As you lead into the new year, one of the areas of leadership and communication that needs to be re-evaluated is how you’ve structured your church’s announcements. We face an age-old issue of deciding what’s important, what gets mentioned publicly, what winds up in the printed bulletin, and what ultimately gets cut.
Here are a few thoughts about what I call “sorting your signals” into categories based on importance and then pushing them out to the right people at the right time.
Tenaciously Guard Your Vital Signals
Every announcement you add to the mix will divide the attention that people give among all of the messages present. So if you announce ten things, people will give each one less attention than if you announce just three things.
There are seasons of your church’s life when one message is so big it needs dedicated attention. When you’re in a growth campaign or a stewardship campaign, you certainly don’t want a dozen less important items crowding out that big signal.
Decide what your vital signals are and guard them well. Let very little compete for people’s attention alongside them.
Diversify Your Communication Platforms
Everybody gets information in different ways. Some will give greater weight to what they receive in the mail than to what they receive electronically, so it’s important that we diversify our means of messaging. Use print. Use email. Use text messaging. Use a variety of methods, so long as it’s not resource-prohibitive.
Organize Your Signals Into Tiers
Think of this process as taking all that needs to be communicated and organizing it in outline form. Under each ministry, you may have a dozen announcements, but you need to be able to establish a protocol for routing people to that information rather than allowing all of the small signals to compete for attention at the top.
For example, your church might have fifteen events over the next three months pertaining to Youth Ministry. Some of them are big events while others pertain to subgroups. Create a structure whereby people can follow the proper channels to the right information. Instead of announcing the subgroup event right alongside the huge annual festival, give people a simple lead in another direction to find information about their subgroup.
This is most easily applied to the web where we can utilize menus to sort our signals, but it’s also possible to devote the front of your weekend bulletin to the huge event with a single-line reference inside, near the back of the bulletin telling people where to go for more information on the smaller events.
Determine How Different Cultures Communicate
Teenagers don’t subscribe to newspapers, so a newsletter-style bulletin may not be the smartest way to get messages to them. Perhaps instead it’s a Facebook page plus a Twitter stream and a slide on the screen before and after services. When we learn what grabs the attention of different groups, we can tailor the approach accordingly.
Rinse and Repeat
One thing about communications that has never really changed – people don’t always “get it” after the first brush with a piece of vital information. Repeat everything proportional to the importance of it. Start as early as possible and say it in different ways, over different mediums, and with different calls to action when necessary.
Sorting your signals is tough. You’ll run into situations where people feel their announcement should have been included. You’ll also face the problem of people not hearing what you feel you’ve shouted loud enough to be heard around the world. Welcome to church communications. It’s a learning process, so be flexible and find what works over time.
What works for you? What tips can you pass along to other leaders about getting the right messages out about the right things to the right people?