Featured Member of the Week: Derek Hanson
What’s your name?
Where do you serve, what is your title and how long have you served there?
I am the Director of Communications at Christ Community Church in Ames, IA. I have served here for almost three years.
How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t go to church?
As the director of communications, I get to manage our website, app, social media, email, print, basically any communication about our church, our Upward Sports program, and our community center. I love it. I get to use my talents in design and communication to help connect people to life-defining relationships in Christ. I get to work with great people, collaborate on fun projects, and share with the community who we are and what we do.
What were some of the things that you experienced that shaped the way you approach your work?
Communication is a ministry. When I started, I thought I was going to basically just do communication. My background is working in rhetoric and professional communication in a university setting. I figured communications at a church I was just going to work on our website, create designs, just more communication stuff like I already did but in a church. I learned from the beginning that I was thinking too small.
The first week I started, I reached out to a church communications director at another church in a nearby city. He said join the Church Communications Facebook group. That shaped everything about what I do in my job at my church. I didn’t know church communications was even a thing. After joining the group, I realized that I didn’t just decide to take a job at a church; I was called into a ministry that God prepared me for. I realized that joining a community to learn from and contribute to is just as important as the weekly workload of communicating for my own church.
Joining a community of communicators reminded me that people are always at the core of what we do. We as questions when we are stuck with a particular tool or design. We share struggles and ask for advice. We give guidance and share knowledge and experience. Above all, we share our wins, celebrate, and inspire each other and our local church body. I don’t think locally about communication but broadly as part of the body of Christ and how we are privileged to be called into spreading the message of Jesus and helping others to do the same.
What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job?
Communications is a ministry. I think that the history of creative, communication work overshadows the great ministry work we are actively doing. No matter the size of your communication department, there is always that urgency or pull from church ministry leaders to support their own ministry work, completing task after task.
We engage in other church communicators to offer training, mentorship, and prayer. We get to recruit volunteers to help on projects. We get to support ministry leaders with our communication expertise, guiding language, design, purpose, value, and audience awareness. Above all, we get to help spread the greatest message of all time and share our church’s mission, strategies, and values.
What is the one tool for your job that you can’t live without and why?
Asana. Not only does Asana help keep our tasks planned and scheduled, it has allowed us as a broader Support Ministries team to shape how our church plans ministry for the year. We have fully implemented two, 6-month planning cycles that ministries collaborate on, schedule their events and programs, and we allocate our support and communication resources for the whole six months. As I am writing this, I am in the process of scheduling communication channels, dates, and tasks for myself and ministry leaders for every ministry project. Basically, if all goes as planned, my next six months will pretty much run itself so I can focus on telling our church’s story.
What is the biggest mistake that you see churches making when it comes to communications and marketing?
Getting straight to the details and focusing too much on the how. I think people often jump to questions like, what do you think of this design? Or, how can I make this particular thing the way I want?
As communicators, we need to take a step outside of the task at hand and as the purpose or the why questions. How does this design communicate to my audience? Who is my intended audience? What is the purpose of choosing to use a particular platform? Before creating the next big design that is currently trending, or choosing to use the latest and greatest platform, or deciding to update your website or start live streaming, ask this one important question: Will my decision as a church communicator help bring value to the mission and strategy of my church? Here you have to think locally. What is best in our context and for our people. We don’t ask why enough.
Who is someone that you look to up in the church communications world?
Katie Allred. That’s not just fan service because this is the Church Communications group! She’s honest, she’s energetic, and she’s excited about the mission of being a church communicator. There are a lot of great communicators to look up to, and Katie has helped bring that community of people together so we can all connect and grow with each other.
What an insightful interview session – thank you for letting us get a sneak peak of your life as a communicator, Derek! Stay as motivated and well-performing as you are – you are a great example to all Church Communicators!