Reflecting on Four Years of Church Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19
I began my current work as a church communications coordinator almost exactly four years ago. This was a new role for me and a new position for my church. This meant I have had the task of “creating the job as I do the job.” In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to write a letter to myself four years ago, featuring four years of on-the-job wisdom:
Dear 2016 Dave,
I write to you from my bedroom. I suppose, technically, it’s our bedroom. Believe it or not, I feel more-or-less stuck here. We’re under orders to “stay home, stay safe” while the world responds to a pandemic called the coronavirus. I am, like so many others, adjusting to working from home. The adjustment hasn’t been easy. If I told you that canceling all in-person worship services and activities for several weeks was going to increase your workload, you’d think I was crazy, right? Yet here we are.
Despite new demands, I’ve been finding time to reflect on the last four years of our work. As I write this in April of 2020, I think about your first month on the job in April of 2016. I think about a lot of the changes coming your way: changes for you, the church, and the world. With those changes at the front of my mind, I offer you this advice:
First, absolutely no one is rooting against you, and no one wants to see you fail.
Because yours is a new position, there are a few people who will worry about the church’s budget. There will always be those people, and that’s OK. There are others who simply have a difficult time with change. That’s OK, too. Remember that you’re serving the church, and you get to serve the church by offering your unique talent and insights related to communication. Work hard and work confidently, but most of all, work humbly. The worried and the fearful will come around, and you’ll demonstrate your gifts to the church again and again. Some will question how the church ever managed without you. That feels great to hear, but don’t let it go to your head.
Second, learn to love church committees.
Don’t get too frustrated by the moments that feel like bureaucratic stifling. Don’t get too frustrated when you want to charge ahead on something, but you’re told to hold tight. Instead, try to appreciate the systems that are in place and the deliberation that accompanies new ideas. All these committees and teams and systems help provide stability, and in the world right now, stability is in short supply.
Next, get your own team going.
I know you love to figure things out by yourself, but so many talented people are in the church eager to help, whether they know it yet or not. Photographers, designers, writers, and a whole lot of others would jump at the chance to be a part of a communications team. Start building that team right away. I know you’re not going to like hearing this, but the list of things that you are “the best at” is actually pretty small. Find those people who are better than you and equip them into service in the church. You and the church need them.
Another thing: remember that outward communication is only part of the job.
Get to work on building sustainable structures for internal communication, and involve the whole staff in this process. You’re going to realize that everyone has preferred methods of communication and organization. Years of keeping these methods to ourselves can lead to a staff culture that operates in silos. Work together to build a system that can honor those preferred methods but also dismantles some of the silos created along the way. Believe me, it’s much easier to build such systems when things are calm.
Lastly, always remember the essence and foundation of the church.
Times of crisis and uncertainty may send you chasing after things that won’t satisfy, or they may leave you holding tighter to some things that really need to be let go. Your work in communications is uniquely prone to “the chase”—wanting a new website, a bigger social media presence, or live-streaming, among other things. Remember that “the church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.” In all everything, “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
I’d love to tell you about so many more things, but I’ll leave all those to the mysteries and discoveries of life. You’re going to do so many great things, and you’re going to more fully know the joy of service than you ever thought you would. I’m excited for you.
Oh yes, one last thing: don’t push the button underneath the motion sensor in your office. It resets the lights, and then you have to wait ten minutes for them to come back on. I still don’t understand why it does that. But, understand it or not, I can’t wait to get back into that office.