How to Handle Communication Requests Without Chaos

How to Handle Communication Requests Without Chaos

March 6, 2013 by

As communication leaders, we’ve all experienced the quick conversation in the hall, text message, phone call or email where a church staff member has a communications project that needs to be done. Often that is followed by, “So, could this be completed by tomorrow morning?”

Three years ago when I started as communications director of West Ridge Church, there was no simple solution in place for our staff to make communication requests for things like graphics, videos, event promotions and social media posts. It didn’t take long for the communication needs of a big church to become unorganized and overwhelming. The staff didn’t have an understanding of how to make requests, what information my team needed to know or how long it would take to complete a project. Welcome to chaos!

How did we fix this problem? We setup a Communication Request page with forms that walk the requester through all of the information we need to complete the project. We have communication requests and deadlines for:

  • Ministry program/events
  • Church-wide events
  • Social media posts
  • Design/print projects
  • Video project
  • Stories/testimonies
  • Website updates

Getting this system in place was a game-changer for our staff and communications team. It provided a simple solution for our staff to submit all of their communication needs and an expectation for what the timeline looked like for the different types of requests.

Need a System for Communication Requests?
Here’s how to get started:

  1. Map out the type of requests you receive, along with the information needed for each request. Feel free to look at the forms at if you need a place to start.
  2. Build the forms with a form builder like Wufoo, Formstack or even a free solution like Google Forms.
  3. Post a link to the forms where the staff can easily get to them. Then, teach the staff about this new system and funnel all communication requests through these forms.

Tips & Ideas

  • As you begin implementing this new system to the staff, you’ll need to be intentional about all requests being funneled through this system. For this to work, staff needs to know that this is the place for all requests. No exceptions. It’s fine for the conversation about a project to begin in a meeting, phone call, etc., but make sure they know the project doesn’t begin until the communication request is submitted.
  • I’m careful that the language in these forms says “Communications Request” and not “Work Order.” There are times when our team does not have the margin to complete the request or there is a more effective way to approach the project. If that happens, I always try to let them know what we can do and share alternatives for the items we can’t complete.
  • For each of the individual requests, you can setup email notifications to go to specific members of your team. For example, if you have a staff member or volunteer in charge of video, they can receive the request directly when someone submits the form.
  • Receiving the communications request is important, but it doesn’t end there. The next step for the communications team is to map out the tasks and milestones for how the project is getting completed. I do this by first mapping it out in a Communications Plan Google Doc and then assigning tasks to our team through a free project management app called Asana.

What does your system look like for managing communication requests? Share in the comments!

Post By:

Phil Bowdle

Phil Bowdle got his start in church as a pastor's kid making faces at his dad while he preached. Today Phil is the creative arts pastor at West Ridge Church in Atlanta and author of Rethink Communication: A Playbook to Clarify and Communicate Everything in Your Church.
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11 Responses to “How to Handle Communication Requests Without Chaos”

  • Michael Waszazak
    March 8, 2013

    This is great info Phil. Our team can get buried in requests at times and have found a similar processes have been very helpful. One tool we’ve found to be invaluable is Zendesk. It’s great for tracking requests, and the conversations and files that go along with them. Though, it looks like we are moving to FreshDesk shortly since it’s less expensive.

    For project management we use Basecamp. Here too, the price is worth it for us.

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    • Phil Bowdle
      March 9, 2013

      Thanks, Michael! For our team, we track files and conversations primarily through Asana, but I’ll have to take a look at Zendesk. I’ve used Basecamp as well before they did the redesign and it looks like it’s gotten a lot stronger.

      Thanks for checking out the post!

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  • Steve Kryger
    March 18, 2013

    Good thoughts Phil, thanks.

    This looks like a good system for processing incoming requests in an orderly way. I think the challenge can be working out what gets priority, and not overloading people with information.

    I’ve mapped out a communication plan ( to help with this, so that when requests come in, I can see what’s coming up, and where there are available spaces to promote.

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    • Phil Bowdle
      March 20, 2013

      Completely agree, Steve. That can be the most challenging part of all. Here at West Ridge, I try to limit main church-wide next steps to 1-2 things a week. Those 1-2 things get primary focus throughout the week and on Sunday as our next steps. Then, secondary items still have a strategic presence on web, social media, video announcements, worship guide, etc. I wrote about this system with a resource link here if you want to check it out:

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  • Nakisha
    April 4, 2013

    Thanks Phil, this was truly helpful! We are looking for more efficient ways to track our creative requests, particularly one that is able to track the approval flow. (admin>ministry leader>service provider).

    I would also love to get your views on church bulletins. We currently print, cut and fold about 4000 bulletins every week inhouse. Our membership continues to grow and I can’t possibly see this process continuing. We’re looking at maybe printing monthly and pushing members online, but this would be a big change to adapt to and I can only imagine the push back we would receive as a lot of members and ministry leaders depend on the bulletin and we would get the “everyone doesn’t go online” response… How does your church handle event communication?

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    • Phil Bowdle
      April 5, 2013

      Hi Nakisha! Church bulletins are a tough one. Here’s how we handle it here at West Ridge. Our primary content hub is our website at where we focus on keeping all of our content up to date (events, media, blogs, home page, etc). The website becomes our linking point to a lot of things as the next step to find more information (through social media, bulletin, email, stage announcements). That has been crucial to us because we want to build a trust with our audience and also provide value to them when they get on our site. For the people that don’t have a computer or have no interest in using one :) we have iPads at our Help Center (info desk) that has guest service people there to assist anyone with any of their questions, register for events, etc.

      The focus of the bulletin is 1)Connection Card, for new people or anyone looking to take their next step with getting plugged in, 2) Sermon Notes (which are now accessible through our church app and YouVersion), and 3) For highlighting the church-wide next steps/announcements. Usually these parallel what is being announced on the stage. This typically includes 2-3 events or opportunities. Because we see a ton of these get thrown away and not used, we don’t put a bunch of budget into the printing of bulletins. We do them B&W in-house and fold them in-house. If budget allowed, I’d like to enhance the look and printing of these. Because we do sermon notes for each week, we’re unable to do these once a month. But if your situation allows that, that can be a great idea!

      My only encouragement to you as you shift communication more online, focus less on the “change” in how they HAVE to go online, and focus more on the “value” and convenience they will experience online with your website.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions by email at phil (at) philbowdle (dot) com or twitter @philbowdle

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  • Mary Tyler
    September 4, 2014

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get content from your staff team? We are looking toward a new website, and it’s a bit of a challenge to get info regularly from ministry leaders. Do you have someone’s position solely designated to the website? Or do you have contributors from your team? How is the info collected? Any help would be awesome!

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    • evan
      December 5, 2014

      Yep, that’s the challenge I’m facing. We have weekly staff meetings but it’s an ADD fest where so many dates and events are talked about there is no way to come out of that meeting with solid information.
      I’m going to give the “fill out the form” thing a try.
      Then the next challenge is getting left alone to do the work. Little projects pop up that are “top priority” and then the news video or bulletin doesn’t get done.

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  • Sharon
    July 4, 2016

    Any chance I can have a look at how does the Communication Request Form look like? Trying to develop one but a bit stuck here… Any help from all you pros would b great for me ..

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