The Communication Illusion
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
One of my favorite episodes of The Office is when Ryan convinces his colleagues to invest in a social media platform called “Woof”. The goal was to link up all different forms of communication and send them all at once. What transpired was every time a “woof” was sent you received all notifications at one time being overwhelmed by the flood of information.
Many times in ministry I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that I’ve communicated, but really all I’ve done is overwhelmed my families with information. We are all aware of multiple communication tools from Constant Contact, email, parent meetings, social media, leader lunches, youth group apps, websites, texting services, etc. These are all valuable tools and when used correctly, can be effective. However, if relied on entirely, they can be detrimental.
How do I make sure I communicate effectively? Communicating to a group is not much different than communicating in one on one situations. Some basic skills that we use in our interpersonal relationships can also be applied to a group setting. We sometimes forget that because we aren’t necessarily talking face to face.
Know your message. If you’re not confident in what you’re telling the group, people won’t listen. Make sure you have thought through your message. If it’s for a trip, make sure you know the details. If it’s a lesson for a class, make sure you’ve worked out the support for your main point. If your message is vague, no matter what tool is used to communicate, it won’t be heard because there’s no substance. It won’t stick.
Be Receptive. No one wants to be part of a conversation where one person is dominating. The same is true in group communication. We as leaders need to be listening to our students and families. Be available for questions and discussions. Be known for being a good listener.
Be a good nonverbal communicator. We are all aware that non verbal communication is a major contributor to someone actually hearing what you’re saying. This is also true in group communication. People must see us as leaders actually serving and living out the message as opposed to just speaking it. They must see us in their schools and active in their families. The social media platforms we use must convey this as well. If all we are using social media for is to convey announcements, the message is not being heard. Instead it’s being viewed as just another commercial that pops up on our feed. We are nonverbally saying we only want you to know about stuff we have coming up next. A good rule of thumb I try to promote in our student ministry is 70/30. If we post 10 pictures on Instagram, we want 7 of those pictures to show our students or some form of encouragement. The other 3 pictures would contain student ministry info. Nonverbal communication as leaders is so important. We are striving to do what Paul said to the church in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
We must ultimately remember Colossians 3:23-24. We are working for the Lord and not men. We are serving Christ above everything. So whatever activities, lessons, trips, camps, etc. we are doing, Christ must be at the center. This should give us confidence. God is going to do big things through all of our ministries no matter how we communicate – as long as we are humble. Remember, we are serving Him and not ourselves.
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.