It’s encouraging that more churches are thinking about communications. There’s a realization that sharing information the way you’ve always done it isn’t going to keep working in today’s media rich culture. But there’s still a gap between realizing your church needs a communications plan and putting together a system for making it work.
As I think about why communications plans fall apart in churches, here are a few of the most common culprits. So as you work towards being a church that communicates better, here are some traps to avoid.
The plan is too complicated. Simplicity is always better, but it’s not easier to accomplish. You don’t have to use every communications medium available to you. Look at your audience and decide what works best. Don’t feel forced to do everything, but do commit to using whatever tool works best to connect with your congregation and community.
The person in charge has no authority. If your church leaders don’t give you the authority to do your job as a communicator, your plan will not reach its full potential. There can’t be contradictions from top leadership and certain individual ministries can’t be exempt from being a part of the overall communications plan. If you are a church leader reading this, please empower your communications person and give them the authority to assign tasks to other ministry leaders. If they don’t have your support, your communications plan will fail.
Certain people are unwilling (or not given the time) to learn new skills. One of the most unfair things that happens in church communications is dumping the role of coordinator on the administrative assistant who isn’t necessarily trained to do the job. This is especially true when thinking about newer mediums like web and social media. If this person wants the responsibility and is willing to learn how to do it, give them the time, resources and training to be successful. When I started working on the Church Juice project, I was a novice at some aspects of communications. But I was given the time to learn about it and extended freedom to try things even if there was a risk of failure. Sometime we learn best by taking risks.
If the person you task with communications coordination doesn’t truly have the desire to learn new skills, what makes you think that’s going to be successful? You can’t drag someone into the role. This may sound a little harsh, but I want to encourage leaders to be intentional about doing communications well instead of passing it off and walking away.
Your church lacks vision. It’s nearly impossible to successfully communicate with people if you don’t know why you’re doing it or what you’re going to say. Often times communication plans don’t go anywhere because it forces tougher conversations about vision that some churches just don’t want to have. Having a clear, unique, well-communicated purpose of why you exist will lead to greater buy-in from your congregation.
Missing consistency. Consistency comes in many forms. First, are you keeping up with what you promise? Let’s say you have a weekly email and you’ve told folks it will come every Thursday and only contain the most important information. If you send it out sporadically, more than once a week or let it get really long with information overload, you’ve broken that consistency promise.
A second way you miss consistency is if all of the different communications things you’re doing don’t have a cohesive feel. If you laid out everything you do, would it look like it’s coming from the same place? Is it clear that there’s coordination in all your communication pieces or does it look like every project is on its own?
Good communication takes effort. It’s more than assigning someone a title. Intentional decisions have to be made. Tough conversations will happen. If you don’t put the work into it, you won’t see the success you’re hoping to get.