Effective communication is a key tool in gaining support for your ministry. Great communicators know that the best messages are honed, tweaked and customized to best resonate, not just with one large group, but with specific sub-groups within a larger audience. The words you use, the examples you choose, and the pace and tone of your delivery can (and should) be adjusted depending on who you are talking to.
The first step to optimizing your communication is to identify the sub-groups of people within your church who need to hear your messages from slightly different perspectives. You may need to communicate to children, parents, volunteer helpers, fellow staffers, senior staff, and possibly to a board. While the facts of the message will stay the same, what you emphasize and how you communicate should change depending on to whom you are speaking. You can identify as many audiences as you like. Whether you choose two, three, or ten, the principles of honing your messages hold true. In this example, we will assume that we are planning to host a family night. We will look at communicating details to three audiences: your team, parents, and kids.
Presenting to Your Team
Your church staff and volunteer team need to know the ministry motive behind your event and the logistical details of what it will take to pull it off. Be prepared to present the details to your senior staff from a perspective of ministry outreach, community engagement, facility requirements, and budget. When communicating to staff, it is wise to emphasize the results that you expect the event to generate as a number of total expected attendees, number of first time visitors, and desired ministry results. You will need to explain the desired outcome (your goal), and the strategy you will employ to achieve it. Within the inner circle of the church staff and your team of leaders, it is important to discuss not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ These folks need to know that you have a well-thought-out plan, and that you are on top of the details. The key with this audience is to communicate the value of hosting this event. Don’t assume they will figure this out on their own.
Speaking to Parents
That same event would be presented slightly differently to families within the church. You need like them to attend and invite their neighbors. While they will be interested in knowing the overall ministry purpose of the event, they will require more information about the fun things that will happen at the event and less about specific ministry goals. Parents will need a compelling reason to bring their children to the event. This generally means communicating a balance of what will be happening there that’s fun and what will happen that’s redemptive. Family time is scarce, so parents need to know that an event is a better use of their time than whatever else is on their calendar. Parents like detailed schedules that include beginning and ending times, they like to know what will happen in between, and they like to know about safety and protective boundaries. The key with this audience is to communicate the value of attending. Don’t assume they will figure this out on their own.
Communicating to Kids
Don’t include too many details in your communication to kids. Give the details of dates, times, locations, and logistics to mom or dad in writing or via email. Don’t expect kids to remember them. While some children are aware of the importance of spiritual impact and ministry results at an activity, kids really want to know what they will get to do or experience at the event. It’s important to hit the highlights multiple times over two or three weeks leading up to the event to build anticipation and get kids excited about the event. It helps to call out a few specific kid-appealing activities, like having bounce houses, snow cones, or relay races, and it often helps to highlight a single pinnacle moment that kids will not want to miss. Things like dousing the pastor in a dunk tank, dressing a leader in toilet paper, or watching you kiss a frog or a farm animal are always popular options that get kids amped up for an event. The key with this audience is to communicate the excitement of attending.
You may think that segmenting your messaging is a subtle tactic that you don’t need to use, but targeting your message to a specific audience can make a major difference in how people respond. There are many ways to segment your messaging. This is just one example to get you thinking about becoming a more effective communicator in your ministry.
Chuck Peters is Director of Operations for Lifeway Kids. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck has served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years.