Starting a New Position at your church? Here’s my best advice.

Recently a Facebook group I’m a part of shared a status asking for advice you’d give to a person that is new to a Church Communications position. For those of you unfamiliar with that role, think social media, design, internal/external communications and so on.

As I was writing out the advice I would give I noticed that it really wasn’t just specific to Church Comms. Most of what I had to offer really works for any leadership role you find yourself in.

With that in mind, I’ve tweaked a few of them, though a lot of the lingo may still be comms heavy. I hope you’ll find them helpful and useful!

1) Quit Trying to do it all

Let’s be honest, most ‘Comms Directors’ are a ‘one person department’ and often part-time or volunteer. If you try to do everything you see in this group you’ll burn yourself out quickly. Decide what is most important, and do those things with excellence.

Doing a few things well always beats doing everything you can subpar. 

Here are two really big things I’ve learned from trying to do it all as a new guy. If you’re a gung ho, hard work eithic kinda person, you’ll find yourself in these two things if you don’t keep a handle on this.

My work for God has a tendency to outweigh my devotion to God.

I find I spend more time doing stuff in my position, and shirking my devotional time and intimacy with God. It’s because trying to do everything will lend itself to leaning more into your calling as a pastor instead of your identity as a son or daughter. Not healthy.

My work for the church creates a tendency for me to overlook my relationship with people that are a part of the church.

If I’m trying to do everything, especially when I’m new, it means I’m really missing out on the opportunity to make new relationships. I promise, in the long run, the relationships you build with your pastor, the staff, your team (if you start with one), and key volunteers will go a LOT further than any work you do in the first month.

If I could go back to my first month as an XP I would have spent a lot more time at a dinner table and less in front of my computer. You don’t get that time back, and this mindset causes people to think you don’t actually care for them or desire a relationship.

Sometimes, that’s uncomfortable. Guys, I’m a hardcore INTJ. I feel much more comfortable building systems than I do making small talk. But when you’re starting out, relational equity goes a lot further than your skillset.

I’m not saying don’t do your job. Do your job and do it with excellence. I’m saying don’t try to do it all of it’ll create dysfunction in how you relate to God and the people of your church.

2) Lean into your church’s identity.

Your church or ministry or business, whatever, has a unique identity and calling. Yes we all are charged with the Great Commission. Yes, we are all about Jesus and the Gospel and the Kingdom. But the nuance and particular way we are created to pursue those things are different in every church.

Your church is better at reaching a certain kind of person than the church down the road, or the mega churches you follow on Instagram. Lean into that!

Stop trying to be the big church(es) you follow on Instagram and ask God to help you discover how to best communicate the life of your church.

3) Take your time when developing new systems and strategies.

Don’t succumb to the tyranny of the urgent and start rolling out new stuff immediately. Best case scenario; you’ll tick people off. Worst case scenario; people needlessly leave the church because your pace of change was not in God’s timing. Experience talking here on that one.

Take time to develop systems, strategy and schedules. If you’re a new hire, don’t implement these immediately.

Drastic change will be met with drastic resistance.

Instead, focus on building relationships with the leaders and volunteers you’ll be creating for or leading or serving.

Pro Tip: When you start out with these systems get buy-in on these from a few key leaders. Use them to “beta test” your new workflows so that when it is rolled out to the rest of staff/vols they are your cheerleaders.

Once they are rolled out, have grace but also stand your ground. People have to be ‘re-trained’ consistently, and that’s ok. When they ‘get it’ both of your lives will be easier. 🙂

4) A crappy attendance is not your fault.

Please learn this. Let it sink in. I’m of the persuasion that God’s sovereignty is more than able to ensure that life change is not contingent on one gathering. I’m also of the opinion that the people that came were the ones that needed to be there.

An event that is not well attended is not your fault, and you are not designed to carry the weight of it. It’s never one person’s fault.

Instead of letting bad engagement put you into a spiral, get in the habit of doing something like a SWOT analysis for each event/gathering/whatever. What did you learn from it? Where’d you drop the ball? How clear was your messaging? Did it conflict with some other event?

5) Set actionable, attainable and MEASURABLE Goals.

Whatever is under your purview can be measured. For a church creative or comms guy maybe it’ increasing social engagement, decreasing your website’s bounce rate, whatever. 

For a community pastor maybe its a certain number of new group leaders, or a certain percentage of group involvement this semester.

For a connections pastor, maybe it’s the ratio of first time guests to those that go through whatever growth track gig you have. For the XP maybe it’s a way to help the staff you lead set goals for their department.

Don’t just treat goals as emotionless stats either. God has plans for whatever you lead. Ask Him. He’ll help you discover the goals and plans He has in mind fo whatever you’re doing.

6) Get Settled before building a team

When you start a new position, don’t immediately start adding people to your team. Focus on building relationships, not building a team. When you get settled (maybe a month or two in) and have a handle on your new position, start building a team of volunteers one at a time.

Some of you may be handed a team right away. Some of you may be in a position that absolutely requires a team immediately. I get it, but don’t let the ‘team’ aspect outweigh the relational necessities.

My recommendation is don’t bring three people on your team immediately unless you have to. [Remember, this started out speaking to people new to a church comms position]

Bring one person on at a time; apprentice style, and when they have it down then bring the next person on. This will help you expand what your department can do without overwhelming you. Don’t burden yourself with a ton of ‘direct reports’ right after taking a new position.

So, let’s say your position handles website, social, graphics and newsletters. You’re going to be busy getting a handle on it and figuring out systems. Once you get settled, bring one person on and apprentice them to handle Social and what that entails. Here’s the method I use:

  • I do – You watch
  • I do – You help
  • I help – You do
  • I watch – You do

Once they are capable (not perfect, but capable) and you are satisfied tap someone on the should for the next area. Here’s a key; don’t just give them work stuff to do either. Pastor them, care for them and lead them.

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