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3 Layers of Total Church Communication

Communications is what we do. It’s how we spread the gospel, disciple believers, and connect the disconnected in relationships with God and each other. We tell, shout, herald, preach, and evangelize the world. We communicate.

Plenty of churches communicate well, at least in one aspect of communications. What we often lack, however, is a comprehensive and cohesive total church communications strategy.

I don’t recommend sitting on a stool with only one or two legs, but with three, properly arranged, you’re probably safe. The same is true of church communications. There are at least three important prongs of a total communications strategy that need to be held in tension and balanced well.

Communication Among the Leadership

Communication between staff members and lay leaders is crucial for the day-to-day operation of the church. Our ability to consistently meet the needs of people requires that we can get the right information to the right people at the right time. It also requires that we can effectively sort out the big signals from the smaller matters.

Communication starts with the lead pastor who, by default, does most of the talking. Vision is caught by other leaders in sermons, staff meetings, emails, and other forms of communication. A good leadership team will find ways to make sure that the communication lines from the leader are open and clear.

Communication Between the Pulpit and the Pew

Granted, we’re using fewer pews than we formerly did, but the point is the same—there needs to be clear communication between the leadership of the church and the congregation. A lot of great ideas die early deaths because they aren’t passed along in a way that grabs the right level of attention.

We can’t call for enthusiastic support of a new ministry that doesn’t have a strong voice. We can’t expect successful growth or capital campaigns if we aren’t making them a priority in our communications schedule. And on a spiritual note, we can’t expect our people to be growing deeper and bringing others into the fold if we aren’t clearly communicating the priorities of Jesus for our lives and for the corporate body.

Communication from the Church to the Community

In one sense, this is the big one. This is the layer of communication that gets all the attention. Books and magazines are written about outreach-oriented communication. Seminars are taught and conference keynotes delivered on how to communicate to the culture in which we live.

It was just a decade ago that we were talking about direct mail. Now we’re diving into social media and text messaging. Never before have so many opportunities existed for us to communicate with so many people. So yes, this layer of communication is vital. But…

If we aren’t communicating well among our leadership or between the staff and the congregation, then our effective outreach communication may be in vain. The very structure of our churches may not be able to handle the responses that come back from that public communication.

The challenge is a big one. January is a good time to reevaluate the effectiveness of our communications strategy at every level. And if you’re the leader at the top, you probably aren’t aware of all of the weaknesses. Ask a few people if they know what’s going on from week to week. The answer can be painful, but helpful.

As Adrian Rogers once said, “Communicate or disintegrate.”  

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Brandon Cox is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.