Myth: Communication is Easy
Communication in the church has come a long way in the last couple thousand years. But it has never been is easy. If you’ve been involved in the church for even a short time, you’ve likely experienced at least one of these situations:
- Your church had an event and very few people showed up – despite your major promotional campaign.
- The missions pastor also serves as the communications director. He also fills the role of small groups pastor too.
- The eager volunteer who’s had a Twitter account for 5 days has been asked to oversee all social media for your church.
- No one on your church staff believes in using spell check or punctuation.
- A member of the congregation is in an uproar over something the pastor said.
There are probably dozens of examples you can think of in your own church. Communication within the setting of the local church is often difficult and confusing. Sometimes it feels impossible to get to the people who need to hear your message. In order to get a message to the audience for whom its intended, have that message received clearly, and move the recipient to a certain response, it’s going to take some work.
Unfortunately, most people see themselves as good communicators and don’t see a need to improve. But if you measure the results or simply ask the people on the receiving end, you’ll probably get a different story. It’s true that anyone can communicate. But not everyone will do it well. Effective communication requires thought, skill, and preparation. It’s not something we’re born with. Once we realize this, we can work to improve.
Think about the current state of communication in your church. This includes everything from internal communication among staff and leaders, to promoting events to the congregation, to finding out how your church is perceived in the community. Does your staff feel well-equipped to answer questions about anything happening at your church? Do the people in your congregation know the mission of the church and where it’s headed in the future? If you’re brave enough, ask a few staff members what they think. Ask the part-time staff members, leaders, and volunteers. It could be a real eye-opener.
Clear, effective communication within the local church is vital, but getting there is often hard work. If you find your church is not where it should be, consider these things:
Establish Systems & Processes
It’s vitally important that you have some sort of process in place to guide the flow of communication – both internally and externally. Even with a loose structure in place, it can help you avoid mass confusion. Dig into what’s most important to your church as a whole, and establish a structure that gives weight to communicating the important things with more time and resources. Using this structure will help your congregation know what they need to pay attention to. Not all messages are equally important, so they shouldn’t all be promoted the same way. Would you use the same amount of stage announcement time to promote a church-wide baptism as you would a tea party for the Single Mom’s Ministry? Are you expecting the same response for both of these events?
Internal processes are also important. Does your church staff know what’s most important? How do they find out about key events, staff changes, and what’s happening with the congregation? Consider putting something in place as a resource that lets them know what’s available to their ministry when promoting an event. Encourage staff to plan ahead. Help them understand where their area of focus fits in with the mission of the church. Maintaining good communication systems internally will spill over into other areas of the church.
At first, establishing systems may seem to slow you down, because you don’t see forward movement right away. But you’ll make up for it down the road with improved efficiency, fewer miscommunications, and a happier, more well-informed staff. Make it a priority. Get it nailed down and stick to it.
Get the Right People in the Right Places
Everyone in your church communicates to some degree. But you have some who handle the brunt of the job. Maybe you call them “Communications”, “Marketing”, or “Public Relations”. These are supposed to be the experts. And experts they should be. An expert communicator thinks in terms of strategy. They see the big picture and they have the experience to go along with the job. Not everyone is qualified to handle communications on a large scale. Yet this is how many churches continue to operate. Does your communications or marketing staff perform at a level that matches the value you place on communication?
Regardless of the size of your church, communications is an important part of its existence and future growth. If you’re not at the place where you can hire someone experienced in church communications, consider seeking the help of qualified volunteers in your congregation. Hiring an outside company who specializes in this area is also a great way to get started on the right path.
A Steady Diet of Feedback
The best way to improve in the area of communications is to know how you’re doing. Set goals you can measure when a project or campaign is finished. If you’re planning a large event at your church, determine ahead of time what you expect the response to be. Then plan a follow-up meeting after the event to see if you reached your goal. See if you can improve for the next event.
If you’re talking about smaller scale or internal communication, don’t be afraid to ask. Find out from your team what you can do better next time. Showing someone you value their opinion and you’re eager to know where to improve goes a long way. It takes honesty and a bit of humility. But in the end, it benefits everyone.
The goal of communication in the local church is to elicit a response – whether that’s attending an event, joining a ministry, or making a decision for Christ. With so much at stake, and so much clutter to get in the way, clear communication is no easy task. Maybe it will never be perfect, but taking steps toward improving communication in your church will go a long way toward helping you carry out your mission.