When church has been a part of your weekly routine for several decades, it’s easy to forget how some of the jargon and habits can be completely foreign to newcomers. Churches are full of insider language we don’t even think about because we’re so used to it — but the people we’re trying to reach often aren’t. Words like ‘lost’ and ‘witness’ can be confusing and even seem condescending to someone who is not familiar with those terms.
Communication breaks down when the speaker’s meaning isn’t accurately conveyed to or interpreted by the listener. Whether we’re preaching from a pulpit on a Sunday morning, sending out a newsletter, or writing the church bulletin, the burden of the communication is on us to reach the audience.
Why you might be alienating guests from the platform (and how to avoid it)
We need to be aware of the kinds of language we use that make the very people we’re trying to reach feel like outsiders. Here are five principles you can use to evaluate and improve your church’s ability to communicate with guests:
- Realize that every word has meaning. Consider how every word and phrase sounds in layman’s terms. Is the same word used with a different connotation outside the church?
- Take time to define your church’s unique story. This is a great indicator of focus. Without it, your church becomes a crowd of people gathering together for programs and events rather than a movement of multiplying disciples. Do you know who you are trying to reach? How can you connect with them?
- Always keep your focus on creating engagement rather than making noise. People don’t want more to sift through. They want to easily stay connected with the people and organizations who have spent the time and energy necessary to build their trust. Are you being intentional in the ways you’re communicating with guests?
- Remember the " 'How' > 'What' Principle" of church communication. The ‘how’ is just as important as, if not more important than, the ‘what’ you’re going to do. The effectiveness of your communication as a pastor, leader, staff member, peer, boss, or employee is directly related to ‘how’ you communicate your message.
I encourage you to take some time every quarter, or maybe even every month, to review your print and web materials as well as what’s being said from the platform.
Is your church communicating clearly to outsiders?