I received an email from a church that I had guided through a planning process several months earlier. The pastor asked several questions, which I was glad to answer. But the email assumed that I was aware of all that had transpired in the intervening weeks. I didn’t.
Many churches and ministries communicate based on mistaken assumptions. Specifically, those in charge of communication (typically “insiders”) often assume that their audience has the same level of awareness and knowledge as the insiders. Examples include:
- Assuming that the vision is known and well understood.
- Assuming that the connection between programming decisions and the vision is obvious.
- Using words and phrases that are well-known to insiders but not to others.
- Expecting people to know what next steps they should take after a sermon series or an inspirational appeal without spelling it out.
- Assuming the complexity in making major decisions, or the rationale behind those decisions, is obvious.
Whenever we make this mistake, we miss an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to rally the organization around a vision or keep everyone on the same page or minimize resistance to change.
So what should you do? Repeat important messages, such as the vision, regularly. Review any important communication and ask yourself if it will be clear to those who aren’t insiders. Ideally, you’ll do this review with others who are asking the same question. And whenever possible, invite some of those outsiders into the process for shaping communications so that you get the benefit of their perspective. You know that what you’re communicating is important – so make the effort to make it effective.
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