Well, Hey, welcome to this episode of the Church Marketing Hacks Podcast. I'm your host, Matt Lombardi joined by Chris Courts today. Chris is the head of Studio , the Creative Director at Crossroads Church in Cincinnati. Super excited to have him on the show and get to talk a little bit more about some hacks that he's experienced in his world, working for the church.
Chris, did they get your title right? Anything to add there or anything to tweak?
I'll give a little clarity, you know, church, we are always wearing multiple hats. I, what I would say is I'm actually the design team manager. I work closely with our, uh, creative director, but I also help manage the studio. Our, what we call our studio from a producer standpoint too. So, yeah, at any given day, any of those titles.
Yeah, I love it. Well, you guys at Crossroads are, let's be honest, kind of a massive beast. So there's a lot of complexity there. Maybe not something that every organization deals with. Uh, but I know you get to wear a lot of hats. Let's just, let's dive right into it, man.
Uh, question number one, that will kick off with the big one that kind of frames the whole podcast. What's the best marketing hack you've seen in your time serving churches? Could be something you've done. Could be something your team has done. Could be something you've heard about. Share some knowledge. Drop something on us, best hack you've seen.
Absolutely. I think it seems simple, but what I would say, probably the best hack that I have seen us kind of start to manage and wrangle is really two points. Number one, it's identifying who is our clients. Now, that sounds silly. When I was coming in to Crossroads from P&G, it was very clear at P&G who our clients were. Inside the church it's kind of like, well, who's our clients or our teammates as well? To kinda reframe our minds around who are the ones that are calling the shots and should be setting the priorities for what we're marketing, what we're designing and what we're going after. So the first one I would say is identifying who that is, who is the person that is approving this and kind of helping us set these goals. And then the second one I think to build on that is, one of the biggest hacks that we've done, is we've actually started doing quarterly priority meetings with our clients. And so that sounds really official. It sounds really, uh, I don't know, generic and boring. But like really it's been really valuable for us to sit down with that person who we've identified as setting those goals for us and saying, "Okay, going into this next quarter, what are the priorities that you would have for us to work on?" So for example, this core that we're coming into, it's Thanksgiving, it's Christmas, it's a giving season. But having them clearly identify and say, "out of all the things that we're doing around this church here are the top five that I want us to focus on" because inevitably it comes down to should we work on this one? Should we work on this? What's got the weight? What's got the value? So understanding who our client is, and actually having them give us a list of priorities of what they think is most important. And then we just distill that down to the rest of our team. That's been one of the biggest game changers for us.
I love it, man, because it's just providing such clarity across. Okay, who are we serving here? And then also, what do they want? It's really simple. People will tell you what they need, if you just ask them and have a system around it. That's great.
And then I think the other, the only other points I would say on that with tools and systems, you know, Identifying some sort of collective project management tool and communication tool has just been vital for us versus every kind of team or department managing it in different ways. We've, we've adopted a tool called Asana. I have no stake in Asana. I don't get a money plug back for this. But just identifying one tool that all of these teammates can work on together has been really helpful for us.
That's great. Can I, can I dig a little bit more on Asana? I know you're not affiliate rep for them.Why did you guys choose Asana? Lots of folks, monday.com, Trello. It's like there are like wars happening over which one's best. Why Asana for you guys?
I've seen 'em all, especially in the P&G days, you know, developers like this kind, designers like this kind, marketing like this kind. I think why we decided on Asana, to be honest, is it is a really simple platform. And you can make it as complex as you want. So really simple to use and operate, but you can also kind of customize it how you best see fit. So we always say that it goes as deep as we want to use it, or it can be as high level as we wanna use it. And that's helpful in so many different ways for a designer that can say, "this is what I need to work on." But from a marketing person, they could take that same task and build it completely out to say, once this is triggered, I need to create this, this, and this, and this. So easy to use, easy to kind of manipulate and make it your own. That was, that was kind of our selling point on it.
Yeah. Best tool is always the one that the team actually uses, right?
Yeah. Adoption's a whole other story.
Yeah. Okay. So take me back just a little bit into client, because so you're using the term client very specifically, right? Talking about church creative, church design, church marketing. Help me understand what you mean when you say client, do you mean? Customer avatar? Because there's some people who are at churches, maybe they're a solo comms director and they're like, "Client, what do you mean client?" Like, it's just me. Who am I? Who's my client here? Help, help us define, like when you guys use the word "client," I know it's really intentional. Who are you kind of referring to when you use that term?
For sure. I work for a church called Crossroads. We're blessed in a lot of ways, but it is a large church here in Cincinnati. We've got about 350, maybe getting closer to 400 staffers. And everybody, you know, there's lots of different ministries represented in this.
We've got ministries that reach out. That are all kind of like outward facing. We've got prayer teams. We've got worship teams. We've got student ministry, kids club. So we've got all these different ministries that are kind of represented inside of Crossroads. So at any time, the way that we've kind of set up our internal agency, basically, we're one team that is represented of inside of Crossroads. Where we do marketing, design, analytics, digital products. And at the way that we've set up our system is we actually have an intake. Where anybody in the organization can actually send us a request. At that moment, that person is sending us a request. We consider them a client. So when we're saying we're gonna develop this flyer or whatever. This might be a social post for this client. That's the client. Now, what I'm referring to setting quarterly priorities. We actually consider them a key client or a key stakeholder. So what we've done is we've identified actually three at the top level of our organization that represent the entire masses. So one of our clients represents everything that is sites and buildings. Another one of our clients is representing everything that is happening with the experience and online. And then our last client, our executive pastor is the one who is actually looking at how we are broadening our development and actually keeping good records of accounts and, and kind of growing Spiritually. So those three we've identified, those are key stakeholders. So at the end of each quarter, and at the beginning of each quarter, we go, "Hey, you three, what should we be going after?" Because if you're saying, Christmas is top lists and we also get a request in that says, Hey, we gotta do this other thing for outreach. You know, we gotta make sure that these can be weighted differently.
I love it. Well, and the thing that's cool about that is obviously you guys learned that you've had to have these system structures clear kind of lines of delineation. Who's key stakeholder? Who's not at a really kinda large level obviously, but that same model scales down too. Right? So it does, if you're in a church, even at a thousand, you have key stakeholders, right? So a hundred percent. Like every church, no matter the size has key stakeholders. It just may mean that that team is three people instead of 300 people.
Right. And I, and I think at times that could be the lead, your lead teaching pastor. They have a vision, they have a mission and what they're trying to take the church in the organization. And it could be as simple as that, you know, even today, like as many staffers as we have, sometimes we have to sit back and go. What does our head pastor want? Where is his vision around this? What is he thinking and feeling and discerning on this? And sometimes, we will rely on him. So it could be as simple as that too.
Yeah. Love it. Love it. Love those hacks, man. Really, really great, helpful feedback there. Okay, question number two. What book, podcast, resource in general would you recommend to every marketing comms, creative leader in the church? I mean, just anyone who's kind of in this space. Is there a book that you give out to everyone of your new hires to everyone on your team? You recommend it, anything like that?
Yeah, I, I think probably one of the best resources I've found is a book by Todd Henry. Have you heard of this stuff at all?
Mm-hmm um, he he's local to Cincinnati, um, but he has this book called Herding Tigers that I've read and I've listened to multiple times, but the actual premise of this book is the way that he frames it up. He's saying, hey, you were a maker and now you're turning into a manager. So, what does that look like and how do we lead creatives effectively? I took notes here that it's a matter of like juggling expectations, the creative process. And again, at the same time, reframing your mind where you're hearing from key clients of what needs to be created. And you have to discern that down to the people who are actually making it. And you, you know, how do you lead creatives in an effective way as yourself being a creative? Keeping them inspired, keeping them motivated towards things that maybe aren't that fun to work on. It has this whole narrative around just what it means to actually go from maker to, to manager. And I thought that was just really mind blowing. He also, he also runs a podcast called accidental creative. Where he fans on this. And Todd Henry's also a believer. So I don't think he necessarily frames hurting tigers in the way of like the church or leading nonprofits, but he definitely has that bent and experience in his repertoire. So I love it. It's been huge. Like I said, I've read it and listened to it probably multiple times now.
That's awesome. That sounds like a great asset for so many church leaders, because that's, that's a spot. Most people in this space find themselves in, which is okay.
Well, I was a graphic designer. Oh, I was a video producer. Oh, I was, you know, a web designer. And then the church called and said, Hey, we need someone to run communications for us. We need someone to run marketing. And now I'm in charge of everything in a team. And, but I'm not prepared for that because I only knew graphic design, right? So I love that. I think that's a great resource. We have a the ultimate church coms, creative reading list. We'll definitely be adding that for the next version. I need to update that. Yeah. Add Herding Tigers to the list. We'll also drop that in the show notes so that if anyone wants to, to purchase that, check it out.
You can, I gotta get endorsements for these deals. I gotta, you know, I know man, these guys, well, we need to get you Amazon affiliate links, get all that stuff coming in any, okay. So are there any quotes that Todd has in Herding Tigers that just really stood out to you or anything that you were like, oh man, this is one? If not, that's fine.
Um, nothing off the top of my head. Okay. I think the biggest thing that I pulled outta that book was just like, there's so many expectations and processes that we're putting our creatives through, but one of the most important values as to how to keep them motivated. How do you keep somebody like that inspired? You know, I love it. Church work is not easy. So I think about that a lot. Like what we're doing is important, but I also want people to feel appreciated and also feel inspired to work on what they want to. So that's great. So it's a concept I'm con continually wrestling with.
Awesome. All right, so question number three, last one and then we'll wrap. If you could give your 21 year old self, any advice about working in church marketing creatives, coms, what would it be? What would you tell your younger self? If you knew you were going into this space, one day.
Yeah. That's a great question. This is one that I kind of wrestled with for a while. Just thinking, man, what would, what would it be? I think off of the top of the head, the simple cliche is like, keep yourself healthy, you know? Mentally, spiritually, physically, even relationally. One of the biggest attributes I have to constantly remind myself is I'm working full time at a church and it just, you know, it feels like a sprint. At the same time, I go home, I've got a wife, I've got kids and how do I keep a solid relationship at home and how do I bring my wife and kids along with me versus them having it disdain towards the place I work, which is also the place that we go to church. So there's this healthy balance that I think I would've probably told myself early on to say, hey, keep a good pulse on that. And I think the other reminder is, I have to tell myself this often this is, this is God's work that we're doing. We're a part of that he's invited us into. I have to keep that framework. So like what I am doing or what I'm trying to create or what I'm trying to get done. Seems so silly when I think, oh, this is actually, this is actually God's work. And our, our executive pastor, you know, we are a fast driving church. We are, we call ourselves a church with ADHD and we're, we're constantly pivoting going after the next hill, the next mountain, but our executive pastor will stop and remind us pretty frequently that, Hey, really the most important work that you're doing is the work that God is doing in your life. So the most important work is the work that God's doing in your life to say that correctly. Which is just a good pause and reminder to say, yeah, we are going after this hill, we're going after this thing, but what's God doing in me and making sure that I'm keeping a solid relationship with him.
Such good advice, man. Such good advice. Yeah. Chris, where can people connect with you? Are you on social media? Are you off grid with your mountain man beard and living in the woods somewhere? What's the easiest way for people to connect with you?
I wish. Um, yeah, I would say, uh, Instagram is great. My handle is just, @Chris_Courts88. Chris Courts, like basketball courts.
Like Michael Irving, Chris Courts, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for joining us, man. Really enjoyed it. Appreciate it.
Anytime you got it.