Church and Communication

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There are many ways to communicate. Sometimes we communicate intentionally. We have a message and we explain that message. We can also communicate by accident. There are things people think we are saying that we aren’t. This can happen due to lack of communication – because we didn’t say anything people make assumptions and end up thinking something that we never said. This can also happen by poor communication – not saying something well (confusing or open for multiple conflicting conclusions).

When it comes to “church,” communication is extremely important. There are things people believe about “church” based on both types of communication (intentional and accidental). In these cases there needs to be an intentional change in our communication to fill in the gaps for people, correct misunderstandings about things and leave less room for people to make assumptions.

Here are a few things that frequently happen in churches and what each of these things can potentially communicate about “church”:

  • If the only opportunities a church offers to serve is during the worship service it communicates that service happens at the building and that what happens here (in the building) isn’t connected to there (outside the building)
  • If you can be unrepentant about your sin and never have anyone talk with you about it but get a call or a letter because you missed a few weeks of worship service, that communicates that the gauge of spiritual health is attendance.
  • If we train our kids to pass communion plates but don’t train them how to live in an ungodly world, that communicates that religion is more about ritual than it is about reality.
  • If we minister to people rather than minister with people, it trains people to think that church is about them being served rather than them being the servant.
  • If we communicate that what happens on Sunday is supposed to meet everyone’s needs then we shouldn’t be surprised if people leave because it isn’t.
  • If you only teach people what not to do and never call them to a better vision of what life is supposed to be don’t expect much spiritual maturity.

Here are some intentional shifts in our actions and communication to help people have a healthier understanding of church, Christianity and worship:

  • encourage involvement outside the walls, people will make the connection between Sunday and Monday-Saturday
  • teach that discipleship involves viewing and valuing the needs of others as more important than your own then people will engage more naturally in serving and loving others
  • stop defining worship as what happens when we sing and start looking at our lives as living, breathing, walking acts of worship then people won’t compartmentalize spirituality and worship to Sunday at the building
  • use Sunday as an equipping and launching time rather than a time of recuperation and needs meeting then people will be more ready and willing to engage in kingdom work
  • stop putting an overemphasis on worldly metrics (church attendance and sheer numbers) and start counting things that matter (transformed lives, acts of service, etc) and actually celebrate those things people perceptions of what really matters will change for the better. We pursue and repeat the things we count. Count the right things.

In interpersonal communication, non-verbals make up a high percentage of what is being communicate. The same is true with organizations. Much of what we communicate isn’t what we are actually saying but what we are actually doing. So we may preach on or against certain things but that doesn’t mean the congregation actually embraces our words. They will more quickly embrace what we do than what we say. So our words must be backed up by meaningful follow through an action on the part of our ministries. That takes more coordination, more time and more planning but it is essential that what we say and do compliment and support each other.

What things do you think have been poorly communicated and how would you improve communication in those areas?

One Response

  1. Hi Matt and thanks for this great post!
    I’m really interesting in church and communication issues as well, and recently critiqued church communication using a simple communication model:

    (Excuse the self-promotion, but it might be interesting/helpful to view what you’re saying through the Shannon-Weaver model of communication…)

    In answering your question, and hooking into what you’re talking about here, I reckon the way people are taught to be Christian is replicating the things you highlight, for example, if someone did happen to want to become ‘Christian’, if they made it to a church, they would most likely learn to be Christian by looking around and observing the other church-goers: to be Christian is to turn up semi-regulalry on Sundays to a church where you like the genre of music or pastors, sing songs, listen to dozens of sermons, have some small-talk, perhaps be part of a small group during the week, and generally keep the faith component separate to the rest of life… And this teaching of new people (including children of church-goers) is all communication.

    What has been poorly communicated: What it means to be a follower of Jesus? What discipleship means?

    Thanks again!

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