I have a love-hate relationship with systems. I love when systems are in place to save time and help things run efficiently. I hate when systems get in the way and cause unnecessary complexity.
When I began my role as communications director at West Ridge Church, one of the biggest mistakes I made during the first year was not investing the necessary time to bring clarity to essential systems that would help me, my team, and my church communicate effectively. It took months of living in survival mode for me to finally hit a breaking point and put systems in place.
What I discovered is that creating margin for myself to create and implement sustainable systems was never going to be the most urgent thing on my to-do list; but it was the most important.
Are you starting a communications team from scratch? Looking to take it to the next level? Here are some essential church communication systems you need to have in place:
1 – Communication Requests
When a staff member or ministry has a project they’d like to have the communications team complete, where do they go to submit this request?
Without an answer to that question, you’re likely getting bombarded with quick conversations in the hall, office pop-ins, one-sentence emails, and last minute requests to get projects into your hands. It’s critical that you have a communication request system in place so ministries can see the deadlines for the different types of communication requests and you can get critical information you need to fulfill the request.
2 – Planning
As communication leaders, it’s critical that we have a way to see what’s being communicated, when it’s planned for, and what channels are being used. This big picture view is essential to identifying bandwidth issues for your team and for your church. Here’s a sample picture of what our planning document looks like:
We use a shared Google Doc for this, which gives our whole team one centralized place to look for what’s happening. What this document looks like for you doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you have a way to see big picture what you’re communicating each week and make adjustments when necessary. This has helped me countless times be able to identify weeks where we have too much we’re trying to communicate during a service, and give me the time to make changes to the plan.
3 – Project Management
When you need to make sure a project gets completed on time and delegate tasks to the right people, where do you go? It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-person team or part of a huge team. To get a project from idea to completion, it may take dozens and dozens of details and tasks to make it happen effectively. If you aren’t investing in a project management system or a centralized way to organize the tasks of projects, you can quickly sink into survival mode and create chaos for you and the team around you. Be a good steward of the time, projects, and people God has placed in front of you. Make this a priority.
4 – Weekly Rhythm
What tasks are you doing each week? What are the consistent rhythms you have in your schedule? Church work has a steady rhythm to it, and it often has some consistent things that happen each week at the same time (such as weekly meetings, posting sermons online, social media writing, bulletin preparations). You prioritize what’s important by what’s scheduled and on your calendar. Invest the time into creating a weekly rhythm for yourself, so you can look objectively at your schedule and maximize all that you need to do in it.
This may take some tweaking initially but can be a huge help to you and your team as you make your schedules and workflow more efficient. As you look back and evaluate how this is working for you, ask yourself: Is my current pace healthy and sustainable? If it isn’t, change up that weekly rhythm so you’re saying yes to the right things, and saying no to the rest.
5 – Big Picture Time
When things get crazy, and you have 20 projects in mid-air, what time do you have blocked off in your schedule to think big picture? One of the best systems you can put in place for yourself as a communication leader is to build in 15 minutes at the beginning of each day to look at the day/week ahead and prioritize what needs to get accomplished.
My tendency when I’m overwhelmed is to jump right into my task list. I’ve found that when I take a moment to look at my schedule, evaluate what needs to get accomplished, and think through what my team needs from me, I’m way more effective and spend time on the right things. As you block off some big picture time, take a moment to pray. It’ll be the best investment of time you make in your day.
6 – Volunteer On-Ramps
When a volunteer expresses interest in serving with the communications team, what do you send them? What areas are there to get involved in? What are the expectations? Instead of treating every volunteer on a case-by-case basis, create a system for how you’re going to engage volunteers. Build job descriptions for your on-ramp jobs that communicate the roles, requirements, and expectations. It’s worth an investment of a day to work through your systems and strategy for volunteer engagement. It’ll pay off big time when you’re able to quickly respond to potential volunteers and provide them the clarity they need to quickly get plugged in.
7 – Dream Time
Are you prioritizing times in your schedule weekly, monthly, or quarterly to dream and pray about vision for your ministry? Don’t let long-term vision get stuck in short-term tasks.
Too many times, in my first three years, I would get caught in a reactionary workflow and spend much of my time answering emails, putting out fires, and responding to short-term tasks. My mistake was that I didn’t block out time to dream and evaluate where we were as a team and build a vision for where we needed to go. Without realizing it, I was sacrificing the long-term vision for the short-term needs.
Schedule time to sit back and evaluate where you are and where you and your team need to be. It’s always going to be busy. Prioritizing “dream time” allows God to refresh the taskmaster in you and develop the dreamer and leader you were made to be.
What systems do you have in place to help you as a communications leader? Have tools or resources that may help someone? Share in the comments below.
Need help creating and implementing these essential systems for your church? I’d love to help.
I created a personalized one-on-one communications coaching program that I wish I could have gone through when I got my start in church communications. Are you new to your role or don’t know where to start? Or have you been in church communications for awhile, but want to grow and take it to the next level? If you’re overwhelmed with trying to manage the needs of communications across your church, I’d love to work with you.