We might know we need to use volunteers in the church communication ministry, we might desperately need their help, but at the same time we might worry that the people who volunteer might not do a good job. Though obviously training and mentoring are important and can ease most of these concerns, we need to be aware of another issue that may be at work: an unrealistic view of the importance of perfection, as we define it, in the church. The following article from our FREE ebook about using volunteers in communication ministry may help. This article would be an excellent one to download, reprint, and use for discussion at a church staff meeting.
Perfection in church communications, inspired by Jesus
Sometimes people don't think they are doing all they can for the Lord, that they aren't excellent or perfect enough in their communications ministry unless what they produce is done in slick, full-color printing, preferably produced by an outside design company, or in the case of a website, one that is professionally programmed.
Sadly, since the standards of design and production are so high, it also often means that no one in the church is considered good enough to create the communications in print or on the website, so an outside, professional firm must be hired to do it or only products purchased from a professional company are used. Or, if done at the church, only a select person or two in the church is good enough to produce the quality needed.
But being expensive and professional, as defined by using the standards of a professional ad agency isn't the only standard of perfection for the followers of Jesus.
If we honestly look at Jesus' life, what sort of standards of perfection did he have?
If we honestly want to follow Him, let's look at three areas where we see his choices in quality and perfection
First, his disciples: the ones he chose who would be trusted to carry out his message were a pretty scruffy group and they didn't get better in three years. Not one of them was a professional religious person.
Second, his meetings: they weren't very organized affairs. There were often little kids running around, not enough food, constant interruptions by sick people—not what anyone would consider a professionally managed event.
Third, his succession plan: when he left his remaining disciples with the task of evangelizing the world, he didn't leave them with a plan even vaguely perfected. The Great Commission could be summed up as "tell people about me and help them grow in the faith." For a perfectionist manager today, those parting words have a tremendous about of wiggle room that would allow wildly divergent attempts to apply it.
It wasn't that Jesus didn't care about excellence, but he obviously had a different standard of perfection than what we might consider communication perfection today.
The true standard of perfection
Though perfection in service is an admirable goal, the primary goal in all ministry areas, communications included, is love. First Corinthians 13 helps us take love out of the realm of theory and make it practical in the challenge of perfection in communication ministry. In 1 Cor. 13, the chapter starts out talking about doing all sorts of things, one might say, with perfection: speaking in the tongues of men and angels, etc. The chapter continues by saying that if all of this is done without love it's just making noise and the chapter ends by saying that the greatest attribute we can have is love.
Love is also what matters the most in our church communications
I see a lot of communications today, in print and online that are perfectly beautiful and that express love in a variety of ways.
Right now I'm looking at a sample from my files of church communications: it is a professionally printed folder, done in gorgeous full color printing and it has 2 DVDs inserted in the folder so visitors can see the worship service and hear the praise band. It also has a coupon for a free coffee from their coffee cart (one of my favorite ways of showing love). It is professional, beautiful, and yet very friendly and non-pretentious. No question this would fit anyone's standards of perfection in a visitor piece.
I'm also looking at another church bulletin sample that is perfect and loving in another way. This one was not produced with a computer. The church is small and very poor. The bulletin, with service information and weekly activities clearly described and listed, was produced on a very old word processor and the clipart hand-pasted on. It was reproduced on a copier that had obviously seen better days. Though she knows the limitations of the equipment, the person who shared it with me also shared that the church secretary who produces it each week wants it to be special for the church and visitors. She carefully prepares and proofs it and after her paste-up job she prints it on colored paper. She then collates it by hand and does a 1/3 of the page offset fold on each piece of paper. Down one side of the cover fold, she hand-cuts (with the scissors you use to cut scrap-booking pages) a fancy edge. She hand-cuts and hand-assembles each one. Her love and care for the congregation and Jesus in this labor-intensive production brought tears to my eyes.
These church publications are very different in surface ways, but at their core and what comes through most loudly is that their creators loved the people they were creating publications for.
Following are a couple of additional observations, commentary and final application notes on how Jesus gives us lessons on perfection in communications:
Observation #1: Jesus always focused on the needs of people in his communication, not on impressing people or showing how great he was.
He could have created a little world in the palm of his hand as a demonstration of his power; he could have had stars fall from the sky to demonstrate his might; he could have healed all the sick in a city with one booming command, but he didn't do any of those things to show his perfect godhood.
He showed us what God was like by meeting needs of his creation. He bailed out an embarrassed groom who ran out of wine at his wedding feast; he made little kids comfortable; he healed a woman humiliated by a chronic disease.
Commentary and application:
Perfection in communications doesn't come from showing people what a big-deal perfect church you are or how you can create communications that are more expensive and fancier than the church down the street.
Jesus idea of a perfect publication, if we follow his plan, would be one that made sure it addressed the needs of people. It would be one that told them why the event would help them, how it would serve them, how their lives would be better because of it. It would give them all the details necessary to attend without having to take an extra step of calling someone or looking it up on the web or jumping from link to link if it was an email. Those details would include the time, location, name of person in charge, directions, child care provisions, and cost would all be there and easily accessible.
One area that I see this "perfection" lacking in so often today is in the area of church websites. I've recently observed a number of websites that were created using professional groups that supplied a fancy, flash-enabled, website with photos of smiling people on the nameplate, great colors and buttons to push to hear sermons. But try to find the details of what or where small groups are meeting or what time to get your kids to a youth group meeting and where it is being held or what the church really believes about anything and it can be an impossible task.
People do not go to church websites to be wowed by flashing graphics and bright colors or cheesy pictures of ethnically-diverse, grinning people, they go to have needs met. If they can't get those needs met quickly and easily, your website is far from perfect no matter how slick the home page is.
Observation #2: Jesus focused on potential perfection.
When Jesus called Peter, he was not anything like the Rock he would become. He was more of an irritating pebble in Jesus' journeys.
But every time Jesus called him, "Peter", Simon had a vision of what he would become. I imagine each time he heard that, he stood up a little straighter, perhaps determined to follow Jesus more closely. Eventually, he became the leader and pastor, the Rock, Jesus knew he would be.
Commentary and application
Your volunteers and staff members doing ministry publications seldom come into that job with any training at all. They are like Simon, far from, but growing into a Peter.
They are often far from perfect in communication knowledge about design ideas or execution. Focus on encouraging, equipping, and providing opportunities. Love them lots. Give them time to try things and to grow up in their skills. Provide training and tools and they will often amaze you at what they produce. Never pre-judge someone based on age either as being too young or too old to learn any communication skill—with interest and proper training I have often seen church leaders astounded at what their own people were capable of.
Regarding training, I was recently talking to a lady whose church had spent several thousand dollars (a typical amount) to have their website professionally designed. In spite of the money spent, they were having all sorts of problems getting their church content to fit into the design and the costs kept mounting with each modification they asked for.
Knowing there were other options for getting this done (such as doing it yourself with WordPress, my strong recommendation), I asked her, "How do you think you could have done if the money spent on this company had been used to train you and give you time to implement what you learned?"
She just sighed.
This situation is repeated far too often and it shouldn't be. Your people have tremendous potential and with time, money and training they will not only accomplish great things for the church, but you will have participated in growing them in skills and service. To invest money and time in your people instead of a quick, "professional" solution may take more time, but the results will be much more lasting.
Observation #3: Jesus protected and encouraged his people
"Fear not!" "Be of good cheer!" Reminding his followers that the hairs on their heads were numbered—all of these and many more were the protecting and encouraging words Jesus continuously shared with his disciples. He reminded them he was their shepherd, vine, bread of life.
Commentary and application
Doing church communication work can be scary and discouraging. Complement your church communicators for every step of learning; encourage them to try new things and support a less-than-perfect effort if done with enthusiasm.
- Take extra care to shield them from negative and nasty people when helpful comments become hurtful criticism.
- Remind the critics to pray and contribute to the communication program at the church.
- Remind them that all of us are pilgrims and we haven't arrived at perfection in anything as yet, but that we all need love and encouragement as we progress to becoming more and more like Jesus in the perfecting of our service to him.
Additional resources related to the use of volunteers in the communication ministry of your church
FREE Ebook: In the church office, to save time and your sanity: Divide your communication team into 2 production levels
There is never enough time to get all the work done that needs to be done in church communications. One way to solve this problem is to have volunteers do some of the work. However, many church office administrators and church leaders aren't comfortable doing this because they are concerned about the level of quality that volunteers product. Or they worry that they won't really be able to control what volunteers do.
Ebook: Six Strategies for Effective Church Communications
Free for ECC Ebook and Template Club members, available for purchase and immediate download, all e-reader versions and in print at this link: