Editor's Note: Mark Driscoll and his church, Mars Hill, have been in the news for weeks regarding various allegations, and were recently on the front page of The New York Times. If you wonder how your church might respond to media if a crisis happens, preparation goes a long way."Discussing and planning for all the possible crises that could happen in your church may not be pleasant," says Mike Bayer in the downloadable resource Communicating in a Crisis. "However, being prepared for a crisis may enable you to prevent one from actually occurring. At the very least, it will help minimize its potentially damaging effects." In the following excerpt from this download, Bayer offers insights for dealing with the media during a crisis.
Nothing can be potentially more destructive than an onslaught of unfavorable news stories. This type of media exposure can influence community opinion of your church for a long time and interfere with your mission.
Mark DeMoss, founder of the DeMoss public relations agency, advises churches to head off damaging stories by responding quickly to the media about a crisis. "Depending on the nature of the crisis or impending crisis, you may only have a brief time to get control of the situation," he says. "The first 24 hours are critical. You must reassure the public and the congregation, and restore trust in the church and its staff."
Since most pastors and congregations are not accustomed to dealing with the media, they should get some training in how to do that. "If you can only do one thing, get some media training for your spokesperson," says Jack Buttram, a professional news person who formerly served on the White House staff. "Churches should give some consideration to training someone in addition to the pastor."
DeMoss recommends that smaller churches enlist the help of church members or friends who are human resource, media, or public relations professionals. "Having a fresh set of eyes look over your plan and play the role of a hostile reporter can be very useful," Buttram says. Larger churches might consider hiring a public affairs or public relations firm to write a crisis plan and provide media training for its spokespersons.
A crisis plan should also include instructions on how to communicate information to church members and others who may be involved. Since the church office is what most people will call for information, the plan should include instructions for anyone who answers the church phone.
Adapted from the downloadable resource Communicating in a Crisis.
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