“No.” It’s the dreaded word we all hate saying in the church. Why is that the case?
For me, I just want everyone to like me.
Maybe you just think that if you say “no” to a fellow staff member, you’re denying them their ability to do effective ministry.
The truth is, though, that you’re actually helping them do effective ministry by telling them “no.” You’re helping them by telling them that a stage announcement is not the best way to tell people about their event.
Here’s why… As the communications director in your church, it’s your job to advocate for your congregation every week.
It’s not your job to advocate for your church’s ministries. It’s not your job to advocate for your fellow staff members. It’s your job to make sure that your congregation gets the right information, at the right time, in the right way. And a large part of that process is saying “no” to ministries who make communication requests. Then as you advocate for your congregation you will at the same time be advocating for your ministries.
Trust With Leadership
So how do you say “no” to your fellow staff members without becoming the black sheep?
It all comes down trust. You need to gain the trust of your fellow staff members, and the only way that happens is by gaining the trust of your lead pastor. If you don’t have the trust of your lead pastor, no one else is going to trust you. It’s just that simple. Your lead pastor needs to have your back in the cases where you do have to say “no”. Otherwise you’re always going to feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a mountain.
I was grateful to be part of a church staff where this was built into the culture. My lead pastor always had my back, and it was understood on staff that I was the expert in my position.
So what happens if you don’t have that trust with your leadership?
This is the point where you may be sitting there saying to yourself, “Well that’s great for Josh, but my lead pastor just does whatever they want. They don’t trust me to make the communication decisions. What should I do?”
I understand that position. You may tell someone “no” and they go ahead and do it anyways. This is where it’s important to remember that 90% of the role of a church communications director is focused on relationships. If you don’t have the trust of your church staff, you need to work twice as hard to build that trust.
How do you build trust?
To build trust you need two things:
- A process.
What does empathy have to do with church communications? Everything!
Steven Covey says, “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.”
When you’re able to empathize with your ministry directors, they’ll be more open to creative solutions to their problem.
Always have a “yes” behind your “no”.
It’s okay to say “no”, but very rarely is “no” the end of the conversation. 99% of the time, “no” is just the bridge to another “yes”.
As a church communicator, you need to have alternative ideas when you enter these conversations with your ministry directors. When you offer alternative ideas, it shows them that you actually care about their ministry. You want to see them succeed, but you may just need to go about it in a different way.
Ministry Director: “I want a stage announcement for our men’s Bible study this weekend.”
Communications Director (you): “Typically, we have a limited number of spots for stage announcements, and they are reserved for announcements that pertain to 80% or more of our congregation. What if we sent an email to the men in our church communicating this event to them? That way we’ll communicate directly to them.”
You’ll notice that the word “no” wasn’t even mentioned. You need to practice saying “no” by offering alternative creative solutions, and in that way you’ll begin to see success in your church’s communication. You’ll also begin to see that you fight fewer battles and start working alongside your ministries.
Finally, a good process needs to be in place so that as you go into these conversations with staff members, they already have an idea of what their communications could look like.
A good process starts with some simple key questions:
- Who is the target audience?
- What is your expected attendance for this event? (Hint: The answer to this question should hardly ever be “our entire church.”)
- What would define success for this event?
There are many other questions you could ask, but those are some key questions that will help you quickly discern some creative alternatives in these conversations.
Just remember that this is always going to be a conversation in your church. Thankfully, it just means that you are growing and are on a path toward better communication as a church.
Keep leaning into the tension and continue to communicate the gospel well. Your church deserves it.