I’ve been hearing a theme lately at conferences, podcasts, blogs, facebook groups, published books, (and in private messages and emails to me. Side note: firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat) and it’s been on my mind, almost to the point of concern.
It’s not a point of concern because I disagree or I think it’s misleading, but the concern is that it’s true, and relevant to enough people to come up in so many unrelated contexts.
Maybe it’s time to consider moving on from your church job.
This theme comes up in different ways like:
Working at a church can be a terrible job.
Let me guess: Your “other duties as assigned” are taking more time than your actual job description.
If you leadership (read: Pastor, Manager, Supervisor, Board of Directors) doesn’t trust you to do your work, then find somewhere that allows you to do what you know to do.
We know that often church wages are sub-par compared to wages outside the church. If that’s causing stress, there are other places you can do similar work, clock out at the end of the day, and make more money.
To be clear, none of the speakers or writers were making a suggestion, and all suggested ways to work out the details, but they all had the message that it’s ok to move on if you need to.
I wish I had a magic wand to solve all of these statements, and if you haven’t noticed yet, I don’t.
I don’t even have answers to most of them, and definitely not blanket statements that you as a leader can apply at your church, because your culture and context is unique from every other church, however what I do know is:
Leaders: The problem is your culture.
Like it or not, your culture, informed by your values, drives every decision, delegation, and experience that your church is known for, whether internally with your staff or volunteers, or externally in your community.
I won’t pretend to even make suggestions about necessary steps, but, for a moment, here are a few things to consider when adjusting or evaluating your culture so your church is a great place to work.
Why Having Clearly Articulated Values Matters:
Your culture is informed by your values. Being unclear about your values (meaning discussing, writing them down, and having them come up in every discussion where a decision is made) doesn’t mean a culture doesn’t exist. It means that your culture is a wide net, with ever-changing results where it can feel like anything goes, and then nothing goes.
Whether you realize it or not, every decision made is based on values: What you wear, how you do your hair, whether you brushed your teeth, what you ate for breakfast, what time you woke up, which brand of toothpaste you use, whether you made coffee at home or picked one up on the way to the office – all of these decisions were made this morning based on your values, even before you left your house.
When you don’t have values articulated for your church, then each person is making decisions based on their personal values, which, understandably, are going to vary from one person to another.
This is why we get church splits over how to spend money.
One person values reaching people in our community and wants to update the carpet in the entrance to improve the first impression. Another person values reaching people who haven’t been reached and wants to use that money to build a church overseas.
Neither are wrong, and both could be the best answer depending on the organization and the situation, but the head-to-head values where one person can’t understand the other’s side creates an impasse.
When you make a decision for your organization or your staff, you’re making them based on your personal values, and each staff member is making their decision based on their values, and mixed together, that’s where ideas and opinions collide – actually, it’s where culture can’t come to terms with itself and either collides or separates.
Making group decisions based on only personal values is like trying to mix oil and water. Nobody is going to win.
Having clear organizational values fixes this:
When a church (or business, or organization) has clearly articulated your values, then an interesting phenomenon happens: People will allow the organization’s values to override their values when making decisions on behalf of the organization.
The conversation when making a decision moves from “I think we should….” to “Since we value X, then we could…..”
Since we value reaching our community first, then we could spend that money getting the old carpet replaced.
Since we value family, we could have a conference focussed around parenting, rather than a business conference.
Since we value multiplication, we could build a new campus rather than expand our current building.
Unless you’ve clearly articulated your values, there’s no way these conversations can happen.
What does that have to do with church staff?
I get it. Having 3-5 values doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to pay your staff more, or that they’ll produce perfect work the first time and won’t get their feelings hurt if there needs to be a revision.
Values allow a framework for discussions, and can inform:
How staff can have a respectful conversation with a different opinion from the leadership so they feel like they’re being heard. “Would you help me understand your decision based on our values?”
How and when you evaluate compensation.
Discussions for interviewing and on-boarding new staff so they’re clear on your culture
People who thought your valued something, but realize you actually value something different can move on to create a more cohesive team.
How staff help those they manage to understand the decisions they’re making. “Since we value X, the decision is to…. – Do you have any ideas on other ways we can help people experience that value in this situation?”
If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, I help churches use this framework to create a Community Impact Strategy where we’ll not only walk through how to discover your core values, but also how to make them practical in a 6-month marketing strategy to impact your community. Ready to learn more? Send me an email: email@example.com
What are your church’s core values? Leave a comment so we can learn together.
(recently, I wrote a letter to Pastors hoping to help start conversations about why communications teams are overwhelmed. This is a follow up to that letter. The letter that I wrote to pastors has gained more attention than I had imagined, with a 1400% increase in traffic to my blog on the day that I published it.
Along with the public shares, comments posts, and tweets, I also received private messages from people in that role who thanked me for helping them realize that they’re not the only one who face those pressures. As a follow-up, I write this.)
Dear Church Communications Teams,
I hope I was clear in my blog post that I wasn’t creating the list to create a justification for laziness on our communications teams, or entitlement.
Famously in church world, we have a habit of bragging about how bad we have it. Twice in recent memory, I’ve sat at a table with 4 or 5 Pastors (or Pastoring couples) I’d never met before, and they each took turns talking about how bad their latest church split was, or how their county wouldn’t approve their building permits, or a how long their church has been struggling with finances.
We have to push against this culture. We’ll never reach our communities with the compassion of Jesus if we’re so intent on making ourselves out to be victims, and the same is just as true with our communications teams.
In communications, the pressures of overwhelm are real, but we don’t have to give in or give up.
There’s a reason that some people thrive in the environment and others give in or give up. I can think of a dozen people in a blink of an eye who are thriving in that position, and here are some observations about how I see them blazing the trail that we can all learn from.
In the true spirit of the typical creative. Here are quick ideas and bullet points you can turn into a checklist.
Review this with your leader and find out if you are unclear on any of these details.
Build an online form to handle incoming design/event/promotion requests to get all of your information in one place. If you’re not sure how to do that, use a pre-built service like ChurchRequests.
Find a volunteer with an administrative gifting/project manager. You don’t have to do this alone, especially if it’s not your strong suit.
Use a project management software to track your progress where each department can see the progress without having to interrupt you to ask. My project management stack is simply Trello + Dropbox + Email. (as an alternative to email, a lot of teams use slack.)
Create timelines of how long projects take, and provide that timeline to all other departments. Maybe a sign requires 6 weeks: 2 weeks for creative and first proof, 2 weeks for revisions, 2 weeks for printing and hanging. Maybe a Facebook post is 2 days. Create the timelines so your departments know what to expect and are clear when you say you are able to or unable to fulfill a request.
The worst answer you can give someone when they make a request is “no”. I know we hear all the time that we need to learn to say more no often, but in our role, we need to try and find a way to make things happen.
Instead of No, you left it too late,” or “No, I’m too busy right now,” aim for “Instead, we could try THIS with the time we have left,” or “Instead, I do have a file from last year. Could we make it work if we just change the details?”
Take care of yourself
This is for sure the most obvious, and the least likely to actually happen. You might be getting overwhelmed because you’re in a fog from not taking care of yourself, or personal situations are occupying your focus at work.
Pray and read your bible.
Instead of burning an hour at night on your phone, turn it off and get an extra hour of sleep.
Eat properly and intentionally.
Stand up from your desk and go for a 5-minute walk a few times a day.
Turn off your phone either Saturday or Sunday after church, and let your team know you won’t be accessible.
Have phone-free / work-free conversations with friends and family over lunch or dinner.
Get your personal finances in order and save for emergencies.
Build your relationship with your leaders
Remind yourself that while they may not fully understand your challenges, you can’t fully understand theirs either.
Understand that their decisions may include factors that you’re not privy to.
Recognize that they may be trying to hide their own stresses to support you.
Remind them that you love them, you’re committed to them and you’re committed to the mission of your church. (do it now. Send a text or email)
Offer feedback, and recognize there may be confidential details that won’t allow them to fully explain what’s going on.
Trust them to have your best in mind.
Have real conversations, tell the truth, express your frustrations, and re-affirm your commitment to the team.
Ask for their trust with questions like “I see we have different ideas on this. May I try this my way to see what the results are?”
Talk about your role: “I think I would be a lot strong contributor to the team if I was able to focus more on X instead of Y. How could we move towards that?”
You can do this. The pressures are not impossible to handle. You’ll have to be intentional, but the results are worth the effort.
Whether your key communications and marketing person is staff or volunteer, you’ve probably run into hearing that he or she is overwhelmed from time to time.
You need to know that it’s not unusual for the position, not always something they are doing wrong, and not something that can be fixed overnight (or debatably, not something that can ever be permanently resolved).
There are some strategies that you can implement to help them address feeling overwhelmed and reduce the likeliness of it recurring.
My goal is not to defend or justify laziness, disorganization or an entitlement mentality. My goal is to give you a peek into our world – a world we can’t always articulate – with some practical tools to help so your communications department can reduce the likelihood of being overwhelmed and be as effective as possible in helping your church introduce your community to Jesus.
Why is feeling ‘Overwhelmed’ affecting your church communications department?
Before we dig into strategies to mitigate and address overwhelming situations, I wanted to dig in a bit about why they affect the communications department specifically. I know these details are different for every church, community, and culture, but generally speaking, here are some of the ideas that affect most churches.
Consideration 1) Vertical: The Communication Leader is Middle Management
The communications department is somewhere in middle management in the organization’s structure. Usually, the communications person is not the lead Pastor, and often they have someone working under them that they oversee – whether this is a graphic design contractor like Church Media Squad, or working with external software and teams like Text In Church, or a volunteer team on-site at your church.
While not making the decision, or sometimes getting input into decisions, the Church Communications person represents the decision as if it’s their own and communicates on behalf of the leadership and the church (internally or externally).
This can be taxing when we have an idea of how to best communicate something, which channel to use, or how to position an announcement, but we’re considered robots – following directions about how, when and where from someone who may not understand our tools – rather than considering us creative people who specialize understanding our tools and presenting ideas in a unique way.
Consideration 2) Horizontal: We primarily serve other departments.
Some leaders are in a solely-focussed role, while other leaders who are wearing a few hats may have to work in 2 or 3 categories. Your communications person needs to have their ears to the ground in almost every category, event and department at your church.
For example, the youth leader has a full plate getting youth services ready, preparing games, food, missions trips, weekends away, counseling students, communicating with parents and executing midweek services or small groups. While the responsibilities are diverse, all of those items fall in the category of the youth department.
A week in a communication person’s world may look like:
When is VBS?
How many new small groups are we adding this year?
What is our Social Media strategy leading up to Back to School / Back to Church?
Did the printer quit partway through printing the bulletins?
What are we including in announcements this weekend?
Did we get that email sent out about the food drive coming up this weekend?
Where did last week’s volunteer photographer leave the battery when they were done?
Is it time for us to rebuild the website? Kids ministry pictures are outdated.
Why aren’t we getting as many new likes on facebook this month as we got last month?
I need to get a quote from the printer on new banners for our parking lot.
Which graphic would best suit the upcoming series?
We often have to make decisions that are going to lead to some amount of disappointment in other departments:
We’re announcing this but not that (one person is happy and another is not.)
We only have one spot to hang a banner, so we’re hanging this banner up, but not that one (one department gets promoted, and another isn’t).
We’re not going to promote small groups in that way (now a whole group of people is disappointed because they wanted their small group to get an announcement, bulletin mention, yard signs, billboard, radio ad, a personal Instagram video from Pastor, and a parade downtown are all upset that you “don’t value their group as much as they do”)
Consideration 3) How long does that really take?
In addition to having both Vertical and Horizontal responsibilities, our “to do” list is often misunderstood or misrepresented. The question of “How long does that really take?” is an important part of the ongoing conversation that you can have with your team.
With the perception that “Posting on facebook is as quick as sending a text message” or “Creating a 2-minute video is hitting record on your phone and recording for 2 minutes,” or “I write a 3 paragraph email in 10 minutes, so writing a 3 paragraph email newsletter should only take 10 minutes,” or “Just send the bulletin to the printer and pick it up when it’s done in an hour.” (I could go on…)
In light of those perceptions, the ACTUAL time it takes to craft a Facebook post, or shoot an announcement video or write an email newsletter may seem too long and can create a sense that the communications person is unproductive or needs more on their plate to fill their work hours.
Did it really take you 20 minutes to edit a photo and create a 1-sentence caption for Instagram? Did it really take a whole afternoon to film and edit a 4-minute announcement video? You’ve been working on that email newsletter for how long?!
Keep in mind that a 40-minute sermon may take you days to craft at times, and other times, could literally take only 40 minutes, and many care and counselling roles at churches are driven by meetings: a 1-hour meeting takes one hour. A 15-minute meeting takes 15 minutes. Surprises and overruns don’t happen often when you have back-to-back meetings – you can simply schedule another meeting if needed for a future date.
The same isn’t true when creativity and technology meet at a crossroads.
While we have tools that make us more efficient, creatives often use the tools to do better work, not faster work – we may use a tool that gives us a better final outcome, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we spend less time picking a color, or choosing our words, or adding in final touches to a video.
Consideration 4) How much energy does that take?
It’s not uncommon for a creative person to be exhausted by 2 pm or 3 pm.
Sometimes we’re night owls, so our best ideas (and best work) happen late at night. It’s possible we were up until 3 am night working on graphics for church this weekend, then at the office at 9 am the next day for a staff meeting.
Maybe it’s that we’re morning people, so we’re able to knock out a creative video in an hour at 9 am, but that level of energy is going to leave us unable to put together a perfect tagline for the next series at 3 pm.
Inversely, someone who is a night owl who has a flex-schedule may work until 2 am, get into the office at 11 am and have some of their most productive time mid-afternoon with a great project to show from the night before.
Being “less productive” from mid-afternoon until the end of the day isn’t always a symptom of laziness (although, let’s be clear that sometimes it may), but it may be a symptom that we’ve given our best for the organization at other times through the day, and we need to recharge.
Just because something took 1 hour this morning, doesn’t mean we can turn around and repeat it in 1 hour this afternoon.
Consider a creative day like a boxing match. A punch is a punch, but that doesn’t mean that round 5 has the same level of sustained energy as round 1.
I’ve heard from many Pastors that they are exhausted after preaching for an hour on Sunday. It would be ridiculous to assume that one hour of replying to emails on Monday might take the same energy as presenting a one hour message on Sunday. The same is true for someone who is spending their creative energy.
The same thing may be true early in the week compared to later in the week. It’s different for every person, but there has to be some flex built into the schedule for considerations about “How much energy does that take?”
Consideration 5) Our world is always changing.
…And I don’t mean that every few years a new channel shows up. What I mean is that what you see another church doing on Instagram may not be able to reproducible the next week, or what you see someone with a large following doing on facebook may be a feature that requires 100K or more ‘likes’ on their page, and you simply aren’t there.
What you did on facebook last month to get an incredible response may fall flat this month, Instagram may add or remove a feature, and twitter may change how their timeline functions altogether.
You may not get the results you’re used to from one day to another, or your communications person might have built a strategy around a particular feature which is no longer accessible one week into a campaign.
A program they’re used to using could run an update and change the layout of the toolbar that takes them an extra half hour to get re-oriented, and Google may change what constitutes as “spam” email, and way fewer people may open the email this week compared to last week.
Unlike the worship team that turns on the same sound system each week or the kid’s team that has the same classroom space in your building, their world, tools (and the communication strategies/tools they use) are always a moving target.
Consideration 6) We execute with a strategy in mind.
While you may think that it’s only going to take a few minutes to publish a simple “last-minute” post on facebook, that may actually hurt your big-picture strategy.
In this example, Facebook wants to see engagement on each individual post to determine how often to share the next. If you had just posted on facebook a few minutes ago, it can actually hurt the impact of both posts by publishing too quickly again since there wasn’t much time for people to see and engage with the first post.
If your communications team has a strategy about what gets included in Sunday announcements, it could actually hurt the impact of the 3 important things they want to share when you insist on Sunday morning that there are 4 additional things that need to be mentioned without discussion.
They love your church. They’re doing this because they love the community, your vision, and they want to communicate effectively. They’ve made decisions that lead to a certain result (and your team would probably love to have a conversation with you about that.)
I imagine that you wouldn’t randomly walk into a youth service and tell the youth leader to add in a new song that night or tell the kids teachers on a Sunday morning to change their lesson plan. A random “I need you to do this now” doesn’t reflect an appreciation for the strategy your communications person brings to the table.
Something more like “We need to communicate this urgently. How can we best do that?” shows that you trust what they’re doing and you’re trusting them to handle the details.
Consideration 7) Our work is on public display
Ask your communications person how many communications they get per month about a typo on the screens or a detail incorrect on a facebook post (that instead of commenting privately, the event co-ordinator decided to make a public comment on the post to correct the details). It’s not that your communications person is sloppy, but we’re human and mistakes happen – and ours are often public.
Worse than actual, identifiable mistakes, we also get to hear everyone’s opinion about “Why would you choose that background?” or “Can we do something a little more subtle?” or “I don’t like that font” – and often from people who are unrelated to the event being promoted.
I once had a gentleman come to me after church to tell me that he noticed a typo in someone’s name on the screen during a video I made for our building campaign. He said “If we’re raising that much money, it’s disappointing that we can’t even spell someone’s name correctly.” (this was only one of the three times the name appeared during the video.)
I asked if he would like to help and preview the videos like a “proof reader.” He said he wasn’t the one getting paid to be sure it was right, that’s my job.
Most departments may have an internal memo with a spelling error, or the youth leader has an off night during his message, or in a meeting, something is said that could have been worded differently.
Our work is getting mailed out to the community, posted on the front lawn, shared on facebook, seen on the screens, or hung in the lobby.
How would you handle it if every time you misspoke during a sermon, someone stood up and let you know like it was urgent?
A fire alarm is urgent. Misspeaking, having an unclear thought, mentioning one scripture reference but turning to another, or tripping over your words is not worth someone yelling “FIRE!”
I realize that you’ll often get a follow-up email from someone about your message, but even that person knows to distinguish between what they think is important (important enough to send an email) and urgent (like jumping up in the middle of church service).
How can you help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed?
Consideration 1) Vertical: Middle Management.
Move towards giving your communications person a seat at the decision table and allow them to earn your trust. You don’t have to flippantly toss decisions to them or take their recommendation every time, but a simple “What do you think?” or “If this was your decision, what would you do?” along with hearing the rest of the discussion is going to be helpful in communicating the big picture.
Consideration 2) Horizontal: Serving other departments.
With the help of that toolbox, you’ll equip your team do their best in tracking projects, create incoming request forms, and work with other departments in your church as efficiently as possible.
Delegate communications decisions to the Communications person, support them as the decision-maker, and bring them into a conversation if someone comes to you to request that you veto a decision.
Consideration 3) How long does that really take?
Ask the question when you delegate the responsibility and ask it again when a project is completed.
Come to an agreement on what is a reasonable expectation, and where time consumed on one project may not provide the best return compared to that same time spent elsewhere.
Be slow to assume that making a request is so simple that it can be easily fit into the workload instantly.
Build time into the schedule for your communications person to be creative, dream and explore new ideas. Stuffing every minute of their day is going to be exhausting, and you’ll get the same recurring results… which leads us to the next point.
Consideration 4) How much energy does that really take?
Have conversations like “What is your most creative time of day?” and “When do you do your best work?” and “What would an ideal schedule look like for you to bring your best to the team?”
Push back against the tendency you may have to set office hours. When Sunday rolls around, do you want to present your best work or do you want to check the box that said someone was present at their desk from 9 am – 5 pm all week? Of course, nobody at your church cares how many hours a project took, or whether it was completed at 2 pm or 2 am.
What matters when all is said and done is the end result, not the schedule necessary to create the result.
This isn’t to say that your communications leader can miss morning meetings if they’re a night person, or miss afternoon meetings if they like to start earlier in the day. But if there’s nothing scheduled at 9 am, and they worked an extra 4 hours last night, what difference will it make on Sunday if they show up at the office at 9 am or not?
Earn the best from your communications person by having clear goals and helping them meet those goals in whatever time it takes.
Consideration 5) Our world is always changing.
Have regular conversations that start with “What strategy do you have in mind for this event?” or “How are you planning to promote this?” or “What have you seen others doing that could work here?” Understand that we can’t promise the same results since the tools we use are always changing, and those changes are outside of our control.
Avoid saying, “We’ve done it like this before. Do that again!” or “They’re doing it. Why can’t we?”
Instead, have conversations with your communications person that lean into their wisdom, experience, and hands-on knowledge of the tools they have available to them. Ask questions that start with “What would you suggest for…?”
We’ll never get away from changing social media tools, but you can reduce the stress that keeping up with those details can cause by giving us some freedom to try new things, and explore. Recognize that at any time, the answer might be “That’s not how it works any longer.”
Consideration 6) We execute with a strategy in mind.
While we can technically post something quickly on facebook, it may not be the best strategic decision based on the technology, the way we want to present that information or the timing.
The same goes for what we plan to include in announcements, (or how many announcements), what we post on facebook, twitter or Instagram, how we’ll send out text messages or our email newsletter.
By all means, have conversations with your communications person about their decisions, their strategy, pick their brain about what and why, and be clear about what you’re hoping to achieve so they can help your church get to that end goal…
…AND, remember that this is our life and focus. We don’t take the responsibility lightly, and we’re not (usually) trying to be flippant or lazy or territorial if we say that your suggestion about how we communicate something may have some better options.
Consideration 7) Our work is public.
Learn to distinguish the difference between important and urgent. Important means “That’s worth noting and talking about later so that we try to avoid that mistake next time.” Urgent means “This needs to be addressed now.”
When you walk up on stage after an announcement video and make a joke about a typo on the screen, or send off a text message about the bulletin when it’s already printed and can’t be adjusted, then that’s come across as “Urgent: This can’t wait and has to be addressed now.”
It’s a bit overwhelming to be told that “This is urgent, but you won’t be able to do anything about it until next Sunday.”
Here’s an example of the distinction between urgent and important:
Urgent: “The time was incorrect on that announcement, and we need you to be here tomorrow at 7 pm instead of 7:30 pm” – That’s worth addressing now.
Important: “There’s an extra “w” before the website address in the bulletin. I’ll send an email Monday so a correction can be made before the bulletin goes to print next week.”
Support your communications team and recognize team effort if someone else points out an imperfection.
“We’ve been working on a lot as a team. I’ll have someone take a look this week,” causes much less stress than “So and So looks after our marketing. Go point it out to them” or “Here’s some public shaming in the form of a joke because I don’t want someone to think I’m responsible for the issue.”
Learn to delegate to and trust your communications department:
This could be difficult. This may not seem ideal. They have probably made mistakes before, and they are publicly representing your church, so if you don’t feel like the person in place is the right person for the job, please correct the situation sooner than later.
It doesn’t serve anyone to keep someone around whom you don’t trust, you won’t delegate responsibilty to, and you don’t believe knows what they’re doing in their job position. However, if you trust that they know what they’re doing, then let them do it.
If the person overseeing your marekting and communications is not someone that you trust to take the reigns, either get them the training they need to become that person, have the conversations about what indicators you need to see in order to build trust with them, or release them from the position. It’s not an easy request, but neither is the veil of trust when there’s no foundation to support it.
I want to be clear that your communications person is not against you if they have different ideas.
They’re not trying to steer the public side of the church in a different direction through social media or public relations. If they want to discuss a decision further, it’s because they see an opportunity for improvement, not that they’re looking for a reason to tear down. Please give him or her an open line to have conversations about what is working and what they think could improve.
They love the church. They love your vision. They love you. They need your support when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
My father-in-law, John Power was an important voice in my life. He knew how to motivate teams to buy in and feel connected to where we needed to move as a whole. He was an innovator ahead of his time. He would write blog posts, print them out and distribute them at team meetings before blogging and Social Media were a thing.
He passed away in 2008, and recently I found this ‘blog post’ that he created and printed for a leaders meeting. It’s nearly point-form, so I’m sure he had much more to say about each of these, but I wanted to share what I had.
10 ways to maintain momentum with your team:
1. You Are Here:
Continually paint pictures of where you are going and show them where they are in them.
2. How’s It Going?
Regularly ask about their dreams, not just their obstacles
3. Encourage Encouragement
Purposefully look for something to encourage in your team members. Not flattery, but encouragement.
4. Fresh Fruit
Do what it takes to respond positively and immediately to good results/actions no matter how small.
5. Dream Along With Me
Regularly hold ‘dream meetings” where people can dream out loud without any restriction or price.
6. Credit Where Credit Is Due
Publically acknowledge by name the input or achievements of your team members.
7. You Have Mail
Use and encourage the use of email among your key leaders to promote up and down communication.
8. You Say It’s Your Birthday
Log and acknowledge the birthdays of your team members.
9. Handwriting Analysis
Occasionally send personal hand-written notes for no reason whatsoever.
10. Fix Forward
Teach your teams by example, not to solve problems of “what could have been,” but rather fix in advance “what will be.”
Have you ever surveyed the people who’ve left your volunteer team? Maybe you oversee your Social Media team or live production or digital marketing or kids or ushers (or something else). Have you ever considered that maybe some people are leaving your team, not because of the task assigned or friction with team members, but maybe they’re leaving because of pointless meetings…
I’m not saying don’t have meetings or don’t get together with your team, but the operative word is POINTLESS meetings – the meetings that make people roll their eyes, wish they’d stayed home and disengage while thinking of an excuse not to come to the next meeting.
How can you tell if a meeting is pointless? Ask these questions:
Can I communicate what needs to be said in an email?
Could I record a video on my phone and send it by text message and have the same impact?
If I quit, would the person who takes over for me hold this meeting or find another way to communicate this information?
Is there a hands-on reason we need to be in a physical location together? (like new equipment, or new location, etc)
Have I asked a few team members that I trust if this needs to be a meeting?
Most of the time, especially in the world of technology that we live in, we can find alternative ways to get information to people who need it. Here are a few alternatives for a pointless meeting:
Create a facebook group for your team: Post information when it needs to be communicated and don’t let anyone in who isn’t part of your team – this is a closed group for team members only and for information as it relates to your team. Build relationships in the group by welcoming new team members, posting about birthdays and mix in some topics or pointers that would usually show in a team meeting. People can see it at their convenience and comment or as a question as needed.
Post a live video in the group: Team members can hear and see you expressing what needs to be said, watch it back at their convenience and ask questions as you’re live.
Send an email with information or a link to a private YouTube video: Some team members don’t have or use Facebook? No problem. Send them an email.
Send text messages: see above… use multiple angles to reach people. Not everyone checks their email regularly and sometimes spam filters really get in the way of important information.
Phone Call: Yep, I said it. Sometimes the information you want the whole group to hear is actually only applicable to one or two people. Don’t waste everyone else’s time, and if you know someone is going to have a ‘difficult’ reaction to what you need to communicate, give them the courtesy of a private conversation.
If you really need to have a short meeting when everyone is together anyway. Take 10 minutes before or after a service on a Sunday, rather than 60 minutes on an evening where everyone has to make a separate trip.
Go ahead and have a meeting, but don’t make it pointless. Use the meeting to share breaking news that nobody else has. Give away prizes, celebrate your team, and give them a reason to want to come back next time. Create such a fun environment that people are disappointed when they have to miss a meeting. Not everyone will be at the meeting, so you’ll need to send an email after to people who had to miss. Don’t make people wish they skipped the meeting and just looked for the email the next day.
Find an alternative to pointless meetings, because your pointless meetings may be a reason your team isn’t growing.
It’s never fun when a volunteer doesn’t show up, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Less than a year ago, if someone quit or didn’t show up, it was too easy for me to get overwhelmed, BUT by the end of last year, my team had grown from 18 to 35 volunteers, and I only trained 10 of them – the rest were trained by existing team members.
Now I’m not scrambling to cover missing positions AND trying to recruit and train new team members.
If you build confidence, your team will grow itself.
I know, it’s crazy, but I found a way to implement 9 steps to give my team the confidence they needed to recruit and train new team members on their own. The good news is, with these 9 steps in mind you can easily implement every step a week for 9 weeks and start to see results.
Imagine 2 months from now when someone on your volunteer team says to you “By the way, I asked this person to join our team and they’re trained, so go ahead and put them on the schedule.”
This year, we’re on track that more team members will be trained by existing team members than I’ll train myself, and I promise it’s not rocket science. Those pigs can fly, but you’ve got to do these 9 steps to get them off the runway.
I don’t know yet what you’re really asking, but I know it’s not about a budget worksheet or about the content of your staff meeting each week. Before you make up what the other person is thinking and live like that’s the truth, ask them in a way that opens to door to hearing their genuine response.
There are 4 reasons why someone comes to your church – not just the first time, but every time. This person may change their reason over time, but how you communicate with them will help determine why they come back.
First, I’ll outline the 4 reasons, then how to connect with those people based on their reason.
With Compulsion (or conviction) these people come because they believe it’s the right thing to do – not necessarily because they want to, but because of an obligation or guilt if they don’t. This could be coming to Mothers’ Day service to make Mom happy, coming to their niece or nephew’s Christmas concert, or showing up because they’re scheduled for nursery and don’t want to let someone down.
Maybe church is part of their tradition at Easter or Christmas, even though they aren’t really sure (or not interested in) where they stand with God, or they feel obligated to be in church our of guilt to make amends with God.
This is when someone sees a friend who shares a Facebook post, or find your video on youtube or drives by and sees your sign, or gets invited by a friend. Hopefully they have an idea of what to expect from your church, but until they experience it, they’re curious as to what that experience is like. It could be hesitancy, or excitement. They’ve come through the door not entirely sure what to expect.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s their first visit – maybe they’re curious about your new series, or new pastor or haven’t been in a while or just moved back to the area and want to know what church is like now. It’s even possible that this person comes every week, and their curious about your bumper video or to find out what songs your worship team will pick.
Unfortunately, once the novelty wears off, so will this person’s curiosity, so you have to move them to another reason to come back.
This person likes to be part of something. They love to see the same faces at the same time, shake hands, invite in new people and build friendships. For these people, serving is a privilege: a chance to be part of the ‘family’, and the chance to get together for coffee or a meal after church. This could also reflect that they like your style of worship or the way people respond to the speaker or a monthly social event your church hosts.
Sometimes a person who is focussed primarily on community will come weeks or months before getting saved or committing their life to Jesus, since it’s possible that’s secondary in their mind to the community. They could eventually stop coming to your church and get involved in a weekly soup kitchen or other community organization or even take a job that requires them to work every weekend where they feel a stronger attachment to community.
This is the bullseye on the target where you point people to. If they’re coming to your church because of their commitment, this is vision and values centered, and starts to become part of who they are. You’ll hear them say “I’m part of XYZ church” rather than “I go to XYZ church.”
Very little (if anything) could dissuade them from being part of your church, serving the assignment God has given you and connecting others to the vision. When a new initiative is released, they figure out how to get behind it.
How to move people toward Commitment
Knowing that commitment is the bullseye, how do we communicate in a way that draws people there?
Generally (and loosely) speaking, if someone starts with Conviction / Compulsion, then the next step is curiosity moving to community, then commitment. Some people skip the “Compulsion” stage and start with Curiosity > Community > Commitment.
Compulsion to Curiosity
Capitalize on the opportunities you know are going to be well-attended by the compulsion people. When your kids sing at the Christmas Concert, invite those visitors back for Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, promote your January series. Host a Valentines dinner and send out an email to everyone who has visited your church only once in the past 12 months. On Easter, talk about your Summer events. At your summer event, talk about your back to school service… try and create ways to spark some curiosity.
Curiosity to Community
Talk often about the community you’re creating. This is a shotgun approach helping everyone who came because of any reason to find a way to get connected. As people move through the different reasons, there will always be a need for community, even if it’s not the driving force.
Play on people’s curiosity to attract new people to your church – don’t try and attract them using compulsion. Get them through the door based on their curiosity, then talk about your community as a way for them to come back.
First, let me remind you that even though you’re moving this person to come back because of commitment, never give up on piquing their curiosity or talking about community.
Move people from coming for community to coming because of commitment by modelling it for them – give them hope, give them a family to be part of, give them a goal and a vision and help them find their place there.
Show videos of families who are in the commitment realm and talk about that journey. Model commitment in those who are put in leadership and help leaders who slip into compulsion to restore their excitement for the vision.
Thank your committed people often, and let those in the compulsion, curiosity or community category see the fulfilment of bringing people to know Jesus by living out your church’s values and vision.
I would love to hear how you’ve seen these steps working for you. What are some of the ways you’ve found to move people toward commitment? Leave a comment below!
We all know it, but sometimes we shy away from doing it: Ask more questions.
It’s the solution to not knowing enough, having misinformation, being unsure, and being sure while being clear. It’s the way we know how many pieces to print, what style the design needs to be, what emotion the message needs to create and by when we need to have sign ups or registrations.
So, why is it that we sometimes shy away from asking enough questions? Here are the 3 of the most common reasons:
We’re not sure what questions to ask:
How many times do you get part-way through a project and realize you didn’t ask a necessary question, or how often do you get a proof back from a department, and they say “This is nothing like I was anticipating…”? – In that moment you may be frustrated, realize you’ve wasted time, or get frustrated at the feedback because that person doesn’t ‘get’ your design. It’s ok. You didn’t know you needed to ask that question, but there are 2 things you need to do in that moment:
Ask – once you realize you didn’t ask a question, ask it now – don’t wait!
Write it down – when you realize you’ve forgotten to ask a question about a project, write it down and remember to ask it next time.
Create a Project Scope Outline – when you’re going into the project, ask how many copies need to be printed, by when do we need it in hand, will it be outsourced, will it be used on Facebook… etc. Develop your process of what questions to ask (See some ideas at the bottom of this blog post.)
ACTION STEP: Next time you sit down to start a new project: end the conversation with “Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wanted to add?” Sometimes the other person will say “oh yeah, I need to have it by Thursday…” or “Can I get it printed large enough to fit in this frame?” or “Could we have 200 on hand by…”
We’re afraid asking will look like we’re incompetent:
How many pieces do you want printed? What if that sounds like “I have no idea how many kids we have on a weekend.” or “Would you like a 4 x 6 postcard or an oversized 6 x 8?” could sound like “I’m not sure what size a standard postcard is.”
At the end of the day, you’ll look way more incompetent if you print 200 pieces of 6 x 8 then realize they don’t fit into the 200 4 x 6 envelopes that were already handwritten with addresses.
ACTION STEP: Ask the question in a different way: “There are a lot of options and I want to help you choose the best option for your needs. Are you thinking that you’ll mail these out or hand them out?”
Or, the next possibility…
I don’t want to bother someone who’s not detail oriented by asking for details:
I know the feeling… someone says ‘You’re the web guy, just build me a website.’ or ‘You know the style I like, just go for it’ and we all know this means ‘I’m going to reserve the right to veto anything, and if you don’t get it right, I’m going to question if you really get me.’ This is especially difficult if it comes from someone who’s in leadership – they’re busy and you don’t want to bother them, but you want to get it right.
ACTION STEP: Create a mockup. Cut out a piece of 4 x 6 then cut out a piece of 6 x 8. Scribble on it with a pen with info, logo, a box that says “pic goes here”. Even though you’re getting the info you would have asked for, this looks a lot more appealing to someone who’s not detail oriented. If you cut out a 4×6 and they say “wow, that’s really small” then they’ve answered your question.
If they’re getting flustered with the details, or it’s taking longer than they anticipated, setup a time to discuss again and bring a mockup to that meeting.
Despite which of these categories you fall into, and to what degree, the solution is going to start with you. No incoming request form is going to be 100% complete, and you’re always going to have to ask a question – learn to be confident in what you bring to the table, and be willing to consider what is the best way to relate to the other person to get the best input they have to offer based on their personality.
I had the chance to connect with Jason Young (@JasonYoungLive) who oversees Guest Services for Northpoint Ministries. I toured the church as an extension of That Church Conference in Atlanta, and then Jason spoke with our whole group about how they approach guest services across multiple campuses.
Jason gave us 7 concepts to take away about how one of the fastest growing churches (and one of the largest) focusses on an experience that makes people want to come back. With his permission, I’m sharing these 7 come back ideas with you. I’m going to paraphrase the summary of the ideas in my own words.
When we create an experience, we’re actually creating 2 experiences
We’re creating an experience for the guest (That’s the obvious one) but we’re also creating an experience for the volunteers. Of those 2 experiences, focus most on the volunteer experience. If your volunteers feel welcome and part of what’s going on at your church, they’ll create an environment that welcomes guests to make them feel a part of what’s going on at your church.
Choose Hospitality over Service
Service is the act of what we’re doing (ie. opening a door for someone) but Hospitality is focussed around who we are – we welcome people when we open the door, ask how their week was when we hand them the pen, smile and thank them for coming as we show them the closest parking spot. Your guests won’t walk away saying “Wow, the way the door got opened was exactly the right speed.” or “Did you see how they handed me the pen with their left hand so they could shake my right hand?”
Hopefully they’ll walk away saying “I felt welcome,” or “They were really helpful.”
Elevate the Dignity of each guest
We don’t know what someone has been through in the last month, week, day or even few minutes. Whether someone is having a bad day, or even if they’re having a good day, find a way to make it a great day.
It’s a WIN when guest services becomes a culture, not a department
If you hear someone saying “I don’t open doors, that’s a guest services thing.” or they walk past a piece of trash and leave it for the custodian to pick up, then those are indications that guest services is a department. If you sound guy walks into the lobby and sees someone looking lost and points them in the right direction, or a parking lot attendant helps a mom with her bags so she can bring her child to class – that’s a win. When everyone realizes that guest services is part of who you are, you’re on your way to creating that culture.
How we feel about a guest walking in will be directly reflected in how they feel walking out.
See a person, not a crowd. Hear a story, not noise.
Each person matters and has a story. If you choose to connect with that one person in that one moment and give them your full attention and be fully present, you’ll create a rare connection that is difficult to find in our busy world, and that rare connection with you will be connected to your church.
Small wins feel good and create momentum
Celebrate wins within your guest services team. Someone asks for a pen and the conversation leads to the accepting Jesus – that’s a win. Someone found your church on google and came for the first time – that’s a win. A new family says their kids loved your church and want to come back – that’s a win! Each time you celebrate a win, you are helping your team realize and recognize that they are making an impact on the come back decision.
What are the major touch points (At the Bulkhead campus, those are Parking lot, entrance, finding your way in the lobby, information and auditorium.) How will visitors experience these touch points, and how do they transition between them. Analyze each “Scene” as a piece of the puzzle, but view each scene in the context of the full experience – not isolated from each other.
If you’re visiting the Atlanta area, check out Buckhead church. Check out how they live out each of these steps, and in the mean time follow Jason on twitter: @JasonYoungLive