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Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2013â"2016 - Communications
Telling Your Church's Story
By Abingdon Press
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2012 Cokesbury
All rights reserved.
Called to a Ministry of Faithfulness and Vitality
You are so important to the life of the Christian church! You have consented to join with other people of faith who, through the millennia, have sustained the church by extending God's love to others. You have been called and have committed your unique passions, gifts, and abilities to a position of leadership. This Guideline will help you understand the basic elements of that ministry within your own church and within The United Methodist Church.
Leadership in Vital Ministry
Each person is called to ministry by virtue of his or her baptism, and that ministry takes place in all aspects of daily life, both in and outside of the church. Your leadership role requires that you will be a faithful participant in the mission of the church , which is to partner with God to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. You will not only engage in your area of ministry, but will also work to empower others to be in ministry as well. The vitality of your church, and the Church as a whole, depends upon the faith, abilities, and actions of all who work together for the glory of God.
Clearly then, as a pastoral leader or leader among the laity, your ministry is not just a "job," but a spiritual endeavor. You are a spiritual leader now, and others will look to you for spiritual leadership. What does this mean?
All persons who follow Jesus are called to grow spiritually through the practice of various Christian habits (or "means of grace") such as prayer, Bible study, private and corporate worship, acts of service, Christian conferencing, and so on. Jesus taught his disciples practices of spiritual growth and leadership that you will model as you guide others. As members of the congregation grow through the means of grace, they will assume their own role in ministry and help others in the same way. This is the cycle of disciple making.
The Church's Vision
While there is one mission—to make disciples of Jesus Christ—the portrait of a successful mission will differ from one congregation to the next. One of your roles is to listen deeply for the guidance and call of God in your own context. In your church, neighborhood, or greater community, what are the greatest needs? How is God calling your congregation to be in a ministry of service and witness where they are? What does vital ministry look like in the life of your congregation and its neighbors? What are the characteristics, traits, and actions that identify a person as a faithful disciple in your context? This portrait, or vision, is formed when you and the other leaders discern together how your gifts from God come together to fulfill the will of God.
Assessing Your Efforts
We are generally good at deciding what to do, but we sometimes skip the more important first question of what we want to accomplish. Knowing your task (the mission of disciple making) and knowing what results you want (the vision of your church) are the first two steps in a vital ministry. The third step is in knowing how you will assess or measure the results of what you do and who you are (and become) because of what you do. Those measures relate directly to mission and vision, and they are more than just numbers.
One of your leadership tasks will be to take a hard look, with your team, at all the things your ministry area does or plans to do. No doubt they are good and worthy activities; the question is, "Do these activities and experiences lead people into a mature relationship with God and a life of deeper discipleship?" That is the business of the church, and the church needs to do what only the church can do. You may need to eliminate or alter some of what you do if it does not measure up to the standard of faithful disciple making. It will be up to your ministry team to establish the specific standards against which you compare all that you do and hope to do. (This Guideline includes further help in establishing goals, strategies, and measures for this area of ministry.)
The Mission of The United Methodist Church
Each local church is unique, yet it is a part of a connection, a living organism of the body of Christ. Being a connectional Church means in part that all United Methodist churches are interrelated through the structure and organization of districts, conferences, and jurisdictions in the larger "family" of the denomination. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church describes, among other things, the ministry of all United Methodist Christians, the essence of servant ministry and leadership, how to organize and accomplish that ministry, and how our connectional structure works (see especially ¶¶126–138).
Our Church extends way beyond your doorstep; it is a global Church with both local and international presence. You are not alone. The resources of the entire denomination are intended to assist you in ministry. With this help and the partnership of God and one another, the mission continues. You are an integral part of God's church and God's plan!
(For help in addition to this Guideline and the Book of Discipline, see "Resources" at the end of your Guideline, www.umc.org, and the other websites listed on the inside back cover.)CHAPTER 2
Biblical Basis for Communications
Congratulations! By accepting the position of communications coordinator, you will help your congregation get important information and share the Christian message with each other and the community. It's a wonderful, multifaceted job filled with opportunity. No matter how you choose to carry out your mission, chances are you'll be forever influenced by the experience.
Local church communications is a ministry that shares the church's story in ways that move people toward becoming disciples for Christ. By being a local church communicator, you are following the ways of the Bible. In the following verses from Ephesians, include "communicator" (you) as one of the gifts to the church.
He is the one who gave gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
As a communicator, you are a storyteller and story listener, helping equip people with information, insight, and ways to respond in order to do God's work. You also provide the congregation with means to tell their own stories.
In Matthew 13:10 (THE MESSAGE), the disciples ask Jesus why he tells stories. He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight."
Think of the ways you as the communicator tell the story of the church, creating readiness and nudging the church community toward receptive insight. For example, you may help locate videos to put a face to people and ministries who benefit from the congregation's offerings, use the newsletter to connect Sunday school teachers with resources from the conference media center, publish personal stories on the website that entice individuals to get involved, coordinate banners on the church grounds to let the community know exciting things are happening, utilize social media tools to engage people and move the church toward being more welcoming, or coordinate revolving bulletin board information from ministries in the church. You provide vital links within the body of Christ!
Consider also how these passages apply to your ministry: "He taught them by telling many stories" (Mark 4:2). "As she came in, the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God. The king had just said, 'Tell me some stories about the great things Elisha has done'" (2 Kings 8:4).
We have the greatest story of all to tell, and in this digital, multimedia world we have more options than ever before—and more challenges as a church to be relevant in telling our story in a way that inspires and engages people. That's why a communications coordinator is more important than ever!
Perhaps the goal of local church communications can be summed by Philippians 1:9, "I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding."
Just as Mary was instructed to "Go, tell" when the tomb was empty, you are now asked to "Go, tell."CHAPTER 3
Understanding Your Role and Responsibilities
You are part of a leadership team that brings to life your church's vision and mission. Your role is to be a storyteller and connector, employing communications practices and tools to share the story of the church—its ministries, programs, opportunities, people, and faith—in planned, compelling, accessible ways. Your goal is to develop a reliable process for telling and hearing the church's story in which everyone can participate.
In its broadest sense, church communications is the sum total of everything we do, say, or show. Churches constantly communicate, whether they mean to or not. Intentionally communicating is the cornerstone of an effective communications ministry—and the essence of your job.
Your hats may include what is known in the secular world as "marketing," "advertising," and "public relations," both inside the church and in the community.
As one local church communicator put it: communications ministry provides a way to take a large number of ministry events, needs, activities, and opportunities and package them for presentation to the congregation and the community.
You will want to interact frequently with the church council members. They are charged with coordinating programs of the church—elements of the church's story, in other words. They likely need your communications expertise. It will be helpful for you to read the other Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation in this series to learn more about everyone's jobs and to understand their communications needs.
The ministry of communications encompasses such a wide and varied arena within the life of the church that it's difficult to identify exactly and accurately the responsibilities or resources for every communications coordinator. One size does not fit all. In general, the purpose of the communicator is to keep the congregation "in the know" about what's going on in the church and throughout the denomination and to challenge the congregation through stories of faith in action—bringing people closer in their walk with God. It's important you sit with the pastor(s) and discuss your role and responsibilities so expectations are clear. One of the challenges communicators face is creating a manageable work life. There is so much to do! Let's look at a few areas that may be considered communications functions in the local church. One way to look at the tasks is to divide them according to complexity or responsibility.
SUGGESTED BASIC RESPONSIBILITIES:
Promote the church's mission through communications.
Coordinate communications to and from members (print/electronic newsletters, announcements).
Share information about members (bulletin boards, special recognitions).
Promote church-related events and opportunities to church members to get their participation or involvement.
Promote events and opportunities sponsored by the church to the community.
Work with a communications committee.
Make suggestions and contributions to the church's website.
Utilize social media tools to create engagement, dialogue and community.
SUGGESTED INTERMEDIATE RESPONSIBILITIES (BUILDING ON THE BASICS):
Provide creative communications counsel and direction for various ministries within the church as they organize and produce various events and services (e.g., identifying audiences, creating communications plans, sharing effective presentation ideas).
Create a public relations plan for the church for both internal (congregation) and external (community) audiences.
Write news releases and maintain proactive media relations.
Write and design promotional and informational print materials.
Ensure the church's building, property, and congregation communicates "welcome!" and promote good public relations.
Coordinate "marketing" efforts of the church to support evangelism in reaching out to the community.
Plan and place regular and seasonal advertising.
Oversee the design and management of the church's Web ministry.
All these are "tasks." They are only as important as the reason behind doing them. Consider, what is the church's mission and vision? How does communication assist in breathing life into vision and mission statements?
Needed: Communications and organizational skills, sense of humor, ability to juggle several projects at once, a little patience, a love for The United Methodist Church and its people, a sense of mission, and an occasional ability to say no.
If you have been hired as the electronic communications coordinator, your work and tools will be different from the print person's, but your focus will be in sync with that of other communications staff.CHAPTER 4
In the Beginning
New coordinators of communication usually ask four basic questions:
1. What is my job?
2. Where do I begin?
3. How do we reach people in the congregation?
4. How do we make our church more visible in the community?
This Guideline will help you answer those questions, but it represents one toe in the water, just breaking the surface. If needed, you will want to tap additional resources for more in-depth discussion.
Where Do I Start?
1. Get clarity on the expectations of your position.
2. Learn about your annual conference.
3. Contact the conference director of communications, the district office, and other local church communicators.
4. Understand what you bring to the position and begin evolving the concept of what local church communications is for your local church.
5. Form a communications team.
You no doubt are already asking yourself, "What should communications for this church look like and how do I make it happen?" The answer will definitely evolve over time, but the question is a good motivator to launch a journey of discovery.
You know the adage, "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? That's a good place to start—finding the many "who" to support you along the way. The United Methodist Church is a connectional church, which means all United Methodist churches are connected in various ways—and help is available through the connection.
KNOW YOUR DISTRICT AND ANNUAL CONFERENCE
As a brief review, your local church is in a district within an annual conference. A district superintendent oversees several churches in the district. Get to know the superintendent and administrative person in your district office. They likely publish a newsletter and maintain a website. It's critical for you to have access to this information, as you may want to advertise and participate in district events and ministries, as well as promote your own local church events through the district. Ask to be on newsletter mailing lists—and ask how you can serve the communication needs of the district.
In the United States, an annual conference may include churches in one, part of one, or more than one state. Each annual conference is led by a bishop. There are nearly 60 annual conferences in the United States—the number changes as annual conferences merge. The number of churches in annual conferences range from 200 to more than 1,000. (There are about 70 annual conferences in Europe, Asia, and Africa.)
TAP INTO THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE
The annual conference office employs a staff that works with all aspects of ministry, including a director of communications. Early in your new position, call the director. (You should be able to obtain contact information from the conference website or from your pastor).
Excerpted from Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2013â"2016 - Communications by Abingdon Press. Copyright © 2012 Cokesbury. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsCalled to a Ministry of Faithfulness and Vitality,
Biblical Basis for Communications,
Understanding Your Role and Responsibilities,
In the Beginning,
Where Do I Start?,
Build a Communications Team,
Identifying Communications Needs,
Assessing Your Communications Tools,
Identify Foundational Communications,
Develop a Calendar,
Create a Communications Plan,
Create the Tie That Binds,
Know Your Audiences,
Selecting the Right Vehicle,
The Church Newsletter,
Website & Web Ministry,
Interpreting Connectional Giving,
Projecting a Positive Image,
Create Visibility in the Community,
Public Witness as Public Relations,
Body Language as Public Relations,
Telephones as Public Relations,
Welcoming as Public Relations,
Assist Persons With Special Needs,
Media Ministry: Sending the Word,
Maintain Good Media Relations,
Explore the Media,
General Agency Contacts,