There was a moment of silence.
Not the type of silence that deafens a room during a memorial service. Nor the kind of silence preceding a lame scare tactic in a movie. But the type of deafening silence that fills the room when you’re waiting for feedback from your manager.
He hates it.
He’s going to hate me.
I’ll need to look for another job.
These exaggerated thoughts didn’t necessarily run through my head. But they do capture an element of what I was thinking.
Honestly, I don’t recall the specific task I was working on. But the feedback I received stuck to me like a velcro ball to a velcro mitt. And it went something like this: “Tell people exactly what you’re talking about.”
Fighting two devils of clear communication
Clear communication is a difficult task—especially within the church.
In church communications, you'll wrestle with the temptation to use Christian clichés, $20 theological words, and pithy Christian platitudes while fighting the pressure to be hip, fresh, and relevant. It’s like trying to think straight when you have a devil on both of your shoulders telling you what to do.
Crafting clear messages is one of the most critical tasks of the church. Connecting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible to the Average Joe sitting in the pew or living in your community is of eternal importance.
Here are six ways you can craft clear, concise, and compelling messages for your church.
1. Define your audience
Whatever message you share with your church or community isn’t like writing in your personal journal. You’re creating a message for your target audience—not yourself.
To ensure your communication is comprehensible, you’ll need to focus on your audience. You’ll need to clarify who you’re trying to reach with your message so that you can communicate in such a way that is helpful for them.
To do this, let the second greatest commandment guide your communication (Matt. 22:36-40). Serve your audience. Answer their questions. Anticipate their objections. Meet their needs. And communicate with them in such a way that they can easily understand what you’re saying.
Unless your church has a regional, national, or international reach, your audience is your community. And you must have the people of your church in mind when sharing any message.
Here are some questions you can ask to help you best understand the people in your congregation and community:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What is their gender?
- How old are they?
- What is their profession? Are they currently employed?
- What is their level of education?
- How familiar are they with Christianity?
These are just some preliminary questions you can ask. So use them as a launching pad for defining your audience.
2. Choose the right medium
There are countless ways you can connect with people.
Think about it.
- Send an email
- Post something on Facebook
- Send a tweet on Twitter
- Send a push notification with your church app
- Share a snap on Snapchat
- Make a church announcement
- Use your bulletin
- Mail a letter
- And more…
Here’s the deal with the medium you choose:
You don’t have the time or the resource to promote your church communications everywhere people are online.
But here’s the good news:
Your church communications aren’t for everyone—just the audience you defined above.
In your church communication strategy, you have permission to not be all things to all people. You have permission to focus on the right medium that makes the most sense for you and your church.
3. Keep it simple
Strive for simplicity in your messaging.
Focus on one big idea and assume your audience doesn’t understand what you’re talking about.
Banish jargon, insider language, and theologically loaded terms that need an advance Bible degree to define.
For instance, don’t haphazardly use the word sanctification without explaining it. First, most people probably don’t know what you’re talking about. And second, many people may have a different understanding of what sanctification means than what you do.
After you're done preparing any message, place yourself in your audience’s shoes. Walk in them. Feel them. Learn to think and talk like them. Read what you wrote out loud to see if it makes any sense.
In the words of Tim Schrader, co-editor of Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication*, “Do all you can to make sure your church isn’t speaking in tongues so that people can hear the message of the gospel clearly and ultimately connect with Christ.”
4. Stay brief
Here’s the reality you face in church communications:
According to a study conducted by Microsoft, the average attention span of people is eight seconds, which is one second less than a goldfish.
Practically speaking, this means most people:
- Will not read what you write word-for-word
- Will not listen to your entire church announcement
- Will not watch your entire video
Whether you’re preparing your weekly bulletin and announcements, talking about tithing during your church’s offering, or writing an email or newsletter, stay brief. Focus on the essential message you need to share, which leads us to the next point.
5. Front load your message
Tell people what they need to know up front.
Avoid burying your one big idea in the depths of a story, supporting information, or God forbid, a terrible joke.
Preceding the one thing you need people to know with something else will lead your audience to tune you out and miss what you want them to read, see, or hear.
Let your audience know your one big idea up front. Then you can provide whatever details you think they need to know.
6. Be informed
If you’re in church communications, you need to possess a level of biblical literacy.
Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone who posts something for your church on social media needs to have a graduate degree. But I am suggesting that whoever oversees your church's communication should consume a regular dose of the Bible and Christian literature.
Better understanding the Bible will help church communicators better share what God has shared with us through the Bible.
Over to you
Serving in church communications is challenging.
You have a host of responsibilities, and a litany of messages you need to create every week.
To make sure your church communications are clear, ask yourself these six questions:
- Have I defined my audience?
- What channel should I use to connect with my audience?
- Is my message simple?
- Is my message brief?
- Have I front loaded my message?
- Is my message biblically informed?
Asking yourself these six questions will help you to share clear, concise, and compelling messages with your church and community.