Reading: 9 Obstacles to Effective Communication in the Church
Few people know how to deliver effective communication in the church. With all the choices and options we have today, how does one know the best way to ensure the congregation gets the right information? If you struggle with this, you are not alone. You may have experienced any (or all) of these 9 obstacles to effective communication in the church.
1. FACING COMPLAINERS
Inevitably you will experience a handful of complainers that will never satisfy with the way you do things. They may have a chip on their shoulder from a previous hurt or bad experience. Maybe they just view everything with a "half-empty” approach. This makes your job of communicating difficult, as nothing can be "good enough”.
While complainers frustrate you, don't overlook or ignore all their advice. Examine any truth behind their harsh comments and take it into consideration. Even the chronic complainers have insightful and constructive advice to offer in the midst of their frustrations.
2. EVALUATING DIGITAL VS. PAPER
The digital versus paper debate continues to plague church leaders today. While many churches have gone to strictly digital announcements, other have a mini-magazine of announcements printed in their printed program or bulletin each week. Consider your demographics. Look at how many worship guides get "recycled” or thrown away each Sunday. What percentage of your bulletins remain untouched each week? Paper communication definitely has a place and usefulness; however, make sure you are stewarding your funds and carbon footprint by printing appropriate amounts and doing it effectively.
If you are resisting going digital, consider your reasoning. With the prevalence of tablets and smartphones, many people likely prefer to take sermon notes on an app opposed to paper. HTML emails sent out with an easy-to-read format can provide a quick snapshot of the announcements you want your congregation to know about. Digital communication done appropriately can reach a larger percentage of people with less work and more impact. But whichever hybrid of digital and paper formats you choose, make sure that it is appropriate for your congregation as well as the community around it.
3. CHOOSING SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM(S)
A plethora of social media options lie at the fingertips of the Church. Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, Instagram, blogs, etc. Which ones should you use? Maybe the better question is: which one(s) can you keep up-to-date and accurate? When searching for a new church, the majority of people will first search the web, then move out to different social media options. The accuracy and condition of your church profile communicates a lot about your church. During many of our mystery worshipper consultations, our pre-research shows that one or many of the social media platforms fail to remain current.
When I go to a website that has information from last summer listed as the "current events”, I know the church cannot successfully keep up with their information.
It is better to have a static website that doesn't require any updating of information than to have one with out-of-date information and posts.
The same goes for the other social media platforms. You want to have effective communication in the church. If you do not have a designated staff member or volunteer dedicated to keeping the church's profile current, consider whether it is worth even keeping the profile active. You would rather have a few social accounts done well rather than several done mediocre.
4. ALIGNING THE MESSAGE
Make sure to align the messages your people hear on a weekly basis. What is alignment? Having consistent and clear communication of information across all platforms -- print, website, social media, from the pulpit, etc. When someone only receives partial information about an event or message, their interest may get lost or confusion might set in. When someone hears one thing from an announcement on stage, but sees different information in print or on screen, they don't know which information is correct.
Seek to align your message across all areas of the church. You can do this not only through consistent information and data, but consistent visual representation of the information. Use the same logos, the same color scheme, and the same fonts. Make the information recognizable by sight, not only by content.
5. STAYING ON POINT
Imagine a time when someone stepped on stage, began to talk, and didn't seem take a breath until they finished sharing all their information. You experience information overload. Many times, we seek to communicate so much information that it ends up being too much information. People cannot process much information in one sitting. Many can't remember too much verbal information without also seeing it written down.
Condense and shorten your message. People will be more likely to retain and remember your main points if you keep it simple and stay on point. While often with good intentions, rabbit trails create confusion for not only the listener, but ultimately for the communicator as well. Make sure you are clear with your message and you will avoid confusion for everyone.
6. FORMAL COMMUNICATION VARIES FROM VERBAL COMMUNICATION
This point goes along with alignment of your message. Many times information shared at the information kiosk or around the coffee bar varies from the information shared from the stage, pulpit, or the bulletin. Uninformed people will share incorrect information. When this happens the incorrect information continues to get dispersed.
The solution for this obstacle lies in ensuring clarity of your message, educating those who are in leadership or volunteering in a given area, and providing information in redundant informative soundbites. This will ensure that the information is not only correct, but that you provide effective communication in the church.
7. LACK OF ORGANIZATIONAL CLARITY
Does your leadership know what direction the church is going? Is the vision clear to the staff? to the leadership? to the congregation as a whole? What about the mission you seek to accomplish as a body? If these things are not clear, then the goals and ambitions of the different ministries and areas of the church will not be clear.
When speaking of the future, does your congregation understand the big picture? Maybe more importantly, does your leadership? Your leaders contribute to the work of the church, and if your leaders are not communicating the right information then ambiguity will trickle down to the rest of the congregation.
Look at where you would like to be as a church and consider how you are communicating this to the rest of the body. If you are unable to do so, it may be time to get consulting in these areas. You may need a church ministry analysis to get a baseline for where your core leadership lies in relation to your vision as a church. Don't be a ship without a rudder. Know where God is leading you as a Church and communicate it to the congregation as a whole.
8. POOR COMMUNICATION FROM THE PULPIT
How does your congregation receive information each week? Is the pastor a good communicator? Even though pastors go through seminary or receive advanced training, many communicate poorly. They fail to connect with their audience. As my husband says, "They exegete the text but not the context.” Consider how information gets transmitted from the stage each week. Does it provide room for effective communication in the church or does it create more confusion.
If you are a pastor who fails to communicate clearly, ask others what you can do better. Evaluate your video recordings and make improvements. Look into a coach who can encourage you and walk alongside of you as you seek to improve. Learn what communication styles your congregation is more receptive to and aim to replicate that each Sunday. Clearly communicating from the pulpit allows your church body to experience growth and unity as they grow closer to Christ, but also deepen in relationships with one another.
9. UNCERTAINTY OF WHAT IS EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION IN THE CHURCH
When you don't know what to communication, you tend to communicate everything. Take some time to consider the most important pieces of information. You don't have to communicate every single thing, but the most important things. And you may not know what the most important things are. Maybe you need help developing a rubric for communication or a strategy on communicating effectively. This might be a great time to consider a leadership coach to walk through these leadership challenges and help you come out with a greater impact on those you serve.
Knowing what to communicate is just as important as how you communicate. Face these 9 obstacles to effective communication in the church with confidence; as a result, you will find your communication to the congregation and leadership will improve and make a more lasting impact on those you are serving.