What are You Crying About?

About 8 years ago, a little book created quite a stir among the church-world. Presumably, those outside of the church read it as an inspirational work as it pointed one toward God. Inside the church, however, fireworks ensued. Those adept at theology highlighted its faults and discouraged us from reading it. I fell in that camp. The book was The Shack.

This week, The Shack hit theaters in movie form. I questioned whether I would see it. Negative feelings stirred within me. But, I went. I saw the movie. I liked it. In fact, it moved me. I bawled like a baby. Ugly cried. Friends handed me tissues.

I’d see it again.

What does this have to do with communicating effectively with your team?

The only other thing that brings me to tears like The Shack is when good leaders have poor communication with those around them. Wrong dates. Incorrect times. Inaccurate information. All point toward poor communication.

In the church world, it’s important for church leaders to communicate with the congregation, but we cannot overlook the importance of relaying information between ministry leaders. When ministry leaders are in the dark about what other ministries are doing, we hear complaints stemming from the silo-effect. That is, ministry leaders feel segmented and separated from their peers. Because of this, we recognize that communication takes place on two levels in the church:

(1) Staff to Congregation
(2) Staff to Staff

Good communication at both of these levels is important for effective leadership. It also makes ministry a lot more efficient. Here’s why I think it’s important to hit these two groups with clear communication:

Staff to Church

Staff leadership is effective when there is clear communication with the church/congregation. The staff is responsible for keeping the congregation informed about upcoming events/activities, changes in the staff, financial status, and many other items. The personnel may do this by way of e-mail, announcements, social media, or personal contact. The reason for the staff to keep the congregation informed is that, “What doesn’t get communicated is at the mercy of the rumor mill and the imagination of others. The secret to effective communication is to answer the questions before they are thought of!”[1] When the staff does not communicate, the congregation is left in the dark, guessing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Effective leaders answer all of the questions that may be asked before they are asked.

Staff to Staff

Staff leadership is effective when there is clear communication between staff members. Ministry directors must be in regular communication with each other about the plans, programs, and activities of their ministries. As Wimberly writes,

Communication is especially important among larger staffs. Staff meetings are an important time to ensure communication throughout the system. They can also be a time to coordinate the management of various subsystems of the larger congregational system. If such communication and coordination doesn’t happen, parts of the system will quickly start working against one another or will overlap in ways that create significant inefficiencies and irritation.[2]

The student ministry should be in communication with the college ministry. The college ministry should be in communication with the children’s ministry. The children’s ministry should be in communication with the worship ministry. When the various ministries are not communicating beyond their scope, there’s confusion, frustration, and separation. As in marriage, when communication breaks down between ministries, the system begins to fail. Eventually, when there is no communication, if help is not administered, divorce often takes place. When ministries are working against each other within the same church due to a lack of communication, they have divorced each other from their common mission. Sadly, simply because of a lack of communication, the entire system becomes inefficient and, especially, ineffective.

That is something to cry about.

[1] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 46.

[2] Wimberly, The Business of the Church, 34.

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Effective Communication Advances the Mission

A professor of communication once told me in conversation that for each person in the congregation there is a different form of communication. People communicate in a countless number of ways. That’s way effectiveness as leaders requires the skill of communicating, not only consistently, but also differently. Because there are so many different avenues for communication it is easy to see why it is important in any organization. Here are three reasons you will want to communicate effectively.

1. Communication is important because it engages people in the mission.

People feel informed and engaged when information is shared.[1] The information shared may vary, but the people, volunteers, and staff should have a good understanding of what they can expect to be shared. For example, they may be informed about major initiatives in the church, but they may not be informed about all the purchases made during any given week. Additionally, the church should know how information will be communicated to them. The leadership needs to define the primary method of communication, which may be anything from website, pulpit announcements, a weekly email, or social media. All of these are effective ways to communicate, but the church needs to know what they can expect. Finally, the congregation needs to know when they can expect information to be shared with them, whether this happens once a week during a Sunday worship service or once a quarter in a newsletter. When the church knows what, how, and when information is communicated, its people are in the know.

2. Communication is important because it builds trust in the mission.

Charles Tidwell writes, “Administrative leaders who wish to be effective must continue to grow in their skill of communicating.”[2] When a leader communicates well, she builds trust with her followers. The secret to building trust through communication is consistency.[3] The more the leader communicates with members, volunteers, and staff, the more credibility the leader receives. Regularity of communication shows that there is nothing to hide; all is made known to the people. It tells people that the leader cares about their opinions, desires for them to be aware of important decisions, and chooses to keep them informed. The most important part of communication is not the process by which information is shared, but its “consistency and thoroughness.”[4] When communication is consistent and thorough, trust of the leader is established and built.

3. Communication is important because it clarifies the purpose of the mission.

In his book, Creating Magic, Lee Cockerell explains how he has learned that, “Clear communication is one of the leader’s principal tasks, especially when it comes to responsibility and authority.”[5] As she leads her staff, the effective leader conveys each member’s responsibility in the organization, as well as, the extent of his/her authority. The error of not communicating these clearly is staff members who are unsure of what they are to be doing in the organization and the unwillingness to delegate or receive direction. As the leader communicates these terms, she establishes her own authority as she clarifies the purpose, determines objectives, develops plans, designs organization, and administers resources.[6] The leader who communicates these items clearly proves that he deserves to be in the position of authority.

Next week I’m going to share some practical ways to communicate effectively. I’ll provide some communication tools to help you communicate with your people to engage them, build trust, and to clarify the mission.

[1] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 45.

[2] Charles Tidwell, Church Administration (Nashville, Tenn: B&H Academic, 1985), 220.

[3] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 46.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Lee Cockerell, Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney (New York: Currency Doubleday, 2008), 64.

[6] Tidwell, Church Administration, 220.