Church communications pros often come in two different varieties: either you’re a specialist, or a generalist. That may be obvious, and you may already know which category you fall into. But it’s still interesting to consider if there are advantages to one over the other.
At every job I’ve had, I’ve always been a generalist. I thrive at juggling lots of different responsibilities and picking up new skills along the way. It’s a fun way to get exposed to a variety of experiences while also adding value in different ways to the company I work for.
So what are the differences between being a specialist or a generalist? What are the pros and cons for both? Is one route better than the other for working in church communications?
Being a Specialist
Specializing in a specific aspect of communications—such as web development, or graphic design—allows you to go deeper on one thing. Specialists can focus in and get really good at a specific set of skills.
That doesn’t mean you can’t also do other things—like social media gurus that also dabble in photography. It just means you’re primary objective is to serve one area of church communications. And the more you focus in on one thing, often the better quality you’re able to produce.
The drawback to specializing is the opportunities. Most churches can’t afford to hire one communications staff member, let alone a specialist for each area. Many churches either hire a jack-of-all-trades type, or contract out each piece to various freelancers or services.
Being a Generalist
The other end of the spectrum is being pretty good at a lot of different things: social media, copywriting, design, video, and so on. Church communicators wear a lot of different hats, so it helps to become more proficient at swapping out those hats.
Because there’s so much do-it-yourself content online, it’s easier than ever to teach yourself new skills. Even if you can only do five out of the eight things on your job description, it’s not impossible to learn how to do the other three. The key is being flexible and open to absorbing new information.
Of course, the downside of being a generalist is the difficulty in becoming really good at one thing. If you love creating videos, but that’s only a small part of your job, it’s tougher to fulfill that passion. There’s a reason the phrase is: “jack of all trades, master of none.”
Best of Both Worlds
The truth is, none of us are exclusively a specialist or a generalist. Even if you specialize in one role, you probably have some other responsibilities. And even if you mostly juggle different roles, there’s still likely one of them you prefer over others.
So if you’re a specialist, don’t be afraid to pick up a few new skills and become more general. Figure out what other abilities are complementary to your main one. For example, if you’re a web developer, it might be a great idea to expand your knowledge of graphic design to make your websites look even better.
And if you’re generally a generalist (like me), identify which role you most enjoy. You can still wear your different hats, but put a little more effort into growing that one skill. That way if you ever start to burn out, you’ve got something you’re passionate about to focus on.
For me, that one thing is writing. So while I spend my days bouncing around from project management to data analysis, I spend time in my side hustle writing blog posts like this one. So I’m not just a jack of all trades—I’m a writer, who also happens to have a toolbox of other skills.