6 Communication Mistakes that Limit Ministry Effectiveness


Communication MistakesThe single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  George Bernard Shaw

I have a love/hate relationship with Shaw’s line.  I love the simple truth in it.  And…I hate the simple truth in it.

One of the greatest inhibitors of effective ministry is poor (or less than great) communication.

Here are six very common mistakes:

  1. We assume that everyone already knows.  As infrequent attendance becomes more and more common, our assumption needs to be that everyone doesn’t already know.  This is why I’ve suggested that we need to make the host ask several weeks in a row.
  2. We try to explain detailed information in the wrong settings.  Some things need a more thorough explanation.  Detail can be provided in a well written FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document.  Here’s an example of a Host FAQ.
  3. We try to automate too much communication.  Some things need a personal touch.  I hand out a lot of business cards and say, “Call me.  Let’s talk about it.”  No matter the size of your ministry, personalizing some communication is just good practice.  I’ve pointed out this little detail before.  See also, The Teeny Tiny Detail at the Bottom of This Saddleback Web Page.
  4. We manufacture enthusiasm and it doesn’t fool anyone.  This is central issue in communication.  When the communicator doesn’t isn’t truly enthused about the program or event…everyone can sense it.  If the communicator isn’t enthused, either you have the wrong communicator or the wrong program.
  5. We communicate only the what (or the how) but not the why.  This is a very important understanding.  When all we do is explain what we’re doing or how we’re doing it, we miss the most important aspect…the why behind it.  Why is the most effective persuader/influencer.  See also, Wrestling with Why.
  6. We limit communication to an information/data exchange.  Like it or not, wired for it or not, there are many in your crowd who primarily respond to passion or emotion.  If all we do is communicate the facts, we miss this group.  Conversely, there are some that are wired to respond to the facts.  If all we do is make emotional appeals, we miss this group.  Balance is essential.

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About Mark Howell

Mark Howell is the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, committed to helping churches launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. He's also the Pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church.  Having served as small group pastor at Woodlands Church and Lake Avenue Church, Mark is a seasoned veteran with experience in both the contemporary and the traditional church. In addition, he served as a consultant with Lifetogether and as a host for the Purpose Driven Campaign Coaching programs. You can read Mark's blog at www.markhowelllive.com or follow him on twitter.

  • http://www.startupengine.org/ Barry Welch

    “As infrequent attendance becomes more and more common…” is this a trend in the more urban churches? The trend we see in the suburban and rural churches is mainly churn. But, they’re not quitting church.. They float around primarily due to personality issues with the pastor. But, I would like more insight in the “infrequent attendance” issue if anyone knows. Is this just happening on the margins or is it widespread due to the career choices of professionals? How are churches mitigating this?

  • Betty Draper

    These are very good points to communicating. We write updates for our ministry of Member Care with New Tribes Missions and sometimes it hard to communicate. It was much easier when we served overseas. Going to make a list of these points for our next update. Thanks.

  • Thomas C Dietz

    I’m having a thought that has been brewing for some time and I wonder if anyone has experience in a similar endeavor. I want to have members of various denominations meet at a local coffee shop/eatery on evening(s) and have open discusion about everyday things which would certainly tickle the ears of the patrons in earshot. Topics would be things that anybody walking by may have an opinion on (music, Dancing w/stars, “green” projects, etc). The set-up is so unchurched would feel comfortable joining the conversation, and the occasional-churcher may be drawn into the conversation as well. But the most useful part of this set up to me, is that the ten churches in our town begin to become more of The Church.

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