The Church Communicator you need is more than a project manager

Most churches treat their communication director, if they even have one, like a glorified project manager that does graphic design. You need to manage projects, but you need something more – an authority who partners in messaging the brand of your church or organization.

Here’s a chart:

Think of this as primarily about workflow, though it can be an org chart as well.

  • CD means Creative Director.
  • AD means Art Director.
  • PM means Project Manager.
  • The circles across the bottom are specialists, like Social Media, Layout Design, Graphics, Copywriting, Video Production (which is many things), web and so on.

The middle two circles, which I circled in a conversation with a pastor last week, is the typical job description for a church communication director. Project management and layout.

Now, depending your situation, this may be a glorious improvement on the current reality of having the receptionist do everything. What I have observed is that most growing churches realize at some point that they need to specialize, as the aforementioned receptionist can no longer handle the bulletin, the social media accounts, and so on. Hiring a graphic designer who can also project manage the various activities of the church is typically the solution the church comes up with.

This person is then saddled with the entire communications weight of the church. What starts out exciting and full of promise quickly descends into survival and burnout.


The Typical Church Communication Director Isn’t Allowed to Message

The core of the problem? I think it is that in most situations, the communication director has very little to no authority to help “message” the church; rather, he or she is given projects to produce from various pastors and program directors, both staff and volunteers who head committees and such. This is what I mean when I say in other posts that the typical church communication strategy is “Church Like Kinko’s” instead of a “Church Like Pixar.”

This graphic designer slash project manager is usually quite good at the job – otherwise she wouldn’t survive. She can do graphic design, learn social media and sometimes website publishing, project manage with the best of them, and sometimes even do video or other skills.

But in spite of all of this, the poor, overworked communication director gets burned out and retreats from the original grand vision for how to message the church – or even quits in frustration. This is to say nothing for the specialists that may work with or underneath this person in a paid or volunteer capacity.

I have seen this happen over and over.

There’s a better way.


A Good Model Leads with a Creative Director

In a branding agency model, it starts up top, with a role called a Creative Director. The job of the CD is to set the message for the organization or client. This means understanding the overall brand and how each individual initiative or project works underneath the overall brand.

At St. Andrew, where I serve as the CD, part of my job is to do exactly this. This means I have to understand the brand deeply. And when I say brand, I mean the unique identity of the church – what makes this particular community run with passion, its values, what it cares about (read here for more).

When I understand this well, then I can apply it to every project that comes along – this includes sermon series, annual campaigns, capital campaigns, assimilation initiatives, Bible studies and classes, serve opportunities, and more. You name it. Everything needs to reflect the overall brand. (To get a behind the scenes glimpse, here’s a day in the life of my job as a Creative Director.)


Projects Then Flow Through a Project Manager

Then, in a typical firm, underneath the CD is an AD. I don’t have a dedicated AD. We’re not big enough in my opinion to justify this role. Instead, all of us do it together. I’ll talk more about that in a bit.

Next is the PM. Now, this isn’t an org chart. It’s more of a workflow chart. The job of the PM – this position is 1/2 time here at St. Andrew – is to oversee and manage all of the jobs that we produce, including interfacing with the various ministries in the church, making sure we’re staying on task as a team, and so on.

As our PM does her job of managing the projects, then it goes through various specialists. Here’s a list of the types of specialists you might hire.

Most churches force their creative and communication director to be a project manager. I encourage you to think bigger from the start, and fill in underneath as you are able.