Effective Communication for Congregations
It is extremely common for a vital congregation to struggle with communication. The main reason this occurs is that, in stable congregations, very little communication is required, so it feels like communication is being done well. We are accustomed to communication done in well-rehearsed code: “The Whatsits are meeting at John’s house on Tuesday; everyone is welcome,” actually means, “A small group of men who began as a Bible study 24 years ago will meet to talk about football and politics. They all know who John is and where he lives. You might break into this group if you’re male, retired, politically liberal and don’t like the Raiders.”
Stable congregations also tend to communicate everything to everybody and trust they will sort out what to pay attention to and ignore what is irrelevant for them. The regulars are used to skimming the newsletter and planning Sunday lunch during the announcements.
In vital congregations, communication is extremely important. Things are happening that nobody has heard about already, so they have no code language. People who are used to knowing what is going on feel left out or stupid when they begin hearing announcements about things they don’t already know. They often feel suddenly like they don’t belong.
Effective communication in vital congregations requires that leaders be intentional about when, how and what they communicate. If they communicate everything to everyone, people will be overwhelmed and miss most of what is being conveyed.
- Who needs to know about this and who might be surprised by it?
- What is the message we need to convey (invitation, information, justification)?
- What language will convey accurately the message we need the congregation to receive?
- What medium or media are most likely to deliver the message to those who need to receive it? In addition, who should deliver the message?
- How any times (seven? seven times 70?) does it need to be delivered?
NOTE: For an expanded essay on “Considering Language, Culture, and Identity” by William Gibson, which includes additional information, please see the Appendix.