By Mark Wilson
So you are asking, what are our communication closets anyway? Just like in your house, your communication strategy has different types of closets to store different things. The primary closets we are concerned with are the places where we distribute our messages and the attention spans of our audience. The channels where we distribute information are spacious; some with unlimited storage capacity, but the attention spans of our audience are extremely short and usually unreliable. How does clutter build up and what are the consequences.
Clutter builds up in our communication channels when we inundate them with messages of all types, from all ministries, for all audiences. Clutter can be caused by not having a communication strategy, not identifying clear message priorities, not empowering a person or team to implement a communication plan, and simply by not paying attention. No matter the root causes of the clutter, the consequence is the overwhelming of your audience's ability to comprehend the message, regardless of its importance or priority. The result is a phenomenon I call static which makes any message difficult to hear, if at all.
Clutter is deadly for your ability to motivate your audience to engage with the vision of your church. Here are 3 tools to help you clean out your communication closets and keep them uncluttered.
Clear and stated vision. This is the first step in an effective spring cleaning effort. A stated mission statement, vision, and values guide decision-making on messages and initiatives that are complimentary. The mission statement and vision help prioritize messages and announcements which ultimately determines where to distribute the information. Priorities allow you to ensure the mission critical messages are received during prime moments like weekend worship. Other messages can be important, so we must ensure they are presented in a media and space where the targeted recipients of the information will receive it timely.
Written Communication plan. Once we determine the priority of messages based on the mission and vision, the next critical decision is: what are the most appropriate channels to distribute the information. A written communication plan lays out in advance where certain types of information are best communicated. This helps ensure that the announcements that aren't a priority for worship placement still have a valid channel where the message can be received by the right audience without being lost in the static. The communication plan should specify where and when internal communication is placed and also through what channels will you speak externally to the community. For example, social media apps are best used to reach out to people you haven't met yet and the weekly/monthly newsletter is a great internal communication tool.
Communication team. Now that you have a plan in place, somebody has to implement it. A communication person at least, but preferably a team of people should be charged with making sure information gets published properly and timely. They will also make sure that all the communication tools, like the website, are updated and refreshed regularly. The benefit of a team, even if some are volunteers, is that group accountability helps you to stay focused on the plan and to leverage creativity and innovation from multiple perspectives. Not to mention that with all the channels for communicating internally and externally, it takes more than one person to be truly effective.
I recommend that you go through a comprehensive, communication audit so you can see an overall picture of all the messages being communicated and through what media and methods. Apply your priorities to set aside the mission critical information and then look for places and times that your communication gets cluttered. Work with your team to see how the information can be rerouted or spaced out to reduce the static and ensure the right people get the right message at the right time!