I have read more articles and seen more stats and opinions on church communications than I can shake a stick at—yet church communications continues to be a source of frustration for many, myself included. Perhaps a few of the lessons I have learned as a pastor will help bring clarity and conclusion to this painful subject for some of you.
In my 15 plus years as a pastor I have discovered there are three very different forms of communication. Perhaps this is why some churches struggle—reliance on only one form. Maybe you have multiple communication channels available, but are only focusing on one, while ignoring or failing to understand the big picture of overall church communication.
The Big Three
1) Pastoral Communication: This is perhaps the most important of all communications in the church. As a pastor, this is where you sink or swim publicly every week. You can be a great speaker, have a great personality, be highly educated in all biblical doctrine and be skilled in homiletics. But if you fail to connect with your audience, you lose. If you lose in this arena, your effectiveness in communicating to staff and the general congregation has taken a major hit. My simple suggestion to all pastors and church leaders—know your audience! Know who you are speaking to, what’s important to them, what are they facing in their daily lives?
Knowing your audience is nearly as more important than the message you bring. How can you deliver a message of hope and encouragement if you don’t know what they are facing? Knowing your audience goes beyond knowing their names and their children’s names. You must know their fears, hurts, and struggles. Knowing them will give you insight into crafting a personalized message that communicates the life-changing Gospel.
2) Administrative Communication: As a ministry leader I must admit this is one area where I made a lot of mistakes early-on. I made the assumption that everyone understood what I was saying and what I meant. I have discovered the hard way that people cannot read my mind. Through a lot of stress and pain I have learned the following lessons:
- Be where you are. If you are having a conversation with a staff person, slow down and focus. Too many times while in a conversation, our minds are two hours ahead, or two weeks ahead, key details are missed when we lose focus.
- Ask questions. Just because a staff member nods her head and seems to acknowledge what you are saying, this does not mean they agree with you or that they will follow your suggestions. Ask them if they understand your point; ask them to repeat in their words what you just said.
- They are not on your schedule. This is of particular importance when dealing with a volunteer. As a pastor or ministry leader, you may have a dozen or more items on your agenda, and things typically move at a slower pace. On the other hand, recognize you are dealing with someone who may have one item of focus, and they are moving at a much faster pace that you. When this happens both you and the volunteer look bad. Communication as a leader to staff is getting the ship headed in the right direction and staying on course.
3) Corporate Communication: This may be the most challenging form of communication, as well as having the biggest impact on the attitude and morale of the entire church body. We need to recognize the fact that our members have multiple ways of getting their information. The days of hanging a flyer on the upcoming events board, or a Sunday bulletin are over. They are no longer the preferred methods of communication. With the introduction of the cell phone our society has become dependent upon it. Today the smartphone allows users to receive phone calls, text messages, email, Facebook posts, tweets, check the weather, pay our bills, and so much more.
Take into consideration that we live in a “Now” world, where people want, demand and expect information in an instant. They will expect this from the church, too. For too many years I have seen churches struggle with poor corporate communication. It is amazing how it affects the mood and morale of the congregation. All it takes is one poorly attended event that someone has taken the time to promote through traditional methods to zap the life right out of the team and the entire congregation. Imagine the frustration of busy parents struggling to get their children to a youth event, only to discover it has been cancelled. Frustration over bad communication causes bad attitudes, finger pointing and hard feelings. But there is a solution.
The technology available today will allow a church to set up a web-based system that can handle time sensitive messages (phone calls, text, emails) or daily event reminders. The pastor and other ministry leaders can send messages to the entire congregation (or a selected ministry group) from any phone, anywhere, any time.
As the pastor of a new church plant; Fields of Grace Worship Center in Covington, Ohio, I have seen how it has played a major role in keeping our people informed and engaged. We started with 70 people and within one year we now have an average attendance of 280. One of the contributing factors is good communication. We have been able to use a system from One Call Now, it is simple, affordable and gets results. The One Call Now system takes the heavy lifting out of corporate communications.
Effective church communication is like a three-legged stool: Pastoral Communication, Administrative Communication and Corporate Communication. All three legs must be solid to ensure you don’t falter.
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