February 27, 2012

The ministry of communications

Sometimes I wish we could calculate our successes like McDonalds: 1 billion served in big, neon letters.

But church work isn’t so easy to quantify. The challenge is especially apparent in the ministry of communications. How do we know if the bulletin inserts are effective? By what measure do we decide whether it’s effective to spend marketing dollars? How much of our time should be spent exploring new means of communication, like Facebook and Pinterest and Google Plus, when even marketing gurus are still figuring out how to tame this communication frontier?

There are some methods for measuring success, from tools like Google Analytics to increases in attendance and engagement. But in the ministry of communications, so often we are planting the seeds that someone else will harvest. We tell the stories of faith that become the broad-brush strokes in someone’s narrative, so that when the person receives an invitation to church from a neighbor or feels like there’s nowhere to turn in the midst of a crisis, he or she remembers that our red doors are always open.

I think that because communication is sometimes nebulous, it’s often seen as expendable. We can’t exactly measure whether attendance increases because of a dynamic social media campaign or because it’s hot and the church is air conditioned. So leadership makes the easier decision: let's cut communication dollars and keep the a/c running.

Another challenge is that people imbue the word communication with so many meanings. Is it our inter-personal dialogue (I like how this priest talks to me after church. I wish the senior warden was friendlier)? Is it mechanical function such as promptly returning phone calls and e-mails?

Is communication an administrative function of simply informing people about upcoming events in newsletters and on bulletin boards?

I like to think that the ministry of communication includes all of those things but that it is much more than the sum of its parts. The ministry of communication is about sharing our stories of faith, our struggles, our epiphanies, our desire for relationships. It is about sharing those stories within our community – in bulletins, newsletters, e-mails and personal contact. And it is about sharing those stories beyond our doors – on websites, social media platforms, billboards and tweets. The ministry of communication provides tools for people to talk about their faith and to understand the intersection of faith in daily life.

Over the next several blogs, I’d like for us to talk about the ministry of communication. Let’s share our stories of success, giving anecdotal evidence for importance of communication as a vital ministry in our churches and communities.

Let’s start sharing. How has the ministry of communication helped your community build up the body of Christ?