Communication Is Essential
to Effective Ministry
by Jenn Killpack
Jesus was a great communicator! He engaged people through stories, preaching, and informal sharing. At its heart, the gospel is best understood and shared through effective communication.
When leaders communicate orally, nonverbally, or in written form, they have an opportunity to engage the congregation in Christ’s mission. Beyond sharing information, such as routine announcements or invitations to upcoming events and worship experiences, communication is an opportunity to convey the worth seen in each person. It is an opportunity to provide a compelling case for building community and to say what matters most to the congregation as part of the worldwide Community of Christ.
Effective communication creates:
- a desire to participate,
- a sense of real connection with the leadership team, and
- a clear understanding of the church’s mission priorities.
Make sure you have a clear sense of what you want your message to convey. Is its purpose to inform, invite, inspire, recognize, celebrate, or to request input from others?Basics of Effective Communication
Connecting to Mission
- Know Your Intended Audience
The most effective messages target specific audiences. A congregation’s audiences might include members, friends, seekers, guests, young adults, ecumenical leaders in your community, members of the media, and others. Knowing who a message is being created for is imperative to making sure the message will be clear and understood.
- The Seven-times Rule
In media-saturated cultures, a general rule of communication states that a person has to receive a message at least seven times before it is absorbed into their consciousness. This means sharing about something once isn’t going to get the job done. Restate and share the message in as many ways as possible. Announce it from the pulpit; put it on a website or in an e-mail; hand out a flyer at a congregational conference; print it in your bulletin or newsletter. Use all communication tools available!
- Prioritized, Pertinent, and Accurate
What makes communication effective is to take all the information and decide what is most pertinent and what has the highest priority. Also make sure the information shared includes accurate answers to who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- Delivery Method
Communication is only as effective as the delivery method. If most of the congregation does not have Internet access, a website becomes a less effective tool than a print newsletter that everyone reads. Congregations include electronically-connected people and those who are not. Using a variety of delivery methods may be the best answer to ensure people are receiving the messages you want to share.
The most effective communication messages are those that connect the receiver to the congregation’s local and worldwide community and inspire them to be part of Christ’s mission. By connecting individual discipleship, congregational life, and the mission of Jesus Christ, bonds are strengthened for mission.
We are all called to share the peace of Jesus Christ. Consider every communication in light of that call and give people practical ways to be part of Christ’s mission, such as helping with a community service project, mentoring a new member, translating a service for someone who speaks another language, or inviting friends to church events.
Remember: All communication conveys (intentionally and unintentionally) what matters most to the congregation and its community.Getting Started
- Consider recruiting a communication coordinator to include on the pastor’s leadership team.
- Discover how your congregation prefers to receive messages.
- Establish a communication schedule to ensure timely and consistent messaging.
- Keep messages clear, concise, and consistent. Stay focused on what matters most—the mission of Jesus Christ and how your congregation lives that out.
- Be authentic.
- What characteristics are important when selecting a communication officer?
Most important—someone who enjoys communicating with others. Other helpful skills:
- Strong writer, good grammar and spelling
- Willing to stay connected to news and information of the congregation, mission center, and worldwide church
- Trustworthy, able to deal with confidential information when needed
- Skilled in the communication tools your congregation uses (or prefers) most
(if most of the congregation prefers e-mail communication, don’t choose someone who does not have an e-mail account)
- How do I evaluate which communication tools work best in our congregation?
The simplest way to find out how people prefer to receive messages is to ask them. Contact your congregation members and friends to conduct a simple survey that asks:
- “How do you like to receive messages?” Possible choices: telephone, e-mail, text messages/short message service (SMS), verbal announcements, website, social media, newsletter, bulletin announcements, bulletin boards, telecommunications device for the deaf (TTY/TDD), other
It is also important to evaluate existing tools and to know if new tools would fulfill an unmet need.
- How can I keep our communication tools effective?
Follow the five getting started basics mentioned earlier. Refer to www.CofChrist.org/pr for communication tips and samples. Keeping the tools effective requires a combination of good, strong messaging and frequency. Some of the most popular media with suggested frequencies are:
Many congregations share information through e-mail for quick, simple messages and for worship details, important mission center and world church dates, and good news stories about mission.
Recommended frequency: weekly; as needed for immediate concerns
This is a good way to share information for congregations that have some people who prefer print and others who prefer electronic media. People who prefer e-mail get an electronic copy and those who like print get a paper copy.
Recommended frequency: monthly or bimonthly
Make contact with local print, radio, or television media and send them press releases about upcoming congregational events, important announcements, or good news stories from your congregation. News media typically need at least one week of lead time, so send your press releases early and be sure to include a contact name and number where they can reach you with questions.
Recommended frequency: weekly or as information is available
Sometimes voicemail is the first contact between the congregation and a potential new member. Make sure the message is friendly, includes worship and Sunday school times, and gives the caller a time frame for when they can expect a return phone call.
Recommended frequency: review message monthly to maintain accuracy
This useful tool can be great for outreach opportunities if the congregation has the skills to create and maintain a website. Keeping the website current is critical because an out-of-date website speaks poorly about the congregation’s relevance. Recommended frequency: any time new information is available; minimum is weekly
- What are some common pitfalls to avoid?
Creating and maintaining too many communication tools. Discover and focus on ones most effective for your congregation. Be open to new opportunities that fit the congregation’s needs.
Failure to guard the congregation’s privacy. Many congregations share prayer concerns that include detailed health issues not meant for public forums like congregational websites. Get permission before sharing this type of information.
- Do I need to use social media?
No one needs to use social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) but if it’s something leaders are comfortable with and use regularly, there are all kinds of ways to incorporate it into a communication strategy.
Social media is an intense communication channel that requires regular interaction to make it useful. Consider the level of commitment of time and energy required before choosing this tool. If the congregation chooses to use social media, the possibilities are endless. Here are a few suggestions:
- Create a congregational Facebook group and invite members and friends to join. This will allow the congregation to post announcements, important notes, photos, videos, and devotional items. Remember to get permission for the photos! (See form below.)
- Share photos of congregational events using Flickr or Facebook.
- What resources are available from International Headquarters?
There are great tools available to keep the congregation on message and engaged in mission!
The church website is an amazing storehouse of resources, stories, worship ideas, books, articles, study materials, information, news, and more. Use the dropdown tabs or the search box to find what you need.
Selections from the magazine in a free blog format that anyone can subscribe to and share comments
These free e-mail subscriptions include a number of options that connect people to mission. Everyone can choose the e-newsletters they want to receive and manage their own accounts for updates and changes. Options include:
- 10-Minute News Report
- Community of Christ News
- Commentary Series
- Weekly Devotions
- Music Matters
- High Priest Newsletter
Join the church’s official social media groups on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from www.CofChrist.org/connect/. It’s a great way for social media users to stay connected.
Power of 10
Read stories of how mission is being lived out in places near and far, see photos of our worldwide church family, and post your own story and photo sharing your congregation’s efforts toward mission!
In a crisis situation, such as a natural disaster, property destruction, or ministerial misconduct, communication is critical. You may need to communicate with various audiences including the news media. Before doing anything, contact your mission center president. When communicating with the news media on any crisis or legal matter, pastors or the proper congregational officer must always consult with the mission center president or Legal Services before doing so. The Integrated Communications team will then be able to work with you, the mission center, and Community of Christ Legal Services to determine how to best support you through the crisis situation. (See the section on crisis communication in the “Legal Services, Crisis Communication, and Risk Management” article in this field guide.)
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To help congregational leaders understand how the congregation is intentionally or unintentionally communicating to visitors, friends, and members.
The best way to manage perceptions and impressions is to do a thoughtful audit of your congregation. Imagine being a first-time visitor to the congregation…
- Is the church sign easily seen?
- Is the walkway and entrance obvious and neatly maintained?
- Is there someone welcoming people?
- Are the bulletin boards up-to-date and inviting?
- Are the restrooms easy to find or are there signs pointing the way?
- Are people willing to introduce themselves and others to someone new?
- Is there current information about the church’s ministries available for a visitor to take home?
- During worship, were explanations given for things that are unique to Community of Christ or unfamiliar to a person with no prior church experience? Did everyone know which hymnal to use, whether they were to stay seated or walk forward for Communion, what any sacrament taking place during a service is about?
To explore this even further, ask a trusted friend (one who will be honest with you) who might not attend any church or is not a member of Community of Christ to visit the congregation some Sunday and pay attention to the above questions. It is best if it is someone who has never been there before.
Following the service, take your friend to lunch (or arrange a time to meet) and have them describe their experience in light of the above questions.
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For and in consideration of the undersigned’s participation in a recreational activity sponsored by Community of Christ, I, , hereby give my consent and authorize Community of Christ, its successors, heirs, legal representatives, assigns and agents to use and reproduce my name, voice and/or likeness (photographic, illustrative, audio or video tape, film, electronic and/or digital image), and circulate and use the same for any and all official resource, use, or purpose including but not limited to print, film, or electronic media and reproduction or digital representation of every description on the Internet/World Wide Web. Consideration is hereby waived in perpetuity, and no further claim of any nature whatsoever shall be made by me, my heirs or assigns. Community of Christ has made no representations concerning the use hereof to me.
Participant Parent or Guardian
(if participant is under 18 years of age)
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