5 Traits of a Successful Communications Minister

Growing up in a church, I never heard of a "communications minister". In fact, it wasn't until I started working with churches that I started to grasp the vastness and difficulties of the job. Depending on where you work, the communications minister can be a PR job, an audio/visual job, and even the person in charge of fixing the copier. It's a big job.

At the same time, there are some traits that are universal amongst successful communications ministers. These traits are something that take time to develop, and anyone can learn them with time and practice.

If you can master the traits below, you'll not only find that your communications ministry will flourish, you'll also have a better handle on the job itself—which, depending on where you work, can be a tricky thing.

Are you ready to learn what the five traits of a successful communications minister are? Okay, let's dive in.

1. Buy into the vision of the church

It's easy to form your own unique vision for your church's communications. Your vision may be a very simplistic approach with a few messages or you may want to blast every channel you have with lots of content.

Either way, your vision for communications has to align with your church's goals. For example, if your church's goal is to have 10,000 people come to Christ in 2016, your communications strategy and vision have to align with those goals.

The problem is when our personal vision for our church's communications differs from the church's overall goals. When that happens, you become frustrated and often bitter because the two are at odds. This may not occur immediately, but over time you'll get the sense that things aren't right and the work that was once a joy has now become a chore.

If you don't know what your church's vision or goals are, now is a good time to sit down with your pastor or senior leadership and get a firm grasp of where they see things going and what they want the future to look like. This will not only help you align your work with the church, but also give you an idea of what the future of your job looks like.

2. Have a clear idea of what your church is communicating as a brand.

Most communications ministers can tell you what they’re communicating on a Sunday-to-Sunday basis. They may be promoting missions, small groups, etc. However, determining what you’re communicating as an overall brand is something entirely different.

In order to understand what the church is communicating a brand, the communications minister has to know the voice of the church. It's the tone and the feel. Are you an upbeat, celebratory church like Hillsong, or are you more a somber, reflective brand like The Village Church?

When you understand the voice of church, you'll know what graphics should look and feel like. You'll have a keen sense of what social media posts feel like and when you're "off-brand".

I'll add that this is one area that is difficult without clear leadership from the pastors and senior leadership. Now keep in mind that this is not always explicitly spelled out, but it is reflected in what is celebrated, preached, and promoted.

3. Have a keen sense of what technologies may disrupt your current communications channels.

In 2006, I used a Motorola Q as my daily phone and I felt like I had the future in my hand. I could email, text, and see my calendar all from a single device. Then one year later, the iPhone appeared and everything changed.

When most of us saw the iPhone, we saw a new cell phone with a lot of possibilities, but not all of us were thinking of how the iPhone would impact our church communications (e.g. responsive websites). I think now, we could all say that it's had a huge impact on how we manage our church's communications.

It's not your job to be a futurist and predict what the next thing will be down the road. But, it is your job to be aware of what is developing that could disrupt the way your church communicates. For example, when rumors started that Google was going to penalize websites that were not mobile friendly, it's the communications minister’s job to figure out how to avoid the fallout.

Now, you don't need to go out and read the latest issue of Wired from cover to cover, but there are some websites that can help you stay on top of trends without taking too much of your time. If you're interested you should check out:

4. Learn to use the phrase "I don't know."

If you want to be comfortable with the future and your church's communications, you need to be willing to say “I don’t know” a lot. The future will depend on you trying new channels (e.g. Snapchat) with idea that “you don’t know” what the immediate benefit will be.

I'll admit at some point, you may feel like an imposter with all of these new channels appearing and people asking you what you think. But, trust me, even the experts are secretly thinking that they don’t know either.

By admitting that "you don't know" you're identifying an area that you can research and grow in, which always leads to better outcomes. For me, "I don't know" nearly as much as I would like to about Facebook and Instagram ideas.

5. Understand your role as a supporting player.

Do you remember that cool brochure you did for missions? Or the brand new website you had built? Or maybe the new logo you created for the Student Minister? You can probably list your greatest successes as a communications minister.

However, if you poll the average church member, they have no clue what you've done. For them, majority of what you do is not at the forefront of their mind. It's not because they don't care about you or what you do, it's that at the end of the day, church communications is not at the front and center of the church.

You often hear leadership experts tout the benefits of "servant leadership", the idea that real leaders serve those around them. Church communications is exactly about servant leadership. It's your job to serve ministries and the church as a whole.

Sometimes that means you'll never get credit for the work you do. Nor will people truly understand the difficulty of the job. Of course, that won't matter because that's not why you took the job. Right?

A church communications minister is very different from other ministerial positions, given how special the knowledge is that is required to do the job. However, it's a growing field that is constantly changing with each piece of technology or social media startup. Either way it's a blessing to serve and communicate for the church.

Church Planting and the Gospel of Gentrification

D.L. Mayfield for Sojourners writes:

Writer Nate J. Lee, responding to a video put out by Hillsong church to announce their intention to plant a church in San Francisco (including the phrases “God has great plans for this city” and “San Fran, the best is yet to come!”), wrote this: “Any kind of language that implies that God’s work or God’s plan starts when we arrive … is indicative not only of terrible theology, but of white Christian exceptionalism, the oppressive belief that the correct kind salvation and healing can only be facilitated through us, on our terms with our methods—and us always happens to be white missionaries, white pastors, and white churches.”

The whole article hit home for me. As someone who works for church with a multi-campus model, I'm finding that it's easier to go into an area that is on an economic upward swing and launch a campus, then go into an area that has little economic viability.

This creates a problem by which these new campuses are contributing to an ongoing systemic problem. While I believe these churches are well-resourced and well-intentioned, I think they don't realize the damage they're perpetuating.

Unroll.me cofounder’s rant reminds us to be wary of free services

From Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:

It’s important to understand, however, that the way startups like Slice (which owns Unroll.me) and the giants of Google and Facebook treat your data is extremely different. Google and Facebook analyze information about you gathered through your email, social networking habits, demographics, and location, and use that data to entice third-party companies to advertise with them. In other words, the information they have on you allows them to sell access to your eyeballs for targeted ads in your news feed or sponsored search results.

Startups like Slice, on the other hand, collect information about you and other users and sells it to outside firms. Once it’s handed off, the client can do what it wants with the data. In both cases, however, data is sold in the aggregate, meaning you personally aren’t identified. Although admittedly, compiling a report specifically for Uber feels a little icky in light of recent negative press.

This is good explanation of the the differences between Facebook, Google and other free services. However, the lesson from Unroll.me is that you get what you pay for. If it's free then most likely your data is the product that will be sold.

This is why I'm hesitant to go all in on Facebook as publishing platform. While they do have the audience, I'm not sure I want hand everything over to someone who ultimately is interested in selling my data.

Association of Facebook Use With Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study

New research from the American Journal of Epidemiology:

Using this rich source of data, we were able to investigate the associations of Facebook use and of real-world social network activity with self-reported physical health, self-reported mental health, self-reported life satisfaction, and BMI. Although there were some variations in the significance of the different measures across outcomes, a clear pattern emerged. Our results showed that although real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being.

I'll be spending next weekend pouring over this data.