The greatest message ever shared. The most important person in all of history. The most helpful resources available.
Yeah, the church has all of that and should be excited about helping people find freedom and live changed lives. But more information from your local church isn’t helping. We’re inundated with information. We’re deluged by data. What we don’t need to know is how much more stuff your church has to offer.
If anything, we need less. A. Lot. Less.
Less isn’t zero, but when you start with zero as the assumed baseline of what must be communicated, it is a helpful reorientation toward re-imagining what your church should be communicating.
What Churches Overcommunicate
If I started by listing the Top 10 things churches overcommunicate, it would be a list missing the other 90 Top Things. Seriously, the issue is not the information; it’s the thinking that assumes we need more information.
Ask this question of a random sampling of church staff: “What is the purpose of our church communications?” You will likely hear their personal ministry/department preferences, or about getting people involved in a particular event or activity, or something along the lines of living out the Great Commission. Sadly, none of these will help make the most important connection your audience really needs because a broadcasted message isn’t going to replace a personal connection.
Sure, you might promote something that provides the opportunity for people to get connected (good!), but unless you happen to be able to reach the right person at the right time in the right way, the connection you’re offering to make will not be acted upon.
When we focus on events, activities and what we want from people (attendance, money, time), the communication serves the organization instead of the organization serving the person.
What Churches Miscommunicate
I have lost count of how many times a church where I’ve attended and volunteered sent me communication that wasn’t intended for me. Examples have included being invited to a singles event (I’m married), reminded when to register for the next ladies event (I’m a dude), or told how to get my 10-year-old registered for camp (when my youngest was 12).
From mass emails to text message campaigns to social media invitations, it would seem that even though I was actively involved and connected across the church to many ministries and pastors, they simply didn’t know me. At least, the church didn’t know me.
When I worked in the church management software industry for a couple of years, I found out something incredibly important that seems to be ignored by most church leaders: The average administrative staff turnover happens in churches between every nine and 18 months.
This is hugely important. Why? Because these positions are where the majority of church communications actually happen, even when there is a full-blown communications department. And these staff members are leaving. Frequently. With their knowledge of the church’s culture, systems, tools and processes. And, so, another administrative assistant comes in and has a pile of tasks, including sending out emails, following up with member/attendee requests and likely managing the social media accounts for that particular ministry department.
And we wonder why ministry and communication silos exist. Alas, I don’t have the space in the article to fully address this point, but perhaps in a future article …
Why Churches Fail to Communicate
Even though I’ve identified some key points that will help your church re-imagine your communications and hopefully rethink your training, implementation and measurements, too, there’s still a bigger issue to address: Churches are failing to communicate.
This may not seem obvious at first glance, but when church leaders assume church communications is about getting enough information sent often enough to enough people, they’re missing the very point of communication: to develop a two-way dialogue.
If I talk at you all the time, what have I communicated? That I’m important, and what I say must, by extension, be important to you, too.
But if I open up the opportunity for you to communicate with your own response, then we have the beginnings of the purpose of communication: connection.
Three Things to Do Immediately:
- Take an audit of what is being communicated, how often it’s being communicated, and measure the results to see what’s working.
- Say a lot less. When you focus your communications to specific, targeted audiences, you don’t have to explain so much. Get to the point for that audience with the appropriate use of only what is necessary.
- Invite dialogue. It’s not communicating if you (or your ministry/department/campus) are the only one talking. Don’t just communicate information—build community.