A few months ago I had a chance to record a video for the That Church Summit. I prepared my content and knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.
Unfortunately, the day came to record the video and I had a cold. A runny nose, scratchy throat, eyes watering cold. It also happened to be a cold day. A really cold day. And we were filming in a room that had the heat turned down. Something about bright lights, camera and recording equipment, and proper temperatures. Evidently recording equipment and heat aren’t necessarily friends.
If you happened to catch my video – I apologize. I’m much better at writing than I am at video delivery.
With that being said, I thought I’d give you the written version of my one and only That CC appearance.
My topic was The Administrative Role and Communications.
Some people are surprised to know that I’m our Lead Pastor’s Executive Assistant. Some of my counterparts at other churches have expressed surprise that I’m not the Communications Director. One person said he thought I was full-time in communications.
As the Executive Assistant, I get to play a strong role in helping our Pastor with our web site, social media, graphic design, and database management.
You may have a similar official title: administrative assistant, ministry assistant, or church secretary. And you may also have been handed the responsibility of maintaining the web site, handling social media, or graphic design.
Here’s a few things that have helped me in my position and I hope they will help you as well.
The first thing to remember is that everything communicates. Whether it’s creating a web site landing page, a postcard to promote an event, or the weekly bulletin, it’s form of communication in your church. You are communicating something to someone. Even answering your church phone is a form of church communication.
DON’T DO IT ALONE
Don’t try to be an expert at everything at first – or ever. One of my favorite venn diagrams is made of three circles. The circles are labeled: affinity, ability, and affirmation. Where those three meet is your sweet spot. For example: I’ve been told that I’m good with kids (affirmation). I know I have the ability to care for children (all four of mine are still living). I don’t particularly love serving in children’s ministry (no affinity).
When it comes to communications, I love (affinity) working with the database and creating social media content. I’ve been told I’m good at both (affirmation), and I have the skill to do what I need to do (ability). Our Lead Pastor is smart (totally hope he’s reading right now…) and allows me time to stay focused in these areas.
I’m blessed to have some very high capacity volunteers that serve our church in areas of web content and development, Sunday morning production, and photography.
As you venture into communication, you’re likely to have a lot of questions (I took classes for what I do and I still found myself using Google to look up “pixels to inches converter.” You might even be searching: “what are pixels.” Know this: that is okay. There is no such thing as a bad question. Ever.
- Connect at SundayU. Connect with people at That Church, Church Media Squad, and Butler.Church – and that’s just to name a few.
- Watch YouTube videos.
- Join Facebook groups. The Church Communications Facebook group is full of people ready to help you.
- Read this blog post from 2017.
- Look at what other churches in your area are doing. Reach out to their administrative and communications departments and schedule a time to pick their brains over coffee.
- Find a design you like and challenge yourself to copy it.
INVEST IN YOURSELF
You may need to set aside time for training and – let’s be real – this training may need to be on your own time and your own dime.
Give up the Starbucks. Take a few classes online or at a local community college, pay to join a premium Facebook group.
If your church has it in the budget, that’s fantastic. If not, you may need to make an investment.
You’re learning a new skill – you are worth it!
WHAT ARE YOU COMMUNICATING?
Remember that everything communicates rule?
What and how you communicate is very important.
- Watch your first impressions team (Your guests are probably watching you online before coming for a first visit. Make sure you’re giving an accurate representation of who you are).
- Be engaging with your community. Your online presence is more than event promotion. We partnered with a local coffee shop to give teachers free coffee on the first day of school. We frequently do give-aways for $10 gift cards for coffee or pizza.
- Show people who you are; not just what you do. Give glimpses into the personal lives of staff members and volunteers.
- Sometimes non-professional videos are better than professional videos. We’ve gotten some of our highest engagement when I’ve taken rough cell phone video of things happening in the office.
- Develop a brand/style guide. Giving volunteers clear parameters of what’s expected when it comes to brand and style will help avoid any confusion.
- Use a communications form for events and announcements. A form is a good way for ministry leaders to put all of their thoughts in one place. You can make sure submitted forms are available to your team. It saves the ministry leaders’ and your valuable time. Fifteen minutes to fill out a form takes less time than fifteen back-and-forth emails, sometimes over the course of fifteen days.
- Use your administrative tools to provide data and metrics. Ministry leaders love their ministry. Your children’s leaders love children’s events and think they are the most important things happening in the life of the church. Your men’s ministry leaders love men’s ministry events and think they are the most important things happening in the life of the church. Your women’s ministry leaders? Yes, them too! It’s what makes them good at and suited for what they do! With your administrative tools, you are in a unique position to provide the data that will help them best reach their target audience.
MAKE IT EASY
Structure everything you do from the outside in. Children’s check-in on Sunday morning should be easy. All event registrations should be viewed through the lens of someone who has never been to a church. Sure, it may take some extra work on your part, but it’s worth it when you begin to see those connections. Make sure your web site is clear and easy to navigate. Ask your counterparts at other churches to audit it for you every once in a while and be open to their suggestions.
THE MAIN EVENT
While all ministries and events are important, the most important thing you will do is set up your Lead Pastor for success. People may connect through another ministry or event, but all avenues lead to your main service – the auditorium or sanctuary – ‘the big room.’ Everything you do has to reflect your Pastor’s communication style.
If your Lead Pastor wears a three-piece suit, preaches from the King James Version, and your church is liturgical, your online presence should reflect that.
If your Lead Pastor is a little more relaxed, casual in his delivery, and inserts jokes into his sermons, your online presence should reflect that.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating: people are watching you online – your web site and social media channels – before visiting. Make sure your online communications accurately reflect what they will see and hear at your church.
SET UP EVERYONE ELSE FOR SUCCESS
In your administrative role, you are always setting up other people for success. This means that as your church grows, you may continue to fill an administrative role, while someone else steps into a more prominent communications role – or you may move into a more prominent communications role while someone else fills your current administrative role.
I want to stop here and ask you to read two verses:
Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. – Hebrews 13:7 (CSB)
Obey your leaders[a] and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. – Hebrews 13:17 (CSB)
Our only call is to observe our spiritual leaders, imitate their faith, and obey them. Your Lead Pastor and your senior leadership team have a great weight on their shoulders as they lead the church. In an administrative role – even in some communications roles – you may not have the same authority of decision-making that falls on their shoulders. Your only call is to obey their instruction.
As you continue to balance your roles, make it easier for others to help you by:
- Centralizing file access by using Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Sharing passwords to stock photo or digital asset sites.
- Saving documents as .pdf’s for easy printing (not everyone has access to or is familiar with Adobe software).
You are not just setting up the next person for success, you are setting up the next generation for success. Because you get to play a small part in building the Church (notice the capital ‘C’) for generations to come.
You are not just communicating to connect people to your church, you are communicating to connect people to a relationship with Jesus.