There was a moment of silence.
Not the type of silence that deafens a room during a memorial service. Nor the kind of silence preceding a lame scare tactic in a movie. But the type of deafening silence that fills the room when you’re waiting for feedback from your manager.
He hates it.
He’s going to hate me.
I’ll need to look for another job.
These exaggerated thoughts didn’t necessarily run through my head. But they do capture an element of what I was thinking.
Honestly, I don’t recall the specific task I was working on. But the feedback I received stuck to me like a Velcro ball to a Velcro mitt. And it went something like this: “Tell people exactly what you’re talking about.”
Fighting two devils
Clear communication is a difficult task, especially within the church.
Christian communicators wrestle with the temptation to use Christian clichés, $20 theological words, and pithy Christian platitudes while fighting the pressure to be hip, fresh, and relevant. It’s like trying to think straight when you have a devil on both of your shoulders telling you what to do.
Crafting clear messages is one of the most critical tasks of the church. Connecting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible to the Average Joe sitting in the pew is of eternal importance.
Here are five practices to help you craft clear, concise, and compelling messages for your communications.
1. Define your audience
Focus your communication on your audience.
Defining your audience will help you to best connect with them by communicating in such a way that is helpful for them. To do this, you must let the second greatest commandment guide your communication (Matt. 22:36-40). Serve your audience. Answer their questions. Meet their needs. And communicate with them in such a way that they can easily understand what you’re saying.
Unless your church has a regional, national, or international reach, your audience is your community. And you must have the people of your church in mind when sharing any message.
Here are some questions you can ask to help you best understand the people in your congregation and community:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What is their gender?
- How old are they?
- What is their profession? Are they currently employed?
- What is their level of education?
These are just some preliminary questions to ask. So use them as a launching pad for defining your audience.
2. Keep it simple
Strive for simplicity in your messaging.
Focus on one big idea and assume that your audience doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. Banish jargon, insider language, and theologically loaded terms that need an advance Bible degree to define.
For instance, don’t haphazardly use the word sanctification without explaining it. First, most people probably don’t know what you’re talking about. And second, many people may have a different understanding of what the word means than what you do.
After you're done preparing any message, place yourself in your audience’s shoes. Walk in them. Feel them. Learn to think and talk like them. Read what you wrote out loud to see if it makes any sense.
3. Stay brief
People consume content much like animals forage for food. They are hungry and in search of something to eat, which means people will not read what you write word-for-word. They will not listen to your entire announcement. And they will not watch your whole video.
They have limited time and short attention spans. So quickly tell them what you want to tell them, which leads us to the next point.
4. Front load your message
Tell people what they need to know up front.
Avoid burying your one big idea in the depths of a story, supporting information, or God forbid, a terrible joke. Preceding the one thing you need people to know with something else will lead your audience to tune you out and miss what you want them to read, see, or hear.
Let your audience know your one big idea up front. Then you can provide whatever details you think they need to know.
5. Be informed
Christian communicators need to be informed to inform.
Communication directors, leads, or volunteers need to possess some level of biblical literacy. Now, we're not suggesting that everyone who posts something for your church on social media needs to have a graduate degree. But we are proposing that whoever oversees your church's communication should consume a regular does of the Bible and Christian literature.
Better understanding the Bible will help marketers and communicators better share what God has shared with us through the Bible.
In the words of Tim Schrader, co-editor of Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication, “Do all you can to make sure your church isn’t speaking in tongues so that people can hear the message of the gospel clearly and ultimately connect with Christ.”