Featured Member Of The Month: Lanni Willson

Ezra Cerezo

Featured Member Of The Month: Lanni Willson

Ezra Cerezo

What’s your name?

Lanni Willson

Where do you serve, what is your title, and how long have you served there?

I serve at The Refinery Christian Church in Goodyear, Arizona as the Communications and Online Pastor. I’ve been on staff at The Refinery in a variety of roles for over 12 years.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t go to church?

I am responsible for sharing who we are and what we’re all about as a community to people outside the church, as well as keeping our church community in the know about news and events. I manage our website, social media and other online channels, and facilitate sharing a recording of our weekly church service online.

What were some of the things that you experienced that shaped the way you approach your work?

About 4 years ago, after being on staff for nearly 9 years, I experienced compassion fatigue and burnout which led me to resign my position at the church. Stepping away allowed me to not only rekindle my relationship with Jesus, it also gave me new perspective about prioritizing time with Him, time for myself, and time with my husband and family. I recognized that one of the things that contributed to the frustrations and tensions that I felt on staff prior to my “self-imposed time out” (as I like to call it) was not feeling as though I had all the information I needed to do my job (which was a different role at the time) as well as not feeling included in the mission of the church. I came to understand that my poor physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health was a major contributor in feeling undervalued and excluded. When I was graciously welcomed back on staff 14 months later, I knew that if I wanted to avoid burnout and frustration again, I needed to put a few things into practice:

  1. It’s more than okay to not be productive all of the time. Observe a sabbath.
  2. Be clear with myself and my lead team about my boundaries; making sure I had the time that I needed with my family. Saying no to good things regularly is healthy and appropriate.
  3. Be proactive about sharing what I needed to be successful in my role. Communication is key in every relationship.
  4. Seek clarity for anything that I have questions about both ministry related and interpersonally. The story I tell myself when I don’t have all the answers is typically not very close to the truth. Especially in my role as Communications Pastor, keeping lines of communcation open with my team and seeking clarity not only makes me a better team member, it has been key in making sure I have all the information I need to communicate to those we are trying to reach for Jesus both inside and outside the church.

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job?

Creating engaging content that appeals to a broad audience and bridges the digital divide to make a personal connection is challenging. Also, I’m not a mindreader. I’m good, but I can’t possibly know everything.

What is the one tool for your job that you can’t live without, and why?

Crowdsourcing. This job requires the willingness and ability to continually learn from others. The Church Communications Facebook Group has played a vital role in that. Not only do the posts asking questions help me to learn best practices and solutions, it also reminds me that I am not the only one who still has questions.

What is the biggest mistake that you see churches making when it comes to communications and marketing?

I don’t know if this is as much of a mistake as an adjustment, but one of things that I have observed at our church and other churches that may need a rethink, is using a language that implies that the audience is people who are already connected with our community. It’s been a slow process, but I have been working toward making changes and helping our communicators to remember that whether they are speaking to an in-person or online audience, they need to use language that is inviting and inclusive of those who aren’t already a part of our community.

Who is someone that you look up to in the church communications world?

In all honesty, most of my time in this role has been during COVID. I’ve been learning from so many through this group and through the many virtual conferences I’ve attended in the last year or so. It’s hard to pinpoint one person. But I’m very thankful for Katie Allred, Kenny Jahng, and everyone at Church Communications for championing and equipping me and those of us in this role.


Big thanks to Lanni Wilson for her 12 years of amazing work as the Communications and Online Pastor at The Refinery Christian Church in Arizona. We really connect with Lanni’s lesson about taking breaks, setting boundaries, and talking openly to avoid feeling exhausted at work. Keep it up, Lanni! Your honesty about the challenges in creating engaging content resonates with many, and your dedication is truly inspiring.

Check out some previously featured members:


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
On Key

Related Posts