By Don Wambolt
In February 2020, none of us had a clear indication of what was about to happen. We heard grumblings of “coronavirus” and “pandemic.” Some would be wearing masks in a store, and we wondered whether they had the virus themselves or were trying to protect themselves from it. Within a couple of short months, our government leaders shifted our nation’s posture toward the mitigation efforts.
As I watched the daily Coronavirus Taskforce briefings, I noticed how they used straightforward, memorable messaging, visuals, and redundancy. The team repeated their message using simple terms over and over again. “Wash your hands,” “wear a mask,” and “socially distance” were all a part of the President’s “14 Days to Stop the Spread.” It proved itself to be effective in getting the word out to over 300 million people.
A lot has happened since then, and it’s like we lost any sense of stability. We find ourselves longing for normalcy and regularity, a missing characteristic of life. When it’s gone, we start to feel anxious or insecure.
Let’s look at five key areas that can help improve your church communications amidst these trying times.
- Clarify Your Position
The pandemic, along with mitigation efforts, has taken a toll on us all emotionally. People are looking for where you stand as a church, and, maybe, more importantly to them, they want to know if you share their point of view. It’s a volatile time.
As a church leader, strive to take the 10,000-foot view. When someone asks for your stance on a volatile subject, step back to discover what they truly need to hear or what response would be most helpful. Be careful not to try and win a constituency or gain approval. Strive for a Kingdom perspective.
Take the extra time to convey your thoughts about the hot topics of the moment to your staff. Communicate your church’s position frequently. Answer every question, even if the answer is, “We don’t know yet.” Ambiguity and vagueness breeds confusion.
It might be advantageous to designate a specific individual who would speak on your behalf when someone wants your church’s position on a controversial topic. This spokesperson is one who knows your church’s DNA and is entrusted to speak, not from their perspective, but that of the organization.
- Check Your Posture
Proverbs 18:20 says that the tongue has the power of life and death. James 3 illustrates well the power of our words. The things we say can either be polarizing and divisive or constructive and comforting.
People need comfort and consolation in these times of distress. Commit to adopting a posture of peace. What will offer your followers comfort? What will put their minds at ease? The church offers a message of hope and healing that politicians, the media, and social watchdogs can never provide.
“We are, therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV). People need the life, hope, and love of God, and the church is the only entity that can provide it.
- Know Your Message
Revisit the mission of your church and why you exist. Have conversations with your staff often about it. Weave it into the fabric of your Sunday sermons. This reaffirmation of goals and mission will keep you, your team, and your church family focused amid all the distractions of our time. It will provide stability.
Your mission and the Gospel message represent stability and hope to those who hear it. Remind yourselves again and again that we are all here for a higher purpose.
- Streamline Your Media Channels
With so much in flux, your congregants need to know where they can go for frequent and accurate updates. Consider revisiting how you communicate with your church, identifying four or five media channels — specific places they can look to for reliable information.
Additionally, make sure you have confidence that this collection of tools is the most effective in passing along the vital details your church community needs.
Key media channels would typically include your website, church app, weekly email, and social media. Utilize enough channels to reach the various segments of your audience.
During this season, don’t be afraid to simplify by discontinuing some outlets. Remember, stability is scarce. Better to have four reliable channels than nine you can’t count on. Update these channels often with the most up-to-date information to build dependability and reliance with your members.
- Look for Ways to Improve
When facing a crisis, things can get rather hectic and budgets tighten. It’s an excellent time to come together, looking for ways to improve how you operate. Ask yourselves what you should start, what you should stop, what you should do more, and what you should do less.
Consider centralizing and streamlining your communication workflow by creating one online master calendar where every leader can submit their activities’ details. Your communications coordinator can access these details quickly and remotely, scheduling content throughout your media channels.
Web-based tools are also available to help consolidate project management. With many working remotely, there are countless solutions to make your team’s jobs easier.
This pandemic has been a crisis virtually nobody has experienced in our lifetime. Still, we’ve all shifted our strategies and tactics to meet the moment. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and each other.
If you clarify your position, affirm your posture, know your message, streamline your media channels, and look for ways to improve, you will hit the mark in your communications.
Don Wambolt served as communications director at a 6,000-member church for over 25 years. In 2019, he started ChurchCom Solutions, a company designed to help churches communicate better by simplifying their messaging, clarifying their processes, and unifying their teams, www.churchcom.solutions.