Getting Started: Chuck Scoggins

Getting Started: Chuck Scoggins

August 6, 2012 by

Chuck Scoggins is a dedicated church communicator. He’s helped us in the Church Marketing Lab and our Job and Freelance Boards. He’s also part of the Creative Missions leadership team. He’s a former communications director and currently is the founder/senior partner at the 374 Media Group, lead strategist for Motion Design Media and teaches design at Lindenwood University. Somewhere in there he found time to write the ebook, Getting Started in Church Communications (read our review). It is a short book, which his family probably appreciates. (Update: Chuck’s book has been updated and expanded in the new Getting Started in Church Communication: Landing a Job)

But we can (and do!) appreciate the insight Chuck has to share. We sat down with Chuck to talk about how churches can get started in church communication.

What prompted you to create this ebook (and the blog series that preceded it)?

Chuck Scoggins: In my experience teaching college courses and talking to those who are trying to start a career in communications and media, I found that there is a good amount of guidance, information, and advice for those who want to jump into the corporate or agency world, but not as much for those looking to do so in the context of the church or in para-church ministries. This is due, in part, to the fact that the communications field is relatively new in the church (as opposed to disciplines like youth ministry, small group ministries, etc.). There is no long track record of people starting in church communications, and as such, no large sampling we can draw upon for a road map to getting started.

My goal with this ebook is to help provide some of the missing information, an introductory list of resources and perhaps some inspiration for those getting started.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known when you were getting started in church communication?

Chuck: I wish I would’ve known that successful church communications is 90 percent relationships and 10 percent of the things we typically think of as being communications (writing code, doing design layouts, running social media campaigns, etc). We as church communicators need to spend a lot more time listening to the needs of our fellow laborers and to the needs of the people to whom we are communicating.

For example, the youth pastor needs to know that we (the communications guy or girl) truly care about the life-change that happens at camp before we try to overhaul their poorly designed camp brochure. The women’s ministry leader needs to believe that we want the best for their ministry before we can convince them that a new online registration system is in their best interest.

If a church is just starting to get serious about communication, where should they start?

Chuck: The what is the area that most churches start (should we do Facebook, or build a new website, or overhaul the bulletin design, or create invite cards, or start an email newsletter?); however, the what should probably be the last thing to consider. The what should come after the why, the who, and the how.

Here are a few things to consider first:

Why do we want to get serious about communicating? If we’re only doing it because “that’s what the big churches are doing,” or “because Facebook is cool” we are probably not going to have great success. It will be much better if we can tie it to the vision of the church (i.e. we want a better web presence because it is vital to helping us with our mission to provide resources to the community).

Who is going to be the champion for, and help provide the sustainability to, the communications systems we are about to put in place? Are we going to hire someone? Are we going to leverage a high-capacity volunteer? Are we going to outsource our needs?

If we are going to hire someone or hand it off to a volunteer, we have to give them a “seat at the table.” It is nearly impossible for a communications professional to effectively do their job if they aren’t in a position of leadership at the highest level. They need to understand the vision behind leadership decisions if they are going to help communicate that vision. They need to be able to speak in to an initiative from a communications point of view. This is something that is often overlooked and it prevents a culture of successful communications from existing at most churches—even those that have a full time communications person on staff.

Who is the target audience of our communications? This should probably be tied to the vision. Are we doing this for the church attendees or for the outsider? That will help us determine the how and the what.

How are we going to communicate the communication? In other words, how are we going to let the congregation know why we are bothering with a new communication strategy? Want to set up a new Facebook presence? How are we going to let our people know to “like” the page?

I could go on, but I think we get the picture…

What’s the biggest headache in church communications and how can newbies get over it (or get used to it)?

Chuck: Two things come immediately to mind:

First is the desire by everyone to communicate everything at the highest level. Everyone feels his or her event, ministry, etc. is most important and expects us to communicate it as such. Our job is to help them see the importance of their individual priority (and they are important!) in relationship to the overall priorities of the church. Remember, when communicating, less is often best. Kem Meyer does a great job exploring this in her book Less Clutter. Less Noise. I also recommend Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice on the topic.

The second tricky thing to navigate is the flow of information. Church communications folks need to be “in the know” in order to do a good job. At the same time, information overload is a problem as well. It can be overwhelming having everyone sending all of the information they need to have communicated. So, on the one hand, church communicators need to be in constant dialog with the senior leaders and ministry leaders to know what’s happening and why it’s happening. There needs to be a good project management system in place to handle the flow of details coming in.

What was the greatest help to you as a new church communicator?

Chuck: The thing that helped me the most was the grace of those I was working with. I really owe a lot to those who were on staff and in the trenches with me during those early years.

Beyond that, the network of people already in the field was essential. That’s why I listed names and websites in the book (and the blog series). Having a group of people you can bounce ideas and frustrations off of is huge!

Indeed. That’s why we encourage folks to connect with a Local Lab. What was your first great success as a church communicator?

Chuck: I feel like my greatest success as a church communicator was building a team (of paid staff and volunteers) of people who were so good that I was no longer needed. A friend once told me that my goal in ministry should be “to work myself out of a job,” and if I did so “I would never be without work.” So, ultimately, my advice to young church communications guys and gals would be to start out with the goal of reproducing yourself. It will help as you establish processes, build relationships, and scale the ministry.

What was your first great failure? What lessons did you learn?

Chuck: As I mentioned at the beginning, my greatest failure was not realizing earlier that church communications (as will all ministry) is 90 percent relationships. If I had it to do over, I would be less concerned about my “agenda” as an expert in communications and how to get people to abide by my policies, and more about the agenda of those I was called to serve.

I believe the role of communications is incredibly important in the church. However, we should never let the importance supersede the mission.

More on Getting Started


Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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3 Responses to “Getting Started: Chuck Scoggins”

  • Nick
    August 14, 2012

    Thanks for this article. Really appreciate the reminders and encouragement to ask the important questions. At the end of the day it’s still about being a servant right?

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  • Sherri
    August 15, 2012

    This was a great interview and really encouraged me to hang in there! I think defining my role as our communications department is new and reproducing myself is key to our success. Thanks again for sharing :)

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  • Matthew
    August 30, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this interview, it really lifted my spirits. Specifically I enjoyed the segment on communication initiated by a Church.

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