What are you saying? 4 unintended messages

 In Blog, Communication

Have you ever seen an advertisement, blog or headline that promises amazing results in 3 easy steps without any work or cost? If you haven’t, then just google ‘lose weight without exercise or diet’. You’ll get almost 2 million returned items in about 5 seconds. If only it were that easy… I do have a secret way that you can lose weight every time– work out regularly and eat better! The problem is that if you lead with that, no one will want to hear what you have to say because those things involve hard work and we already know it’s what we need to do to lose that last 10 pounds. I wish it wasn’t the case, but there aren’t many things in life that we want to achieve which don’t involve putting in the time and effort. In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, this blog won’t be about 3 easy steps to become the next giga-church using the latest idea or tool.

Even though there aren’t 3 easy steps to guarantee you reach your potential there are some things that can ensure failure. If you are crazy enough to do all of these, then I can almost promise that your church will be an epic failure. While no one sets out to do these things, here are the unintended messages that we communicate if we aren’t careful.

4 unintended messages that lead to failure

You are on the outside

There are many ways to communicate to someone that they are on the outside. We can do it with the language we use or by having groups that appear cliquish. Creating a sense of welcome is an intentional and continual process. Try using plain language that the theologian and the person who has never been to a church can understand. Build an intentional group’s strategy that helps people feel included. People want to feel part of something and welcome is the posture of the Father’s heart.

We want some free labor

It takes lots of help to run a church. You need many volunteers and people willing to sacrifice their time and give of themselves. If you recruit volunteers simply to fill a staffing need or overuse your volunteers, you will burn them out. Instead, by focusing on the gifts and interests of people, you can let them serve in ways that are fulfilling to them. Volunteering is part of the process of discipleship and it should help people grow. Taking the time to have a volunteer strategy that develops and nurtures your volunteers along the way will pay dividends for years to come.

We’re glad that your money is with us today

Talking about giving is one of the most difficult things in church. For a church to survive, it needs the financial investment of its people but if we are not careful, people can begin to feel more like an ATM than a member of a community. Giving is a sign of someone’s connection and investment in the church. It’s time to start having a new conversation about giving. By involving people in the mission of the church and creating a culture of transparency, we can remove some of the most common barriers to generosity.

What’s your name again?

How we use the information people trust us with matters. When a visitor gives you an email address or phone number, they are expecting someone to contact them. Often this can get lost in the shuffle of business or by not having the right tools and processes in place. On the other hand, another common mistake is over-communication and not targeting our messages. A 20-year-old male college student doesn’t want to hear about your MOPS event and likewise, I don’t know anyone that wants to get 3-4 general emails a week from their church. By building targeted communication channels and procedures, you can show people that they matter. Whenever possible, your communications should feel personalized to the recipient so that they get the sense that you know who they are and are talking to them personally.

It is rarely the messages that we intentionally communicate that cause people to pack their bags and leave a church community. More commonly, it is the subtle messages that are picked up over time that aren’t even intended. While there isn’t a magic formula or tool to make people feel included and valued, there ARE lots of little things we can do every day to communicate the intended messages. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And, since walking a mile is approximately 2,000 steps, the journey includes an additional 1,999,999 steps to come.

What messages might you be communicating that you are unaware of?