Don't Build a Communications Policy

You’re a part-time church communications manager, part-time youth pastor, full-time everything else, and you’ve finally—after months of working on it—put the finishing touches on your robust and all-encompassing communications policy. It’s a thing of beauty.

There’s a policy for every potential communications request under the sun so you’ll never be caught off guard and be asked to work until 3am on a project that’s needed the next morning again. You present the policy to your lead pastor and your secretary, which goes well. They’re totally bought in and are going to jump on board.

And then it happens.

You get the email.

“Yeah, so we’re going to need 6 social media graphics in about an hour. Mmmkay? Thanks.”

This conflict happens more often than I want to admit. In the groups I'm part of that are dedicated to communications in the church, the frustrations about broken policies come up at least once a week. I wish this wasn’t the case.

I wish senior leadership would understand the amount of work it takes to produce that short two-minute video. I wish everyone would fill out the request forms with the right information. I wish there were never any last-minute requests. But it doesn’t work that way.

As church communicators we can choose how we respond in those situations, and I hope we choose to respond with grace and kindness, rather than creating even more conflict and tension than there already is.

But I think the whole situation could be avoided if we shifted our perspective a bit.

While we were talking about a potentially difficult conversation one day, my lead pastor gave this piece of advice:

“Take a stance, not a stand.”

A stance allows flexibility. A stance allows you to pivot and move. A stance allows you to deflect opposing momentum and keeps you facing forward. A stance leaves you standing.

A stand is rigid. A stand plants you in place to take the full brunt of conflict. A stand is combative in nature. Taking a stand can leave only one person standing (Pro-tip—the one left standing at the end of the day won’t be you).

We need to take fewer stands and more stances.

Which means we need to build fewer policies and create more strategies.

Where a policy is often reactive to the demands of others, a strategy is proactive.

An intentional strategy looks ahead to what is coming, anticipates crunch times, and plans accordingly. A strategy goes looking for the high-output events like Christmas and Easter, so that we can leverage them well. A strategy is able to flex and adapt.

A communication strategy creates language for you when your lead pastor brings a nearly- impossible task. Rather than pointing to the policy that he agreed to as the reason why you can’t, you can articulate the strategy behind what you’re doing and ask him how his task would fit. If it fits, a strategy allows you to drop that pet project you’ve been working on to meet the needs of the ministry.

A strategy is more grey than a black and white policy. But if you proactively implement a strategy, you’ll find you don’t need a policy to defend you. You’ll meet the needs of your ministries, and be able to maintain a healthy workload.

Don’t build a communications policy.

Create a communications strategy.

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