I like to read secular office management and communication advice on the web for tips and ideas that can apply to church communications and a very helpful one read recently was: 8 Surefire Ways to Demotivate Your Employees.
There are plenty of applications we can all draw from the article and at first, I was only going to share the link to this article, but then, as I thought about it I realized that in the church, sadly we can add to the list, so here are some specific church-related demotivators. Each one of these is a tiny, distilled sample of many similar situations church communicators share with me. Sometimes shared with tears in person, sometimes in long, heart-rending emails, I've heard many stories people are afraid to share at their church. But they share with me and I'm sharing them with you, so perhaps by seeing their pain, we can all decide not to do things that cause pain like this. Of course identifying details are changed, but all that follow are based on true stories. After each demotivator are suggestions for positive changes.
4 ways to demotivate church communicators
1. Assume that if God has given you a position of authority that YOU are the boss in all communication decisions.
There is a big difference between a necessity for management decisions and an unspoken demand for subservience in all things in the church office. If you are working extra hard to show either your staff or congregation that YOU are in-charge, you probably aren't exhibiting the kind of servant leadership that inspires teamwork.
Especially in areas of skill expertise, e.g. in communication creation, even the strongest of leaders do well to respect the opinions of the people doing the work. Expertise in preaching does not make you an expert in typeface choices. You might absolutely love a typeface, but if your church newsletter creator tells you that fancy script will not work well for your newsletter on the website, don't demand, ask for clarification. Respect the expertise you hired the person for and respectfully ask for explanations.
If you really want to understand (and please don't ask if you don't), you'll learn fancy scripts don't reproduce well on the web. There are simple and clear typefaces (Calibri and Cambria are two) that were designed specifically for use on the internet and for viewing on a screen. In addition, fancy scripts are much harder to read, both in print and online, which means people will quit after a few sentences. A fancy script does not look "elegant," (as you thought it did). It looks unprofessional.
Your church communicator was attempting to save the church from putting out an unprofessional communication, not trying to undercut your authority. Think the best of people first and ask for explanations.
2. Thinking that public praise erases private criticism.
Few things are worse than obligatory praise from the platform:
"Mary has done such a fantastic job with our website--let's praise the Lord for her"
when it is followed by private criticism:
"Mary, we need to discuss how you represented the church with your image choices. Obviously your taste in these matters does not reflect the proper tone we want for the church and you ignored the approvals needed. "
Like the first demotivator, a better way to handle a situation like this would be to have a discussion of why certain images were used, what is expected, what approval procedures are, and not a summary judgement based on personal preference or first impressions
Though some people think they are softening the blow of criticism by a complement first (and thinking it's even better if given in a public setting) it usually isn't and can set up a pattern where your communicator doesn't trust any complement you give them because they know a complaint will follow.
Most church communicators aren't greedy for public or private praise that isn't genuine. They want to be co-workers in communication of the church message and are strong enough for give and take, expectations and discussions, throughout the creation process of communications.
3. Asking a communication volunteer to create something and to then ignore it.
If you don't want a communication volunteer to ever create anything for you in the future, do this.
Even if you don't like something or if you consider it wildly inappropriate for the church, always thank and praise the person for their effort. Ask them to explain what they did and why. Ask them how they would envision using it.
If it still won't work--take the properly responsible attitude--that you were not clear in what you wanted and were expecting. Acknowledge that it is very tricky to communicate a concept and that we can't read each other's mind. Showing examples in concrete pictures from the webs or torn out of publications of what you like, don't like, is tremendously helpful. To ask for something like "a logo for the youth ministry" without any guidance is asking for trouble either in the result or your relationship with the artist or most likely both.
4. Asking a church communicator to duplicate a brochure or website example you got from the latest church conference you attended.
Church conferences are great places for inspiration, but often nightmares for the people back at the church office because the leaders come back with great-looking materials from a church of 5,000 and a budget into the millions and want that same looking print material or website to be created by an overworked church secretary/communication creator for a church of 300 with a computer that is 10 years old and has no high-speed internet service.
If you have a great communication piece either print or on the web you'd like reproduced, first, ask yourself, why you want to do this? If you think it will magically turn your little church into a big church, that won't happen.
But if it is something new for your church and you can see how this might help take your church to the next step in growth and outreach, ask your church communicator, "What would it take for us to do something like this?" Ask for honest feed back on the equipment, time, and training it would take to do it.
Often spending that time and money to train a person in-house and to upgrade equipment is a fantastic investment because:
- The church gets the communications needed
- Money is saved over the long-run
- The church communicator gets to learn new skills
- More people are reached and your church can grow
Reading secular articles on office management is an excellent habit because we can all improve in how we manage ourselves and our work. At the same time, remember that your job is even more challenging because Satan is the "accuser of the brethren" and nothing delights him more than to have you mistreating, hurting, and demotiving each other in the church. We must actively work to put into practice the advice of 1 Cor 13 (a paraphrase of v. 4-7) and to practically love each other in our work in the church office by being:
- Patient and kind
- Not boastful or proud or rude or demanding our way
- Not irritable and it keeping no record of being wronged
- Always hopeful, and enduring through every circumstance
If we work hard to treat each other in these ways, we'll all be motivated to serve the Lord with joy.