Any leader in ministry will eventually be drawn into passionate discussions about effective communication. There will be those who maintain that there is not enough communication (“people don’t know what is going on”) as well as folks who maintain that a ministry is not communicating the right way (print vs. digital, for example, or verbal vs. website). Still others will draw back to a concept that communication must be designed to produce certain outcomes.
But everyone will agree that communication is vital to ministry—and that communication in our present age must be varied and consistent in order to be effective. In a sense, every nuance of communication needs to be employed in order to reach the greatest number. It is not enough simply to provide information, for example, but effective communication also must cater to those who want more than information.
Here’s a simple breakdown of these three facets of communication and how they can work best for any ministry.
Sure, communication is information. And many people are, quite simply, information seekers. The who, what, when, and where is enough for many people. Information people want the essentials, the hard facts, so that they can calendar, plan, and otherwise be aware of what is going on. Information people are often the easiest to please. “Just give me the facts,”they might say.
Information people can be satisfied, and a ministry’s focus and schedule most easily shared, by simply creating the facts in a timely manner, publishing a schedule, and then releasing it to the masses. Information can also be shared to specific groups of people, too—those who have an investment in the ministry or mission, and who have identified themselves as those who will support the ministry by the numbers.
Here, information people are best served via timeliness, advanced planning, and then getting the word out via website, text updates via phone, email mailings, or even fliers and handouts if the groups are manageable. But information is only one-third of a successful communication effort. Not everyone is an information person. Most people want more.
Increasingly, people want inspiration behind their information. They want to “feel” that they are a part of something important—and the cold, hard facts of a ministry, a budget, or a by-the-numbers approach is simply not enough. Inspiration people want to know—“How is God working through this ministry or through the people who are part of this ministry?” Inspiration people want narratives, stories of changed-lives, moving testimonials, and an invitation that will invite them to become a part of a valued ministry.
When trying to communicate with inspiration people, leaders should keep in mind that they need to tell the story well. There need to be anecdotes, insights, and testimonials that will convey the scope of the ministry and invite inspiration people to come along for the experience, too.
Inspiration people don’t just want a budget filled with numbers, for example, but a narration of how the money is used. Inspiration people aren’t looking for “just the facts, ma’am” but need an answer to the question, “Why should I feel compelled to be a part of this ministry and support it?” Inspiration people are open to theology, Biblical insights, and even the deeper challenges that come with personal involvement and commitment.
Other people are even beyond information and inspiration folks. They want to know how their involvement, how their gifts, or how their commitment can help to influence or impact a ministry. Impact, in fact, may be just as great as influence.
Here, it is important to communicate opportunities for people to serve and grow alongside a ministry. The numbers won’t be enough. The inspirational stories won’t be enough. Influence people want to know what the outcomes are and how a ministry is a track for change, for involvement, or for relationships with others. Influence people are often the most difficult to get at through communication, but the personal touch if quite important to them.
A leader needs to remember that communication can also be accomplished face-to-face and by direct conversation. A leader can effectively communicate with an influence person by offering a personal invitation or reaching out in some direct way to ask, or otherwise offer, for the person to be an influencer.
By employing these three facets of communication, a leader is also telling the story and relating identity as it exists at various levels within the organization of the church. Some people will also live on the margins of the identity, but others want to be brought into the center to be an influencer.
Communicating these three tiers also provides a deeper appreciation of the many gifts that exist within the church, and recognizes that not everyone moves along at the same pace or will live out faith in the same way. There are many gifts, but one Spirit. And likewise, these three tiers of communication, when rightly employed, will deepen the Spirit that is manifest through your ministry identity—and also garner greater support.