Effective church communication is always important. That is especially true during the holiday season. Schedules change. We cancel a service here. We add a service there. How do you communicate these changes to members, regular attenders, guests and the community at large?
During one holiday season, Melanie and I set out for the early worship service at the church we attended. We had been out of town for two weeks, so we were looking forward to worship. As we approached the church I noticed that the parking lot was empty. A few other cars had pulled in before us. They turned around in the parking lot and pulled back onto the street.
I pulled into the parking lot and opened my smart phone. I clicked on the church’s app and scrolled down. There it was. Five frames from the top. Holiday Schedule. There was no early service on that holiday weekend. I am sure the church communicated this during worship the previous two weeks. I’m sure it was printed in the worship guides. And here it was clearly stated on the website, even if it was less than prominently displayed. I should have checked.
This miscommunication was an inconvenience. Nothing more. It did not affect my continued participation in that church. But what about all of those other people who pulled into and out of the parking lot that morning? Were any of them guests? Were any of them lost or unchurched? There is evidence that people are more likely to attend church services during the holiday season. Did the church miss an opportunity with them?
Effective communication is always important. Especially during the holidays. Here are five characteristics of effective church communication:
Effective Church Communication Is Comprehensive
We are living in an amazing day for effective communication. Think about it. Email. Text Message. Websites. Social Media. Word of mouth. Print. Phone calls. A sound communication plan will be comprehensive in its use of these methods.
It will also be comprehensive in its audience engagement. Years ago I remember having a conversation with a church leadership team regarding the appropriate time to add someone to the church’s mailing list. Some wanted to wait until a person joined the church. Others wanted to wait until the person attended for three Sundays in a row. I jokingly said that if that were the criteria we would have to purge most of our church members from the list! We decided to add people to our list after their second visit. Our thinking was that a second visit indicated some level of interest.
Effective church communication engages members, regular attenders, guests and potential guests. One reason I did not know about the change in holiday schedule in my opening story is that I was not a member of the church we were attending. And the church did not have an effective strategy to communicate with regular attenders.
Effective Church Communication Is Contextual
I am currently serving as Transitional Pastor for a small, open-country church. Less than half of our congregation uses email or text messaging. Even less are on social media. In my last full-time pastorate more than 80% of our members, regular attenders, guests and potential guests were on social media. What worked in one context will not work in the other.
Know your context. But do not make assumptions. Some people assume that senior adults do not use the internet or social media. That is a false assumption. Some do not. But many do. The same is true for electronic communication like text messages and emails. It is important to know the preferred methods of communication.
Effective Church Communication Is Creative
When using social media to communicate, include photos and videos. I know several pastors who use Facebook Live to connect and communicate with their churches during the week.
Some churches need to be creative in order to communicate at all. What if your church is primarily non-digital and you don’t have the budget to send printed information by mail? Why not implement some type of phone-tree to connect and communicate with members, regular attenders and recent guests each week. You could reinforce the communication with strategic messages on the church sign. Even if you don’t have a sign with a message board, you could use banners to communicate significant events and schedule times. The old adage is true. Necessity is the mother of invention. So get creative.
Effective Church Communication Is Consistent
People need to know where to go for information. First-time guests will almost always go to the church website or Facebook page before visiting. They need to know service times and location. Make this information prominent and update it when there are exceptions! They need to know what to expect when they arrive. Where to park. What to wear. Etc. Don’t leave them guessing. Be consistent in using your website and Facebook page to communicate with people who may be considering your church.
Once a person visits for the first time, it is appropriate to communicate with them through a written note, a text message, an email, a phone call or even a visit. Again, context will dictate what is appropriate. If they return for a second visit you will want to include them in your comprehensive communication efforts so they don’t show up in the parking lot for a service that has been cancelled for the holiday season.
Effective Church Communication Is Considerate
Do no neglect this fifth characteristic. And I admit this is subjective. But do not over-communicate with emails and text messages. One church added me to their email list after only one visit. Even though I never went back for a second visit, I now get invitations four or five times a week to participate in this or that ministry. Even if I were a member or regular attender of that church, much of the information does not apply to me.
I use text messaging a lot. It is my preferred method of personal communication. I use it in church, too. Once I used it to remind members of a group about upcoming meetings. I also used it to encourage them during the week. Unfortunately, I sent texts as group messages. And the group consisted of about twenty members. After getting twenty responses that also went out to the others on the list, I noticed that some group members were leaving the conversation. It wasn’t that they were disinterested. They just didn’t want to deal with everyone’s responses.
There has never been a better time to have effective church communication. We have amazing technology at our disposal. Use it. Be comprehensive, contextual, creative, and consistent. But don’t forget to also be considerate. Otherwise, you may end up with people turning around in your parking lot.