Valentines for Church Communication Creators, what church leaders need to do
(For pastors, church business administrators, church communication directors, and anyone else who oversees people who create church communications--this is addressed to you)
by Yvon Prehn, www.effectivechurchcom.com
Valentine’s Day is a wonderfully Christian holiday in that it is all about love and loving is what Christians are to be about. We celebrate it by giving gifts, often flowers and candy, to those we care for—but flowers fade and candy adds on pounds. For those you in a leadership position, who want to show caring to the people in your communications ministry, whether paid staff or volunteers, below are Five Valentines you can give that will have lasting, positive results. Print this off and discuss it during a staff meeting for a Valentine's Day that is a real gift for growing our relationships with each other.
Gift #1—Give them authority
In church communications, the church leadership should decide on basic themes and messages and perhaps even the overall look of publications, but seldom on layout, or the final editing of articles or announcements. The people actually doing the creative work need the final authority in these areas. Have a meeting to discuss and clarify these issues and then publicly announce and print your decision. You might say something like this:
"Jenny Smith, our communications coordinator has final editing authority on the layout, deadlines and content of materials that go into the bulletin, newsletter, website and church social media (and whatever else you want to list). She has posted her guidelines and submission deadlines on our website. Please support her decisions and deadlines."
Your gift has no meaning unless you back up your decisions. Invariably people will test you on the rules. When you are instituting new guidelines various church members will come rushing in at the last-minute with an article that just HAS to get into the newsletter. When your communications director tells them it is past the deadline—you know what they will do, they will walk right around that person’s desk and into your office and say something like, "Suzy isn’t being very Christian today—she told me I missed her deadline and you need to tell her to get this article in the newsletter!"
You have a choice here with ramifications larger than momentarily making a grumpy person happy.
Be sure you answer by saying, "She is being very Christian. I have given her authority over that area and to do her job in a way that honors God and the church. We will be happy to print up copies and put them in the church information center or post your information on the bulletin board if the information is essential, but we must respect the guidelines of our communications director. The deadlines she posted months ago are firm."
Any other answer, or taking back authority or vacillating on this point will not only make the publication creation process a mess, but it will greatly harm your relationship with your communications director. Giving authority and backing it up is a gift that will ultimately make both of your communication lives more pleasant and the church communication process more efficient and effective.
Gift #2—Give them protection
Being a good shepherd means more than simply having devotions with your staff. A good shepherd also cares for the physical needs of the sheep. A church secretary or communications person with an arm brace because of carpel tunnel is the sign of a pastor or church business administrator failing to properly shepherd his or her sheep in the fields of technology.
Find out what is needed to make your church office ergonomically correct. Your communications people need proper chairs, wrist rests, the right kind of mouse or trackball the computer monitor at a proper height for their best efficiency and comfort.
They need to be protected from doing repetitive data entry or any kind of computer work for hours without breaks. People are not machines and those of us in the church need to model care for those under our leadership by encouraging breaks and exercise (walking, stretching) during the day.
Another area that needs to be looked at is the condition of their eyes. Because working with the computer requires the eyes to focus on a mid-range target instead of either distance or close reading, many people cannot adequately see both their screen and the text of a page they are typing from.
In practical terms this means they may need to get trifocals, bifocals, or glasses for computer work. Without proper eye ware, your people will get eyestrain, headaches, neck pain and have a host of problems in creating publications. (Personal note here—though I wear no line bifocals for most things, I have reading glasses from the 99cent store that are PERFECT for work on the computer because the entire lens area has the magnification I need. This is not a doctor's recommendation at all, but it works really well for me and a number of friends I have recommended it to.)
You must be proactive in this area, because many people who work in the church office suffer in silence. In addition, the church should be financially responsible for the cost of good eye ware and the other tools that are needed to properly do good work.
Gift #3—Give them training
Many people who are in the ministry of church communications don't have any formal training in the complex work they are asked to do. They may know how to operate a computer, but that doesn't mean they automatically can select typefaces, know how to find free images, have an overall strategy for church communications or many other vital skills if they are going to create effective communications for your church. At the www.effectivechurchcom.com site our ministry has an ever-growing assortment of resources to help them develop skills and free templates to create communications for your church.
Free up a few hours each week where they can explore this and other resource websites and practice new skills without interruption. Church communicators are tremendously creative people, but to make the most of their gifts they need time to develop them.
Gift #4—Give them adequate tools
Be sure your people have up-to-date computers and software. Computer hardware today, e.g. printers and the computers themselves have come down incredibly in price and there is no excuse for your people not to have current equipment. In addition, a very important tool now is to do everything you can to get the fastest high speed internet access for your communications people. There are incredible resources available on the web: training, free templates, clip art, articles, etc., but to use them adequately and without wasting work time, you need good access and this can vary tremendously with the service providers in your area.
Computer equipment has dropped tremendously in price and now might be a good time to replace older machines. For church communications work, be certain your computers have enough RAM and a computer that is configured to handle the graphics needs, especially if you are doing video. Do some research online to the specific needs of the communications you create, but be careful to properly equip your people. No matter how skilled someone might be with a camera, if you don't have the right software and powerful enough hardware to edit it well, it won't serve your church or have the impact it could.
If you need to raise special funds to make these things possible, please do it. Communications is a vital ministry of your church and your people need proper tools to do their jobs well.
Gift #5—Give them awards and encouragement
It seems in most churches that the only time the person who does communications is publicly acknowledged is when they make a typo or leave out a ministry announcement that makes someone really mad. They know their name then, they make everyone aware of it
Don’t let that happen in your church. Award your communications people and publicly acknowledge them. Honor and thank them in front of the church. Know them well enough to know what kind of monetary reward would be right for them. For some it might be a gift certificate to Starbucks, to someone else a Christian book store gift.
Find out what the going rate is for graphic designers in your area. People know that working in the church they will probably make far less than in the secular world, but if your communications person has become highly skilled, don’t wait until they leave you to realize how valuable they are. Remind them that what they are doing matters for eternity, but pay them decently while they are doing their job here on earth.
If you do that and the other suggestions in this article, you will not only be giving appreciated Valentines to your communications people, but also you’ll be giving your church the benefit of continuing, skilled communications ministry.