Church communication is lacking.
That may not be true in every church. But it’s a frustrating reality for the vast majority of congregations. Even if your church communicates better than average, there is still plenty that you can do to improve. There is plenty of ground to make up.
As church leaders, we aren’t doing all that we can to reach the people in our communities. We may be tempted to point the finger at a scapegoat—blame it on the media, blame it on Facebook, or blame it on Millennials. But ultimately, it’s our responsibility to communicate the Church’s message.
It may be too much to expect the church to be on the leading edge of technology innovation or digital marketing. But we can’t afford to continue falling behind the rest of our culture. The more we miss opportunities, the more irrelevant we become to the world around us.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of missed communication opportunities that church leaders can begin leveraging immediately. These are the low-hanging fruit that can pay big dividends quickly.
1. Hiring a Full-Time Communications Person
Who handles the communications at your church? Who runs the website and social media? Who prints the bulletin and writes the email newsletter? If you’re like most churches, this task is relegated to an associate pastor or administrative assistant. It’s extra responsibility on someone who is likely already overworked and untrained in communications.
That’s because most churches do not have a communications staff member. I wanted to include some statistics that prove how few churches employ a full-time communicator. I couldn’t find any research on that—no studies or recent surveys. This lack of data is telling.
Hiring a full-time staff member to handle communications shows your church values effective messaging and outreach. This hire starts to shift communication from an afterthought to a priority. Adding a communications person to your team adds value in so many ways.
Because of all they can do, a communications director could be one of the first hires on a church staff. However, it’s so often a role that’s overlooked. If your church wants to stop missing communications opportunities, hire someone to help you seize them.
2. Budgeting for Communications
One of the biggest reasons why most churches do not hire a communications director is because of cost. They can’t afford another full-time staff member’s salary. Limited finances are a harsh reality for almost all churches.
Which is completely reasonable. But to truly prioritize good communication, you’re going to have to spend some money. This not only means paying a decent salary to a communications staffer, it also means providing them more than a shoestring budget. Give them resources to work with.
To do their job properly, your communications director will have to spend money on web hosting, social media ads, and print costs—just to name a few. When you skimp on marketing, people can tell. Or they can’t tell, because they don’t notice, which is the problem in the first place.
How your church spends money is a reflection of your priorities. So take a look at your church budget and see where your priorities lie. How much do you spend on communications? If it’s not enough, then consider this another opportunity you’re missing out on.
3. Outsourcing Creative Work
Even the best communications directors can’t do everything by themselves. They may try, but that’s a recipe for burnout. So you need to spend some of your communications budget on outside creative help. This might mean outside writers, graphic designers, or videographers.
Outsourcing some communications work is a good opportunity because it allows you access to a wider skill set without having to hire an entire team. You can get support from a professional graphic designer without having to pay them a full-time salary. Or get a high-quality video shot without having an entire video team on staff.
Perhaps there are local freelancers in your community that you can patronize. Or maybe you use one of dozens of online freelance sites to hire someone remotely. You may even be lucky enough to find someone within the church who you can pay to help with communications.
Find out what communication areas that are currently lacking on your staff. Fill in some of those gaps with outside help. Otherwise those gaps will continue to allow opportunities to slip past you.
4. Leveraging Volunteers
One of the biggest things holding the church back from effective communication is a willingness to invest financially. You may have gathered that from the three sections above. But not everything in communication costs money.
Volunteers can be a huge asset for your church communications efforts. However, they can just as easily be a hindrance. Not all volunteers are created equally, especially when it comes to skill-based job sets like communication. So you’ll have to find the right volunteers.
Figure out your church’s communications needs that can’t be met by a full-time staff member or freelancer. Identify how a volunteer could help fill that role and establish clear expectations. Write up a volunteer job description and start recruiting like it’s a real job (because it is).
Social media is one of the best places to plugin volunteers to help out. Social media is a 24/7 endeavour, so you can always use more help. Volunteers help you expand your reach and collect more content for your social channels. And many of your volunteers probably already know how to use Facebook. All you’ve got to do is give them access and a few guidelines.
You’re already using volunteers in every other ministry in your church. Why not communications?
5. Participating in Community
Because there are so few full-time church communicators, it’s easy for them to feel lonely and misunderstood. It’s like they’re a rare species all alone in the wild. But just because they’re rare, doesn’t mean that other church communicators don’t exist.
In fact, there is a flourishing community of church communicators online. There are plenty of Facebook groups you can join to get connected with other like-minded people. If you’ve got more room in the budget, spend a little to attend a church communications conference. There are a few good ones across the country every year, and even a few free ones online.
Human beings were meant to live in community—that’s the way God created us. So participating in community with others passionate about church communications can help every church involved. It’s important to network with one another to share ideas and build empathy.
Connecting your church communications to a larger community helps you accelerate your progress. Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already invented the automobile?
6. Learning From Other Churches
Part of leveraging community is networking with the other churches in your local area. Too many churches operate isolated from one another. But we need to remember that we’re all on the same team. And we’re all working towards the same goal.
We’re more likely of reaching our goals, and building more effective communication, if we work together as churches to reach people. So connect with other churches in your area. Set up a meeting to gather multiple churches at the same table. Ask what they’re doing in communications. Share what ideas you have. Learn from one another.
Each church has a unique story and will approach communications differently. But most churches in your area are dealing with the same audience—the people in your community. And you aren’t competing with one another for attention. You’re competing against Facebook and Netflix for attention. So it’s better to team up as the Church and do communications better together.
Every church has the same thing to communicate—the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can broadcast this message louder when we communicate in unison. Don’t be afraid of syncing up with other local churches to learn how to communicate better.