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10 obstacles to effective church communication

I've been brainstorming areas where mass communication at church (e.g. announcements at services) can fall over and be ineffective – usually resulting in people tuning out.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but I'm certainly learning a lot as I think these things through and experiment with different ideas. These are based on my observations – I'd be interested to hear yours.

Here's 10 obstacles to effective church communication:

  1. Where all messages are communicated as if they have the same importance and urgency (channels, frequency), people won’t know what to prioritise.
  2. If the same message is communicated the same way, too many times, people tune out (“I’ve heard this before”).
  3. If people can’t quickly see why the message is relevant to them, they will tune out.
  4. If the person communicating the message is boring, long-winded or doesn’t seem to know what they are talking about, people will tune out.
  5. If it's unclear what people should do as a result of the communication, they probably won't do anything.
  6. If different messages are communicated at different times, people will be confused and tune out.
  7. If people can’t respond straight away (e.g. during a church announcement), it’s unlikely they’ll remember to respond when they get home. That is, if it’s not easy to respond, they probably won’t.
  8. Blanket announcements and mass emails asking people to respond/serve/give usually have very little impact (as opposed to the personal conversation/email).
  9. If the communication is about an event that is months in advance, people will tune out (in my experience, most people don’t think or plan long term as they have enough going on in the short term!).
  10. If people think they’re the only one likely to respond, they probably won’t respond (which is why Facebook shows the people I know who like the KFC Facebook page it wants me to like, and why ‘anonymous’ altar calls usually result in ‘”I can see a hand, and another…!”).

Question: What other obstacles exist to effective church communication?

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Calum Henderson

    August 19, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Good thoughts Steve, very helpful to think about.

  2. Calum Henderson

    August 19, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Good thoughts Steve, very helpful to think about.

  3. Dana Cadman

    August 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Talking to the wrong audience. To draw a stereotype, young people don’t respond to announcement sin the church bulletin because it’s paper and older people don’t respond to Twitter updates because, well, they’re not on Twitter. You must match to tools to the audience, not your personal preference.

  4. joewoolworth

    August 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    what is announcement sin? I’m not sure but I think I’ve committed it.

  5. Dana Cadman

    August 24, 2011 at 3:20 am

    That’s funny. …”announcements in…” I think announcement sin is when there are more than three announcements before the sermon and more than one after.  8{)

  6. ChurchThemes

    August 29, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Wow, I think #7 just rang home with me.

    Too many times church announcements are about doing something “later” (at least at my church) like signing up in the foyer or going online or calling a ministry leader about serving.

    Thanks a lot for sharing these.

    //Frankie

  7. callemall

    June 19, 2012 at 5:52 am

    These are all so true, especially #1.

    Sometimes we find that church members/staff will send up to 10-15 automated calls in one day for prayer requests when they’d prefer to receive one every other day. 

    Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing! 

    -Elise

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