You might be wondering what PR even is, or how it really matters for your church.
Let me be the first to tell you that you are already in public relations. You, your lead pastor, everyone on staff at your church, including the youth pastor, and even your volunteer small group leaders.
That’s because PR is everything you do or say, as well as everything you don’t do, and don’t say.
It’s all about the perception of your church. What people think about you and how they talk about you. And when I talk about managing PR, or creating a PR strategy for your church, I’m talking about managing that perception. Telling your story. Because if you don’t tell your story, someone else will.
It’s not about covering up or spinning the truth. PR is about aligning the truth with the perception of the public so that you can clearly and effectively carry out your mission – to point people to Christ.
You need a good reputation to be able to effectively communicate your message and grow your church. You need the trust of the public and anyone who encounters your organization, so that you can lead conversations about Jesus.
You might be thinking: do we need to worry about PR at our church? Or, we don’t need someone on staff who handles PR, that’s a bit much.
The fact is PR is not something you can ignore, and frankly it’s something you’re already doing whether you have someone on staff with PR in their title or not.
The question is whether you’re managing it well, whether you are maximizing your opportunities for church growth, for greater conversations about Jesus, for connecting with real people in your community.
It’s also a question of whether you are ready. Are you prepared to handle a crisis? What happens if someone makes an accusation against your pastor tomorrow? What’s your plan if there’s a natural disaster in your area? Do you know what to do if someone starts leaving negative comments on your Facebook posts?
You need a plan. And you need someone to be in charge of that plan. If you’re a smaller church, you don’t necessarily need to go hire a full time PR manager, but the strategy needs to fall on someone’s desk. It’s too important not to.
Everyone in your church should be mindful of public relations, but you can’t leave the strategy and decision making to a committee. And you can’t push it off as something you’ll work on as a team if something bad happens.
Ideally you have a communications person on staff. They should be tasked with the overall plan and strategy that I will help you put together.
If you’re a smaller church, this can be a part time job or something that falls on whoever runs your social media channels, website, and other communications. If you need help identifying who that person should be, you can find a post on the best traits of a PR person on the ChurchPRPlan.com website, or in my book PR Matters.
I can’t stress the importance of this enough. My friend Pastor Greg Laurie, who leads Harvest Crusades and Harvest Christian Fellowship in California says “We live in a time of bad news, fake news, divisive news, and depressing news. As Christians, we need to re-commit ourselves to getting the Good News out.
Are you actively promoting your church? Are you pursuing opportunities in the news? Are you prepared for when someone from the news contacts you?
I know it can be scary, and you’re probably not experienced. But you don’t want to miss great opportunities to expose your church and your message to new audiences. And you don’t want to be caught off guard if a crisis hits.
That’s when most people start to think of PR – when a crisis hits. Frankly, by then it’s too late. There’s only so much you can do if you aren’t prepared.
You may think nothing big will ever happen to you, maybe because you’re a small church. Maybe because everything is on the up and up, and you never experience any drama. Your pastor is happily married, has boundaries in place, and your people trust you.
Churches that are that naive are the most vulnerable. And I get calls from them every month, wanting me to help with damage control.
But when they aren’t prepared – when they haven’t been putting in the work when things are going great, then there’s only so much that can be done to control the story when someone messes up, or an accusation is made.
That’s all PR is – controlling the story. But not in a negative way. It’s about keeping the narrative in the right lane. It’s about building relationships and constantly having conversations that continue to tell your story and point people to what matters – Jesus.
We don’t want to control the story so we can deceive and hide the truth from people. We want to control the story so we can make sure the truth stays in the light.
What’s worse are the churches that try to operate under the radar. In his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson says “We’ve created a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland.”
The world wants Christians to be bland. Because they want us to stop spreading the gospel – the most controversial and scandalous story out there. The answer isn’t to crawl into a hole. That’s not what we’re called to do.
We’re called to boldly proclaim the gospel to all the world.
The problem is that we live in a world where everything and anything is now tolerated, except being a bible-believing Christian. The more your church preaches the gospel and confronts people about sin, the more susceptible you’re going to be to a crisis.
PR Matters because we need to have a solid plan for spreading the gospel beyond the four walls of our church building, and PR Matters because we need to be prepared for the constant opposition we’ll receive when we do.
The world’s view of Christians is getting more and more distorted and perverted every day. It’s time your church takes the steps to make public relations a priority so you can communicate the gospel in the most efficient and effective way, no matter the circumstances.