I believe that one of the biggest hindrances to effective ministry is not a lack of vision, it is a lack of communication.
I know many leaders who have a vision. But the trick is getting that vision to trickle down through the rest of the organization. The key: effective communication, which I believe is one of the three legs of trust. You can have the most compelling vision in the world, but if you can’t communicate effectively, you will lose the interest and even the trust of the people you lead.
Many leaders are great at communicating the big picture, via the big proclamation. But trust-building communication happens at ground level, in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day details. It happens through timely email responses, thoughtful personal check-ins, and thorough distribution of key information to all interested parties.
Here are some questions to consider as you develop and implement your organization’s strategic communication strategy:
Who needs to know? Should this information be kept within certain circles, or does it need to be disseminated throughout the organization? Are there related groups that should be informed? For example, if you’re a youth minister, you should communicate to students and parents.
How will we get the word out to these groups? There are so many communication tools, including email, social media, snail mail, bulletins and flyers, word of mouth, Sunday morning announcements, phone calls. Which method(s) will be best for your intended audience(s)? For example, you will probably need to use different methods for college students than for senior citizens.
How often will we communicate? Will you use a “one-and-done” approach, or will you build the communication using various methods over time? For example, you might communicate a major event by starting with a print announcement telling people to watch for more information. Over the next few weeks, you might add video, a brochure, social media blurbs, and finally a sign-up table in the lobby.
Are we clear about what action is required? What is your intended result? Is it information, motivation, or action? Do people know what steps to take in response? You may incorporate all three over time. For example, telling people about the debt-reduction campaign is different from asking them to participate in it.
How will we communicate with those who weren’t there? What if someone missed the memo or the meeting? How will you follow up with people who didn’t hear the original message? For example, who will distribute minutes (or at least decisions) of the leadership meeting to the rest of the staff?
Who will be responsible for communicating? Is there one person who oversees the strategic communication in your organization, is it an expected responsibility of each leader, or does it happen haphazardly, depending on the situation? Who is viewed as the “mouthpiece” of the organization to the larger constituency? Who communicates “up” or “down” the chain of authority? The best strategy will include a plan for coverage top-to-bottom, left-to-right, inside-out, and vice-versa.
Do we know the difference between publicizing and promoting? You just can’t give the same promotion effort to every opportunity; there is not enough time and energy. Therefore, which things take priority? Which things will you just publicize (make people aware of an option) vs. all-out promote (a concerted push for full involvement)? In other words, when do you use the worship service to make an announcement, and when do you just include the information in a list such as a bulletin or weekly email announcements?
If you are sensing misalignment, erosion of trust, or diminished forward motion within your organization, perhaps it’s a communication issue. Effective strategic communication will boost organizational energy, trust, and effectiveness.