By Mark Wilson
Just like in real estate, the most important factor in getting your message across is where it is presented. The problem: every staff and church member feels that their announcement or event needs top billing on Sunday mornings. The problem is that even though worship is the largest, captive audience we have weekly, if we tried to announce everything during the service, there would be no time for worship. The key to effective communication is to know what information goes where, and when. We have a lot of real estate where we can communicate like worship announcements, social media, bulletins, website, newsletters, emails, snail mail, calendars, etc. and some of it is obviously prime, but it can all be effective.
How then do we decide what messages get the prime locations? That is a great question that is different for every church. But there are some basic guidelines to help you prioritize the best channels to use to communicate to your congregation and to the community. Here are 3 questions to guide you on where to best communicate your messages:
1) How does the message fulfill your church's vision and mission? The vision and mission statement of your church is the primary filter that all initiatives should go through before they reach the congregation. It is easy to rationalize that all your activities fit the mission statement, particularly if it is a vague one, but really what we are looking for are "mission-critical" initiatives.
For example, if your mission is to "reach the unchurched people in your community" then activities that involve people outside the church should take a higher priority, like a concert or guest speaker. An announcement for a meeting of the building and grounds committee should be communicated, but it should be listed on an internal calendar for members, not at the top of the Sunday bulletin or on your Facebook page.
2) Who is your audience for this message? The second criteria for determining the placement of messages and announcements is who needs to "hear" this information. Again, in a lot of cases we can rationalize a global audience for our message, but truly who needs to take action on what is being presented. (Actually, if your message doesn't have a clear call-to-action, then it doesn't need broad communication in any channel.)
A rule of thumb I have used and suggest to churches is that if a message is directly tied to the mission of the church and impacts at least 80% of the congregation, then it merits distribution in prime locations like the bulletin, screens, and stage during worship. Granted, there can be times like the Christmas holidays and around Easter when there are several prime initiatives. We will talk in future posts about how to handle content and make a little go a long way.
3) What is the urgency of the message? There are two types of urgency in our communication. They are the urgency of timing and the urgency of action. This is the third filter in priority but it plays a vital role in the decision making for communication distribution. Timing is less critical, for example, just because an event is next week doesn't make it more important if it misses on the first two filters. Messages that have an urgency to take action can play a more vital role if one of the previous filters is slightly off. For example, a service event that is an outreach initiative hits the vision filter but it may be a small event that only requires a few people so it lacks on the 80% rule of thumb hypothetically. The urgency to have volunteers take action then can elevate this to a higher priority location possibly.
Please understand, these filters are NOT saying that messages, announcements, or initiatives that don't meet the prime location criteria should not be communicated anywhere. I am saying that this information needs to be communicated in other ways that don't create clutter or static for your audience. We will talk about strategies for placing other communication in our next post.