Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
—Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789
Ben had it mostly right. He forgot “poor communication.”
As I begin the process of working with a church in their quest for a new student pastor I begin with a site-visit. 24 to 36 hours on the ground taking in the landscape, snapping some pictures and listening to lots of people.
When asked some variance of the question “what’s one thing that can improve in the youth ministry?” It is guaranteed that someone (and typically many someones) will exclaim “better communication!”
Churches, and Youth Pastors in particular, have a bad-rap when it comes to communication. One unique observation is that typically the longer a tenure of the Youth Director the worse the reputation for communication— people have just learned to deal with it.
So, instead of a rant against the Student Pastor (or his/her administrative teammates), here are my quick suggestions to improve communication.
1. Anchor everything in the Web! Make sure your church and/or youth website is the foundation. When in doubt people know they can go to the web to find the most up-to-date information. The key: YOU HAVE TO COMMIT to making sure this is the first place that you (youth leader) put the information.
2. Twice A Year “Year at a Glance Gatherings.” As the school year kicks off and as the New Year kicks off host an hour parent & student gathering where you speak into the curriculum, events and direction. Always give a print piece that highlights everything on the calendar for a year from that date.
3. Have at Least Seven Consistent Ways To Communicate: Yes, this may seem like a lot, but if you prioritize 30 minutes of your week, each week, you can get it all done at once. But because people all have preferred ways to receive information, you taking the time to offer it in a variety of ways will ensure that they have every opportunity to get it. Here are the options…
- Email — still great for many parents
- Social Media — schedule your tweets/status updates for the week
- Announcements — Big Church and youth group verbal announcements
- Texts and Group Texts — both to parents and students
- Slides — Background slides on screens before/after services
- Bulletin — new people in your church still read these
- Flyers — take home print piece that go on the fridge
- Trickle Down — share with small group leaders who share with his/her group
- Newsletter — PDF or Print (or both)
- Phone Calls — Sometimes it pays to pick up the phone
In all the various forms of communication, I would emphasize “all this information can be found at our website” so that you create the habit for people to check the web first!
What are your suggestions for better communication?