Church communications can be tricky. You have to balance the practical needs of relaying information effectively while fostering creativity and staying up-to-date in delivery methods.
If you’re unclear about what you’re doing and why when it comes to communication, then you can easily fall into the nine common mistakes we talk about below in this blog post.
Unfortunately, the church world isn’t known for outstanding communication. But as digital communication options continue to multiply, it becomes more important than ever for church leaders to stay on the cutting edge of communication trends.
People have an overwhelming amount of noise and input in their daily lives, so your church needs methods, quality, and messages that catch their attention.
Here are nine common mistakes to avoid when communicating as a church.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Table of contents
- 1. Trying to Be All Things to All People
- 2. Failing to Plan Ahead
- 3. Lacking Unity Across Ministries
- 4. Limiting Channels of Communication
- 5. Not Tailoring Your Message to Your Audience
- 6. Not Gathering Feedback
- 7. Using Insider Language
- 8. Spreading Yourself Too Thin
- 9. Playing it Too Safe
- In Conclusion
1. Trying to Be All Things to All People
Churches are often faced with the challenge of how to best communicate their message to both long-time members and total strangers. When someone walks into your church for the first time, they may be completely unfamiliar with church lingo and processes. They may not even understand what you’re talking about!
On the other end, veteran church members may have longstanding expectations of how things should be said and done, because they’re used to the customs. And within the church itself, there are so many different groups and demographics (with different preferences and expectations) that it can be difficult to know where to start. There is a balance in trying to appeal to a mid-20s young professional and a retired grandparent without alienating either group.
But you have to remember, when churches try to be all things to all people they end up watering down their communication and losing sight of their intended message.
As a church, you need to be yourself and strong in your voice and sense of identity when speaking to the church overall. Focus on creating a clear and consistent message that speaks to core values and beliefs.
When it comes to targeted ministries like youth, singles, or family ministry, then you can be more customized in how you communicate to that specific group.
In a world that prizes authenticity, be true to what God has called you to communicate and how you’ve been directed to do so. Focus will help you drastically improve your communication.
2. Failing to Plan Ahead
In today’s fast-paced world, you have to stay ahead or you’ll quickly fall behind. How will you prepare for holidays and events on the calendar? And in between the many event dates clamoring for attention, how will you continually communicate ongoing ministry activities and programs?
When your church fails to plan ahead, it can lead to frustration and confusion among church members as they miss out on opportunities or have to rearrange their schedule last minute. Smaller events and longstanding programs can also get lost in the shuffle.
Your church needs a global communication calendar and marketing strategy. As you think ahead, you can assign dates to recurring events, programs, and launches. Then, work backward to build out a communication schedule and deliverables.
In addition, your church website can be the main hub for all information. Make sure your website stays updated with the latest news, upcoming events, and relevant pages like ministry information. Furthermore, planning ahead can help to avoid last-minute scrambling and potential disasters.
3. Lacking Unity Across Ministries
When it comes to church communication, ministry departments often operate in silos. Each department may have incredible vision, ideas, and goals to reach people, but they don’t always align with the overall mission of the church. They may conflict, overlap, or simply create too much info for the people of your church. As a result, the different departments can end up working against each other instead of together.
This lack of coordination can mean people in the church can receive:
- Too much information or conflicting information since everyone is operating independently.
- Unexpected changes because one ministry didn’t communicate with another.
- Different tones and styles of communication because people are operating from their individual preferences.
In order to avoid these problems, it’s crucial that ministry departments work together towards a common goal. Although there are unique expressions (everyone doesn’t have to quote from a script) church communication should have a consistent voice and style that reflects the church’s brand.
Three keys for getting ministries on board with unified communication include
- A churchwide communication calendar and approved process for who communicates what (along with when and how communication is sent).
- A church communication style guide.
- An internal process for regular updates so everyone stays on the same page.
4. Limiting Channels of Communication
“We’ve always done it this way!” is not an excuse or a reason to stick with outdated and ineffective channels of communication. Nor should you limit your communication to only a few options as technology continues to advance rapidly.
When it comes to church communication, one size does not fit all. Although print bulletins seem simple and have been around for decades, they are time-consuming and costly to print. And not only is everyone not reading the bulletin content in its entirety, but statistics show most aren’t even physically coming to church every weekend.
With more people than ever watching church online and living off their mobile devices, it’s time to use technology and digital communication to your advantage. By using a mix of traditional and digital tools, churches can ensure that their message is reaching the widest possible audience.
One of the main benefits of using multiple channels is that it allows churches to tailor their message to each audience. For example, younger generations are more likely to engage with social media and other digital formats. But even within social media, they’re more likely to be on TikTok and Instagram than on Facebook.
By using a variety of communication channels, churches can make sure that they are connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds.
5. Not Tailoring Your Message to Your Audience
It’s always important to consider your audience when communicating. After all, you wouldn’t want to deliver a cheesy joke to a group of professionals in a business meeting – but it could be a huge hit at your four-year-olds birthday party.
When it comes to churches, you can divide your audience into three general groups:
- Those outside your church – they may be “unchurched” or have never heard of your particular church.
- Those on the fringe – these might be first-time guests or those who are newer to your church.
- Those who are insiders – these are your long-time members, leaders, and “core” people.
So how can you tailor your communications to these three groups?
When you’re creating content for external marketing to try and reach the unchurched in your community, you need to frame your message, language, and communication style in a way they will understand. That means limiting Christian jargon and cliches. In this stage, it needs to be clear that people of all backgrounds will be welcomed and not judged or shamed. In addition, people need a compelling reason to come to church with the assurance they will find meaning, community support, and hope.
When you’re crafting a message for current church members, you still can’t make assumptions. Otherwise, you risk coming across as disconnected or even insensitive. Be sure to provide the necessary background information, and create a compelling hook with clear action steps.
Again, this doesn’t mean that you should water down your message; rather, it simply means being mindful of how your words will be received by those who hear them. By tailoring your message to each group, you can create a communications strategy that is both effective and meaningful.
6. Not Gathering Feedback
How often is your leadership team asking for feedback? And when you receive it, what’s the response?
It can be difficult to get honest feedback from church members. Part of the reasons for this are
- People are never asked or given the right channels to provide constructive feedback.
- When asked, they are too busy or don’t bother to give feedback (perhaps because surveys or methods are too long or tedious).
- People fear retaliation or retribution for giving any feedback that is less than positive.
- The leadership team “seeks God for direction” so they are unwilling or ill-disposed to receive feedback that conflicts with their chosen direction.
First, start with humility and an openness to listen to other people’s perspectives. This means that you should not only be waiting for feedback but also actively seeking it out and listening to what people have to say.
Second, make it easy for people to give feedback. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as short surveys, emailing leadership team members directly, or leaving comments on blog posts or social media pages.
Finally, tracking metrics give you a great indication of what people are responding to and would like to see more of. This information can then be used to shape future communications.
By gathering feedback, you create an environment where people feel appreciated and heard. It also allows you to course-correct when necessary and make changes that will ultimately improve church communications.
7. Using Insider Language
We’ve referenced this a few times already, but using insider language continues to be one of the most common mistakes we see in church communications.
Of course, this applies to tired cliches and Christian phrases. Not only are they overused, but they’re often associated with an unappealingly rigid religious mindset. On the other hand, many churches take for granted that people understand modern church processes like growth track and small groups. But these terms aren’t used anywhere outside of church.
Also, we have to be realistic about the fact that we live In a society that no longer has a high level of biblical literacy. Quoting scriptural phrases or referencing Bible stories in passing can be confusing to people who aren’t familiar with the Bible. The language may simply sound strange and out of place, making them wonder what you’re talking about.
As you think through your communication, constantly run it through the filter of someone brand new to church. Will they understand what is being said?
One way to overcome this obstacle is by translating church-speak into everyday language. That means every church term or ministry you reference is followed by a quick one to two-sentence definition.
8. Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Keeping up with all the available communication channels is a lot. In fact, it’s too much unless you have a very large team and amount of resources. Once you commit to a communication platform, you have to avoid having outdated website pages, social media channels or failing to send emails consistently.
Maybe you’ve heard of Snapchat, TikTok, Clubhouse, and Discord…these are just a few of the newer social media channels. And those are all in addition to the big platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
When you try to do everything, you can end up spreading your team way too thin. And if you rely on a volunteer and they leave the team you may not be able to keep up with all that you’ve committed to, or the quality of content may suffer.
Pick two or three main communication channels and focus your efforts there. This may mean dropping a couple of platforms, but it’s better to do fewer things well than to try and do everything mediocrely or inconsistently. When you have a solid handle on what you’re doing, then it’s time to expand.
Also, make sure you have a content calendar that lays out what will be communicated. This way everyone is on the same page and there’s no confusion about what needs to be said or when it needs to happen and you can repurpose content effectively.
9. Playing it Too Safe
Churches should be professional, but they shouldn’t make the mistake of playing it too safe in their communication strategy. Don’t be afraid to experiment and take risks.
If the goal is to completely avoid failure or criticism, church creative teams will be afraid to try new things. While this may feel “safe”, over time it means the church will be scrambling to copycat effective strategies as they’re becoming outdated instead of staying on the front end of innovation.
When it comes to content, always ask yourself this question: is this something that I would want my non-Christian friends to read? Would it catch my attention as I’m browsing and scrolling? If the answer is no, then you need to rethink your approach.
Jesus was willing to challenge the status quo. And His disciples were bold about taking the message of the gospel into new territory without compromising truth or integrity – let’s be sure to do the same!
So, there you have it. Nine communication mistakes to avoid in your church. What’s the one mistake you feel like you see most frequently, or have personally experienced?
We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.