Have you ever navigated the growth and death of a church? Justin Dean has. As the Communication Director at Mars Hill Church, Justin Dean navigated those murky waters. (You should follow him on Twitter, cause he’s awesome.)

I love that he immediately went into this story. It’s one that everyone wants to know about, but no one wants to ask about. He was honest and authentic–that’s hard.

Lots of churches talk about social media, but no one talks about how to handle a PR crisis. That Church Conference did, right from the source.

[Tweet “Everything you do is PR. – @justinjdean”]

The way people perceive you is your reputation. Your online presence will be the deciding factor for many people visiting your church.

[Tweet “Your church’s website will be a deciding factor for people visiting your church.”]

[Tweet “You need to be prepared for your church to show up in headlines.”]

We’re in a real war right now. As long as your church is preaching out of the bible, then you need to be prepared for things to go wrong.



We have created a world where the smartest way to survive is to be bland.”

– Jon Ronson

“Cultural Christianity is dead. There are no more social advantages to being identified as a Christian.”

– Pastor Greg Laurie

Keep Calm and Be Prepared

Relationships are a key to any digital strategy–it’s the same in PR.

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#1. Build relationships.

Want to control the message that Jesus loves you and dies for you? You need to build relationships with people and churches–and different churches. Give your ideas away for free. We love sharing our ideas at Brentwood. Want to learn about what we’re doing? Ask! We’d love to help you any way we can. (Follow Darrel or me on Twitter!)

The second relationship you need to have is with media contacts. Get to know your local reporters and find a good one. Contact reporters that you like and build a relationship with them–that way when a bad day comes, you already know people who are willing to help your church.

The third relationship that any church communication director needs are with local organizations. Support each other’s events. Re-post content from other ministries. We’re lucky at Brentwood to have so many wonderful partners in ministry. Formalize those relationships and let them know how much you appreciate them. You don’t have to even give money to each other to be “partners”.

Engage and listen online, but more important surround yourself with people who will tell the truth.

#2. Proximity matters.

When people know you and are familiar with you, they’re more likely to give you grace and defend you.

Just watch this video of Robinson Cano. There are all these people booing him without knowing they’re actually booing him. When they walk out, they’re terrified. PROXIMITY MATTERS.

[Tweet “If you get in front of the booing, you can totally change the message. -@justinjdean”]

Example: Church posts something on Facebook. You get a nasty comment.

You can a) delete it, b) debate them, or c) show the person compassion and concern. Before blocking, see if you can actually get in touch with them outside of social media by phone or in person. Proximity matters. It’s not serving anyone having this conversation online. You may not change their mind, but you at least tried in a loving way.

#3. Have a crisis plan

  • Choose a spokesperson (may be different for different issues)
  • Create a FAQ
    • Distribute it to your staff. They will be able to have conversations with real people.
  • Train staff

Justin gave everyone a crisis plan for free at churchcrisisplan.com.

Justin is extraordinary. He did such a great job presenting and putting together That Church Conference. Sign up today for next year’s conference.

Katie Allred

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