If there is one thing that I think would change the destiny of the Christian church and make it far more successful at reaching our world today and effective at communicating our message, it would be for church communicators to stop assuming that everyone knows what they are talking about and to communicate the church message completely.
In communication after communication, in print and online I see incomplete messages. As a result people don’t respond. Then church leaders get discouraged and think people don’t care anymore.
But they do! People care about their earthly well-being and eternal destiny, as the huge following of every new self-help or spiritual guru program shows us. But many are not responding to the Christian message because church leaders and communicators forget what it’s like to be an unchurched person or a casual church attendee.
Why complete communication is more important than ever
The world today is post-Christian. Many people grow up not knowing anything about church, the Bible, what it means to be a Christian. One part of our brain knows this, but from over 20 years of evaluating church communications, I’ve found that churches in general seem to forget this reality when they sit down to create their communications both in print and digitally. Because of that, we need to evaluate our communications when people have a hard time connecting with us and understanding our message.
For example, churches might think they are “seeker-friendly” and really want others to come to faith, but if your bulletin is filled with phrases such as:
“Adult Bible Study at the Johnson's, same time, same place.” (Does this mean only people who know the Johnson’s can attend?)
“The kids will be doing their yearly Lock-in & Movie Marathon. The cost and format same as last year.” (What is a “lock-in?” What if I was there and can’t remember what it cost? What if I’m new and my son is shy, who do I call?)
“Fill out the form on the website if you want to be part of a small group.” (What if I’m really lonely and want to be in a group, but don’t have a computer?)
Additional note on this last one: for all of us working at the church or if you are reading this on the web, it is difficult to comprehend that many people today (I'm writing this in March 2012) still do not have computer access at home. If we don't provide options (print, email, mobile phone) for contact and sign up we automatically exclude some people from some church activities.
The list of examples such as these is almost infinite. The details that connect people to ministry may seem small, but they are the vital links. Today few people will take time to call the church office for more information. Many people do not have access to the internet. We need to put COMPLETE information about events in every communication piece we produce. It is impossible for people to connect without these details.
It isn’t easy
Putting in these details is excruciating, detailed, hard work, impossible to understand in its difficulty if you have not had to personally track down the details of the multitude of events going on in a church and then put them into a pleasing, clear form in the church bulletin, newsletter, and now website. But these details are the keystone; they are the foundational links that if not there, all the hard work of praying, planning and putting on a ministry event will not accomplish our prayed-for results.
People are not universal mind readers. If you don’t completely communicate about an event people simply won’t show up. It is not the responsibility of the audience to find out all the details needed to connect with you—it is your responsibility.