Ryan Holck, an expert on church communication, says that leaders tend to throw so much information at their congregants that nothing sticks. There’s also a tendency to use insider language while never addressing what people really want to know: “What’s in it for me?” He shares some simple fixes for these common communication challenges.
We’ve got great ministry ideas, and we’re working hard to connect people, but something isn’t working. We assume the issue is the event or a lack of interest by the congregation. More often than not, the issue is actually a communication challenge. There are simple fixes to these communication challenges.
1. We Say Too Much
Congregations have limited bandwidth. We spend all week thinking about our ministry plans, but they haven’t. When we throw everything at them at once, nothing sticks. A typical listener can only take in so much information before they shut down and stop listening.
If your church is struggling with communication, don’t worry. Do this one simple thing: Say less, with greater clarity, in ways that connect with people.
The solution is to be intentional about what we share. Pick the top three to four things in the life of your church and share about them well. This is best done with a calendar so you aren’t caught off guard as events approach.
A good rule is that a ministry opportunity needs to relate to 50 percent of those in attendance for you to share about it in worship. If it doesn’t, you should find ways to share with just the people who need to hear it. For example, you would announce an upcoming women’s retreat, since it relates to 50 percent or more of Sunday morning attenders, but not a men’s woodworking class, which could be shared with interested people in other ways.
2. We Only Talk to Insiders
I recently found a “secret menu” for In-N-Out Burger, a California-based fast food chain. The menu includes creative ways to take their basic ingredients (burger, fries, and drinks) and switch them up. I’ve been going to In-N-Out for more than 20 years and had no idea that I can get grilled onions on my burger and my wife can have a Lemon-Up — a combination of lemonade and 7-Up. Why didn’t we know? Because they haven’t printed the information on the menu board. The menu is so simple; you have to know what to ask for or they will serve it like they always have.
Unfortunately, we treat our church guests much the same. We assume they understand the context of our church, and they do not. We announce events in ways insiders understand but guests don’t. For example, “Join us for Bible Study on Wednesday in the MPR.” Guests need to know more.
The solution is to answer the questions guests would be asking. Who is this event for? What time is it occurring? What is the full name of the location? Where would I find this room? Can my kids come too? So for example: Life can be confusing! Join our adult Bible study as we talk through practical ways to gain wisdom and understanding. Wednesdays, 7 pm, Main Office Lobby. Child-care is available by reservation.
3. We Share Details with No Heart
The power of the Gospel is its ability to connect people to God. These are people who want something more from the life they are living and don’t want to waste time on trivial things. Our guests come to church each week, and we fill them in on all the “exciting ways to get involved.” But they don’t connect.
Why? Because they approach every opportunity, subconsciously or not, with a mental question: “What’s in it for me?” They want to know what makes this opportunity something worth considering, and boring announcements with event details aren’t enough. People are hungry for the solutions God offers. It’s our responsibility to show them.
The solution is to highlight the benefit of attending and participating. Go beyond the details and present examples of life change in your ministry. Look at previous attenders, congregation members, and your community. Share the way God has used the ministry in the past and the difference it can make for those in similar situations.
One Simple Rule
If your church is struggling with these church communication mistakes, don’t worry. There is hope. You can reverse the trend by doing one thing:
Say Less + With Greater Clarity + In Ways That Connect With People
Do this consistently, and you will see growth in your congregation. Neglect it, and you will struggle to connect and retain new people.
This article is adapted from “3 Top Church Communication Mistakes and How to Fix Them” on the Church Tech Today website, June 3, 2016, and used by permission.
- Speak More Effectively by Asking Three Questions by Adam Hamilton
- Eight Reasons People Aren’t Listening to Announcements by Rich Birch
- Focusing Your Message by Ann A. Michel