Hey there Church Leader, how are you doing?
If you’re like many other leaders right now, you’re worn down from months of leading through change and digital pivoting during the global pandemic and a variety of other events in the anxious media storm that is 2020.
All organizations, including churches, have become media-distribution companies overnight, and you’re probably also being reminded, now more than ever, that communication is the number one responsibility of a leader. My encouragement to you as you carry this huge responsibility: keep communicating first on your digital platforms, but not only on your digital platforms.
Digital tools have been a saving grace in these months of working from home, communicating with remote teams, and maintaining relationships at a distance. Even just a decade ago, a global shutdown would have looked entirely different and it would have been much more challenging to get projects accomplished. We’re grateful for the likes of Zoom, iPhones, and Instagram. They’re keeping us connected and keeping us communicating with our teams, congregations, and loved ones.
Digital platforms are, and should continue to be, the places your team prioritizes for all communication. They’re efficient, low-cost, and high-speed. If you advertise in a newspaper, you will find that measuring its impact is challenging.
Connecting and advertising via Facebook allows you to get hour-by-hour data on views and engagements. If you find a spelling error on a printed memo, it’s too late. You have to pay to reprint. If you find an error on a webpage, it can be edited within minutes.
A list of To Do’s on a whiteboard is not as helpful to your team as when it’s in a digital tool for project management.
All of your most important content should be communicated via and easily accessible through digital platforms. This is not just necessary when working remotely but is the expected standard of most people in the Digital Age. I should be able to know the times of your online or on-site worship services, educational programs and outreach projects from your website or social media, without having to go and read a sign on the front door of your church. I expect to be able to register for an activity through a digital form that I can access from my phone, rather than having to print something out and use a pen. I do not have a printer. I cannot find my pen.
But not digital only
We need to prioritize all forms of digital communication, but that does not mean we should abandon other forms of communication. As a strategic complement to digital, other media become powerful, memorable tools to impact our fellow church leaders, congregations, and neighbourhoods.
Digital communication tends to lean on two of our senses, sight and sound, and because of that is a powerful tool for capturing our message. But I encourage you to think of ways to incorporate touch, taste, and smell as secondary tools in your communication toolbelt.
If you want to promote something new that is happening in your church, a printed card in the hands of your congregation and community neighbours can add validation and act as a reminder. The printed card should keep content to a minimum, pointing the person to digital platforms for all the details and the most up-to-date information. Giving someone something they have to touch before they throw away increases their engagement, compared to a notice they can scroll by.
When was the last time you wrote a thank-you note by hand to one of your lay leaders? Leaders can build this into their weekly routine, writing a few quick notes and mailing them each week. Everyone loves receiving cards in the mail, and the personal touch goes a long way compared to a text message or email thank you.
Use chalk to communicate messages on the sidewalk leading to your entrance. Ship an unexpected gift to your church’s neighbours or to new members. Invite your lay leaders to have a socially distanced picnic to gather for the first time in months. Send a paper invitation to reinforce a digital invitation to your upcoming event.
Consider tactile ways to engage your people, who are as worn down as you are from all the hours spent on digital platforms. In doing so, your digital communication will not only be reinforced, but you will rise above the noise to create memorable experiences for your congregation, surrounding neighbours, and your leaders.
Number one responsibility
Communication is your number one responsibility as a leader, so consider how every analog and digital tool available to you can help your message be heard, loud and clear.
Digital first, but not digital only.