I have a friend whose oldest son serves as a Navy Seal. Early in his career as a Seal, he told his dad, “I’m going for additional training to become a Communications Specialist.” His father inquired, “Why?” And the warrior son replied, “Because there is a Communications Specialist on every mission. I’ll get more action if I’m able to serve that function.” I’m not sure his dad was all that excited about that reason.
The truth is, communication is a key part of our mission serving as ministry leaders. Some of us struggle with this – others are great at it. Here are four steps that might help.
1. Choose Your Single Subject.
Seems simple enough. But, deciding ahead of time exactly what you are trying to say matters a great deal. If you just ramble with a plethora of subjects as you address the group in person or in writing, you will weaken everything you are saying and increase your chances of not communicating the vital thing that you set out to share.
Don’t unintentionally “hide” your main message by placing it in the middle of other messages. When we have to give our dog a pill, we surround it with cheese – don’t do that with critical messages for your ministry.
2. Choose Your Best Method.
There are so many ways to communicate these days – more ways than ever! Email, planning tools, social media, newsletters, websites, text messages, phone calls, and sometimes as a last resort…some might even have a face-to-face conversation!
It is vital that you characterize the communication accurately and choose the best method to accomplish your intent. If it’s just to share facts, then most methods work – information like, “The rehearsal is here and starts at this time.”
But, if the message requires personal emotion or is spiritually significant, use more active methods. Avoid sending correction via a passive method – email or text – and choose face-to-face conversation. The more passive the method the less control you have over tone. Don’t allow convenience to take priority over effectiveness.
Churches can split over an email that tries to carry too much weight when a more active method could have given context and tone.
3. Evaluate Your Effectiveness.
Check yourself regularly on your communication. If one person misunderstood something, then maybe they didn’t read the information closely enough. But, if twenty people misunderstood it, then you know you weren’t clear enough.
Use a proofreader. If I’m sending something that it is important, I’ll have several people check it first and then ask, “What do you think I’m saying here?” If they don’t get it, I’ll keep working on it.
4. Keep the Channels Open.
Relational equity is an important tool in any leader’s communication tool belt. The people you lead should feel comfortable in your patterns of communication. If the only time they hear from you is when you are correcting or disciplining, they will dread your messages.
The closer someone is to the leadership of your organization, the more often you should communicate with that person – on a variety of subjects – some very serious and even at times some that could be silly.
Regardless, if someone is in your organization, you should have an open line of communication so they will have context for your message, no matter what it is.
All of us can improve this area of our leadership. What are some tips you might have for being an effective communicator?