Focused writing is scarce, but it reflects focused thought and intention. You’ve probably read a book or an article (or heard a sermon) that seems disjointed. The points don’t flow together. The argument jabs in all directions but lands on nothing. Unfortunately, the same lack of thesis, a driving point, can be seen in how churches communicate. Some churches jump at every new channel whereas other churches ignore them all together, but both of these are symptoms of not understanding the communication ecosystem.
The Job of Communicating
The point of communication channels isn’t the channels themselves. They exist to carry a message to a particular audience; some channels are more effective than others, but they all serve the message. Gospel ministry has always adapted to the most effective and relevant channels, from the papyrus to the printing press, to radio and television. In each of these instances, the goal was to get the gospel to as many people as possible, and the last few decades have given us almost eight times as many ways to communicate the gospel. It’s understandable to be overwhelmed by these changes or to not have the resources to take steps toward utilizing them well, but to intentionally neglect them is to devalue to gospel. To not share it is to insinuate that it’s not for all people.
The priority of a church’s communication plan/ministry/team should be something like this: to amplify what’s unique to Christ and to your local church. The world offers us many gods to serve, like success, acceptance, comfort, and security, but the gospel gives us a God who is completely other. Every church should be a buttress of truth and herald the gospel handed down once for all for the saints, but it also has secondary messages, the circumstances of that local church. These can be initiatives to get more people involved in serving, joining small groups or attending Sunday school, and the other events and seasons of that church.
“Broadly speaking, a strategy can take individual artifacts – like messages, videos, events, and graphics – and put them in a context that multiplies their effectiveness, that makes them more meaningful for the individual experiencing them.”
Benefits of a Communication Plan
The most common benefit students associate with a clear thesis is a good grade, but there are huge benefits to intention and thoughtfulness in our comms as church leaders. Broadly speaking, a strategy can take individual artifacts – like messages, videos, events, and graphics – and put them in a context that multiplies their effectiveness, that makes them more meaningful for the individual experiencing them. More specifically, a communication plan can reach more people with the gospel, create exponentially more discipleship opportunities, and enhance the leadership of the local church.
The expansion of social media has made it ridiculously easy to interact with our communities and our congregations between Sundays. Several studies have confirmed two relevant statistics: that 70% of people in the U.S. are active on Facebook, and that even those between ages 35 and 49 spend almost 7 hours a week on social media. What percentage of our communities spend Sunday mornings with us? How many hours a week are our people in our churches or in small groups? Sunday mornings will always be the time that the Lord’s people gather, but we can use information like this to engage people who would otherwise be unreached.
Those same statistics also challenge us to think about how we interact with our congregations on the same platforms. Digital media really is a teacher’s dream. Truth isn’t confined to a Sunday morning but can be stretched out for a whole week. Social media becomes a platform to call people to remember the main point of the sermon, to invite them to apply a particular principle, to do a certain act, or to be moved by the simple truth of the gospel. These venues can be used to affect the head, heart, and hands of our people.
“Social media becomes a platform to call people to remember the main point of the sermon, to invite them to apply a particular principle, to do a certain act, or to be moved by the simple truth of the gospel.”
The effects are not just individual but corporate as well. As one considers the gamut of content ideas for digital media, he should always consider first things first. What is quintessential to your church, or what should be? Those things that get celebrated get repeated, so practices or ideas that need to be foundational should be talked about often. Fortunately, that’s the second value to be considered: concept to concrete. How can what feels intangible be made tangible? What stories can we tell that make something ethereal feel very real? Lastly, how can these things be relevantly aligned to our context? Knowing who we are will ensure our messages reflect our identity, and knowing our audience will keep those messages on the right channels to reach them.
Any local church’s leadership will be enhanced if those three things are kept in mind: first things first, concept to concrete, and relevant alignment. This is because of what was said earlier, a strategy can take individual artifacts, and put them in a context that multiplies their effectiveness. It’s a snowball effect. The more we communicate in context, those individual messages borrow meaning from others shared. This is why pastors preach series on one topic, right? Each sermon builds on the previous and they all magnify the content of the other. Intentional and strategic communications accomplish the same results on a wider scale.
Why This Is Important
Every church has its strengths and weaknesses; denominations are often groups of churches with the same proclivities and blind spots. The church at Ephesus is a great example of a healthy church that still needed to grow and mature, but imagine being the pastor of any of those churches and reading that letter. Everyone of us would be scrambling to shift our priorities, to get our people on board, and to start a corporate march in the right direction. Regardless of being mentioned in the Scriptures, we are called to lead our congregations into spiritual wellness through repentance and faith. The best bridge between local leadership, the people they lead, and the future is a communication plan rooted in amplifying what’s unique to Christ and unique to the local church.
“Regardless of being mentioned in the Scriptures, we are called to lead our congregations into spiritual wellness through repentance and faith.”
Communicating effectively means communicating consistently. There’s an adage that once you’ve gotten tired of saying something, your audience is halfway to remembering it. This doesn’t mean that we necessarily have to give the same fifty minute sermon over and over again, but it does challenge us to condense our message to something memorable. The catechisms used throughout church history take big ideas and condense them to question and answer form. They are a means of giving people handlebars with which to navigate deeper waters. If your church can be guided by simple, memorable statements that serve as doorways to bigger truths, those statements should be repeated often.