John Saddington posed the question on ChurchCrunch in response to my “Case for Church Communications” posts (here and here) about how the web is changing the role of a church communications director and if the role is relevant and worthwhile anymore… or what would it look like to have a more team-centered approach when it comes to communications.
He’s absolutely right, that it is darn near impossible to manage the varying needs of ministries at the ministry level for one communications director. In fact, it is impossible. (I’ll attest to it.) While I do think the ideal is for there to be a team of people owning church communications the reality is that most churches don’t have the budget or ability to do that. They’re lucky if they have one person. So, here’s my thoughts…
Centralized vs Decentralized
I’ve worked as a church communications person for nearly eight years now and for a majority of the time I’ve been on my own with no staff or support. I’ve been the bulletin guy, copy dude, designer, communicator, web person. I’ve worn a lot of hats and the thing I’ve learned through it all is that there are certain things that need to be centralized (key church info, main events, communication of the mission, vision, values, etc) and decentralized (communication to specific age groups, niche ministires, etc.).
My role as a church communications director is focused primarily on the big picture… the key things we communicate and the primary ways we communicate (our web, social media, etc). For the individual ministries of our church, I act as more of a consultant. I meet with different ministries and help them think through the best ways and best practices they can implement to communicate to their respective audiences.
Different ministries have different audiences and different audiences receive information differently. (How’s that for a one-liner?) So, I work to help our ministries figure out how to communicate to their audiences and empower them to go for it.
The Evolution of Communication
The way the world communicates has changed rapidly over the past few years. And it’s changed for the church, too.
The “face” of church communications 10 years ago was something like the Church Lady. Most churches just had a secretary who typed their announcements into a pre-printed bulletin shell and the extent of their communication was their bulletin and announcements that they made from the platform.
Today our church lady has gotten much cooler and the ways the church can communicate are nearly endless… websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, you name it. And some churches have gotten this and have followed suit and hired teams of people who do design, print and web.
Park is doing some pretty cool things but I’m really the only person behind-the-scenes who is making all of our communication happen. I don’t have a huge budget or a team who is with me on this… it’s just me! I do, however, have staff members and ministry leaders who are owning communication to their various audiences. We work together but they do the work.
My Role Has Evolved
Coming from a smaller church in a small community, a majority of my time was spent designing fliers, creating bulletins and managing small projects. And, when I came on staff at Park they were still doing the bulletin, individual ministry brochures and everything else. But, when considering our location (downtown Chicago) and our core audience (young singles, average age 29, 60% single) I realized we should take advantage of the tools that were already there and engage them in a space where they were engaging… online.
The essential function of my job has not changed at all, but the output has… I’m not printing a weekly bulletin, we’re doing it monthly. We’re not creating fliers or quick hand-out’s to get into people’s hands, we’re texting them. We’re not creating special brochures or pamphlets, we’re creating customized websites (examples here, here, here, and here). Other ministries are using Twitter and Facebook, too. And, we’ve recently partnered with the Cobblestone Community Network to create My.Park, a social networking site for our regular attenders (that will eventually connect to Facebook) that enables our ministries, small groups, etc. to stay connected and I believe is going to help our church tremendously as a gateway where people can get connected and find out ways they can get involved.
If anything, the web has made my job a little bit easier.
(By the way, we’re going to relaunch the Park website in a couple of weeks…stay tuned.)
So, I’d answer the question by saying the web is changing the role of Church Communications Directors and they are absolutely still needed, just not in the same ways as they were before. Communication, no matter what form it takes, is still communication and we still need people who are thinking through the strategy and implementation of what we say and how we say it… whether it’s on paper or with pixels.