6 Things I Learned in My First 5 Years on Church Staff
A few months ago I hit my y year anniversary at my current church Brentwood Baptist. I never knew I’d spend 5 years working at the Church, but for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed my time there.
I thought I’d take some time to reflect on what I’ve learned from my transition from the Corporate world to Church world. Hopefully, this will give you some insight if you are making a similar transition, specifically in the Church Communications environment.
There are a few things you need to think through and some barriers to break through in order to get the work done.
Before I came to Brentwood Baptist, I spent 12 years with Lifeway Christian Resources. I served as a Creative Director there. I was in charge of the creative for all the visual media in terms of video for their Resource Division. I ran the creative team for them and eventually, after talking to my Pastor, I decided to jump over and try my hand at Church Communications.
As you can tell, that’s a huge leap! Going from the Corporate world the Church world was a pretty big jump and there were some things I honestly just didn’t know I was going to encounter.
Here are 6 things I learned in my first 5 years on Church staff:
1. Knowledge Gaps
One of the things I did not know when I came into Church work is that there is a large knowledge gap between most Ministers and communication techniques.
I was pretty lucky in the corporate world to be with co-workers who had a really good grasp of the majority of the tools that we worked with in terms of communication – like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others.
My co-workers knew each of these platforms well, how to coordinate messages across multiple platforms and create consistent messages and stories.
Coming to the Church world, however, was different. I didn’t realize how far behind some of them were when it came to sharing messages on social platforms. This was honestly just because it had never been asked or required of them from a formal standpoint.
For a lot of Ministers, to this day they still approach communications as if it’s a service area to hand over to someone else to take care of. They don’t realize that promoting it through their own personal channels and profiles will be much more effective. People online connect with other people, in this case, the Ministers, better than they do a generic Church account.
One example for this is VBS. If your children’s Minister is active on social media, they’ll actually do a better job and get better results promoting VBS on their own profiles versus sharing it with a generic Church profile. This is because people are more likely to relate to and connect with the face and the person.
This is something that I always assumed was common knowledge that people would just pick up on, but that isn’t always the case. This is something I’m still educating our Ministers on.
2. Measuring Success
Measuring success in the Church world is very different than in the corporate world.
In the corporate world, it’s all about revenue. At the end of the day, you track growth. This can be by year-over-year growth, net revenue and so on. These markers are easy to define. You know if you’re doing well if you’re making more money.
In the Church world, it’s really defined by 3 different things.
- Cash On Hand – how much are we bringing in?
- Attendance – how many people are in the pews?
- Building – are we in a building campaign? How many buildings?
While these 3 things are relatively easy to score, how communications plays into all this is a little bit odd.
In the corporate world, if a business needed us to promote a certain product, we’d simply look at the numbers. We’d find out how much revenue it’s bringing in and based on that, we would know how much promotion we could do for it. It was very easy to define.
In the Church, it’s very different. If the Ministry wants you to promote something, there are several things you have to take into account. These are things like how many people are going to attend, how many people are in the Ministry and how much it will cost in terms of man-hours. This is something that a lot of people just don’t really understand or grasp. This is what makes it a little more difficult and much different to define than in the corporate world.
3. Getting Leadership On Board
You have to make sure your leadership buys in from day one. What this means is that you have to make sure they are on board with all things online and digital promotion.
I have a Senior Pastor who fully believes in the online and digital promotion. I didn’t have to do any convincing with him. However, after talking with numerous people who are in Church Communications, I’m surprised at how many of them don’t have that. So many of them don’t have a pastor or leadership that is on board with what they are doing.
If you are in this position, you have to have your leadership on board. This may be one of those things where you have to repeatedly go back and try again.
If you are considering going into a Church and taking a position doing this, if your Leadership isn’t really 100% on board, you may want to re-think doing that work. It will make your work so much more difficult if your Leadership isn’t bought in.
If they are, it becomes so much easier to tell your Pastor to do a certain Facebook video, Periscope or send out a tweet. They will just get it.
4. This is a 24/7 Job
Coming from the corporate world, you typically have a 9-5 type environment. There is always a point where you shut the computer off and be done for the day. You have defined times where you don’t work, you break away and take a rest, and the weekends are just yours to do with what you want.
In the Church world, that’s not the case. It becomes a 24/7 job.
There’s always something going on with the Church. It might be a group, an event, but there’s always something.
You have to create your own barriers about how much of your time you’re prepared to give to the Church. You need to be able to thrive, and this will require you to set up some barriers for yourself.
It took me about 6-7 months to find out what my groove was going to be because at first, I didn’t know exactly what would be expected of me or what it would entail.
Once I figured out exactly what was required of me, I was able to get into a groove and set up a schedule that works really well.
5. Everyone Thinks They’re an Expert in Your Job
Anywhere you work, you’ll always come across people who think they’re an expert in your job.
I specifically find it interesting that when you’re in Church Communications, especially in video, everyone thinks they’re an expert in video.
I don’t mean this to disparage anyone, but it’s one of those things you have to be tough-skinned about.
Everyone thinks that either they can do your job, they know more about it than you, or they have a kid or a nephew who does.
Or, you’ll have people telling you that so-and-so’s Church does a better job than you do.
Understand that this is like a game of golf. The only person you’re competing against is yourself. So, take a deep breath, compete against yourself and just try to get better each day.
You have to be tough-skinned because people are going to come at you and they may not be trying to be mean, but it’s the nature of the beast. There will always be people who think they know more than you do.
6. Many Companies See Churches as Dollar Signs
There are a lot of companies out there who are trying to make a lot of money off of Churches.
I am not throwing shade at companies who genuinely want to help the Church – they are out there too – but many companies just see dollar signs.
I’ve had the privilege of working with Sunday Social, That Church Conference, Pro Church Tools, and some other people who really, genuinely want to do right by the Church. They really want to help and their hearts are in the right place.
However, I have also dealt with other companies that, at the end of the day, they were just trying to make a quick buck off of the Church.
The problem is that a lot of Churches don’t have a clue what’s happening. They’ll receive a cold call or a cold email saying something like:
“Hey, we did an analysis of your website and you need to fix XYZ. Call us today and we’ll fix it for you.”
Or they’ll say something about an awesome mobile strategy that will increase certain metrics, the list goes on and on.
While some of it may be true to a certain extent, the reality of it is that this is predatory.
They’re preying on people who don’t have industry knowledge and really don’t know any better, or simply haven’t had time to do the research.
I’ve had my fair share of cold calls and cold emails over the past 5 years that I thought either
A: These people have no idea what they’re talking about
B: If I hadn’t known any better, I would have fallen for that.
They’re out there, so be forewarned.
These people will present themselves as “experts”, consultants, or agencies but the reality is they’re just trying to make a quick buck.
Those are the things I’ve learned over the last 5 years. I continue to love what I do, and why I do what I do. The last 5 years have been a bit of a whirlwind, and who knows what the next 5 years will look like!