It was like looking in a mirror.
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.