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Part one of a two part series on Church Communication Professionals.
In the world of church communications, it is important for us to learn from each other and share what works and what doesn't. With that in mind, I wanted to interview Rebecca Thomas, an amazing church communicator who serves as the director of communication for Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, Michigan, and give us all a chance to learn from her ministry.
Please take a moment to introduce yourself and share a bit about your background that led you to your current position.
I’m Rebecca and I work at Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, Michigan, as the director of communication. I’ve been in this position for two years. I came to Trinity after serving in several communication roles. I was a web editor at Oakland University in Rochester, MI, before working as assistant director of communications and website manager at a local independent grade school.
What do you like most about working in church communication?
There isn’t anything more fulfilling than using my background to serve the mission of Jesus Christ. Not to mention, I have met some really awesome people through this job. From other communicators to the members of our congregation, there are great stories to tell and I love the opportunity to share them.
In 3 words or less, how would you describe the way you work?
Wherever I'm needed.
What does an average week look like for you?
No week is ever the same. I am a part-time employee so I have 25 hours in which to do the communication work for the church, school and early childhood center. I spend Mondays scheduling social media posts and planning out what website articles I will run. I also send out notes to the local newspapers about upcoming events, plan any Facebook or newspaper ads and put our events on community calendars. I actively search our particular hash tags on social media and respond to those posts as the church.
I’m also in charge of our weekly congregational newsletter, both print and online. I set it up and get it ready for the volunteers to print. I complete the online process, put our bulletins online for our livestreamed services and set up the weekly email version of the newsletter to go out.
In addition, I take pictures at school and church events, maintain the social media channels and respond to messages sent through those. I make any necessary website updates on a regular basis.
Oh, and I volunteer to coordinate the school’s student-produced livestream newscast each weekday morning.
Favorite to-do list manager or project management process:
I have a Google Sheets document that I designed for myself. It is a content calendar/to-do list that gives me a look at what I have coming up. I color code it to make sure I’m balancing information about the church, school and early childhood center.
Share a story of success:
Last school year, Trinity received one of the first-ever school of excellence distinction from the Michigan district. As one of the only people available, I was afraid I would miss something. This wasn’t just big news for us or the district, but also something that we wanted to archive. I brainstormed with Seth Hinz for some ideas on how to cover this from all angles.
We came up with a great plan and everything was executed flawlessly. We covered the award presentation on Facebook Live, posted pictures to Instagram and Twitter and followed that up with more detailed pictures and a better video later in the day. I was just one person operating several cameras and hoping everything was working correctly. It was then that I realized I’m not in this alone. I might be the only communications person in my building, but I have a network of people who can help make it all come together.
Share a story of a lesson learned:
Proofread. This seems so simple. I created a postcard. I read it. Three other people read it. We had it printed, stamped and mailed before anyone realized we had the correct date but the wrong day. It’s so costly to go back and fix little errors like that which could have been avoided in the first place. It’s basic stuff, but it’s easy to skim over it.
What are the top 1-3 goals for communication at your church?
Bring people into the church, engage our current families in God’s Word and actions, connect all of our constituents to the work of our school.
How do you know when you’ve succeeded?
I certainly feel a sense of accomplishment when a post has a lot of engagement or an event has a good turnout, but it all comes down to one person. If I work to promote an event and just one person who didn’t know about it joins in, then I feel like I’ve succeeded.