Church communication mistakes abound. Today, effective church communication is a complex connection between ministry and audience. Many feel they’ve mastered it, but it’s often broken. Communication for a church used to be as simple as changing the church sign and maintaining a church bulletin. Now, it’s a complicated interconnection of channels and tools bombarding everyone with information; hoping to get engagement.
Churches must understand and fix these church communication mistakes in order to evangelize our communities better, all while informing the congregation about ministry opportunities and discipleship.
If you do these 8 church communication mistakes, you risk slipping into obscurity because your message will be missed. Here are the common mistakes with solutions to try:
- Concentrating on the wrong audience. With two distinct audiences; internal (congregation) and external (community), the local church feels communication tension. A lot of church communication ends up only informing members about ministry opportunities! This will usually push attendance into decline or stagnation. Instead, understand that God’s placed your local ministry in a growing community for an evangelical reason. Communicate properly to that potential audience and you’ll usually grow as people discover your ministries.
SOLUTION: Research your reach area knowing your congregation is a subset of the greater community. Identify stereotypical community groups (called persona) you want to reach. Discover all you can about them (concentrating on needs, concerns, and goals). Ensure your personas are growing, and you’ve successfully reached people like them in the past, or have members currently who love them. Communicate solutions to their needs and/or paths to their goals. You’ll get their attention; and in that engagement, connect them to the Gospel message. It’s no coincidence that Jesus’ final word (Mark 16:15) to the church was “Go”.
- Saying too much and expecting people to listen. Attention spans have drastically declined. TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) is a popular acronym for a reason! If someone feels the content will take too much time to consume, they won’t. Give them what they’re looking for as fast as possible. Overly wordy information is a huge church communication mistake. People want edited content. Say less, they’ll listen more!
SOLUTION: Be known for something short, needed, and relevant. So your members and guests will quickly identify the thread that unites your benefit! Sure, they may miss details, but they’ll be reassured of what you’re about. And edit every piece of content (social posts, sermons, announcements, web pages, etc.). Never waste the audience’s time.
- A wildly broken website. A church used to rely on a print hub (bulletin at the center) but now communication should rely on a digital hub (website at the center). That way, you don’t need to remember where you put a print brochure, you simply jump to a website. But many church websites aren’t easy to use for a member or someone in the community. Church communication mistakes like this cause members to declare “I can’t find what I’m looking for”! But your website isn’t just for your congregation! With 90% of first-time guests visiting your website before attending; it must be friendly for the outsider too. Imagine how many go to your website and decide NOT to attend?!
SOLUTION: Update your website design so it’s current and professional; then look at the content organization (main menu) to ensure the structure works. Then create content following good search engine optimization (SEO) rules so Google becomes your biggest evangelist!
- Expecting response without clear call-to-actions. When content intends to gain activity, you need call-to-actions (CTAs). Don’t assume someone knows what to do with any piece of information. This church communication mistake will create a disconnect between information and action.
SOLUTION: Know how your persona will benefit from the content and lead them to the next step. Use links to “deeper information” or language like “After service go to the information banner where someone will help you make a Sunday School class choice”.
- Wrong person tasked with everything required. With lots of channels, tools, and content needing coordination, creation, and control, you need the right conductor. If not? Everyone will seek to do what’s right in their own eyes. And that communication chaos will be obvious. Warning signs? A junior person in the role, a ministry assistant that’s not empowered to make leadership decisions, or too many strategy parts for one person to do.
SOLUTION: You need an organized leader in the communication director position. Someone who understands how things need to be edited and controlled, but also someone who loves to empower and encourage others (volunteers or paid) to help as needed.
- Every ministry attempting to have the loudest voice. Ministry event creators love what they create. So, they want to shout it from the mountaintops. However, every other ministry is shouting too. If left uncontrolled, this church communication mistake will lead to few hearing anything in the noise!
SOLUTION: The chaos of loud voices needs a calming strategy with tiered events to control the way they communicate and the number of available channels. Perhaps basing the loudness upon how many are invited. All-church event? They should have the loudest voice. All-ministry event? The next loudest.
- No master communication calendar. Most churches have too many things happening around certain timeframes; so, we force our families to decide which event to attend. Often, it’s because there’s no unified communication calendar that contains all church and community events to help in planning.
SOLUTION: Create a calendar (digital or paper) that is assessable by anyone creating events. Decide calendar rules to assure all conflicts can be cured — usually by establishing how soon something should go on the calendar and who needs to move when timeframes are too full. This calendar becomes the building block for material deadlines and campaign launches.
- Expecting similar results from old solutions. Many things have changed in our world recently. In fact, COVID-19 alone accelerated many of those changes. Communication is not an easy task in this ever-changing world. The biggest mistake in church communication? Thinking that a communication device that once worked will again. Or if it was tried once, and didn’t do well, will fail if tried again. And don’t fall for the belief that better communication will fix a bad church event either. It won’t.
SOLUTION: Watch for communication trends and learn from them. Monitor attendance and analytics to identify and fix issues. Start by adjusting timing, content, and strategy so you get the results you want!