Our ability to communicate can completely make or break our effectiveness...
It's true. Poor communication is often a foundation of conflict and a bottleneck for growth.
This is true across the board. Whether the communication is between husband and wife, parents and children, supervisors and employees, or pastors and congregations, not being able to effectively share and interpret information has led to rampant divorce, the generation gap, low morale, and declining churches.
You may not often think about it this way, but clearcommunication is an essential part of effectiveleadership.
We see a great example of this in the Bible during a period of Israel's history that you're probably very familiar with:
After Joshua's death, Israel soon entered a period where they lacked consistent leadership. Instead, they went through a series of judges that served as temporary leaders until Saul was eventually appointed as king.
While Scripture makes clear that God was with the judges when they were appointed (Judges 2:18), this wasn't particularly a time in Israel's history where their morality was something to be modeled. In fact, it was quite the opposite (2:19).
I'm sure you can recall some of the horrific stories that occur throughout the book: a tent peg gets hammered through someone's head, a woman is raped and killed, the people of Laish are slaughtered, the Israelites worship idols, and the list goes on...
A consistent theme repeated towards the end of the book is this: "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (17:6; 21:25)
You see, during this time, Israel lacked the guidance they desperately needed to follow the Lord faithfully. They often didn't have anyone leading them through their next steps with God.
So how does this apply to us?
It comes down to this: Poor communication always allows opportunities for agendas and division within the church. If the next steps aren't made clear for people, they will typically choose to do things in whatever way seems best to them.
Within the church, all of our ministry efforts and communication should serve one purpose: leading people through their next steps with Christ, from the beginning stages of faith through the rest of their journey alongside your church.
So when it comes to our role as leaders (and, in turn, as communicators), our energy should be dedicated to guiding people through those next steps with Christ.
And that guidance needs to be clear. Because if it's not clear, it's confusing. And if it's confusing, it's poor communication. And poor communication is ineffective leadership.
So what do we do?
1) You need to define what the "next steps" are.
Most of us like to label keeping people busy as "discipleship." (I'm right there with you). But, if we're honest, a lot of times the amount of programs we offer more often hinder people's abilities to grow spiritually than help it.
We recommend developing a discipleship path to make the journey clear for anyone at your church. That may sound overwhelming, but creating a discipleship path is simply defining the next steps you ask people to take on their spiritual journey. And determining those things specifically will be so helpful in narrowing your ministry focus and prioritizing what you communicate as a church.
Pro Tip: The next steps you define should flow out of your specific mission and vision, what God has called your church to accomplish and focus on.
2) Focus on inspiring people to take a next step.
Once you've defined the next steps, the goal now becomes leading people through that spiritual journey. You now have the opportunity to get creative by asking the question, "How can we inspire people to take a next step instead of just informing them of what's available?" Our friends at Fishhook recently wrote a great article on that very topic.
3) Don't prioritize communicating anything outside of your vision and discipleship plan.
Communication without purpose is just noise.
As you define the journey that your church will guide people through, resist the urge to communicate anything that doesn't fit within that process. Let your vision and discipleship path be the filter that all communication runs through. If it doesn't make the cut, toss it out.
4) Evaluate your current methods of communication.
Finally, be willing to take an honest inventory of your current methods of communication and their effectiveness. This includes your announcements on Sunday mornings, the layout of your website, your social media presence, your bulletin, and the list goes on...
Don't let "we've always done it this way" be the sole reason you hang on to a method of communication that is outdated or ineffective. And as we mentioned before, measure its worth against the goals you've set in both your vision and discipleship plan.
From Normal, IL, Austin gets that ministry can sometimes feel anything but “normal.” He grew up leading in the small church his dad pastored, and has since served on the launch teams for two church plants. He holds a Communications degree from Moody Bible Institute and is passionate about seeing churches grow healthier and make a difference in their communities.