With a seemingly never-ending list of options for communicating with people—email, text message, social media, the list goes on—knowing the best way to reach individual members of your church community can be a challenge.

But considering who you’re communicating with, what you’re communicating, and when you’re communicating can help you choose the right how.

You wouldn’t text Human Resources that you’re quitting your job or write a formal letter to cancel dinner plans with your friend—each situation requires a different method of communication. The rules for communicating with your church are no different.

W #1: The Who

effective communicationAre you contacting parents of preschool kids about Sunday school or telling the senior Bible study group about their meeting? You probably won’t reach them the same way.

Although older generations are jumping on the technology bandwagon, some of them are still hesitant to make the leap—anyone else’s grandparents still using a rotary phone? Most baby boomers use email on a regular basis, and they are getting increasingly more comfortable with social networks—Facebook in particular. But while a majority of seniors own a mobile phone, they are slow to adopt texting.

When relaying information to the older community in your church, email, snail mail, and phone calls are your safest bet.

For those born after the baby boomer generation, texting and social media continue to lead the modes of contact—they desire that quick communication and never have their smartphones far from their sides.

W #2: The What

In an age when it’s common to be dumped via text message, learning how to tactfully communicate in each situation through the right channels is so important—especially for church leadership.

If you want to build anticipation for a big event at your church or share an informal update, by all means, use social media. Many churches have adopted Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other channels, but Facebook still leads the pack. Keep in mind that your updates will only appear in a small percentage of your fans’ news feeds, so you should typically use Facebook and other social media in conjunction with other means of communication.

If you have a message of significant length to relay, please do not write a novel as a Facebook status. A longer message is likely of a more important nature, so an email, phone call, or even printed letter may be appropriate. Text messages are best suited for short reminders, cancellations, and emergencies.

As technology continues to develop and make communication from a distance easy, don’t disregard the value of a face-to-face connection. While an in-person meeting isn’t possible in most situations, certain delicate matters require this kind of personal attention.

W #3: The When

When determining a means of communication, consider the timeliness of your intended message. If the information needs to get out ASAP, you wouldn’t send a mass mailing of letters.

Shoot a quick text message, throw the news up on social media, dial the phone, or send a brief email. In an emergency situation where seconds count, you may need to use multiple media to reach everyone immediately.

When the message is less time-sensitive, a letter, longer email, and periodic social media updates are appropriate.

A church software database should make each of these methods simple by managing your people’s contact information and allowing for automated communications.

Despite what insight statistics provide, every person and church is different—learn what works best for your community based on each situation.

How do you determine the best way to communicate with your church?