Our family has a special connection to football season, as my son has been playing since he was a tyke. Though he has played with various teams over the years, each shares one thing in common. Each selects a saying at the beginning of the season that becomes the rallying cry for the squad. Coaches know that if you don’t get your players on-board, and give them a sense of identity, the season is lost before it’s begun.
This year, his middle school team selected one I particularly liked: “We > Me.” The resonance with football is obvious. It’s a team game—no one player can be responsible for winning and losing. Everyone must pull in the same direction to win.
And here’s why I like it so much. The same is true with church communications. Winning in communications requires your church pulling together in the same direction. Both in terms of message, and in terms of the tools you use to communicate it.
Three critical questions
Very often, churches looking to improve their communications look immediately to a tool. “We need a modern-looking website,” said one client to me before we ever talked about what the church was trying to accomplish. “We’ve got to figure out how to make Facebook work for us,” said another, without giving any consideration to whether their congregation wanted it. The rush to find a tool that will fix things is never-ending.
But to get your community to pull together begins with examining your current communications and what it says about who you are and how you talk together.
Answering the following three questions is a good first step in understanding how effectively you are communicating.
- What channels do people in our church use now? Ask your members to tell you what communication channels they use day-to-day to get information. The answers may surprise you. I recently asked people at one church to sort themselves into one of several categories based on their preferred method of connecting with people. Texting, e-mail, and face-to-face conversation were the most popular. Not one gravitated to the group designated “social media.” Beginning with what people have will do more to strengthen your internal communications than trying to introduce another channel that people may or may not desire.
- Do our existing communication channels allow us to connect with one another? There’s no denying that adopting the latest and greatest is fun. And a potentially significant boost for your church. But if you are not communicating well with the channels you currently use, the problem may not be the channel so much as the message. Look to understand why your existing channels are or are not working for you, first.
- What do our existing channels teach us about our community? Before adopting something new, be sure that you are collecting as much information as possible from your existing channels about the people in your community. If you only have print communications, have you done a reader’s survey of how often people read it, and how they use it? If you are using e-newsletters, are you spending time with the analytic data these provide to better understand what resonates with people, and what doesn’t?
All for One
Answering these three questions will tell you a great deal about whether your church is a collection of people talking as “me” (different opinions about who you are, what you are trying to accomplish, and how you spread that information within your community) or as “we” (a unified message over every channel).
If your church can embrace We > Me, you’re ready to take your communications to the next level. If you find We < Me, there is more foundational work to do before taking on the world outside your walls.