A communications pastor is responsible for ensuring that every touchpoint someone has with your church aligns with your mission and vision. In many cases, they may even be the one to actually put your mission and vision into words. This pastor oversees all communications your church sends out. They also develop strategies for facilitating your member journey and creating a system that nurtures every individual in your church.
Clearly, communications pastors have a lot of influence over your congregation’s growth and how people perceive your church. But being effective in this role requires such a diverse set of skills and knowledge that it can be hard to know what to look for in a communications pastor—or what you should develop if you want to be a good one.
Here are 12 things great communications pastors have in common.
1. Strong writing skills
Obviously, the primary person communicating on behalf of your church needs to be an effective communicator. This goes far beyond not making typos. A good communications pastor needs to be capable of writing and editing compelling messages across a wide variety of mediums, including websites, email, blog posts, social media, signage, newsletters, bulletins, and other print and digital formats.
They need to know how to make their writing:
You might need additional people to write if your communications pastor doesn’t have the capacity to fully execute their vision. (They don’t have to write everything.) But you shouldn’t need additional writers because your pastor lacks the ability to execute their vision.
Writing is a skill that can be developed. Good communications pastors never stop growing this skill and learning how to apply it to new mediums and channels.
2. Marketing expertise
Communications pastors have the unenviable task of merging ministry and marketing. Your church needs an intentional strategy for collecting and using visitor information, and if you want that strategy to be effective, it has to incorporate marketing insights. You want your communications to nurture people on their individual member journeys. That means every message should prioritize the benefits to the people you’re communicating with, and every message should have a purpose that fits with your ministry goals.
Effective communications pastors know how to use marketing to further your ministry without sacrificing the integrity of your message.
Before communications managers are hired, often they come in with more experience in the church than experience in the marketplace. For the full guide on effective engagement within a ministry context, download the free ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Church Engagement, today!
3. Working knowledge of basic communications platforms
Every platform your church uses to communicate with your community has its own nuances that should be taken into account. The way your church presents yourself on Facebook, for example, is probably going to look a lot different than the way you do on your blog or in your newsletter. Social media is very public-facing, and you need to be conscious of how you come across to your congregation’s friends, families, and coworkers, as well as your broader community.
Your communications pastor needs to be attuned to the nuances of communicating through Facebook, Twitter, email, and your other channels, but they also need to know the nuts and bolts of how to use them. That doesn’t mean they need to be active on every social channel and have a personal blog and email list (although that certainly helps), but you need to be confident that they’re keeping up with changes to these platforms and that they’re familiar enough with them to represent your church well.
4. Passion for your church’s mission and vision
You can’t afford lackluster messaging when it comes to the things that matter most to your church’s identity and mission. If your communications pastor isn’t personally invested in what God is doing through your church and the people he’s calling you to serve, it’s going to show in the way they speak on behalf of your church.
Your internal and external communication both need to reflect your church’s heart for your ministry and passion for the gospel. You can’t expect your visitors to be captivated by a passion that simply isn’t there, and if you want to cultivate passion in your members, you need to reinforce what it looks like in the way you communicate with them.
And despite the overlap between this role and the world of marketing, “communications pastor” is still a ministry position. That means the job doesn’t end when they go home for the day. They don’t clock in and clock out. It’s important to create boundaries for work-life-balance, but you also need your communications pastor to be invested enough in your church that it doesn’t matter what time a disaster strikes or your website crashes—they’re ready and eager to communicate on behalf of your church. If they aren’t passionate about your church, work-related surprises will cause them to burn out much faster.
5. Ministry experience
Ministry experience isn’t a must-have for communications pastors, but it definitely helps. You want your communications pastor to understand the diverse challenges of serving, and to be capable of inspiring others to serve or continue serving. They can certainly learn from talking to your ministry leaders and volunteers, but if they can add that to their own experience it can have a bigger impact.
This isn’t about giving them more authority to speak into ministry issues, but rather, it’s about helping them understand how even the simplest of tasks can fit into a larger vision or purpose. Your mission can manifest itself in many different ways. Serving in ministry as a volunteer or on staff can help your communications pastor get better at translating your mission into practical forms of service.
When your church communicates with people in your community and your congregation, you want them to feel like, “Wow, this church gets me.” That’s only possible if your communications pastor is intimately familiar with where people are coming from and how your messaging will come across to them.
All it takes is one tone-deaf message to alienate someone. It could be what keeps them from coming back to your church. Or giving again. Or taking the appropriate next step, like getting involved in a small group or ministry.
Your communications pastor has to think beyond how messaging will come across to other staff members and really put themselves in the shoes of the people they’re talking to. They have to think about where people are at spiritually, what motivates them, and how their past experiences may change the way they respond to the message.
Is it appropriate to assume they’re all believers? Or that they’re already aligned with your church’s theology? What do they care about most? What do they hope to get out of their involvement with your church? How will this message come across to someone who’s been hurt by the church, experienced this trauma, or works in the industry or profession you’re talking about?
Empathy will make every message stronger, and it ensures you position your church as an ally and not an antagonist.
7. Openness to new technology
New church communication technology can create new opportunities for your church. Not all of those opportunities are worth pursuing, but your staff should always be willing to consider how new tech might improve your ministry, streamline routine tasks, or simplify workflows.
Once your church has established norms and processes, it’s easy to become resistant to anything that challenges those norms or threatens to disrupt those processes. Guidelines and processes are an important part of protecting your church’s brand integrity and ensuring that every communication meets your church’s standards. But a good communication pastor will recognize when those processes are getting in the way of important innovations that could help your church grow, work more efficiently, or present itself more effectively.
(This is why it’s also important to have a process for deciding when it’s time to buy new tech. Check out our free ebook, The Church Tech Buyer’s Guide.)
8. Interest in new communication channels
Your congregation and your community are digitally scattered across dozens of social networks and communication channels. You can’t possibly be on all of them, and every channel you add could represent at least a couple hours of work per week. Your communication pastor should be selective about the channels your church uses, but they also need to be curious about how new platforms could better equip you to:
- Reach new people
- Lean on the strengths of your church
- Drive people to take action
Additionally, some communication channels are going to work better for certain ministries than for others. Your youth group, for example, will have more success using social platforms your kids are actually on—but they also need to have a channel that works well for communicating with parents.
Your communications pastor should at least oversee every channel your ministries are active on, and they should stay on the lookout for more effective platforms.
9. A talent for inspiring people
The way you communicate with your volunteers and staff carries over into how they communicate with the rest of your church and the people you serve. So it’s important that your internal communication isn’t exclusively instructional, and doesn’t feel straight out of a textbook. You want your messaging to inspire your staff and volunteer teams to passionately carry out your vision and work toward accomplishing your mission.
Not every email or form has to read like an apologetic for your church’s goals, but your mission and vision should be sprinkled throughout every piece of communication wherever they’re relevant.
Excellent communications pastors unify every goal, project, and role under the umbrella of your church’s calling. They inspire and motivate your teams to work with purpose and passion.
10. The ability to condense information
Effective communicators can reduce any message to its main point. With every piece of communication, your communications pastor should be able to identify: what do these people need to know? What do we want people to do with this information? The answers to those questions will ultimately drive what you say to a given audience.
It often takes more work to say something succinctly than it does to talk about it at length. But if you infodump on people in an email, Facebook post, letter, or instructional handout, you risk causing people to forget the main point or lose interest before they get there.
11. A willingness to delegate
Delegation is vital to your church leaders’ long-term health. It’s easy for a communications pastor to feel ownership over all aspects of your church’s communication. That’s their area of responsibility. But if that sense of ownership makes a communications pastor possessive and unwilling to share responsibility, they’re going to burn out much faster.
Learning how and when to distribute responsibility is an important part of being a leader. For a communications pastor, it’s also a valuable strategy to ensure your church’s mission and vision permeates from your staff and volunteers. It also requires them to articulate their strategies and insights in ways other people can understand and replicate—which makes them a more effective communicator.
12. Strong organization skills
With all the channels, messages, and responsibilities a communications pastor has to stay on top of, organizational skills are a must. It’s not enough for someone to be a visionary or to be passionate about what your church is doing. You need someone organized enough to execute on your vision and carry out their strategy.
Organizational skills are also an important part of leading a team. Depending on the size of your church, your communications pastor will likely be in charge of volunteers or administrative staff. Staying organized respects those who look to your leadership and ensures they have what they need to work effectively. Being disorganized increases the likelihood that your communications pastor or someone under them will make a mistake—possibly a very public one.
Excellent church communication starts with an excellent pastor
A communications pastor often works behind the scenes in ways your congregation may not even notice—but the impact of their work is everywhere. They subtly influence how well your church adopts new processes, embraces new ministries and projects, and understands your calling. They affect participation in events, small groups, and serving opportunities, and they shape how you nurture each person on their membership journey.
So whether you are a communications pastor or you’re looking to hire one, it’s important to recognize what all good communications pastors have in common.
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