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3 Tips for Improving Communication

On almost every survey you see that asks pastors “what is your biggest challenge” or “where can you improve the most,” communication is somewhere in the top 5. But, church communication has as many connotations as a Methodist’s pot luck has casseroles. There is print, digital, verbal, non-verbal, internal, external, instructional, inspiring, welcoming and on and on. So where do we start to address the communication issue in church? Here are three tips to help you lead your church and team to more effective communication.
1) Assess your culture from Cloud Nine.
The view from “Cloud Nine” allows us to look at the “big picture” which gives us a clear view of the culture or posture if you will of your church. What I mean by that is who are you trying to communicate with, are you a “public-facing” church that is trying to reach people that are part of our post-Christian cultures? Are you trying to reach a particular community, race, or demographic in your city or are you just trying to engage with the people that are “loosely” affiliated with your church, commonly called “CREASTERS” (Christmas and Easter attenders)? You need to know who you are trying to reach before you can determine how to talk with them!
A big part of our church’s culture is our non-verbal communication. Hospitality is a huge non-verbal communication, the experience from the parking lot to the pulpit. Is your church user-friendly for guests and your regulars? What makes your church user-friendly? Making your church user-friendly starts with providing information on your website to prepare visitors for what they can expect when they come to your church. Signage (both internal and external), greeters, ushers, welcome/information/guest services areas all go into creating a user-friendly environment for everyone that comes to your church. Pro-Tip: never rely on a sign to provide the help a person can; use both!
2) Look for clutter and then dig deeper.
Think about it, how many times have you felt like you have promoted an event or a study or anything so effectively that everybody should know about it and one of your regulars tells you “they would have come to that if they had only known about it!” Cluttered communication creates static as all our announcements and events and classes compete with each other so that we can’t hear anything clearly.
Our goal should be exactly the opposite! Here is my Right Way Rule for church communications – to share the right message, with the right audience, at the right time, using the right media. This is why understanding all your audiences in #1 is so critical because we have to match our messages with the appropriate audiences. Then we need to use our comprehensive calendar for both content and events to find the most effective timing to avoid clutter and static. Then we share the content using the most effective delivery channels for that message and audience. We will talk about this more in Tip #3.
Here is another Pro Tip: communication issues or problems can be symptomatic of cultural or structural issues for your church. For example, if you struggle with communication clutter, it might be indicating that your discipleship path is too complex, or you have clutter in your ministries, or worse, ministry silos. So, as you identify communication problems, take a closer look to make sure there is not a deeper problem. Look for ways to simplify our message and the ways we ask people to connect with us. Remember, the more focused your message, the better chance the people that need to hear it, will. And, the simpler the path, the bigger chance your people will take their next step in following Jesus!
3) Keep your delivery simple.
The church has a lot of different channels to deliver their message to their audiences. The easy approach is to just blast your message out on all channels available. Even if you have a good message that is targeted to the right audience, if you blast it out on all your media, then the right people will tune you out.
A key example of keeping it simple and using your media effectively is the worship bulletins. In most churches, there is a 99.99999% chance that when you attend worship, whether you are a visitor or member, somebody will shove a bulletin in your hand. This makes it “prime real estate” for communication purpose! And, it needs to perform multiple functions and speak to multiple audiences; so, use it to present the most important messages to the most people AND speak to your visitors too! If you are looking for clutter, start with your bulletin and work your way throughout your communication channels and pieces.
I know that most churches struggle communicating internally with a multi-generational congregation with varied use of digital media. This makes it even more imperative to keep your communication delivery methods simple. Don’t ignore the needs of your older generation but don’t let them impede your ability to speak to the majority of people that need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The key to successfully communicating with multi-generational audiences is to provide printed and personal content and instruct them how to access it. Remember, don’t just include a calendar of events in your bulletin, for example, if it creates clutter; make it easily available at Guest Services or with the Ushers or wherever it can be accessed in your church.
We will address more detail in future posts about how to match your message with the right audience and the right media. If you need help analyzing your culture from “Cloud Nine” or dig deeper into the clutter, then reach out to ChurchCMO for assistance – it’s what we do!

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