3 Ideas for Better Communication
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
—Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789
Ben had it mostly right. He forgot “poor communication.”
As I begin the process of working with a church in their quest for a new student pastor, I begin with a site visit. I spend 24 to 36 hours on the ground, taking in the landscape, snapping some pictures, and listening to lots of people.
When I’m asked some variant of the question “What’s one thing that can improve in the youth ministry?” it’s guaranteed that someone (and typically many someones) will exclaim, “Better communication!”
Churches—and youth pastors in particular—have a bad rap when it comes to communication. One unique observation is that typically the longer the tenure of the youth director, the worse the reputation for communication— people just learned to deal with it.
Rather than a rant against the student pastor (or his/her administrative teammates), here are my quick suggestions to improve communication:
- Anchor everything in the Web!
Make sure your church and/or youth website is the foundation. When in doubt, people know they can go to the web to find the most up-to-date information. The key: you have to commit to making sure this is the first place that you (the youth leader) put the information.
- Twice-a-Year “Year-at-a-Glance Gatherings.”
As the school year kicks off, and as the new year kicks off, host an hour-long parent and student gathering where you speak about the curriculum, events, and direction. Always give a print piece that highlights everything on the calendar for a year from that date.
- Have at Least Seven Consistent Ways to Communicate.
Yes, this may seem like a lot, but if you set aside 30 minutes of your week for this, you can get it all done at once. But because people all have preferred ways to receive information, you taking the time to offer it in a variety of ways will ensure that they have every opportunity to get it. Here are the options:
- Email—Still great for many parents.
- Social Media—Schedule your tweets/status updates for the week.
- Announcements—Big church and youth group verbal announcements.
- Texts and Group Texts—Both to parents and students.
- Slides—Background slides on screens before/after services.
- Bulletin—New people in your church still read these.
- Flyers—Take-home print piece that goes on the fridge.
- Trickle Down—Share with small group leaders who share with their groups.
- Newsletter—PDF or print (or both).
- Phone Calls— Sometimes it pays to pick up the phone.
In all the various forms of communication, I would emphasize that “all this information can be found at our website.” That way you create the habit for people to check the web first!
What are your suggestions for better communication?
BRIAN AABY is the director of YS SEARCH & COACHING, assisting churches with personnel placement and provides coaching guidance for youth leaders. Brian served for 17 years as a youth pastor and then founded and led Youthmark since 2008. Brian speaks nationally at churches, camps, conference, and events. He and his wife, Elisabeth, have three children and reside near Seattle.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.