3 Ways to Improve Your Church Communications Right Now

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Here is another post from Brad, who serves as Communications Catalyst in the EFCC’s Home Office.

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For your consideration, I’d like to offer three components that I hope will help you understand and improve your church’s communication.

No teaser here — let’s jump straight in!

Strategy

When I graduated university (I won’t say how many years ago that was!), one of the first things I got involved with was a high-tech startup with two partners. Being new, I asked them a foundational question:

  • Did they want to pursue venture capital (a loan that helps launch a company quickly)?
  • Or would they rather build it with their own profits (a more controlled approach, but with much slower growth)?

The two partners had such different opinions on that, that it didn’t take long for me to realise that there was nothing I could offer them with my brand-new communications education. In fact, I wasn’t really surprised when they parted ways soon after.

Strategy is where you determine if a communication snag is actually a for-real leadership crisis. Divergent opinions on values, vision or mission pose a huge problem! It’s not one that communication can solve — in fact even the most effective communication from divided leadership will only serve to make the division broader and deeper.

If it appears that your church might have a problem at the leadership level, then I encourage you to think about engaging in a deep process of self-examination and vision-casting. There are a number of people in the EFCC family that can help facilitate that:

  • Your District Superintendent
  • Bill Taylor, the EFCC’s Executive Director
  • Dave Acree, the EFCC’s Leadership Development Catalyst

These men have an incredible amount of experience, discernment and gentleness to help you solve some of those delicate issues. If you would like to investigate this process further, contacting Home Office is a great place to start.

As for the rest of this post, let’s assume that the strategy is all lined up, that your communication has been aimed at achieving something of core importance to the established vision and mission of your church, and the leaders are united behind it.

Simplicity

The hardest thing about simplicity is how complicated it is! It sure doesn’t happen by magic. It happens by deeply considering your message, medium and audience.

  • How can you minimise your listeners’ (or readers’ or viewers’) distractions?
  • How can you reduce potential for misinterpretation?
  • What is the most effective channel to reach people with? (And when?)

Make your story as concise and streamlined as you possibly can. Theorists tell us that people have room in their heads for three new words for an idea you’re sharing. (I’m working on that very theory in this post!) Do everything you can to reduce confusion and interference.

Consistency

When you’ve got the message right, keep saying it. When leadership is aligned behind a singular priority, or a representative set of core values, and when you know that you are being understood correctly, then be diligent about sharing it.

Consistency doesn’t mean that everyone has to regurgitate an exact phrase that has been chosen. (Please no!) Instead, everyone should bear the responsibility to put the most important messages in their own words, and to put their own personality into it. If the vibe is shared by all leaders, it will spread.

Consistent messages lead to effective branding. Branding is best defined not as what you say about yourself, rather as what others say about you. It is your reputation. You never have complete control of your reputation, but you certainly have influence. And with supreme collaborative effort, you can even drastically change a reputation.

(Please note that consistency can easily be misapplied. For example, you can lead people to think that your church is only about one “darling” concept, like the latest building project, or your church’s most popular ministry. Yikes! Ensure that you’re consistent about the whole mission, vision and values of your church.)

I hope this helps!

Improved communication in three words: Strategy, Simplicity, and Consistency.

  • Do you have examples where you’ve seen these work in your church?
  • Or perhaps places that you want to apply these principles moving forward?

Comments are open!

Core Values: Leaders

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CoreValuesLeadership

In our brochure, Who or What is the EFCC?, we list eight core values; things that are important to us EFCCers. In my last blog post, I stepped away from looking at our values and highlighted The Twelve Best Books of 2012. This month I would like to step back to look at the things we value, or at least say we value, in the EFCC family. So in this blog post I would like to focus on another core value, leaders.

Saying we value leaders is a bit of a “motherhood and apple pie” sort of statement. While it sounds spiritual and biblical, it really isn’t something that makes us unique. In his book The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni distinguishes between four different types of values:

  • Core — 3 or so that you would die for and uniquely distinguish your tribe from other tribes
  • Aspirational — those you wish characterized your tribe, but which may not be fully realised yet
  • Accidental — those that your tribe has embraced because of your history, experiences, location, etc.
  • Permission to play — values that are simply minimum standard, like accountability,  integrity, honesty, etc.

Lately I have read a number of articles and books denigrating the idea that the Bible is concerned with leaders. After all, these authors say, you can hardly find the word “leader” in the Bible, and Jesus called His disciples to be “followers” didn’t He? Well, in one sense, I am inclined to agree with this. One has to first be a good follower to be a good leader. However, just because we don’t often see the word “leader” in the Bible, that doesn’t mean that leaders aren’t there and aren’t important. When one considers the overall redemptive narrative of Scripture, it is hard to miss the strategic impact of a number of followers of the Lord who were not afraid to step up and lead in various ways. Part of our problem is the cultural baggage and assumptions we have regarding leaders.

If we view the text of Scripture through our 21st century context, then we may well miss seeing any leaders in the Bible at all. However, if we are open to accepting Jesus’ description of leaders, then when we read stories of Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Barak, Gideon, Elijah, Jezebel, Ahab (yes, there are bad leaders too!) Hezekiah, Jehosophat, Elisha, Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, Ezra, Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, John, Priscilla and Aquila, Lydia, Titus…(our list could go on and on) we may well see a variety of leaders and leadership styles in the Word.

Even the list I have given assumes certain things about what qualifies one as a leader. The list excludes people like Eunice and Lois, but I suspect that Timothy and Paul both assumed that these women provided spiritual leadership that impacted Timothy’s life for eternity (II Timothy 1). Jesus, of course threw the ultimate monkey wrench into our assumptions regarding leadership when (in response to James and John’s mother’s request to have her boys seated in places of honour in the coming kingdom) Jesus said

“You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I , the Son of Man, came here not to be served, but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

I am routinely challenged by the leaders I see in the Word. Nehemiah graciously identified with the sins of the nation (Nehemiah 1) even though he certainly could have made of case for his own faithfulness. Moses (Numbers 21) dealt with the rebellion and complaining of a second generation of God’s followers, by agreeing to intercede on their behalf in prayer and in carrying out a redemptive plan, the bronze snake on the pole, to save a bunch of undeserving whiners. Peter clearly remembered his Lord’s call to leaders when he instructed elders in 1 Peter 5, to “shepherd willingly, not for monetary gain and not lording it over their flock”. Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18) modelled this same sort of leadership humility when they gently took Apollos aside, helping him to understand “the way of God more accurately”. They then wrote a letter commending him to the churches in Achaia, thus launching his ministry which proved to be of incredible encouragement to the churches. Like the Children of Israel or the early church, we simply need more humble, passionate, apprenticed leaders. We have no future as a movement of God unless we invest in identifying and releasing the “young eagles” that Larry Osborne talked about at our 2012 EFCC conference in Okotoks.

Our EFCC Leadership Catalyst, Dave Acree, is seeking to come alongside District Superintendents, EFCCM Area Directors, Pastors, Missionaries and Churches to identify, apprentice and release young eagles. Dave is assembling a team of leaders who will foster networks where we intentionally identify, connect, resource and apprentice followers who will become those humble, passionate, apprenticed leaders our movement needs in order to carry out the Great Commission and Commandment effectively. But this isn’t just Dave’s task, or the District Superintendents’ or Area Directors’ task.

This is our task!

What do you find when you read Romans 16 or Colossians 4 or the last chapter of any of Paul’s epistles? Names…and lots of them. Paul left behind an army of co-labourers in Christ: leaders who outlived him. And we must do the same. We ought to know all the teenagers in our congregations and have already talked to them about how God is working with them now, and how they, and we, see Him using them in the future. Oh that the EFCC would become a movement where it is easy to find “seven men full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6) on whom we can lay hands and release, without a pile of restrictive policies and handbooks because we trust their character, to be the servant leaders the church (and this world) so badly need!

Serving with you,
Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director

 

5 Tips for Communications Strategy

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The concept of formally examining communication within churches is a pretty new phenomenon. Here are some good tips for getting started (and these are for more than just larger churches!).

5 Ways to Execute a Communications Strategy

Taking a look at the way your church communicate is a way of stewarding relationships. If you are interested in taking this conversation further within your congregation, please get in touch with Brad, our Communications Catalyst (bradj@efccm.ca) — he’d love to hear from you!