Like any organization, the church must be effective at communicating its message. The most important message, of course, is the message of the gospel. Ultimately, everything that’s formally communicated by the church should point to Christ. The gospel is the common message of every single Bible-believing church.
But it’s naïve not to acknowledge that every active and healthy church has ministry programs, initiatives, activities, service projects, and events that support the goal of reaching people for Christ and helping them grow toward Christ-likeness. Our church offers more opportunities than any one member could ever participate in. Communicating all of these opportunities in a consistent and effective way can be overwhelming.
Effectively connecting the right message to the right people at the right time is the ultimate goal of communication. In an extremely active church culture, this can only be done with a good communication strategy.
Part of my role in church communications has been to manage media relations. My “baptism by fire” learning experience came in October of 1999. I was serving in Orlando, Florida at the time, and pro golfer, Payne Stewart and his family were regular attenders of our church. You may remember the story. . .a lone Learjet was flying north with no response to air traffic controllers’ attempts to contact the pilots. A fighter jet was sent to intercept and made visual contact, only to find the windows fogged over with no signs of movement inside. Soon the chartered jet would run out of fuel and crash in a field in South Dakota, a thousand miles from its Dallas destination.
When I first got the call that Payne Stewart’s plane had crashed, I was ironically at the Portofino Bay hotel at Universal Orlando shooting a follow-up video package for a fundraiser our church’s crisis pregnancy center had recently held there. Payne Stewart was the honoree for that event, and I had been the emcee just ten days earlier. I had not yet gotten back to the church before the media calls began coming in.
It seems that often churches don’t have a well-defined process for hiring staff. Maybe that’s because many church leaders just haven’t experienced what a healthy process for personnel selection looks like, or they assume their network of church staff is broad enough to already know the “perfect person” for the job.
I’ve seen a number of cases where a new pastor comes to a church, and he insists on hiring staff from his former church. While this might seem to make sense in terms of building a team that already has proven working chemistry, I think this approach has more risks than rewards. It makes an erroneous assumption that the same team, working in the same roles, will be as effective at a the new church as they were in the previous one. There are just too many other variables to make this a reality. It might make the pastor more comfortable, but in my experience, it can be detrimental to the rest of the staff and even the congregation.
Whatever the reason, I believe we’d do well in the church to elevate the sophistication for how we identify, assess, and ultimately select our church staff.
I had the opportunity this past week to be trained as a “Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.” You might ask, why would a church communications minister want to be trained as a court mediator? The short answer: the church needs conflict mediation.
I’ve recently considered the need for more specific attention and a strategic approach to conflict management in the church, so I began investigating what’s out there. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker is certainly a popular and thorough approach to conflict resolution in the church, and I intend to do more follow up with the resources available through Peacemaker Ministries. But I came across the option for a 40-hour training course in mediation offered locally that I thought would be a good entree to the discipline.
Membership has been a hot topic of discussion in the church over the past decade or so. Some more recently-established churches are dispensing with “membership” and developing the concept of a “partnership” that’s renewed each year. There’s some merit to this approach because the benefits of membership in the church can be quite unclear. We regularly encounter those in our congregation who are surprised to find they’re not actually members of the church, even though they’ve been attending, serving, and even giving their tithes and offerings for many years. By contrast, others play the member card even when they haven’t crossed the threshold in years.
So what does being a member really mean, and what’s the importance of “signing on the dotted line,” if you’re already “plugged in?” I believe there are at least three reasons church membership is still important.
What does it mean to be ordained? It seems to mean different things in different churches and denominations. A colleague at another church recently asked me about it. He’s sensed a call to ministry and presented himself for ordination. However, due to his specific role, his “qualification” became a matter of deliberation among his church leaders. I shared with him my thoughts:
We Baptists, and I think most Evangelicals, look at ordination a bit differently than most mainline denominations. There’s less emphasis on the individual’s formal education than there is on his calling. The large number of bi-vocational pastors among our ranks is evidence of this.
Before I answer this question, I might first point out why I’ve not started a blog before now. As a church communications professional, I’ve struggled with the fact that it’s taken me this long to start. I attribute that to several causes, not the least of which is simply self-discipline. But I’ve also questioned whether I have enough to say that others would be interested in reading.
Sure, the conferences I’ve attended, the seminars I’ve led, and the multitude of emails and phone calls I’ve responded to over the years always come with the questions: “how do you do this or that?” This has reinforced to some degree the idea that I have something worth sharing. But being reactive in this regard and proactively sharing my thoughts in a blog are two different things.
I’ve also been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon when it seems there’s so much opinion already being shared out there, even among church bloggers. Does the world really need one more voice on church culture? I can’t judge the motives of others, but to the extent that many people enter the blogosphere simply to build a platform or make a name for themselves, I’m not interested in joining the ranks.