Death by a Thousand Cuts
It’s your first day of your new job in church communications.
You sit down at your desk ready to share Jesus with the world and wonder for all of thirty seconds what you should do with your time. Then the requests start.
Kids ministry needs a graphic. Youth needs 25 Instagram stories for their retreat. The Board wants a marketing and advertising plan tomorrow morning. You need to post something on Facebook. Oh and you were told, “since we hired you, we’re going to do Instagram too.” The preschool needs a newsletter sent out, and can it please not be in comic sans?
Very quickly this job could kill you. And it wouldn’t be because of one big colossal failure, or a massive disagreement. It will be a death by a thousand cuts.
This job will slowly but surely bleed you dry, unless you’re careful and intentional about not letting that happen. The pace is frenetic, the demands are massive. You need to set yourself up to not only survive in this ministry, but thrive.
Here are a few things that will help you thrive in church communications.
Build Relationships of Trust
You need to be able to build healthy relationships to survive in any career, and it’s especially important in church communications. Invest in your staff relationships so that your team will trust you and your judgement.
Create Clear Expectations
Unclear expectations will cut you. A lot. This is a two way street. You need to know the expectations your team have on you. And you need to make clear the expectations you have of them. Establish reasonable timelines so that you don’t get as many “Can you just design this series artwork in the next 2 hours?” kind of requests.
Build a Team
Jesus built a team. So should you.
But seriously, you are one person and the demands on you will be more than what you can manage on your own. You need a team to multiply your impact and spread your workload out. You will then have to learn to delegate well and release work to others. But you can do it.
Hold Your Ideas Beside You
“Hold your ideas beside you, not in front of you, so when they’re shot down the arrow doesn’t go through your heart.”
I was given this advice from my good friend Jonathan Carone. I wish I had received this advice sooner in my career. As creatives our work is often incredibly near and dear to our hearts. We pour our souls into our art. But communications is not art.
Whether you’re freelancing or on staff at a church, you are making work for a client who has taste (debatably at times), preference, and ultimately, authority on their needs. So eventually they’ll shoot one of your ideas down. In those moments, if you associate your work with your value, you’ll receive a deep wound that will contribute to an early death in ministry.
Jesus rested. So should you.
Resting is important. The hamster wheel of communications never stops, but you weren’t built to run endlessly. You need to schedule regular times of rest.
Make sure you’re taking your regular days off during the week. Keep a regular sabbath, and take your vacations. Like, actually vacation—leave the phone at home.
I can’t stress this enough. You need a real, like-minded community who will support and encourage you in your ministry. They don’t even have to be in-person friends.
I’ve been lucky to be a part of an incredible small group of communicators that has been transformational. It started as just a group for design feedback, but shifted into a small group for us. This crew of friends have seen me through some of the darkest days of my life, and we’ve been able to support each other with feedback and pastoral care.
If you don’t have a supportive community, a good place to start is the Church Juice Community on Facebook. There are good people in there who would love to support and encourage you.
I don’t want you to die from a thousand cuts.
I want you to thrive in communications ministry. If you need a hand, harass me on Facebook. But more than that, take some of these steps to make sure you last. You’ve got this! We’re all rooting for you.