For those in church communications these days, there is a self-imposed expectation to have a communications system in place for receiving incoming communications requests. The problem with these systems is that they give us a false sense of resolution. They only help us receive incoming requests and do very little to help us successfully fulfill the requests. Once ministry leaders make their requests using our system, there is an expectation that they are going to get what they’ve requested. We need to do a lot of work before the request is even submitted in order to manage expectations if we ever hope to have a life of reduced communications stress.
Here are a few things I recommend:
1. Get Clear About The Church’s Vision
Help your church leaders become super clear about the church’s vision and then gently remind them on a regular basis of things that don’t push that vision forward and encourage them to relentlessly avoid pursuing them. This will go a long way toward reducing the demands on all-church communications because there will not be marginal ministries and events that need promoting.
This process takes a lot of finess and leading up…but if you have done the relational work to gain trust with your leadership, you should be able to speak in to this. If your leaders don’t let you speak into the church’s vision…well, that is a topic for another time.
2. Get Clear About The Communications Philosophy & Methodology
Decide early on (with buy in from your leaders) how and when and how often you will communicate various ministries and events. Decide which types of requests will get the full gamut of promotion and which ones will get none…and everything in between. Maybe create 4 tiers of support, for example:
Tier 4 – Request applies to most people across all campuses thus gets full promotional consideration.
Tier 3 – Request applies to a large group of people (maybe all women or all men) and gets appropriate consideration.
Tier 2 – Request applies to a small group and gets minimal church-wide promotion.
Tier 1 – Request applies to a niche group or ministry and should be promoted only within that group’s circle.
3. Communicate Communications Priorities
Once we decide how and when you are going to communicate, we need to let those making requests know. Circulate the tiers mentioned above and have discussions with ministry leaders. Explain to people that their ministry is extremely valuable but might not fit within the promotional priorities of the entire church. Show them how their niche ministry benefits when the entire church is functioning in a healthy, focused way – even if that means their communication request never makes it into the weekly bulletin on in-service announcement video.
4. Communicate Communications Plans
As we’re developing our weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. communications plan, we need to make sure everyone who has made a request gets feedback on what they can expect and where their request fits into the plan as a whole. Show them the big picture and where they fit in. Often, people will understand our decision to de-emphasize the publicity of their request when they see the big picture. For example, the senior adult ministry potluck dinner should receive proportionately appropriate promotion when being promoted alongside the church’s stewardship campaign.
5. Help People Find Alternative Promotional Avenues
The role of communications director should be spent mostly in helping smaller groups find alternative solutions for their communications needs. Help the children’s ministry find alternative ways to recruit volunteers (how about every existing volunteer invites a friend to serve alongside them). Help the women’s ministry find new and refreshing ways to promote their upcoming retreat (how about leveraging Facebook and Pinterest since most women are already in that space).
One last thought: communications request systems are an essential part of the equation. If you don’t have a process in place for receiving requests, your life will surely be full of chaos. However, we need to move past the thinking that having a request will solve all of our woes. We need to work toward a strategy that helps us manage expectations and appropriately fulfill the requests.
Check out this post from my friend, Phil Bowdle, on his 5 step process of working smarter, not harder to get project from problem to solution.