Q&A with CFCC’s Executive Director Cynthia Ware

cynthiaware.jpgIn January we officially announced the first ever executive director for the Center for Church Communication, Cynthia Ware. We sat down with Cynthia to find out more about her role and the future of CFCC.

What’s your role as executive director? What do you actually do?

In the simplest terms, I act as the coordinator for our experiments/initiatives/projects. I help turn ideas into proposals for our board of directors so that the initiatives we want to launch get put into motion. Our board of directors is made up of many of my closest colleagues and working with them is a complete joy. They are an absolutely stellar group of church communication professionals.

Additionally, I’ve gotten to work hand in hand with the CFCC team including Joshua Cody, Michael Buckingham and Kevin Hendricks. This has been great for me, because I learn from each of them, since each has their own area of expertise. I’m also learning a lot about leading a nonprofit from those that have been involved for a lot longer than I have. Once you’ve served on church staffs for a couple of decades, it can give you a ministry model mindset. But leading a nonprofit requires some additional tools and the whole team has been graciously accommodating me as I learn some of the new skills my role requires.

Also, our team is growing and we’ve just added 19 Regional Network Coordinators. They are a diverse group of supporters from across the United States, each of whom has a unique view of the church/communication intersection. The coordinators are like our eyes on the ground alerting us to churches who are communicating with excellence. Besides our coordinators, we’re expanding in other ways as well. We’re going to establish a brand new role, project catalyst, designed as a right arm for me when we launch some of the new projects we’re planning. The Church Marketing Lab is also defining its leadership team and we’ve added project leaders to help support our moderators there in the labs.

Basically, if you look at any one part of our organization, you’ll see either growth or planned growth so we’re in the middle of a wonderful season of transition.

I’m in a “crow’s nest” position so I have a bird’s eye view of both our ship and the horizon. I get the privilege of connecting with the people on the deck and getting to peer into the future, helping chart what’s up ahead.

Is this a full time gig?

Well, it’s full time in my heart since it’s just a perfect role fit for me. But, the reality is that I am on staff at a local church in an associate pastoral role with my husband. Between my church staff commitments, caring for my family, traveling and speaking, I am only able to devote about 12-15 hours a week to the Center for Church Communication. I spend the rest of my time burning dinner while creating 404 errors on my web site. I’d like to see my time commitment to the organization grow and that’s one of the things I’ll be working on over the next two months. It’s also a one-year appointment and the board will re-evaluate in October.

What are you most excited about in your role as executive director?

Throughout my ministry I have been passionately drawn to the next generation. The beauty of our organization is that it’s a wonderful mix of those who we would consider seasoned veterans in church communications and those who are just getting started. We identify, resource, celebrate and champion the next generation of church communicators, so it’s just a brilliant tailor-made fit for my personal ministry passion. This part is really quite effortless since I’m constantly interfacing with next gen communicators.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My husband and I have been in pastoral ministry for quite a while. We’ve pastored throughout California in many different capacities and love serving the church. Although we’ve given ourselves to pastoring, I’ve got a substantial background in communications–so the Center for Church Communication is an excellent bi-vocational fit for me. CFCC founder, Brad Abare, is someone I’ve interfaced with a lot over the last few years and that relationship is what introduced me to the workings of CFCC.

What is CFCC’s mission?

Originally we would have summed up our mission in a tagline like this “we help the church matter.” Today, CFCC is in the midst of an organic growth spurt. Due the growth/popularity of some of our initiatives, for example, the Church Marketing Sucks blog, we find ourselves in a unique time of metamorphosis. Historically, CFCC has been somewhat invisible, behind the scenes, like a stage hand behind the scenes. Although our role is not evolving–we identify, resource, celebrate and spotlight excellence in church communication–our visibility is. More people are asking who our organization is and what it does. It’s been joked about that we’re “taking over the world” but honestly, we only exist to champion others–and will always be a simple nonprofit that exists to resource and support church communication professionals (and volunteers!).

We’re in the process of redeveloping two of our web sites. Both Church Marketing Sucks and the Center for Church Communication sites are in the midst of redesigns and we’re all very excited about that. It’s been a longstanding dream to rebuild both. Another key development is that the CFCC site will contain a new brand narrative. That’s just a fancy way of saying that we’ve clarified who we are and what we’re hoping to accomplish. Thanks to the brilliant communicators affiliated with us, our positioning and message have evolved into their clearest iteration yet.

Here’s a snippet of the new brand narrative just to get you excited about what’s next:

“We are a firebrand of communicators, sparking churches to communicate the gospel clearly, effectively and without compromise. We are made up of passionate change agents, experienced communications professionals and thoughtful instigators; advocating for communicators to find their place in the church—and helping the church find her voice to the community—so that churches know who they are, and are unashamed to tell others. We identify, resource and celebrate the next generation of church communicators, encouraging them to unleash their tenacity and talent for excellent communication, so that churches are sought out by the communities they serve.”

Can you give us a glimpse of some of the big things coming down the pipe for CFCC?

I wouldn’t necessarily call them “big things” because we relish small beginnings, but there are two experimental projects we’re trying to put together currently that are pretty exciting. Shhh, don’t tell anyone because this is insider information… one involves spotlighting those who achieve outstanding excellence in a particular communication category and the other involves a collection of church comm experts who provide in depth topical resources for pastors and church staff members.

We just recently launched the Church Marketing Directory. The beauty of the Directory is that it is be a resource for any church looking for communication resources, a yellow pages directory of sorts, if you will. Since no one person could assemble such a resource, we’re crowdsourcing entries and hope to keep improving the Directory and adding functionality as we go. Additionally, we’re knee deep in the redesigns I mentioned earlier–you can’t get much bigger than that.

Church communications is such a big issue–where do you think churches can begin to improve?

I think there are some real basic understandings that all churches could benefit from. If you are a local pastor, it might surprise you to know that you have a “brand.” Whether you like it or not, whether you even believe it or not, your church has its own brand. By that I simply mean your own story, your own distinctive, your own calling, function and assignment from God. Some churches are telling their stories magnificently. Others, not so much. If there is not a clear and unique vision being cast–your message is nondescript.

Church communications used to mean your weekend bulletin. Here are some of the things I see it encompassing today (you may produce, some, all, or none of these): your web site, bulletin (electronic or print), graphics, multimedia, campaigns (bumperstickers, t-shirts, swag, billboards, newspaper ads, flyers, cards, mail-outs, etc.) and your building.

And speaking of your facility (if you have one), effective non-verbal communication is a huge passion and emphasis for me personally. I know that swings to the far edge of comm/marketing but I think it’s critically important. If your message is that we want to serve the community–but your building is “off-limits” to non-church events, you are communicating a mixed message.

Your message is repeated a thousand different times, non-verbally. As church leaders, we should be thinking about this. For example, if your church says it has a desire to reach young people, but never platforms youth in any roles of leadership training, you’ve got a problem. If you never let young people lead worship, read scriptures, perform ministry tasks, engage in ownership of projects, etc., your message and your actions create a serious disconnect. And everyone knows it, especially the young people you hope to reach. This same concept is applicable in numerous examples across all facets of church communications.

What’s the worst example of church marketing you’ve ever seen?

Well, I can’t give you a worst example–too incriminating for the creator and involving images that shouldn’t even be online. But I will say this. If you are confused about who you are as a church–your story will always be confusing, possibly bland and likely impotent. Your message will be like salt that’s lost its flavor, is tasteless and will be, for all intents and purposes, worthless. As I said before, some churches are telling their stories magnificently–they
are salty and we will be finding ways to spotlight their efforts so we can all learn to communicate with increasing degrees of clarity and effectiveness.

At the Center for Church Communication we strive to provide resources for all church communicators to learn to tell their story better.

What’s the best?

Again, without giving out a “best” since that’s such a matter of opinion, I’ll say this: If you, as a church, have taken the time to evaluate who you are as a church family, taken the time to determine what is your unique calling for the unique community you want to serve, even if that’s a non-geographic community, your story (read: church marketing) has every potential to be effective, elegant and engaging to those who hear/see it. In fact, there’s little better than a message that speaks so clearly you think it was designed just for you.