Well, Amanda, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Hey, I’m doing good. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, You’re in Columbus, Ohio. It’s November, is it, like, really cold there right now?
It’s very cold. Yes. It wasn’t a couple of weeks ago, but it is now.
So winter has arrived.
Yeah. Are you shoveling snow already?
I personally am not. I also don’t think that the snow is sticking, so it’s just kind of like a light dusting at this point.
Everybody in Columbus was dreaming of a white Thanksgiving, that’s pretty much what’s happening here. We’re recording this the week of Thanksgiving. So thanks for taking time during the week of Thanksgiving to hang out with Jason and me.
Yeah, I’m excited. So for our listeners, Amanda is the Director of Communications for Vineyard Church in Columbus, Ohio. It’s the largest Vineyard church in the country, in the world and she’s the Director of Communication, so we’re going to learn some good nuggets from Amanda today. But Amanda, will you take just a quick minute and share with our listeners kind of like your story, how did you get into this space, how you got into your current job? And just give us a little update.
So my career actually started more in corporate America. I have a bachelor’s degree in communications and an associate’s degree in graphic design. I started working for a software and technology consulting firm, and then from there went to a greeting card company that was acquired by American Greetings, and they merged with another company called Papyrus. I don’t know if you’ve heard those, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say those on here.
Yeah, I’ve heard of the papyrus. I know that font.
It’s not quite the same, we can talk after this is over. And so I worked there for about five years, and after that took some time to kind of reevaluate my life and figure out what it is that I wanted to do. I felt really called out to the West side of Chicago, and I worked for a place called Lawndale Christian Health Center for five years, leading their communications team. At that time, they were seeing roughly 55,000 patients a year, and they had five clinic sites. So I built their communications team, and we had relaunched a new website, and there are several things we were able to do successfully there to help them grow. I was there for about five years and then decided I needed a break from the nonprofit world for a minute, so I started working for a Fortune 500 company that I will not say the name of. It wasn’t a great experience, I was there about 18 months, and I learned quite a bit there too.
But at that time there was some challenges with a health of a person, of a family member who lived in Columbus, so we wanted to come back, my family and I wanted to be here with our family here in Columbus. So we knew that was our objective and our mission, even though we loved Chicago very much, we knew we needed to make the move to Columbus. And so I started looking for jobs there, and through what I can only describe at a very high level as a very strong sense of calling. And if you guys are familiar with the Vineyard movement and the Vineyard faith practices, I think that kind of helps to explain it a little bit more, but felt a really strong sense of calling to this role. I was not even aware of Vineyard Columbus when I applied, but through the interview process, it was affirmed for me several times that this is where I needed to be. And so now, five years later, I have been here at Vineyard Columbus, it’ll be five years in January.
Right on. So, you know what’s really cool is you’ve got that experience of dealing with corporate, nonprofit, and church, even though the church is non-profit, right? So you’ve had a well-rounded, basically, portfolio of how to do communications. What’s the most challenging thing in the church world versus the other two that you dealt with?
Oh, there are pros and cons to all of them. I think in the church world, well, I don’t know, I think the pros far outweigh the cons for me. I think one of the biggest challenges that I have here, though, that I also had working nonprofit is recruiting great talent because I can’t pay what they can make elsewhere. I’m a great boss, so if I ever have a job posted and somebody sees this and wants to apply, please do. But the reality is, if they have family or financial obligations that working at a church for someone who is maybe a really great social media manager, really great at doing the communications jobs, those really specialized skill sets, and to get really great people into those roles can be challenging. Yeah.
So over the five years that you’ve been in your position as the Director of Communications at Vineyard, you’ve certainly had people come and go. And I got to work with one of your guys who was a phenomenal guy, he just ended up leaving recently, and I loved him dearly. What’s your…Because it’s a pain point for you now, you’ve got to just keep finding good talent. Where do you go? Where do you turn? How do you recruit and retain? And do you outsource stuff, or is it more like we’ve just got to keep finding until God delivers and brings that one person?
Yeah. So it’s a little bit of everything. First of all, like, I’m pretty scrappy, so I’m able to kind of like piece things together and make it work. But also, I believe strongly in prayer, and I have a funny story to tell you about praying for the right people to come along with one of our pastors on staff here, which if we have time, I’ll bring that up later. But like covering things in person, we do use contractors, I have relationships built with different like website developers and designers, and graphic designers, copywriters, anyone that I may need for specific projects who I’ll give a call and say, hey, we’ve got this coming up, is it something you might be interested in? And my hope is that if they have a good experience working with us, working for me, they’ll come back and do it again and so I work really hard to cultivate those relationships. But that’s like you have to truly own your brand, you have to truly own the projects as the one leading that for your church or your organization, but you can outsource it a variety of ways if you need to in the short term, always bringing somebody in-house, they’re going to own it a little bit differently. Yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question, but we do post positions on indeed, and we also post them on our website. We’ll boost posts if it’s a specialized role that’s harder to fill, then we will do our own campaigns around that too, to make sure that we’re getting it. And that’s not just for comms roles, that’s for any role in the church if there’s something really specific we’re trying to do.
And Amanda, can you describe the makeup of your team? Who all is on your team? So you’re the Director of Communications, give us an idea of who your direct reports are, and what kind of staff you’re working with.
Yeah. So I have five direct reports, the gentleman that we were just talking about briefly was, and his name, well, you don’t need to know his name, but he was our webmaster. He was real, he does have a name, he is a great guy, we just had his going away pretty last week, and like so many people showed up for this because he was so well loved, just really great with people and a really strong cultural and mission fit. So as our webmaster, he designed and developed our website, and kept it edited and up to date. He also worked really closely with Missional Marketing on our Google ads and a lot of those digital marketing initiatives. He actually found Missional Marketing for us because we had worked with a different company, and I was not happy with them, so then he brought you guys to my doorstep, and here we are.
A lot of love.
Yeah. So that’s the webmaster role. I also have what we call a digital content creator, she does email and social media for us. I have a graphic designer or he’s a senior graphic designer and a video producer or lead video editor. Lastly, I have what I call my I call him Sam of all trades because his name is Sam, but he can do literally anything on the team. So he fills in where needed, and that’s been a really great mix for us.
So you’re the largest Vineyard church in the world?
There’s a lot, you have a lot going on. Give us a glimpse of what that workload or demand is of you, week in and week out. Like, how many projects do you guys have going on at any given time?
Well, it’s always like a moving target, so it depends on what else is going on within the life of the church. So an example is, we were meeting this morning and talking about any collateral or assets we needed to shore up for a launch of a new campus. We have a new Spanish-speaking campus that’s launching in our Grandview neighborhood in Columbus in January, and so we were talking to the pastor for that, which is his name is Daniel Hernandez, wonderful, wonderful. If you are Spanish speaking or know anyone who is in Columbus, that is going to be a great campus for you. But that was one of the projects we worked on and then we were doing a retrospective of our Alpha campaign that we had just finished up this fall. So looking at how we spend our money, what lessons we learned, and what we’re going to do moving forward. We always have our weekly round-up of stuff that we’re trying to get out like our communications priorities for that week. So we have a series of planning meetings throughout the month where we talk about what we’re promoting each weekend during services, I make sure I’m in alignment with our weekend pastor and senior leaders and our campus pastor and all of the people that need to kind of be aware of what’s happening and when, providing feedback from our key ministry leaders too, and putting that into how we’re communicating things and when we are. I feel like I’m talking about this at such a high level that it’s hard to kind of like dig into like what exactly happens each week, but it’s like there’s this stuff that’s going to happen every week and every month, and a lot of it’s high-level planning. There’s so much planning involved, making sure that we’re trying to communicate everything in a way that makes sense, and that everyone who needs to be on the same page is aware of what’s happening. But then we also have the really cool one-off type fun projects, which is like this new campaign launch, or we just finished up Alpha, and we’re trying to figure out what works and what didn’t because we know we want to do more really big campaign type things in the future and we want to make sure that we’re not reinventing the wheel each time.
Well, I think that the nugget for a takeaway there is in the church world, we can just get so inundated in the weeds that we can only think and look out like a week or two out, I mean, that just happens to all of us. And I think the takeaway from your vantage, is you have to do that as a leader, but you also have to see what’s down the road and be able to keep that ball rolling. Right? Not let it creep up on you, that’s probably a big challenge and something to focus on.
Yeah. So I found that there are certain things that I can do to help me stay proactive in thinking ahead. So I do this every month, I have a quarterly planning meeting for strategic communications priorities, and I’ll sit there with all of the key ministry leaders or who I call my key stakeholders. We usually do it just on teams, so anybody can dial in from wherever they’re at, and then I go through the important dates that I know that are coming up for every month and everyone can speak into like, oh, but did you get this? Did you get that? Let’s make sure we’re…Like they’re chipping in too, so I have a pretty healthy start for all those things before we even chat. But then we can like make sure we’re making any kind of changes.
One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had in my role as the comms director at Vineyard Columbus is that there were a lot of times where different ministry leaders or different pastors wanted different things, and I would find myself getting caught in the middle. And the beautiful thing about this meeting is that I don’t have one person saying, like, oh yeah, we’re going to do it this day and this way, and then another person saying, but I don’t want to do that. I want to do it on this day and this way. I have them both in the room at the same time, or on the call at the same time, and then I can say, well, you guys work that out and let me know what you decide, right? Because that’s what I need to know is what are the details of the event or who owns it. So ownership, who has decision rights, all of those things, if they’re not defined, can get worked out in those spaces. Yeah.
Hmm. Well, you mentioned. Oh, go ahead
I was going to say, you said you mentioned that you use Teams for some of your calls and your meetings. What other tools are you using to keep your team organized and keep all this stuff? Do you guys use Asana, or Monday, or Google Docs, or Google sheets, what other tools do you use that you find are handy for organizing some of that stuff?
So you mentioned that you use teams for your meetings. What other tools, digitally or otherwise, are you using to keep your team organized, to manage your projects, or keep everybody on the same page?
Yeah, so we started using actually an Excel spreadsheet or a Google doc, originally, but we’ve tried almost every project management software that’s out there, and I even had a project manager position on my team at one point. But we’ve since changed the structure of the team and don’t have that anymore. But we’ve even tried Monday, and now we’re finding ourselves in Teams itself, there’s a task management tab on our private teams, so I have a private comms team that just our team is on and I can assign projects and tasks to people and you can sort it. So it works a lot like Monday, it’s almost like a Kanban Board, except instead of going [inaudible] when it’s completed, you just check it off when it’s completed. There are little tasks inside, and we found that that works well. So I use that in combination with a weekly project status update for that team, so we will meet in person once a week and just do a rundown of all the projects really quickly. And I found that that’s a really helpful way to make sure we don’t lose sight of anything because any given day or week we’re touching maybe ten different initiatives or projects, and everyone on the team is doing something different on them, and so we need to make sure everybody knows what’s going on.
Okay. I have two questions for you.
Like you, I was a former communication director, so I’d like to know first is, what is the most favorite part of your job? And then the second question is, what would you say to somebody who is thinking about getting into church communications, and they aspire to be a director someday?
Yeah. Okay. A couple of things to this. So to the first, my favorite part of my job is that I feel like I have purpose and meaning to it. So it’s really easy for me to be excited about what I do for work because I know that both internally and inside our church, we’re letting people know all the things that are going on, giving them connected to resources they might need, especially in such a large church, but also externally, especially when we’re able to do targeted campaigns online, we’re helping people have a chance to experience God in a positive way and be able to find Christian community, and find people who care about them, like genuinely care about them. And I feel like that’s pretty great, it’s a life-changing thing, it has been for me, and that’s by far my favorite part of my job.
Okay. Now somebody who wants to get into and aspires to be a director of communications, what kind of advice would you give them?
I think I would want to know a little bit more about why. So I feel like, in church work, it can be pretty messy. I think you have the capacity for really beautiful moments with people, but there’s also, like, you see a lot of not great moments of people too. And the church is a hospital for the sick, this is also like maintenance and help for people who are healthy. But you know, you see some really interesting behaviors. And so I would think that the bigger question is why would you be interested in that? What is it? There’s really no glory here, right? It’s not like you’re going to get paid a lot, I’m not up on stage, nobody knows who I am or what I do unless you’re in my small group or unless you’re…And even then, I don’t know that all of them know what I do. So it’s, I don’t know, I think it would just try to figure out why, what’s the motivation, and see if it’s an alignment with like, is this really something that you want to spend your time doing? Do you know what I mean?
Yeah. When you said that, it’s like I remember our IT director going, I never want to be known because if somebody’s calling him, it isn’t good. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s the same thing with communications, if somebody is calling me, it’s like, oh, no, we had a massive typo or something.
Yeah, and the bus would roll over you.
Well, I mean, yeah. I think just knowing why people are interested in that role would help me understand how to kind of guide them or any kind of questions to ask like following up on that, and like what makes sense? Maybe, I bet there’s a book they can read that would help them with what they’re warning about. I don’t know. I don’t know what that book was, nobody gave it to me.
Well, it is interesting because the landscape is changing so much, right? Since the pandemic and everything, just the nature of your job, there’s a lot of stress to find good, talented people and actually retain them. But just from the standpoint of listening to the leadership team and what they want and the direction you’re going and all things digital, it’s just it’s a different landscape, isn’t it?
It is. When I first started, we were mostly analog, a lot of things were printed and now we’re mostly digital, almost nothing’s printed. So just navigating that shift and change, my teams built out an app, we didn’t have that before. We helped get everything put online for services, we didn’t have that before. There’s been a lot, a huge shift and change, but I feel like I thrive in that kind of environment, like being able to keep building new processes, new systems, being able to think through strategies for what’s going to work and what’s not is where I thrive and what I’m really good at.
Who do you look to to learn from? You said you like, you know, it sounds like you embrace change, that’s not a hard thing for you. Where do you look? What do you read? What podcasts do you listen to? Do you have other people that you sort of network with that help you sharpen your own saw?
Yeah, definitely. Thank you for that question. I’m currently actually obsessed with Patrick Lencioni. I actually don’t even know how you say his last name.
You said it.
I said it right? In the audiobooks that I listen to for him, they say it like it’s a lot shorter like Lynch only. Anyway, if you can edit that part out too, that’d be great. Thanks. Make me sound really smart.
You are really smart, come on.
So I’ve been obsessed with him, and I’ve been just kind of plowing through his book. So I’ve probably gone through five of his books in the past couple of weeks. But it’s usually like finding something that I’m really interested in and just kind of digging into it and digesting it. But I found, like, I really enjoy like anything by Seth Godin in general, or anyone who’s like high-level marketing, like thinking through those things, I really enjoy and will spend a lot of time thinking through.
Yeah, those are both gurus, right, like Seth Godin and Patrick Lencioni. So Patrick Lencioni really focuses on leadership, team building, how to have meetings, you name it, very practical. And then Seth Godin, really just all things marketing and creativity, right? Like those are really good. Your favorite Seth Godin book, if you have one?
I think Purple Cow.
Jason, do you have one? Do you have a favorite Seth Godin book?
Most marketing people say it’s Purple Cow. I like Tribes. Tribes is one that I really liked a lot.
I like that one, too.
That’s good. Yeah. So I like, yeah, I don’t know. I wish there was better networking for comms directors in general, like, of churches. But I think it’s such a niche thing that I really appreciate the podcast you guys are doing and putting out there because there’s not a whole lot that I found that’s super quality, like looking through what other people are doing and trying to learn.
Well, by making that statement, you may have just invited yourself to be contacted by other communications directors who want to network with you.
I would love that, yeah, I would love that.
If they want to do that, how can they do that? How can they get in touch with you?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think my email address is on our website. You can definitely contact me through our website, VineyardColumbus.org, if you go to the staff page, I’m listed there, you can select it from the dropdown and send me a message that way. I think that’s probably the best way to do that. I wish I knew about this question, I would have had a QR code ready, and I would have had everything ready.
A QR code. You have a LinkedIn profile, are you active on LinkedIn?
I am not particularly active on LinkedIn, but you can share it.
Okay. That’s a good, good thing to know. Jason, do you have any final questions or any parting shots?
No, Thank you for just taking a minute and kind of pulling back the layer a little bit to let us know what Amanda deals with on a day-in and day-out basis when it comes to running the communications team at Vineyard. No doubt this is a busy, busy church, they’ve got a ton going on, and a lot of ministry happens at Vineyard Columbus, so make sure you go check out their website and learn and reach out to Amanda if you have any questions. She’s always been gracious in having meetings and we talk all the time, and it’s been fun for me to get to know her staff and she’s looking to replace a position, so we’ll see what happens there. But no, I’m just really grateful for your ministry and what you do to help communications get better and you’re setting examples. So, thank you.
Amanda, before I call this one done, I want to give you a chance to tell me, was there any question that you wish we’d asked that we didn’t actually ask, that you were really prepared to answer?
No, okay, okay.
Should I have one?
No, I ust wanted to make sure that if there was some burning thing that you wanted to share with us that I didn’t ask about that I gave you a chance to share about it. I will say this, you’re a very humble leader, the seat that you sit in and the role that you play in your church is really quite substantial and you’re very gracious in giving us your time here right before the holidays, because we know there might just be a little bit going on as we come through the Thanksgiving week this week and head into December and Christmas. So thanks a ton for making the time for us today.
Absolutely. I really love working with you guys, and I’m looking forward to working with you more.
All right, this is the, what do you call it, the epilog, is that what you put at the end? Okay, here’s the epilog. All right, the one thing that Amanda said she should have shared with us while we were recording, but she didn’t, but she’s going to now because we’re recording now.
But I am now. Okay, so in the previous company that we had worked with, I was trying to share my vision for inbound marketing for the church, and I wasn’t aware of very many churches that were doing inbound marketing really well. And they were trying to be helpful and trying to make it work, it just wasn’t clicking the way that we wanted it to, and we were spending a lot of money to do it. And so it was really refreshing about working with Missional Marketing is that you guys got it right away, and I felt like we were speaking the same language. And when I would say things, you’re like, oh no, I’m tracking with that, I got it, and it made so much more sense. And so it just has always felt like a good fit working with you guys and having that support, and that was it.
Oh, that’s right, you should have said that, that’s great.
Now you’ve said it, and I’ve recorded it. Awesome.