Looks like God has given me a theme: who, what, where, why, and how. Maybe not necessarily in that order.
“Who” could really cover a wide range. You’re building communications platforms for both the public and your private church family (your church members).
Let’s go back to my why (read my previous blog post)
It probably won’t shock you to know that my focus tends to be on outward facing communications. Website and social media platforms are geared specifically towards the public, usually those outside the church.
Admittedly, I’m less gifted when it comes to internal communications. This looks like helping your church members know what’s happening (when is summer camp and what’s the deadline to sign up?).
This also looks like helping people take next steps (which I do love), like finding a small group or a place to serve.
So our church started 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. Many churches do this. I think it’s a good thing.
Then our Pastor wanted it everywhere — on all social platforms.
Nope. Our public isn’t gonna get it. They’ll think we’re crazy. I mean, we are a little bit, but we don’t promote that – ummm – publicly.
But as I’m just a volunteer, I usually just do whatever the staff tells me to do without giving too much pushback.
So I’m posting videos and prayers to all platforms and wouldn’t you know it — God is working in me.
Our reach (reaching people) is lower. But our engagement (mostly our church members) is increasing. Not every day but many.
This means we’re serving the body of Christ well. This means our church is growing spiritually.
And while the marketer in me is still a little cringing, the church member in me is learning more each day what it means to serve our church and watch our church family grow.
And I can’t think of a better way to serve our community.
I get the fantastic privilege at our family’s church of hosting our live stream.
I also get to help build a communications team – this team eventually will lead our church in multiple areas of communications, but for this post, I’ll stay laser focused on hosting the Sunday morning livestream.
While livestream hosting could certainly be simply welcoming people, and keeping the convo rolling – that’s really just a small piece of it.
It’s so much more.
It’s knowing who is online and why.
Are they church members sick or traveling?
Are they online previewing to see if they might make an in-person visit?
Studies show that people “attend” an online church service — or otherwise engage with a church online — 5-6 times before visiting a church in person.
Your online presence is a big front door.
As an online hosts you get to know people — I’ve heard churches refer to people online as their online congregation.
And while nothing can compare to the in person experience, I do want the people online with me each week to know they are a valuable and integral part of our church. And I want them to know they have a real, in-person, online host, not a chatbot.
A host that cares for them.
For myself — and for any new host who comes on board — I go to great lengths to set up our livestream host tools.
Copy and paste ready prayer prompts for a host.
Names of people being recognized — for baptism or child dedication.
I even have a copy and paste ready host sign off note.
I have a spreadsheet of how many people each week are on each of our streaming platforms.
Why? People need Jesus and we have platforms available to us to share the gospel.
But then there’s production.
And I know just enough about production to know that I don’t know enough about production.
I know what a stream key is.
I know the difference between a link and an embed code.
I know the difference between real live and simulated live.
I know what an encoder is. And why we need one.
I know just enough.
But not enough.
We have a rock solid producer. She’s amazing!
But then there’s the hardware.
And the last two weeks our computer has died.
Shut down. Restart. Blue screen of death. No power. Done. Died. Dead.
No post service video editing. No app updates. No YouTube updates. No sermon clips.
No engaging with our people online.
No sharing the gospel outside the four walls of our church.
And yes, there is absolutely no substitute for the in-person experience.
As a leader, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d let people down.
I’d left my team unequipped.
The live-stream hosst: what do I do when the stream stops?
The post-service video editor: There is no video to edit. How can I help? What can I do?
I felt — in a small way — responsible for letting our viewers down.
I know it wasn’t my fault.
Believe me. I know this.
Logic tells me it’s not me.
But my heart hurts.
As a leader, when people are hurting, you take that hit.
Let’s be real— communications can be challenging. So how did I get here and why, despite the challenges, do I love it?
It goes back to my first loves – first impressions and next steps.
I love first impressions (or guest services). I’ve spent countless hours and personal funds on conferences, classes, and books on the subject.
I love next steps. Everyone is always growing. Daily, you’re becoming more like Christ or more like the world.
I love the process. I love to see people go from first time guest to leading a ministry. The Christian growth process never ceases to amaze me.
So there I was serving as a Next Steps Director at a local church and as part of that I was the Master Admin of our church management software.
This glorious tool that helped me see where people were. Sort of like the domino’s pizza tracker, but for people. From first time guest to serving. From serving to leading. From first time guest to small group. I ran weekly reports, personally followed up with people, met people for coffee, and did whatever I could to make sure people connected.
Then I began to hear stories and saw a theme. How did you hear about us?
Through Facebook. Through an internet search.
So I took a step back to look through their lens. And I began to see connections between the database and our website.
Parts of our database were publicly accessible. We could lock them down or use this to our advantage.
Because I had a background in marketing and design, I began to work closely with our marketing and graphic design team, and with our website volunteer.
I remember posting online one day that I was putting more thought into our website colors and fonts and I wasn’t sure what that made me. My friend replied, “that makes you a church communicator.”
Around the same time, I took my kids to a restaurant for lunch. It was the type of restaurant that has booths on one side and counter seating on the other.
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that every person at the counter was on their phone. Every one.
What content are they consuming? What are they looking at? And how do we get our church – and the Word of God in front of them?
I began to see the Internet as a mission field. I sought out books on church communications, joined Facebook groups, studied other church structures and cultures, and attended conferences. Usually – but not always – on my own time and my own dime.
It’s been crazy. Aggravating at times. Tears have flowed both from joy and sadness. It’s sometimes lonely, yet I’ve made my best friends.
A few weeks ago someone walked by the computer at church and stopped, “I didn’t even know you were there.”
It’s okay. Most people don’t.
On social media, we’re reaching thousands some weeks. Hundreds other weeks, but that’s the nature of communications.
I see heat maps, click rates, open rates, reach and share data, and other back end metrics.
And I know we’re doing more than marketing our events. We’re sharing the gospel and helping people connect with our church. We’re helping people take a step from an internet search to an in person connection.
I’m still walking through things with my latest coaching client.
To recap, this is the coaching call that made me do more than press pause. As my new friend was unpacking their situation. I felt strongly that we were walking a similar path.
Scroll back a few posts to see how it started and how I unpacked a lot of layers. (There are lot.)
As I’m helping the person with their walk, I’m finding myself often needing to take my own advice.
I’m also carefully wording these posts to not reveal their identity. I’m keeping a few things purposely vague and have gotten permission to share what I’m sharing.
Where we are now is digging into the why. When I first asked why this person had gone into communications as a ministry, the response was that they thought it would be fun.
I’m not sure “fun” is why anyone should go into any ministry.
Ministry can be hard work. There are tough decisions to be made if you’re in a leadership position (this person is). And there are things that can be discouraging.
In the past I’ve served in First Impressions/Guest Services (my favorite of all ministries and where I hope to serve again one day), Next Steps/Assimilation, Nursery, Pre-School, Student Ministry, and now Communications.
Since I’m now serving in Communications and I’m coaching someone through their own communications ministry, I’ll stay there. But you can apply most of – not all of – these principles to any ministry.
Communications is hard work. It’s also very rewarding.
Building a team takes time, but believe God that they are coming. Start with a vision. Dream. Layout a structure that people can walk into.
At first, you may be the only person in that structure. I have outlined our church’s communications team in to these areas: website and church app, photography, church online livestream hosting, social media, graphic design, and videography/video editing.
Currently I’m a team of one covering all of these areas. I have support from our church’s lead pastor and I’m ready to onboard volunteers when (not if) God brings them. I trust Him to bring the right people at the right time.
In the waiting, you will be tired. The internet never sleeps. Your church will need something communications-related almost every day.
Brief summary so far: expect the beginning of your communications team to be difficult. God will be with you in the difficulty. But expect it. Grab your hard hat and get ready!
Communications is isolating. You’ll be behind a screen when people are praying. You’ll be behind a screen when people are singing. You’ll be behind a screen when people are with people. You’ll get to know your keyboard on a much deeper level. Your face cam will know your expressions more than anyone in your church.
To combat this remember that God has never and will never leave you. People may not know you’re there, but God sees you.
Join some church comm Facebook groups. You’ll make friends there. Try visiting another church during a time yours doesn’t meet. It’ll give you a chance to connect with people and spend time in worship.
Don’t get discouraged at low social media numbers (views, likes, shares, etc.). You’ll have low days and high days. View every day as a gift from God.
Keep believing that as long as you are in God’s will, He will bring the right people at the right time. Did I already say that. It bears repeating. I feel like there’s a song there: Don’t Stop Believing…Hold Onto That Feeling.
Communications is not an easy-entry ministry and a lot of people can’t stay in it. There are deadlines to meet that will take you away from family, friends, and almost everything else. A software company recently made a change that allowed for an automation. In promoting the change, they said a user had said, “you’re giving me the opportunity to have lunch with my family on Sunday.” (Side note: I really need to encourage our Pastor to look into this company…)
But it’s true. You’ll make A LOT of sacrifices. Know they are worth it.
I’m praying for my coaching client. I’m praying for myself. And I’m praying for YOU!
We serve a faithful God and as you’re in His will, expect the blessings.
Other times there are a few follow up conversations.
My most recent coaching call caused me not only to pause, but to slam the brakes.
With every sentence, it was like peeling back layers.
There were so many layers.
One thing that struck out was their desire to remain anonymous. The exact quote was, “I don’t want my pastor or church to look bad. I don’t want my pastor to feel guilty.”
Friend, don’t try to be a hero. You’re not. Jesus is. You’re not.
Your pastor should feel guilty for not seeing this. What kind of rock is he living under?
Okay – you definitely need some support and I think this is an important story to share, so let’s think about how I can help you.
There are a few different Facebook groups that allow people to post anonymously.
But won’t someone know who I am?
Yes, usually an admin or moderator.
Oh – I don’t think I want anyone to know.
But YOU need to know you’re not alone. Even if you feel alone in your own church, there are communities of people who can walk you through this. Need I remind you, that you contacted me through one of those communities?
And then the ask: Can you post anonymously on my behalf?
I’m not sure that’s wise.
Because this isn’t my story. We’re very similar, and I’ve walked this path. But this one is not my story.
But also – I don’t want to help you through this alone. Quite frankly, I need help, so give me a minute to think [pray]. And so in a few Facebook groups, I shared their story.
The response was overwhelming supportive.
But let’s rewind: “I don’t want my pastor or church to look bad. I don’t want my pastor to feel guilty.”
I thought back to something a friend posted a few months ago:
We must do a better job serving our teams and staff. I have another week of creatives telling me they are leaving their church position because of the leadership they are under. They are overworked, underappreciated and not heard or understood. They LOVE the church and want to keep serving the church but are burnt out.
Sadly I have a list of similar stories and one I have experienced myself.
This is not a expose to bring down but to bring a pain point that church staff does not feel like they have the ability to bring to their leaders.
What do you think we, as The Church, could do better to change this pattern? 👇👇
So – what can we do better to change this pattern? (I’ve addressed all of this in my previous post, but if you’re still not doing it, read it again.)
When scheduling volunteers – do not schedule people every week. Even your highest capacity leaders should not serve every week.
Promote teams from your platform during service. Don’t promote serving in general. Spend some time promoting specific teams. It’s VBS season. When was the last time you purposely gave a shout to your kids’ ministry?
Honor some of your volunteers during service. This one is personally a tough one for me. I don’t want to be recognized for something I’m supposed to be doing. Jesus has already died for me. My service is out of obedience to Him, not for recognition from my church. But – I do know this is a driving motivator for some people. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I’ve started a Volunteer of the Week social media post at my church. It’s helping to bring awareness to teams.
Give your highest capacity volunteers a church email. If you’re using a free email client or GSuite for non-profits, this won’t cost you a thing, but will give them some credibility in your church.
Put your highest capacity volunteers on your website. You may have a Children’s Director listed on your staff page, but if you’ve got service coaches or volunteer ministry assistant leaders, list them on an appropriate page. Again, this won’t cost you a thing, but can go a long way in helping a volunteer feel like what they’re doing matters.
Schedule a dinner with a volunteer in your ministry. Get to know them outside of church.
Don’t stack the schedule. Some volunteers (and even some staff members) can’t take the thought of another church event. Time away may be more valuable than time in.
Have a no fear policy. Volunteers and staff should feel like they can approach their Pastoral staff (supervisors/bosses) without fear of being fired or told they need to press in and trust Jesus. A high capacity volunteer or church staff member already knows that yet, burnout is real.
Listen, but don’t let go. A high capacity volunteer may need a few days off, but not out of the ministry permanently. The arm doesn’t always need amputated. Sometimes it just needs put in a sling or a cast and given time to heal.
Share your own story. Too many people are on the edge of burnout in silence and feel alone. Hearing your story could help someone who needs to hear it.
Enforce Sundays off. Entire Sundays. Social Media posts can be pre-scheduled. Other volunteers can be trained. Enforce Sundays off. Be mean about it.
Invest in your weakest teams. Healthy teams grow. People sign up to serve. People show up to serve. If you’ve got an unhealthy team, everyone has to work together to help it grow. Think about a hospital. The healthiest patients, need the least care. The most unhealthy, need life support. If you don’t invest in an unhealthy team’s growth, it will die.
Help me peel back some layers. How do you think churches can do better?
Then playing the “can you spot the differences” game.
Since it’s been awhile, let’s catch up. I’m Marcy. I’m a follower of Christ. A wife. A mom. I work full time for the best. company ever. I work part time for another fantastic company. And I serve my church.
For my part time job, I’m a Community Manager for a the most awesome Facebook Group ever: Church Comm Leaders. If you’re a leader in church communications, you should be in our group.
Often in that group, a group member will reach out to me for some private advice (coaching).
And here’s where we’re going to pick it up.
See – when you’re dealing with people – there are always issues. You have issues. They have issues. I have issues. We all have issues.
I feel like there’s a song about this, but we’ll talk about that later.
A friend of mine once told me that sometimes people will call you for advice and you’ll realize you’re more messed up than they are. It’s true. And it happened to me – maybe for the first time – this week.
I get the first text – introduction.
I have a problem and you seem like someone who I can trust.
And then this person laid it all out. All of it.
And with every point, I got it because this person was eerily walking on the same path as me.
Every. Single. Point.
Are we the same person?
No. This person lives in another part of the country, but get this – it’s a state I used to live in.
Maybe I left a clone behind when I moved.
I don’t know.
Every. Single. Point.
At the end of the conversation: You always seem so happy. Why am I so sad?
Boom! That hit. Like a punch to the gut. Because that’s what had to be addressed. Oh, we’ll address it all, but first that.
So first, with permission, I give you the twitter version of the person who reached out:
Full time job, also serving church in a communications role.
Loves where and how they’re serving. Gifted in communications. Leading a team, but team is small, Spending almost as much time serving as working, mostly behind a screen at church, so no personal interaction with people. Can’t remember the last time they went to church just to worship.
Um….yeah…so far you could be describing me…and so many other people in so many churches. Believe me, there aren’t just two of us.
Always sad. Crying on the way to church.
The similarities just ended.
And then: why?
And what hit hard was that I couldn’t give an immediate why.
I don’t know.
But doesn’t it all start with the why?
So I literally had to take a few days to go back to my why.
So we’re going to break down EVERYTHING.
Because I guess, on paper, I should be sad. But I’m not.
Let’s start with why anyone in any church should serve in any role.
Someone has already served you. God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for you. That’s the ultimate service. The ultimate sacrifice. We’re sinful humans. Jesus took our place.
I’ll never serve enough to match that. I won’t even try. But when you switch to viewing serving as an act of worship, you go from “I can’t remember the last time I worshipped,” to “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t worship.” There’s a difference.
Here’s a few other things about serving – for volunteers, church staff, and pretty much anyone who’s still reading this book.
Don’t serve for fun.
Disneyland is fun. But it’s expensive and you’re tired after the day.
The beach is fun. But you get sand everywhere. And sometimes sunburn,
Concerts are fun. But your ears are ringing for hours after.
Sporting events are fun. But you end up disliking the sports officials or the other team.
Junk food is fun. Except weight gain and heartburn.
Fun has exceptions. Fun has limits. Fun ends.
Worship is forever.
Build a team.
Personally, I have a team structure in place. The house is built – and it’s built with expansion in mind. People just have to walk into it. Expect your team to start small. Prepare for that. Don’t be surprised by it.
Know this: communications can feel isolating.
I won’t sugar coat it because too many people get blindsided. You won’t approach the altar or pray with people. You will be behind a screen in the back of the room. You won’t be on stage or in any pictures. You will be behind a screen or behind the camera. You will not have lunch with your family. You will be editing post-service video. In many ways, your life will look like “opposite day” compared to other people. Like an infant having their days and nights mixed up. Your life will be 99% digital and 1% people.
Don’t go into it thinking that being a Communications Director is glamorous. It’s not. It’s hard. It’s tiring. You’ll mostly go unnoticed. Unless there is a problem. Then everyone will know it’s you.
But know it’s a season. Build that team.We’ll go back to this often.
Keep going back to your why and team building.
Not only do I have a structure for growth in place – which I’m excited about – I’ve started making checklists and screen recording everything I do. It’s all to get ready for who’s going to walk into this team structure.
If you’re a volunteer, especially one who already has a full time job, this can be exhausting. I get it. That’s why it’s critical to have a team building mindset from the start. It may take months – or even years to build the team, but God’s timing is always perfect.
If you’re on paid staff, this still applies. A paycheck doesn’t make you immune to burnout. I know because I’ve been there. Whatever ministry you lead should be approached with a team building mindset.
A special note to paid staff
A special note to anyone on paid staff – and I know because I’ve been on a church staff – pay the closest attention to your high capacity volunteers. Invite them to dinner to get to know them – not to talk about church. Get to know their families. The most crushing blow I had as a volunteer was being invited to a volunteer appreciation dinner, but told my husband couldn’t come because he wasn’t serving.
Require a volunteer take off (*away from the church) two Sundays in a row at least every 6 months. Why two? Because the first Sunday they’ll be still worried about things at church. They won’t truly relax until the second Sunday (also make sure they’re off the week between). Require one Sunday off (but still at church) every 6-8 weeks. If you have volunteers in pre- and post-production, this will require sacrifice from other volunteers and staff, but it’s critical to the long-term health of any team.
A high capacity volunteer may (will probably) resist any time off, but it should be enforced.
Encourage and Recognize
One of the best things I ever received as a volunteer was a church email address. It might sound crazy, but it made me feel like what I was doing mattered. I was able to communicate with my team, and even people in other churches using my church email address. I was able to set up accounts with various church comm businesses and stock photo sites using my church email address. Guess how much that costs the church? Nothing. But to a volunteer, it can be everything.
Recognize specific teams from the platform. Do a “Get In The Game” sermon series and each week of the series, recognize a team.
Put your teams and leaders on the website. Again this is some free real estate – it will cost your church nothing, but can make your volunteers feel like what they do matters. Volunteer children’s director? That volunteer should be on the website: name and email contact.
Do you have a team that’s a team of one – or two? Give your smallest teams the most attention. Healthy teams are already growing. Small teams will die if you don’t feed them.
This is a two-way street. If a volunteer has a full time job, they will probably volunteer nights and weekends. Your (staff) 10am text or email, might get a reply at 6pm. If you’re a volunteer and your church staff has official office hours, don’t expect a reply to your 9pm email until office hours the next morning.
It’s critical to respecting boundaries.
And finally – Why am I happy?
I guess, on paper and according to my friend this week, I shouldn’t be happy.
So if you see anything good or happy in me, I’ll attribute it to the work of The Holy Spirit.
It’s a choice.
Are there days I’m tired? Yes.
Feel isolated and disconnected? Sometimes.
Miss going to church just to sing and listen to the message (device-free)? Occasionally.
Wish I could spend Sunday afternoon out with my family or doing something fun? Almost weekly.
But, then you realize you’re serving a risen savior who literally carried his own cross up a hill and took nails that were meant for you, it makes it not only easier, but joyful.
If you haven’t already read it, start here. That’s the post that got my little piece of the internet noticed.
Not like National News Noticed, just more noticed than usual. I’m usually okay with being not noticed.
I don’t typically add my name or watermark to the graphic. You don’t know I edited the video, produced the website, made the copies, bought the coffee cups, or that I was the voice behind the social media post.
But in this case, something was definitely different. I really needed people to know what happened. Because it wasn’t really about me. It was about people who didn’t know who Jesus really is.
One week ago, I realized who didn’t like or trust us – the church.
I realized why they didn’t like or trust us – the church.
And for a brief glorious and, at the same time, scary horrible moment, I was in two worlds.
I was one of us. I was the church. I was being like Jesus would be and I was doing what Jesus would do.
But I was also one of them.
“You’re right. I feel unloved, unwanted, left out on a limb, stranded on base, unprepared, a bit uncomfortable, forgotten, angry, and seriously hurt.”
“…church people suck…”
I talked with a few friends.
They saw that you were human. • They saw you have the same feelings they do • You dropped the Christian mask.
Dropped the mask.
I don’t even know how to wrap this up.
I’ve got nothing quotable, or funny, witty, or clever.
Yesterday they showed up. Same bench. They went to church with my husband, son, and I.
We took them to lunch after church.
They saw and heard something different yesterday.
I know it was different because they want to go back.
They said everyone was kind to them.
They want to go back.
They trust us to meet us again this Sunday. Same time. Same bench.
I cannot believe it….they actually want to go back.
I ran through a few different titles for this blog post.
The Character Of God
God’s Word Doesn’t Change
Get Your Freaking Communications In Order
The Most Un-Marcy Thing To Do Ever
How Could You Leave Me Hanging Like That
I’m writing this one for two reasons. 1) People need to know. 2) I don’t want to forget.
It all started with a service opportunity.
So far, so good.
It didn’t involve anything I might typically do.
No graphics, no guest services, no social media, no database.
This one was boots-on-the-ground. Downtown. Serving our city’s homeless community.
I think we’ve already established what Marcy would do. I’ll babysit your kids so you can go serve, then you send me pics of you serving and I’ll post them to your organization’s social media pages so all the world can know just how awesome you are.
(Read that with a slight hint of sarcasm. None of us – me, you, all y’all – are even close to awesome. Not even close.)
So… I checked the date, time, and location of this serving opportunity against a few other things I had that day (all 38,000 of them).
I realized I would be in the right place at the right time and had a few hours to spare.
What I’d typically do in that situation would be to load up a laptop and find the closest coffee shop.
That’s what Marcy does.
But I agreed to serve.
Two days before the event, I received a confirmation text.
Document timeline. Midweek: opportunity is posted for Monday. Saturday: personal text confirming Monday.
Pause: this WAS NOT, in any way, organized by my church. This was an outreach by a third party organization who (I’m absolutely assuming here), contacted various churches for help.
However, my only communication for or about it was from our Lead Pastor.
Here’s a pro tip: don’t make your Lead Pastor the point person for communications. It’s not their job. Communications will fail. Find a volunteer and put the ball in their court. Anyone who throws the LP under the bus after reading this post, should read that again.
Let’s get back to it. We left off with the personal text confirming Saturday. Address – check. Carpool with us or meet you there? I’ll meet you there. Good to go.
Monday morning I arrived at the appointed location, at the appointed time. My role: help set up a tent, help set out chairs, an organization is going to give haircuts to the homeless community. After setting up tents + chairs, I just get to pray with and for people.
I can do this.
I even left the house without my laptop!
I arrived 15 minutes early, found an open parking lot directly across from the location, arranged to sell a kidney, and paid for parking (another pro tip: if you want to make real money, go into the parking lot business.)
I’m only 10-15 minutes early. Surely there should be some activity.
Just three guys, sitting on a bench under an awning, in front of a store across the street.
Me: suburban mom in an unfamiliar part of downtown that seemed eerily inactive and three rather rough looking (God, forgive me for judging people based on outward appearance) dudes across the street. Obviously we all saw one another. You couldn’t NOT see one another.
Do I get back in my car, lock doors, and wait for back up while scrolling social media?
I crossed the street, walked directly to them, and said, “hey guys… what’s up?”
That was the start of two hours that changed my life.
I was there to help them get haircuts. They were waiting to get haircuts. but no one else was there.
No haircut people. No other homeless people. And no church people.
We struck up a conversation. All the while, I’m thinking, ‘where are my people? Where are any people?’ I’m quickly making a connection with them… this is crazy… why am I here alone? What am I even doing?
Then these guys decided to take a walk to a few downtown churches – maybe we got the location wrong.
You are not leaving me here alone. I’m going with you.
We weren’t meant to do life alone, and at that moment, my community – my safety, security, and comfort – had become three homeless guys I’d known for roughly 15-20 minutes.
So there I am, walking through downtown with three homeless guys, hoping that at the next turn, we’re going to see a tent and people.
No tent. No people.
We made our way home – back to the familiar bench in front of the store, under the awning, across from my car.
We talked. I asked them about their lives. What happened to them? Why are they homeless? Why they’d rather live on the streets than in a shelter? What are they learning from this? What’s their plan to turn their lives around?
I texted our Pastor (again, don’t expect your LP to field this stuff – ever):
Where are you? • What is going on? Am I in the right place?
I get a text back: the event was canceled.
(Heads up: I’ll serve the church I’m a member of for free as your church comm person; scroll back a few posts. If I strongly believe in you or your organization, you get me for free on a volunteer basis.)
Another incoming text: I’m so sorry.
You’re going to be sorry. • I feel forgotten. Left out. Unwanted. Not thought of. • You’ve really screwed up my day/life. How could you, you completely selfish idiot? • It’s okay. God meant for me to be here. I get to talk to them about Jesus.
Don’t lose it. • Hold it together. • Build a relationship. • I’m a fish out of water. • Talk about Jesus. • Share your story. • Why am I even here? Don’t leave here.
And then the moment. One of the guys says this happens all the time.
The preachers come on Sunday. They tell us people are coming. People don’t come.
Preachers = God / Jesus
People are coming = God / Jesus are coming
People don’t come = God / Jesus doesn’t come
This is the basis for their belief system.
I told them I was so sorry for this experience. This isn’t at all how Jesus is.
And one guy said, “we feel bad for you.”
Because your people didn’t show up either.
And I lost it. I openly sobbed and poured out the train wreck to three homeless guys.
You’re right. I feel unloved, unwanted, left out on a limb, stranded on base, unprepared, a bit uncomfortable, forgotten, angry, and seriously hurt.
Honestly, in this moment, I want to tell you that church people suck because we do. And the one I attend – in that moment – was the worst offender.
Yep. I’m out. Over done. Church is not for me.
I didn’t immediately pull out the YouVersion Bible app and meet them with scripture.
I just shared personal experience. Every time I’ve been in a valley, down, broken, near the end, Jesus stepped in. It’s been rough – comparatively no where near as rough as where they are – but it definitely hasn’t been easy. And every single time, in unexplainable ways, God was there.
Then. After all that, I gave them scripture. I pointed out how His promises were true. Every time.
In the end they acknowledged that not all churches (or church people) must be that way, because I showed up.
What!? Did God just use my broken, messed up, train wreck of a life to reach them? Maybe. I think I cried even more at that.
They agreed to meet my husband and I at that same bench on Sunday morning and go to our church with us (I’m praying they actually show up and go).
We hugged and parted ways.
And what I realized is that when the church isn’t there, many believe that Jesus isn’t there.
But I know that when the church isn’t there, that’s when you know Jesus really is there.
If I believe in you and your mission, or if I see your vision and I’m 💯 on board with it, I’ll probably ‘work’ for you for free.
I might ask you if I can update my social media profiles to reflect what I do for you and your organization. It honestly depends on how strongly I feel about how much I want people to know I’m on your team. Why do I want people to know I’m on your team? It’s definitely not about me or “the title/position.” It’s always about letting people know I believe in your organization’s mission. Whatever I can do to drive people back to your social media channels, I’ll do it.
An example of this is: recently a local Pastor called me and told me about a project he was working on with a few other guys. I bought in.
Could I design a logo and how much would it cost? Yes and free.
I believe our community needs this and I’m on board. In that case, I didn’t ask him if I could update social media to reflect what I did. They’re doing a great thing and I’m sure I’ll share what they post, but at this point, free logo design + a few logo based digital deliverables was enough.
Then he switched gears and asked about t-shirt design for his church. At this point, there’s a fee, but since I was already bought into him as a person, that fee was greatly reduced.
When I jump all in as your professional volunteer, I take what I do pretty seriously. Because usually it’s about helping churches grow stronger, which means they can reach more people, which means more people know Jesus.
But here’s the raw truth: being a professional volunteer comes at a cost. Software subscriptions, stock photo subscriptions, etc. all cost money.
And being a professional volunteer doesn’t pay well.
So what’s next for this professional volunteer? Well, I’ve got a few contract proposals out now and some serious conversations happening about possible long term contracts. I’m looking at about an hour of billable projects this week. I’m scheduled to lead a series of Lunch & Learn videos that will generate income.
We are not leaving our church – that’s a given fact. After a really disconnected 2020, we finally found a church to call home in 2021. That’s not changing.
I know there are ministries being hit hard financially right now. So I’m going to do the best I can to keep my fees ridiculously low. Not to undervalue my time, but to continue to remember this is ministry, not just a job.
Someone asked me recently if I was in this for Jesus or for a paycheck?