I don’t normally make predictions, but this is one I see coming like the light of a freight train in a tunnel. I believe that there will be a need (and eventually a demand) for a Pastor of Social & Digital Communications.
I’m not putting any bets on when churches will make this move, but when church leaders realize that social media isn’t a fad but instead a fundamental shift in interpersonal communications, the need for such a position will become apparent. Ironically, I believe that churches have a significant leg-up on just about every other social media market due to the fact that there have been the core makeup of social media segments in churches for thousands of years. Said another way, churches already have multiple small groups of people with similar or same affinities, needs and goals. The church social network existed long before it was made real-time anytime, anywhere by digital technologies.
What Defines A Pastor of Social & Digital Communications?
In my opinion, it’s more than a job description (though that’s helpful to a point), the position is a reflection of the unique DNA and needs of a church in context to their local and glocal (globally local; time and venue are almost entirely irrelevant on the Internet) communities.
Update: I don’t believe this will be the same as the current role of an Internet Pastor, which I believe is more similar to today’s multi-site campus pastor. Also, after additional consideration, I don’t think this will be a position at small or possibly even medium sized churches. To take a guess towards the future, I’d say this position might be more oriented towards the Communication team with a pastoral bent.
If a church is a focused on outreach through projects, social justice and equipping, I believe the role of an SDC pastor (Social & Digital Communications) will largely be around coordinating online event registration, making community connections and helping organizing logistics.
I also believe the same position at a church that’s more discipleship focused will most likely have more of their time coordinating between ministry leaders to ensure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing and working with a robust database of church members, attendees and community leaders & organizations to help raise awareness, make personal connections to the right leaders and managing multiple channels of information dissemination and communication.
Understanding Channels & Communication Mediums
Because this role has an emphasis on social media and Internet technologies, it most likely prove necessary for this staff position to have a strong communications background, leveraging social monitoring tools and clearly understanding demographics. Though the term “targeted demographics” sounds like pure marketing speak, what it represents is a truth in every church and organization:
The need to get the right information to the right people at the right time in the right way or ways.
Churches deal with this week in and week out today…
- Making phone calls to senior adults
- Sending postcards to first-time visitors
- Sending HTML-rich emails to Gen X’ers
- Sending SMS text messages to Gen Y’ers
- Sending a combination of emails, postcards and personal phone calls for people who miss serving or attending (such as children’s classes)
The Matrix of Social & Digital
These channels of communication must be managed through a matrix of frequency, demographic, medium and priority.
Frequency is how often a need, activity, event or opportunity occurs. It also must represent the number of times the message is communicated across different mediums with different content.
Demographic is the target group, from church wide all the way down to an individual. Sub-demographics are the methods for slicing up a target group (young adults) into other, more specific parameters (single, married, attends X-often, has not attended since Y, has or has not served in a similar activity in the past or has signaled an interest that is saved to their profile (an attribute such as “like volunteering with other kids” or “wants to serve with other single mothers”).
Medium is the kind of content and the distribution channel for the medium. From video to email to text message to Facebook to Twitter to phone calls, defining the technology/vehicle options that best reach a certain people group(s), the content can be customized and delivered at the right time to the right people.
Priority defines the urgency of the information and the authority to remove, replace or reschedule other communication and/or engagement.
Is This Really A Dedicated Person?
Why I think this will become a common new position is the combination of talents, technology integration, leadership and interpersonal relationship capacity. While I do believe certain staff members may be able to “double up” on some of these roles today, I also believe that the velocity of change in technology combined with the need for near real-time communication will require a dedicated person who can meet the unique requirements of this role.
So, what do you think? Am I too early on this prediction? Are most churches so far behind the culture and technology curves to make this any kind of near-term need? Share your thoughts and speak into my prognostication.