Communication: Make You or Break You

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ResidentParkingWe pulled into an assisted living facility yesterday. As always the lot was extremely full and there were only two spaces available. As we pulled into one of the available spots a man in the car next to us pointed at me and shook his head. I stepped out and asked him what was wrong. He said we weren’t allowed to park in that spot. I pointed at the little white sign that was in front of the parking space and told him, “It says Oak Manor Parking Only” and we are here to go in the building right here…this is Oak Manor, right?” He tells me, “That sign is supposed to say it is for Oak Manor workers only”. I let him know how confusing that was and asked him where we should park because all the other spots said “Resident” on them. You won’t believe what he said (or maybe at this point you already know). He said, you can park in the spots that say “Resident” but not in the spot that says “Oak Manor Parking Only”. I was floored. The sign that seems to say “This is where you park” is where you don’t park and the sign that seems to say, “Don’t you dare park here” is exactly where they expect you to park. Great! Now that I know the system I will be able to live comfortably within its convoluted confines.

When you are trying to figure out what people need to hear, act like you just pulled in the parking lot for the first time in your life and don’t have a clue what is going on. Don’t assume people know anything. Don’t assume they can read your mind. Tell them what you mean, keep it simple, and obvious. I am afraid that too often in church world our communication can be very much like that. We think people know what we are talking about but we might as well be speaking another language. It might be more convoluted to outsiders than we realize. People shouldn’t have to learn some complex system of poor communication in order to “Get it”. That is a barrier to reaching the lost than can and should be avoided.

So here is a thought, get someone you know who doesn’t have any church background to come by the building during the week and poke around. See what feedback they give you. Then have them come on Sunday and tell you what their experience was like. What was communicated that was wrong? What was communicated that was right? What needed to be communicated that wasn’t? Then start making changes…and maybe, they will come back another Sunday as you show them that you value their input!

3 Responses

  1. So when visiting Oak Manor you shouldn’t park in a spot designated for Oak Manor only, but visitors should park in spots designated for residents? If we were extending this analogy to a church environment, and the normal everyday meanings of words had to be interpreted inside out from the way the words normally meant, I would suspect something was seriously wrong.

    1. Here is one way this goes in some churches. They teach all are welcome but keep certain people at arms length if they show up. I once saw an elder tell some guys to leave on a Sunday (not at the church I am currently at) because they had tattoos and earrings. Just an example of one way this shows up and yes, when this happens something really is seriously wrong.

  2. Great illustration, and so right on! How frustrating. And it’s an excellent idea to ask for feedback from newbies to your church. It can be so confusing. The regulars have forgotten. We ask our visitors what they noticed, what they liked, and what they thought could be improved.

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