Growing the Best Digital Team

How do you most effectively grow your church's digital team? Through great experiences and learning opportunities. It would be easy to hire the world's premiere web specialists. It would also be expensive. If you do not have the resources to make that happen, the next best thing is to create them yourself. This article discusses how we can best grow and nurture our digital teams.

Most new officers in the US Air Force have already gone through months if not years of training. We received many lessons in leadership and mentoring. You get lectures and briefings on the many nuances of military culture. Yet once you experience the first few weeks of active duty life, you realize how little you know. This is why nearly all lieutenants rotate throughout their squadron's shops. They learn a little about every aspect of how their team operates. This is vital to your growth as an officer. You not only know how many units operate, but you also see a multitude of leadership styles. This is why our commanders are so well-rounded and equipped to lead. I believe your church's digital team should follow this model.

Generalists First

A generalist knows a little bit about everything. As we used to say in the Air Force, it is an "inch deep, mile wide" approach. Encourage your digital team members to first become a generalist. Push them to seek out mentors on all subjects of the team. This includes design, development, social media, search engine optimization, content production, email campaigns, and any others your church supports. You do not need to become an expert in that field. I would encourage you to just master the basics. Not everyone wants to be a database architect. Yet understanding how the system works, and the ability to write a few queries is a valuable skill to have. This person is most common in churches with smaller teams. It is especially true if you are the sole person responsible for your church's digital spaces.

Specialists Second

A specialist has the base knowledge of a generalist, but has a higher level of expertise in one or two areas. This is often an area they are best at or have a passion for. The best example for a specialist comes from the medical industry. We often forget that a specialist has gone through much of the same training a general practitioner has. A hand surgeon specialist can diagnose a case of strep throat. This means your social media specialist can put together the accompanying graphics in a pinch. Your graphics wiz can make some minor code modifications. And your developer can weigh in on the wording of an error message. This helps keep everyone well-rounded, and diversifies the ideas on your team. Encourage them to find their niche skill to specialize in. But do not forget the need to keep their skill set broad.

Avoid Compartmentalists

The current plague of the web industry is that many only want to do what they are best at. A compartmentalist may produce good work. Yet they do so without understanding the other areas of the web team. Plus they are unable to help if you need them to fill in a role. Unfortunately many web professionals fall into this mindset. Changing existing compartmentalists can prove difficult. Instead, start at the grassroots level. Rotate your new volunteers and staff through various positions. Explain that it is strengthening your team as well as diversifying their professional experience.

Action Item

The first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one. Call a lunch meeting and make your team watch Jared Spool's keynote speech "How Do We Design Designers". Jared calls these specialists unicorns, because they are indeed quite rare. I would also suggest inviting your senior leadership. Why? Because there may be a slowdown in production if you rotate skill sets. Then create a rotation schedule to pair people with some of the best experts on your team. What if you do not have a skill set on your team, or have a third party vendor do the work? Learn it. Those two words may encompass a few weeks of intense work. Yet the more your team can accomplish, the more effective your digital ministries will be. Lastly, remind your team that this will only enhance their portfolio of skills. Soon you should have an entire herd of "UX Unicorns"!

This article was inspired by Jared Spool's keynote speech "How Do We Design Designers"

Photo courtesy of Gra┼╝yna Suchecka

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.