A key strategic question for any church any church today is what to do about all the channels of communication available? What material should go on the web? Stay in print? Be in both channels? What about social media?
If we look at secular communications, we see an explosion of options. USA Today's publisher Larry Kramer shared his strategy to provide content in a variety of channels when he took the job by saying, "The paper will build 'closer relationships with our readers' through new uses of technologies. . . . . We're going to give people what they want, when they want it, where they want it. You want it on your watch; I'll give it to you. Or inside of your sunglasses. "
Those sounds great—give people all the content they want in any channel they want it in, but realistically in the church, we don't have the time or money to do all this. Most churches are not looking for additional work in communications. Many are overwhelmed by the option of the print and the web and thinking about other channels seems impossible. We naturally want to simplify our communication workload in a ministry setting because we don't have time to do all the work we need to do. Most churches are not looking for ways to increase, but to consolidate their communication efforts. Following are typical questions I've received for help in doing that:
"What is the best way to communicate with people today?"
"What is the way to reach people best: the web, email, or social media?"
"Do we still need to print?"
"What is a communication channel? Which communication channel works best to reach people outside and inside the church?"
These questions reflect the concern, confusion, and frustration over the communication channels available to us today, which include print, web, email, postal mail, telephone, texting, social media, digital projection systems, voice, and people. When overwhelmed with channel choices and having limited time to implement them, it is natural to want to narrow our church communications down to one or two that will be effective. Because of that, I always feel bad as I answer people's questions about what to use because I know people want me to tell them that one channel, especially if it is the one they prefer, is all they need, but I can't do that. I can't do that because to be effective in your church communication ministry, to fully fulfill the Great Commission, there is no one way.
It is the time of both/and, not either /or.
No one channel will work because people aren't any more alike in their communication preferences than they are in other areas of likes and dislikes. In addition to likes and dislikes, today there are also differences in technical skills that affect how people take in communications, for example:
- Some people love to go online; others don't have a computer.
- Some love words; others prefer images and videos.
- Some love to listen to podcasts; others don't have any idea what a podcast is.
- Some tweet, blog, live on Facebook, and participate in every new social media; others consider social media not only a monumental waste of time, but a pernicious evil.
- Some text continuously; some won't read anything that isn't on paper.
Some get all their news and information from television; some have a cell phone ear piece glued to their heads and thumbs perpetually flying across tiny keyboards.
What makes this broad spectrum of beliefs and preferences in communication channels challenging is all of people mentioned above go to your church. All of them are also in the neighborhoods, virtual and real, that you are trying to reach.
We can't simply pick out one way to communicate because the Lord has put us into a world of wonderfully diverse people and it is our responsibility to create communications that are useful for all of them. When the Apostle Paul encouraged us to "be all things to all people that we might win some," he probably didn't have the digital communication revolution in mind, but the gospel imperative of his words still applies.
*****This excerpt is from the Six Strategies for Effective Church Communications, 1st edition; the book is currently being revised and updated, but the content still highly valuable. CLICK HERE for a copy of the book. CLICK HERE to sign up for our newsletter to receive notices of the release of new editions and other resources to make you a more effective church communicator.