Churches must understand and fix these church communication mistakes in order to evangelize our communities and inform our congregations.
By Mark MacDonald
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 in hopes of garnering 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 make these eight church communication mistakes, you risk slipping into obscurity because your message will be missed. Here are the common mistakes and some solutions to try:
1. Concentrating on the wrong audience
With two distinct audiences; internal (congregation) and external (community), the local church feels a communication tension. A lot of church communication ends up only informing members about ministry opportunities. This can push attendance into decline or stagnation. Instead, understand 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.A lot of church communication ends up only informing members about ministry opportunities. This can push attendance into decline or stagnation. — @markmac1023 Click To Tweet
SOLUTION: Research your reach area, knowing your congregation is a subset of the greater community. Identify stereotypical community groups (called personas) you want to reach. Discover all you can about them, concentrating on needs, concerns, and goals. Ensure your personas are growing, you’ve successfully reached people like them in the past, or you currently have members 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 Jesus’ final word to the church was “Go” (Mark 16:15).
2. 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 engage. 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 benefits. Sure, they may miss details, but they’ll be reassured what you’re about. And edit every piece of content (social posts, sermons, announcements, web pages, etc.). Never waste the audience’s time.
3. 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. How many go to your website and decide not to attend?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). — @markmac1023 Click To Tweet
SOLUTION: Update your website design so it’s current and professional; then look at the content organization (main menu) to ensure the structure works. Next, create content following good search engine optimization (SEO) rules so search engines start working for you.
4. Expecting response without clear calls to action
When content intends to gain activity, you need calls to action (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 connect you to a small group.”
5. 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 include 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 and who loves to empower and encourage others (volunteers or paid) to help as needed.
6. 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 amid the noise.Church events that are involving the most people should have communication priority over more limited events. Click To Tweet
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.
7. No master communication calendar
Most churches have too many things happening around certain timeframes, forcing 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’s accessible to 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.
8. 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 a communication device that once worked, will again, or one tried once without success, will fail if tried again. And don’t fall for the belief better communication will fix a bad church event either. It won’t.The biggest mistake in church communication? Thinking a communication device that once worked, will again, or one tried once without success, will fail if tried again. — @markmac1023 Click To Tweet
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.
Mark MacDonald is communication pastor, speaker, consultant, author, church branding strategist for BeKnownforSomething.com and Executive Director of Center for Church Communication, empowering churches to become known for something relevant throughout their ministries, websites, and social media. His book, Be Known for Something, is available at BeKnownBook.com.