Strategy can compensate for lack of talent, but talent never compensates for lack of strategy. -Matt Preston
QOTD: Is this quote true for you? Have you ever seen talent outweigh strategy?
Strategy can compensate for lack of talent, but talent never compensates for lack of strategy. -Matt Preston
QOTD: Is this quote true for you? Have you ever seen talent outweigh strategy?
If you find that you “ain’t got time for that” then I encourage you to make time. This is so important and should actually help guide you in some way, shape or form towards a more developed communications strategy. I want to share with you some steps I have had to learn over and over again when figuring out how to develop and carry out a strategy. These are by no means perfect and I am sure compared to some of the experts, I have left out something. The cool thing about these steps is that I can use them constantly. I have to remember that communications strategy is an ongoing process,
This is the most important step. Without a vision, nothing is communicated. Clarify, cast and integrate your vision.
Separate what is important into levels. (Yes, everything is important but if you don’t set priorities then everything becomes important, which in turn makes nothing important.) Communications levels can be decided by the team in the order of importance. Use verbiage like “Big Days” would always let me know what was a level one. Levels can be decided into examples like this:
Level One: Easter, Christmas Eve/Day, Giving, Vision Casting, etc. Its going to be something that is going to impact at least 80-85% of the church.
Level Two: VBS, Student Camps, D-Now’s, Men/Women’s events, Promotion etc. A major ministry event that is aimed toward a large majority of your people.
Level Three: Women’s Bible study, Men’s breakfast, Celebrate Recovery, etc. This pretty much is everything else. Things that are reoccurring throughout the year.
What communication channels are most important? You should choose between 2-4 channels. (Social media – you should start out with 2-3 channels of this as well – blog, newsletter, email, announcements, etc.) This should be based on your vision and overall audience. (Note: I italicized two very important ones. You’re welcome!)
Whose is your audience? Make sure to have this written down.
Did this turn out the way you initially wanted? Identify what you want the win to be and then use that to measure your results.
This just means to start over and constantly have this process being followed throughout your church or organization.
The worst interruptions of all are meetings. Why?:
• They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things.
• They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute.
• They drift off- subject easier than a Chicago cab in a snowstorm.
• They require thorough preparation that most people don’t have time for.
• They frequently have agendas so vague that nobody is really sure of the goal.
• They often include at least one moron who inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense.
• Meetings procreate. One meeting leads to another meeting leads to another . . .
Meetings are toxic. Now don’t misunderstand me – meetings are important, but in my opinion, meetings are the worst kind of interruption. In ministry, no matter what your role is (lead pastor, executive pastor, worship pastor, communications director, children’s director, graphic designer, etc) the most important thing you can do is engage people. That’s the main priority. But churches and ministries hold a lot of meetings. It seems that there is always another reason why we need to have another meeting and sometimes these meetings are not the most successful or rather productive.
I mentioned that meetings are the worst kind of interruptions. Why? Because you must invest a lot of prep time to lead great meetings and a lot of prep time to be a part of great meetings. Unfortunately, most of us do not have a lot of time to prepare. That lack of preparation means they do not have a defined and fluid agenda. Because of this a good majority of our meetings tend to be haphazard and lacking of definitive action.
Perhaps the biggest time waster of all time (for me) is the way meetings procreate.
One meeting leads to another meeting leads to another meeting…
If you think about it, meetings ain’t cheap. They cost some moolah!
For example: When you invite ten people to an hour-long meeting, that really means 10 hours are being spent up – not just one hour. 10 people at 1 hour a piece. That’s 10 hours of productivity, time, resources, and salary devoted to one meeting.
Since we can’t eliminate meetings…I want to go through some tips that you (and me) can work at to make our meeting times more effective, productive, and valuable:
* Limit the number of people you invite. Keep meetings as small as possible. Try to have less than eight people a meeting. That way you can give everyone a chance to talk or ‘voice their opinions’. Too many people can cause a meeting to rapidly chart off course and lose its focus.
* Create a detailed agenda. Send the agenda out to everyone who will attend the meeting. I can’t tell you how many times my mind would wander about what a meeting’s topic would be about. And as always, worst case scenarios would play through over and over in my head and I would come into the meeting thinking the worst. I would recommend at least two days in advance. This will allow everyone attending to review the agenda and prepare on their own ahead of time. It also gives them time to compose any thoughts they may want to share.
* Start on time – Always. Do whatever you can to start on time. In college, I had a professor who would lock the door right at 8am. If class started at 8 and you got to the door at 8:01, the door was locked and you had to take an absence. You were not able to enter the classroom. Needless to say, we all learned very quickly to get to class on time.
* Set a timer. Whether on your iPhone, an alarm clock, a microwave or even having someone come in at the allotted time – set a time limit. If the meeting is set for 30 minutes, set your timer for 30 minutes. Scheduled for one hour – put a one hour timer. When that timer goes off, the meeting is done. No excuses. Make it known to everyone attending and have everyone agree that the meeting ends when the timer sounds.
Recap: Limit the amount of meetings you schedule and have and increase the amount of time you spend outside of said meetings, engaging people. Reaching people is our ultimate mission. Don’t allow meetings to poison your ministry.
A lot of my learning I gained from reading books and learning from others. I created this list of books for anyone involved in not only church communications, but ministry in general. Each of these books will definitely help you communicate your church’s vision and message with intentionality, with simplicity, and overall with effectiveness. I know they have definitely helped me.
“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” – Leo Babauta
Working in the church has allowed me to learn and observe some awesome things and some not so awesome things. If there is one thing churches need to work on is communications ministry. So many times we shout at the top of our lungs from the pulpit with so many announcements from every which way that our congregations get confused about what is important for them. We need to learn how to communicate what is important. We need to learn how to communicate what matters the most. If there is one thing you get out of the next 7 points I am going to be going through is: By communicating everything, you communicate absolutely nothing. Each Sunday, we as church communicators and leaders need to communicate what matters.
Nothing in the history of Christendom, save perhaps the Second Crusade, rivals the ineffectiveness of the church’s ability to accomplish an intended purpose more than the medium of in-service announcements.
I wish the Bible had some direction in regard to announcements.
So why are announcements chronically bad? There are a number of answers: ranging from announcement guy or gal walking on stage unprepared and oblivious to where the congregation is emotionally; to the presenter thinking this is a great opportunity to practice their stand-up routine.
On Twitter, someone tweeted, “ The Bible does not have announcements, why should we?” At first I thought, “Yeah, that’s right, down with announcements altogether!” Then, I thought about it. It’s actually not true that the Bible does not have announcements. Technically, the Bible is one big giant announcement.
Let’s start with Jesus. Prophets, kings, psalmists, angels and John the Baptist announced Jesus coming. Or what about the book of Revelation? Is it not just a giant announcement of what is to come? Even the rapture will start with an announcement from the heavens. Notice that these announcements really matter. There’s not a bake sale in the bunch.
Here’s the point. When we fail at offering our people life-giving announcements that really matter, we are failing at something that the word of God does extremely effectively and on purpose.
The Bible uses announcements so effectively because God understands the nature of proclamation. When done right and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, announcements have the ability to bridge people into God’s purposes for their lives. An effective announcement can see a marriage healed through the conference you are hosting or an alcoholic find sobriety through the Celebrate Recovery ministry your church sponsors. Simply put, announcements are a passage to seeing people transformed. Every time we do announcements poorly or perfunctory, it means people, your people, are missing an opportunity to be changed.
So what is the answer? It’s pretty simple. Announcements need to be valued in the same way you value worship and teaching. No, I’m not saying that your announcements are on par with the eternal word of God, but they should contribute to a functional life-giving worship experience.
There are lots of great and creative ways to do announcements from videos to quick interviews. The medium is up to you. The non-negotiable is that they need to offer your people life.
The first month as the ____ pastor/director/minister/associate at a new church I think can be one of the toughest months as you get to know the congregation, learn the culture, and try to figure out how things work. You get all sorts of people coming up to you with smiling faces and firm hand shakes, telling you their names and after a while it sounds like the all familiar teacher from Charlie Brown – “Whon whon wha wha whooon.”
If you’re in worship ministry, you may get tons of emails of people within the congregation wanting to do ‘new’ songs. (Looking at the bright side…your iTunes library will grow with free mp3’s that were attached to all those emails). If you’re in outreach or small groups ministry, you may get phone calls and ‘surprise’ visits from people who want to know what you’re all about and what makes you the right person for the job. (Questions like: “Why did the other guy really leave?” “Have you ever worked with my type of small group; I just started it” “What is the most exciting mission trip you have been on?”) All questions to get to know who you are. Be confident. Be prepared. If you’re in Youth ministry, you get to meet parents and teens. And you sometimes may get extremely varied responses. Some teens may look at you like you’re their long-lost best friend. Others act like you shot their puppy and then ran over him with your car. Some parents may give you the pleasure of awkward conversations about their teen dealing with [insert issue here]. Some parents will want to be involved with your planning and want to sit in the back every week and meet with you to give you their encouraging critiques [do those words go together?]. No matter what areas you come into, ultimately, you have to learn the rhythm of the church. [Where to put forms, what drawers in the kitchen you must never touch under any circumstances, etc.]
The worst part, though, is that a lot of times you just don’t know what to do! It’s a weird contradiction. You simultaneously have a whole lot to do and very little to do. How? Well, you don’t have a daily routine of things to get done, but you have a lot of “newbie steps” to do that can seem overwhelming.
So, what do you do in the first few months at a new church? Let’s go through some of them so that things can go a bit smoother for you:
This is priority number 1, and priority number 2, and 3, 4, 5…
If you do nothing else the first month at a church, this should be it. If you can avoid it, don’t jump into leading a small group or teaching a Sunday School class. Try to hang back and use the time to meet people and get to know them. Learn names. Learn names. Learn names. [It’s one of the hardest things for me. And the bigger the congregation, the harder and longer it’s going to take to learn names.] If you’re church still has a paper back directory [most churches today use online tools like this] or grab one and study it. Once your first Sunday has passed and you have been able to meet some people…go on Facebook and reach out to as many of those people you met as you can. Identify the people who are the ‘social butterflies’ and ask them to introduce you to everyone! You’ll of course get to know the teens, but you need to get to meet everyone you can. Those little old ladies and the other people who might not come up to you could have a big impact on your ministry so get to know them as well.
This may be obvious to you but just in case you don’t know…each church is different. If you can, sit down with a staff member or church leader and have them clue you into everything they can think of. You’ll get it all eventually, but whatever you can learn early on will keep you from stepping on a landmine down the road. If there is a way for you to, go back and read old newsletters and bulletins. Those things are filled with clues to the church culture. Most importantly, just be observant. You can learn a lot by keeping your mouth closed and opening your eyes and ears. If you are conscious of how the church operates and try to adapt yourself to its rhythms, you’ll be good to go.
The first couple weeks, you may find yourself saying, “Hmmm, I’ve got nothing to do…” Use this time to organize your office. You probably won’t have time to do it after the first couple weeks. If there is one thing I have noticed about offices, is that when someone has an organized office…it communicates something about them – that their professional and they take this job seriously. It’s just a good idea to take a couple of days to set it up right so you don’t have to worry about it later.
You will have a lot of people you need to meet with. Church staff, parents, leaders, students, volunteers, – the list goes on. You may or may not be able to meet with all these groups of people in the first month, but you should at least make plans to meet with them at some point. You are meeting with them to get to know them, of course, but you are also meeting with them to share your vision. They need to know what you’re about, what you’re going to do, and most importantly the role they play in it.
This one can be easy or hard, depending on your community. Drive around and get to know the area. Learn where the schools are. See where students hang out. Read the local newspaper or check out online resources about the town. Get an idea about the heartbeat of the place. This is your mission field – study it carefully. Ask questions. This should be something you continually do, but make the first steps in this first month.
You should be observing and evaluating the ministry from the first minute you come through the door. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What sort of things did they do in the past? What curriculum (if any) is used? How are the facilities? Just look at every aspect of the ministry, and see how it works. Again, ask questions. Even asking those you will be working with (staff, volunteers, students and parents, etc.) on how things are. Getting that clear picture will help later.
You should start laying the foundation of your plans for the ministry. You don’t need to lay out exactly what you want to do, just some general goals for the future. (Example: let’s say in a year you want to have started a special needs ministry. Set that as a goal, and then make some plans on the how to. Or, say you need new volunteers: set a goal that in 8 months you’ll have 4 new volunteers.) Have an idea of what you want to do, but remember to keep it flexible enough so that if it’s not a good idea that’s ok. And in 8 months when you have learned some new things, you can apply them.
The first month at a church can seem a bit overwhelming, but it is also an awesome time to meet new people, make new friends, learn about a new place, and have an opportunity to do some awesome things for God’s kingdom.
Enjoy the first early months, but be sure to use them to your full advantage.
It was 6:00 a.m. when I rolled out of bed. Only 72 hours earlier, I was waking up to life as a college student. On Saturday, as I walked across my alma mater’s commencement platform, my thoughts were enamored with the enormity of the future ahead of me, symbolized by the mighty blue Pacific Ocean extending into the horizon. It was now Wednesday morning, and my thoughts were focused on the morning rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles and the uniform I had seen my baby-boomer father put on nearly every day of my childhood life: a freshly starched dress shirt, slacks and, on this occasion, the best tie I could find.
I was a fortunate outlier. Amidst historic times of economic recession plaguing the futures of my fellow college graduates, I had finished college not just with my diploma in hand, but also a job. I was finally joining “the big boy working world.”
My job hunt brought me to the management team of a nonprofit agency. My responsibilities required managing staff, coordinating volunteers and developing programs for clients. In other words, in a matter of days, I had transitioned from undergrad student to professional leader. But I soon learned it wasn’t quite as simple as that.
THE SIMPLEST OF QUESTIONS RADICALLY CHALLENGED MY NOTION OF MY PLACE IN THE OFFICE WHEN MY ASSISTANT, A BABY BOOMER, TURNED TO ME AND ASKED, “ANDREW, HOW OLD ARE YOU?”
From my undergrad experience, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what it takes to lead. Whether it was serving on student government or representing my high school classmates on the city school board, I was used to leading people. You agree to serve, run for a position, and more times than not, you have some title to hold. This naiveté oozed from my Millennial self as I drove to work that first day, ready to begin the next chapter as a “director.”
The simplest of questions radically challenged my notion of my place in the office when my assistant, a baby boomer, turned to me and asked, “Andrew, how old are you?”
This first job gave me a crash course in the challenges of leading as a Millennial in an intergenerational workplace, and I had to recognize different approaches to learning and living that I hadn’t considered before. Without a doubt, the meetings with my baby-boomer assistant, daily conversations with my Gen-X boss and other interactions with clients and colleagues taught me and challenged me more than I could have ever imagined after spending most of the previous four years around people my age.
After nearly a year and a half in the position, I realized there was a lot more to learn in order to contribute my best in developing people and serving organizations. The next step in my Millennial journey, then, took me to graduate school, beginning a M.A. in, of all things, leadership.
Leadership has been a focal point of our cultural consciousness for centuries. We’ve debated whether or not leaders are born are made. Countless articles and books have been published to help leaders with easy tips and quick solutions for our most common problems. This is especially true in the Church, where leadership is often considered the capstone of spiritual maturity.
“I AM ALSO GETTING IN TOUCH WITH THE MYSTERY THAT LEADERSHIP, FOR A LARGE PART, MEANS TO BE LED.” —HENRI NOUWEN
Yet with recent movements and revolutions from Wall Street to the Middle East, we have shown that followers are an even more significant element in the leadership equation than had been previously believed. It’s the followers who comprise the fuller movements that pave the way for real change.
Additionally, organizational structure is shifting. Different generations of leaders in companies have transitioned from largely organizational cultures of hierarchy and bureaucracy to new atmospheres of collaboration with flatter structures.
In this new reality, the emphasis on authority, position and title has been diminished. By 2020, many expect that we will have an unprecedented five generations at work together. As today’s record numbers of Millennials appear on the workplace scene, they have big aspirations and carry the expectation, often, to rise to the top in a position of leadership.
Our culture has long prized leadership, usually praising achievement of position or applauding titles and authority. But with these new developments and changing workplace realities, we have an opportunity to change the way we think about and practice leadership, especially across the growing generational spectrum at work.
Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen names this new opportunity well: “I am also getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led.” My experiences, and maybe yours as well, have quite poignantly aligned with his countercultural words. Through leading as a Millennial fresh out of college, my eyes have been opened to the great possibilities of learning and living when you realize there is much that you don’t know and much to be learned.
By learning how to follow well, we learn how to better lead. Despite entering the workplace with limited experience, Millennials have a unique opportunity to contribute to the organizations where we work and serve. Alongside colleagues from across the generational spectrum, who have already seen great change in the workplace, my fellow Millennials can contribute the most by leading and living with an attitude of perpetual learning. When we recognize and live with this attitude, we continue the journey of never arriving. This is the best kind of leadership we can offer.
Anything people read, touch, or click is considered communications. Maybe there is something to add to that, but I haven’t really found that yet. When it comes to church communications I think this is crucial because:
The role of church communications is changing…it’s no longer about a church secretary typing announcements into a pre-printed bulletin shell. Church communications now involves a lot of planning, strategy and people who are focused on directing the different communications channels of a church. In 2 words, hard work. There are some churches that have started to see the need and importance of having a full time staff member as a communications director. The director of communications is responsible for managing and directing a church’s internal and external communications. They work to create communication strategies and (depending on their role or level of authority) serve as the key spokesperson and media contact for the organization. The director of communications typically reports to an executive pastor and/or lead pastor. They handle all messaging in the church outside of the Sunday morning messages and work to build teams to support all facets of church communications (print, media, web, etc.). They are passionate about the church’s vision and care about how it translates to people inside and outside of the church. They defend it. They design it. They care about it.
The local church is the hope of the world. I believe it has the greatest message that’s out there, the message of the Gospel. And with that, the greatest message deserves the greatest marketing, creativity, and storytelling. If there is one thing I am learning from school is that marketers spend millions of dollars every single year to tell us that our lives would be better or enhanced with the products, services, or ideas they are selling. I know that we are not about selling salvation as a product. The goal of the church is not to try and woo people to our ‘services’ (haha) or trying to convince them to convert or whatever….we are about seeing the trajectory of people’s lives changed. Seeing hearts surrendered to Jesus. Being a young person, I have the privilege and curse of being part of the generation that has made it harder and harder to communicate with. The cool thing is…with that comes the challenge of communicating the unchanging, timeless message of the Gospel in way that is relevant and compelling to the culture of its time.
Watch this video:
That commercial was for a WEB BROWSER. Google Chrome. What? Wow. Why didn’t they focus on the features and explain why Google Chrome is better than the rest or the best for you to use? Because Google understands the power of storytelling. They focused us on the story of Sophie and her Dad. They wanted us to watch it, get attached, say a few “aww” and “how sweet!” and emotionally connect with it. Less product. More story. Well, it worked for me.
What message are the experiences people have with your church communicating?
What does your marketing say about you and your church?
Is there a disconnect between what you say and what people experience?
What if Starbucks marketed like churches do? Watch this video: