How to improve church communication

You’ve been there and may have done it. The announcement time goes haywire: the facts are wrong, the time isn’t listed, the meeting place is wrong. Then someone in the audience yells out the correct information. Then you ask them to come up to the stage so someone can get it right. Finally the announcement gets made.

If you’ve been in churches any length of time at all you know communication can be a major issue. Besides getting the information right, people don’t listen or don’t remember. Announcements don’t make it into the bulletin.

We live in a day when people are inundated with more information than they can handle. If churches want information to be retained they need to implement strategies that will help get the right info to the right people in a timely manner. Correcting these easily avoidable mistakes is a great place to start.

Not using multiple channels to convey information.

Because we live in a mobile society fewer people are in attendance every week than 25 years ago. Using a single communication method is a near guarantee to miss a lot of people with your important announcement.

Many churches seem to rely on a single method of communicating, usually the bulletin (“It’s in the bulletin; they can read it.”) or the pulpit. Most churches have the capacity to use multiple means of communication and should use all of them.

Bulletins, email, the website, the Facebook page, and the announcement time should be used. It is nearly impossible to over communicate.

Depending on the “pastoral announcement”

“But pastor, people only listen to the announcements if you make them. They think if you announce it that’s what’s important.” Yeah, I’ve heard it, too.

No matter what size church you lead, don’t allow your people to become dependent on the pastor making announcements. In some churches it is like a papal bull. It’s the infallible edict that flows down. Yeah. Right up to the time you mispronounce the name of the contact person.

If at all possible, share the announcement responsibilities with others. In your context it may be impossible to shift that responsibility to another staff person or a volunteer, but don’t let your church be totally dependent on the pastoral announcements.

Starting communication too close to the event

“Hey, Saturday we’re having this HUGE throw-down and we need 30 people to volunteer six hours each to help.” That’s hyperbole, but churches do have problems when waiting too long to start communication on an event.

A rule of thumb is this: the more complex the event and the more commitment needed, the earlier you should start communicating about it. Recruitment is necessary. Details are necessary. This is especially true if your church is adding new members since they don’t have a shared history of the event you’ve been doing for 12 years.

If you are doing a clean-up around the church campus on a Saturday morning, 2-weeks of announcements might be enough. If you want to a community-wide chili cook-off in your parking lot, you’ll need to start two, three, or more months out.

Related to this, communication has to be both internal and external. Communication for a large event may start weeks or months earlier internally than the external communication does.

Using insider language

Insider language is, in this writer’s opinion, one of the biggest problems in church communication. It can be a real problem in medium and small churches where most of the congregation knows each other.

It goes like this: “If you are interested in the women’s Bible study, see Patty after the service.”

This makes perfect sense to people who are members. Short and sweet, straight to the point. But, what about those people who don’t know Patty? What about the first time visitor who would not know Patty if she tripped over her at the altar?

Or this one, “We’re gonna go to Bob and Sue’s house just like we did last year. It’ll start at 5:00.”

Obviously if someone does not know Bob and Sue they will not know where they live. Someone is going to be very, very late.

Every announcement, whether written, verbal or in a video should have in mind that possibility a first time attender will see or hear it. Information disseminated by the church should include what is happening, where it is happening, when it is happening, and who is the contact person. Always include an email address and phone number. If possible, have tables for sign-ups rather than referring them to a person “after the service.” And it should start as far in advance as needed.

The more different channels a church uses the more people have a chance not only to see and hear the information, but to get the information multiple times. This will help alleviate questions and ensure people aren’t falling through the information cracks.