Here are seven mistakes it’s easy to make when we attempt to communicate with our churches, both individuals and as a group.
1. In individual conversations, do you talk more than you listen? Talking too much is a sign of anxiety. Try this: ask a question, and then be quiet for a while.
2. Do you say “we” more often than “I?” Phillip Washburn notes in his new book, Good Moves, that I statements are freeing, and we statements crowd. I’d add that you statements crowd most of all. Try this: practice saying, “I think,” and “I want” or “I’d like.”
3. Do you assume that saying something once is enough? Don’t get frustrated if people think they haven’t heard something, especially at times of change or conflict. Anxiety is like static, and it makes the message even harder to get across. Simply neutrally repeat the information in a number of formats (and then still expect some people not to hear it.)
4. Do you chase after people trying to get the message across? Remember, people can hear you when they are coming toward you emotionally. If they are running away, they can’t hear anything. Pay attention to those who are moving toward you, and you’ll spend a lot less energy.
5. Do you neglect to ask people what they’ve heard? Simply asking people for feedback will help you know whether they are getting the message.
6. Do you communicate with people using the modality you like rather than the one they like? Don’t bother sending an e-mail if you know the person rarely checks it. Pick up the phone instead. Generations are different, but not all people from a given generation will behave the same. Get to know your people, especially your leaders, and their communication preferences.
7. Do you avoid taking a stand? If you know where you stand, say so, clearly, and without any implication that others should think the same way.
What have you learned about how to communicate in a way that has integrity and is effective?
Rev. Margaret Marcuson works with churches that want to create a ministry that lasts and clergy who want more impact on the people they serve best. She is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry (Seabury, 2009). She served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gardner, Massachusetts for thirteen years.
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