by David Roadcup
A youth minister was golfing with a member of the congregation who owned an insurance company. As they golfed, the insurance agent asked if the youth minister had life insurance coverage being that he was married and had a child. The youth minister confessed that he did not. They continued to discuss the issue throughout the match. The topic came up between them several weeks later at dinner. They, again, discussed the issue. A week later, the insurance agent went to the youth minister’s office and presented him with a new life insurance policy. A serious problem arose as the youth minister, in his mind, had not requested a policy from this gentleman’s company. The insurance agent definitely thought they had agreed to initiate the $25,000 policy that he had suggested. A serious breach arose between the youth minister and the insurance agent, and it eventually included the elders who were brought into the situation.
What happened in this scenario? We have two good men whose friendship was hurt because of miscommunication. A lack of communication can be a major problem when it comes to leadership in the church. Leaders must understand that clear, continuous, effective communication is one of the keys to a staff and elder team working together. It is also critical to the leadership team in terms of staying connected to the congregation. It is actually the life’s blood of the process of accomplishing ministry as a leadership team.
What are important issues to remember when thinking about communication within the leadership team of a church? Here are just a few:
- COMMUNICATE PROACTIVELY. Good communication does not take place on its own. It takes effort and forethought to keep the lines of communication open. It should be a focus of our working relationship. It is the primary responsibility of the lead minister and the lead elder to make sure quality communication is taking place. Being constantly aware of our need to foster clear communication is vital to our work!
- COMMUNICATE CLEARLY. Precision is important when fostering communication. Communicating facts, dates, times, details, and other pertinent information accurately is essential. We make sure people have the right information. Never assume anything! Assuming will always create problems and misunderstandings, introducing stressful situations. Make every effort to communicate as clearly as possible.
- COMMUNICATE CONTINOUSLY. Quality communication must happen on a regular basis. Information concerning issues, events, planning, and people should happen frequently. Remember the principle that someone must hear something seven times before it’s committed to memory.
- COMMUNICATE WITH AN ATTITUDE OF GRACE AND PROPRIETY. When we communicate, we always have a tone of fraternity and partnership. Our communication, like our speech, should be “seasoned with salt.” A cardinal rule should be noted at this point; If there is ever a problem situation or difficult issue facing a leader, this should never be dealt with through email or any other e-type form of communication or by leaving a voice message on someone’s phone messaging system. (I had a superior at one ministry who would fire off offensive notes or emails instead of walking down the hall and discussing difficult situations.) Always handle difficult issues face to face and with grace.
- COMMUNICATE THROUGH VARIOUS MEDIA:
- Make phone calls.
- At formal meetings, verbally and visually (i.e., PowerPoint and/or handouts) cover important items efficiently.
- Send emails regularly. Great communication can be fostered by the lead minister sending out a brief email of “bullet-point items” biweekly or monthly to the elders, letting them know the highlights of staff activities, upcoming plans, matters on his mind and other pertinent information. This communication does not have to be long or greatly detailed. It is just another “touch” to keep the lines open among the leadership. It is simply another way to foster good communication among leaders. I served on a board of directors who hired a new president for the ministry which we served. The new president was a very good leader with great ideas, which he instituted. We ran into a problem when we, as board members, began hearing about major plans and programs being developed from outside sources away from the ministry. We asked our new president to construct a “bullet sheet” at the end of each month and email it to us. Problem solved! Questioning and misunderstandings were all put to rest through improved communication.
- Group texts also provide quick and clear touches between individuals or groups.
- Sometimes, conversation over coffee at a local coffee shop can clear the air and promote understanding and clarity.
The key to communication among leaders is to proactivity, deliberately, make it happen with clarity, in a spirit of grace, through multiple delivery systems. Remember, friends, a lack of communication can diminish our mutual understanding of each other – which will become the devil’s playground. Let’s defeat him by working together to share in the work of good communication for effective ministry.