T his is my fourth week in my new role at Peachtree. I am starting to clear the brush off the map and see the landscape, and it is daunting. Here are seven things I have learned as I survey the church communication landscape in my new job as Creative and Communication Director at Peachtree Presbyterian Church..
1. I am starting over again.
I have built some long sections of track in my career, but this job is the biggest project I have undertaken. I understand why some good fellow church communicators turned it down. This is not a statement of regret, because God placed me here, but it is a statement of reality. The task is enormous. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
2. Assume nothing.
While my skills were apparently proclaimed to the staff and congregation prior to my arrival, I can assume nothing when it comes to the church’s knowledge of my ideas (or of my abilities). This is a challenging place to be because of the large and nebulous nature of the job description. I must step carefully.
3. Most churches don’t give this much responsibility to one person.
I have at least two jobs in one: Creative Director and Communication Director, with oversight for technology thrown in the mix. Most churches this size give the job to multiple people or grow into the job organically. I like it rolled together because of the combined ability to create a message and see it through. It is why I took the job, but it means I cannot get too granular or I will easily get overwhelmed.
4. Because of the scope of the job, I have to keep my eye on the map, but I also have to lay some track myself.
While I have good staff, I don’t have all the right people executing the vision yet. Without the right people and systems, I have to get granular in order to model my vision. This tension, between leading and executing, will last for at least two years.
5. I tend to obsess over strategy and find myself wanting to build infrastructure first, but this isn’t possible.
This developmental project will take years. I cannot stop the train to build infrastructure but must do it as I go. This means most systems need to happen in phases.
For example, I cannot overhaul the existing website into my shiny perfect vision of a website in one project. It needs to happen in a series of steps. I need to build sections of track to the completion of my vision. I may have to relaunch a streamlined site before I launch a repurposed site.
6. Obsessing over the map inhibits my creativity.
I need to put the infrastructure-related communication and technology part of the job in a box and keep it to 50% of my work week. The other half of my job, Creative Director, is what creates the “Wow” moments that builds enthusiasm and leads to better personnel and infrastructure.
7. Communication at Peachtree in many ways is stuck in a previous era of print and broadcast.
While in some cases systems are in place, many of them are built to serve a vision that I want to disassemble. But like my four year old knows, disassembling a track on which a train is moving results in a train wreck. So I need to build alternate tracks in new spaces and redirect the flow of materials along the new tracks before I disassemble existing track.
For example, the bulletin is 24 pages long. It is a book. This is the result of a long period of construction aimed at a declining print culture. I can’t just tear down the bulletin altogether, because it is a prime, if inefficient, means of current communication. That would create a train wreck. I need to mostly leave it in place and direct my energy toward building new channels of communication, such as social media. With new channels in place I can begin directing information away from the bulletin. Over time the bulletin will shrink in importance and in size.