff for whom ‘communications’ falls within their remit – but the issue of ‘who does what’ can still come down to the same principles.
I think these jobs often fall to those who:
- Have some relevant knowledge
- Are perceived to have relevant knowledge
- Have more relevant knowledge than ‘me’
- Aren’t very good at saying no when asked
- Are keen to help and therefore volunteer
- Will end up doing it anyway, because they do everything else
Not all of these always apply, and some are more helpful than others. Sometimes the people types we mentioned above really are the best-placed members of your community. The key issue is, are they – or have they just ‘ended up’ running your church communications because they’re the least objectionable choice.
As I’ve said, many followers of Christ have done great things in communications roles to which they may not have been called, or particularly gifted. My issue is this: would we delegate work the same way with other ministries?
I’m going to answer that rhetorical – it’s a no, at least, I hope it is. When choosing a Sunday School leader, do we simply select someone who used to attend Sunday School themselves? Do we give leadership of our Care Homes ministry to someone who happens to have an elderly relative? Do we let someone handle all of the pastoral care needs in the church just because they have the time and are willing?
Maybe I’m being a bit extreme – I certainly hope you wouldn’t have answered ‘yes’ to any of the previous paragraph – but my point is this:
How you go about running your church’s communications depends on whether you view it as a ministry, or simply another admin task that needs to be done.
Certainly, there are elements of admin within church communications. Yet the same can be said of preaching – one needs to ‘book’ a preacher, who needs to schedule time to prepare a sermon. The preacher needs to make notes to follow: needs to let the service leader know the reading etc. Any youth leaders out there will certainly appreciate the organisation that needs to happen to run a successful youth group.
So I argue that we need to carefully consider who takes the lead on the website, social media, publicity and more – just as much as we do with other ministries. Hey, perhaps even more, given the public nature of the work!
It’s at this point that I pause, and say it’s not just about who, but about why. If your church leadership hasn’t taken time to consider the vision and mission of the church, you’re probably either stumbling onwards, or otherwise maintaining the same direction you always have.
Though we have a united calling from Christ, this discussion will be different for every church, shaped by the environment in which it is placed – the church size, neighbourhood, demographics, values and even individuals within it will all contribute. Critically, this vision needs to relate to the world we live in today and, like it or not, digital communication is a part of that.
Having this roadmap in place will help you make decisions as to how you brand yourselves and to what methods you will use to fulfil your mission. Once these questions are circulating you should, I hope, begin to have a better idea of the type of person that’s needed to help make this vision happen.
Still, it wouldn’t be a blog post without some helpful pointers, so here we go. Look for someone who:
- Knows the digital world inside out – sometimes younger people are a better choice for this reason, but make sure that this person really knows what they’re doing with social media
- Is real – no one comes across exactly the same online as they do in person, but your leader must know how to handle themselves online. Look at their personal social media accounts, because the tone that’s coming across there is likely to come across when they oversee your ‘corporate’ accounts
- Is organised and has good time management – church communications covers a wealth of different activities, and good organisation is essential
- Is creative – looking good online is important (not talking about selfies!) but I’m not saying design skills are essential – there are other ways of achieving this. Nevertheless, a creative spark will help your communications leader to pursue new, original ways of spreading the church’s great message
- Is a team player – whether or not they’ll be part of a creative team, or indeed leading it, the ability to work with others will come in useful when working with church members, other ministry leaders or the church leadership
- Is willing to learn – this should be a sought-out skill in every church volunteer, and demonstrates both humility and eagerness. However, keep up your side of the bargain andtrain them!
Hopefully this short list is useful – though I’m sure there’s plenty more to say.
Please do comment below with your thoughts, but I’ll leave you with this question:
What’s your mission? With every tool that you use, every post you write, every ministry you run: Why are you doing it?