Moving church to an online platform has led many churches to consider creating or modifying a Communication Director role on their team. Many churches are developing strategic communication plans for the very first time or fine tuning their systems and processes. It is more important now than ever before to communicate well with your congregation and community, but with so many channels and messages during such an uncertain time, it’s hard to know what the Communications Director’s responsibilities should encompass.
To help you as you discern what is best for your church and what this role can look like for you, I spoke with a few panelists to discuss strategic communications and the role of a Communication Director. The panelists included:
- Ryan Wakefield, Co-Founder, Church Marketing University
- Haley Veturis, Director of Digital Engagement, Bayside Church
- Jeremiah Bartlett, Communications Director, Southside Church
- Aaron Mamuyac, Pastor of Discipleship, Outreach, & Connections at Sunlight Community Church
This Week’s Focus in Church Communications
As plans continue to remain fluid for church operations, each panelist discussed their priorities for the coming week, including:
- Managing and understanding how to effectively deliver vital information to the church community while also leaving room to be creative and forge new communication paths.
- Rethink and reset how we communicate in the future. Taking time to decide what’s working and what’s not working. This will help us improve our communication in the future.
- Establishing and communicating the protocols of safety and hygiene and getting that pertinent information out through multiple channels.
- Developing all things that are necessary for a relaunch phase. This requires leaders to balance how we serve our digital audience with in-person services as well.
Primary Responsibilities of the Church Communications Team
Knowing that each church differs in size, outreach, goals, and values, the responsibilities for the church Communications team also looks different across the board. During COVID-19, many churches have seen the importance of having a solid church Communications Team. From communicating plans to their church community to engaging their online audience, Communications Teams have played an important role in staying connected during a time that can feel isolating.
As churches closed their doors and moved online, they’ve had to take the leap to digital worship services, virtual small groups, online giving, and many other changes. So now, Communications leaders are determining what this looks like moving forward. Overall, Communications teams are vital to making this transition in order to communicate updates, information, and changes to their church community.
The Structure of Communications Teams
- For the communications team, job descriptions have shifted, new systems and processes have been implemented, and there is a need to outsource for tasks to be completed.
- Many leaders are sharing that they believe everyone’s job has an important aspect of communication, engagement, digital discipleship. Having a Communications Director or leader ensures all messaging is consistent with your church brand. A central leader can also help other leaders less naturally gifted at strong communication improve their techniques.
- One church mentioned adding a new team member to handle media requests and communications. This person can spend their full energy focused on serving those who reach out to you, especially in times of high-demand.
- Rearranging staff to help with the transition of being solely online to hybrid services or in-person services only. This is the time for leaders to begin asking, what do we keep and what do we not keep as we move forward?
- Staff members of a Communications Team manages responsibilities including but not limited to: social media posting, monitoring, and engaging, creative media creation, platform management, engagement (serving as an online host to engage people throughout the day), content creation, photography, videography, and much more. Depending on the church, some of these tasks are managed by staff members and some by volunteers.
- It’s smart to develop and invest in volunteers to help with photography. Photos can be extremely powerful as a Marketing tool. These volunteers can slowly begin to take ownership of platforms and various communications responsibilities as they become more comfortable with best practices.
Social Media and Digital Media Strategies and Management
- Social media is the mouth of your church and the house on the street. Social media is the house we want people to come into. It’s the space we want people to gather, engage, and get connected. It’s also where people are already spending their time, making it easy to connect with them.
- Theology is an important aspect of engaging with others via social media. Although it is easy to have volunteers engage with others online and answer questions, leaders must remember that their audience is full of real people with real-life situations. Especially during COVID-19, it’s important to have someone who is able to pray for those online, answer them with theologically sound answers, and really care for them. The people in these roles are the voice of their church and there’s a larger weight to this position that should be considered.
- A practical strategy would be to equip volunteers and staff members with the ability to do this. Leaders can create ways to provide opportunities for teaching theology and guiding principles that address situations that may come up.
- Create a job description. It’s common for leaders to simplify some of their communications roles to posting on social media. However, it’s important to take time and examine what you’re really looking for and write out a job description to have a more well-rounded idea of the responsibilities for the role you’re looking to fill.
- Focus on your mission and purpose. As you are managing your communications team, it’s important to remember that those staff members’ purpose is to amplify engagement, inspire others to follow Jesus, and connect them with the life and mission of the church. Be sure to hire people naturally gifted at outreach and connection if they’ll be speaking with your community.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Reach out to other Communications leaders for advice, ideas, and help. It’s always good to bounce ideas off of one another when it comes to navigating such un-chartered territory.
5 Ways Communications Teams can Generate Visitors
- Create a 10 question survey to learn what influences visitors to visit your church.
- Leverage the people that love your church already and equip them to invite people to church and share their faith.
- Use your church website to display everything your team creates and be sure it is constantly drawing visitors to your church.
- Utilize Facebook ads, campaigns, and other online strategies to share about your church and attract visitors.
- Find out what’s making a big difference for your church and make sure you’re putting a good amount of time into it.
Important Characteristics of Hiring Effective Communications Leaders
- Take time to pray and figure out exactly what you want for this role.
- Consider hiring someone who is not a specialist in church communications. This person may have a lot of knowledge, but you need someone who can also delegate and teach others what they know. Someone who can develop others will ensure you have a pipeline of people who can manage the critical responsibilities of your Communications team. Look to hire someone who can build teams and systems.
- Ask yourself, what can I give away? List all of the things you do that could fall under a Communications Director role and delate those tasks to this person.
- Hire someone who is flexible and teachable. Communications strategies change constantly, so be sure whoever you hire is willing to adapt to new trends.
Training Resources to Equip Volunteers and Staff
- Training for social media is a long-term journey of constantly learning. It’s continually changing, so its best to read content from top social media platforms on a regular basis.
- Start to equip them in simple ways such as photography.
- They can learn and help with this without knowing a lot of theology and without being an expert.
- Have an adequate volunteer training process. Ensure you have a repeatable and teachable process for brining volunteers into your Communications tasks. This is extremely important for creating consistency across your volunteers’ efforts.
- Design an Intern program for High School and College students who are interested in Communications careers. This invests in future church leaders and provides you with willing and able hands.
- Establish a class that can be used as a membership process for new volunteers.
- Promote that Communications volunteers are needed at your church. When most people hear “volunteer,” they think prayer partners or greeters. Let your congregation know the tasks you’re looking for help with and see if anyone is interested.
Crisis Management and Social Media
- This is a balancing act of grace and truth. A good way to have a strong foundation for crisis management is by already having systems in place that establish how you’re going to communicate in sensitive times. This ensures consistency and eliminates the initial element of surprise for those on the front-lines.
- Pray and communicate as much as possible. It’s always important to discern how to address challenging situations by taking time to pray before responding. Once you have a clear vision of how to move forward, speak with your leaders to ensure everyone is on the same page before responding to the situation.
- Executive leaders should consider bringing their communications leaders into tough conversations. The Communications Team sees the day-to-day conversations and reactions, so they will have a valuable opinion to bring to the table. They’re also the first point of contact that people have with your church, so they should be a part of the conversation when it comes to crisis management.
APP Options for Communications Teams
- Church Online Platform – Stream your church service live
- Youtube – Post videos of your church service, worship sessions, or other video resources
- Facebook – Use Facebook to connect with your audience and stream your church service
- Instagram Live – Use Instagram Live to connect with your audience and stream your church service
- Subsplash – Texting, email, and other digital communication tools for you to connect with your audience
- ClickSend – Texting app to communicate with the church community
We recently partnered with Church Marketing University to create The Ultimate Guide to Church Communication & Marketing Job Descriptions if you’re interested in digging deeper into church Communications roles.