State of Church Communications in 2021
As we head into this new year (or what feels like an extension of 2020 at this point), it's an excellent time for us to take time to pause and reflect. I recently asked our Insiders community how they would describe the state of church communications. The results quickly affirmed what I'm sure we all already know:
There's a renewed emphasis on communication.
Communicators are tired.
We've allowed the urgent to overtake the important.
Sundays happen every seven days, so it's certainly challenging to take a real break for evaluation time. So let me help. Let's talk about three moments to seize on right now for church communications as a whole. Then I'll give some advice about evaluating your own church's communications.
A renewed emphasis on communications
Nearly a year ago (anyone else find it hard to believe that we've been in this situation for a year?!), our world got flipped upside down. Worship services stopped meeting in person. Schools shuttered. Midweek ministries all but ceased. Quickly, everything—and everyone—turned to online. Churches started Zoom prayer gatherings. We promptly started or increased our capacity for live streaming worship services. We turned to streaming services, online shopping, food delivery services—you know the drill by now.
For church communications, this meant that suddenly there was a renewed emphasis on how (and what) the church communicates. All of a sudden, everything became a critical piece to communicate effectively. People in our congregations needed to know how to connect to Zoom; they needed to see when that weekly prayer call was happening; the congregation and the broader community needed to easily access the Sunday live stream.
The role of the communicator became a central piece to the church's overall ministry strategy. (I'd argue the communicator should always have been an integral part.) Now that we're here let's do something with it! Now is a great time to think strategically. Communication is central to the work and ministry of the church. What are you putting in place now to ensure that communication retains its prominent standing whenever a new normal happens?
Communicators are exhausted
Whether you're a Communications Director, a volunteer, or the Senior Pastor, I think this statement rings true: As a communicator, you're tired. You've been running, basically nonstop, for the last year.
For many communicators, this renewed emphasis on communications also meant a sudden need without the time to plan or execute a strategy properly. And, for the most part, there hasn't been time to build that strategy amid the pandemic. It's been a year of playing catch-up.
If you're a church leader: recognize your staff, and perhaps volunteers, are tired. Find ways to help them rest.
If you're a church communicator: you need to rest. Schedule time away from your email, computer, and office. The work isn't going anywhere. Rest.
The urgent has overtaken the important
The sudden focus on communications in 2020 led to a massive realignment in most churches' communication strategy to be woefully inward-focused. Churches were fighting battles to get urgent information out to their congregations in a timely and effective way. Information was consistently changing. And the way people were receiving information had suddenly shifted, as well. Because of this, church communications began focusing, almost entirely, on inward communications.
This focus on urgent communication has forced many churches to abandon the important. Time is spent focusing on what's happening this week, instead of in three months. We've stopped reaching out to our community. The inward communication—to your congregation—should continue to be more streamlined and effective. But there needs to be an effort on marketing—external communication to non-churchgoers—if churches expect to remain healthy or grow.
Evaluating your church's communications in 2021
Where does your church stand in the three areas above? Here are some questions you can ask to help ensure you move toward healthier communications this year:
Do we have a strategy for communication in place?
How can we streamline our communications to our congregation? What's working? What's not working?
How am I helping our communications leader rest?
What can we do to make it easier for staff and volunteers to rest?
How are we communicating with people outside of our congregation?
What do we want to communicate to someone just learning about our church?