« Another reason less is more | Main | How was your trip? »

Jan 31, 2006

Nobody's listening

I've sat in on a few events recently at my church that I wouldn't normally attend. More than once, I observed some communication (from staff and volunteer leaders) that doesn’t exactly reinforce our values at GCC. As a matter of fact, I sat in my chair and cringed. [Editor's apology: This sounds harsh. It's a real-life, real-time example of a communication miss. My intro has made people cringe. I'm guilty of carelessly compromising one of our core values; encouragement. The message here is that we can always do better. Including me. Read on, knowing this list is intended to show ways we can improve the effectiveness of our communication, in general, not to single out or scold teammates.] I realize this is a continuous education process and the more ways we can help equip our leaders, the better. So, here's a little something I'm working on for our teams, thought I'd share the draft with you.

10 Things You Should Know About People
         … if you want them to hear what you’re saying

1. People don’t care about the church database.

Talk about what makes life better for the guest, not about behind-the-scenes software or systems. When you say “Remember to check-in to F1” or “Sign-in to the database” it communicates it’s all about us and our processes, not about the guest. And, they could care less. Keep it simple and focused on the guest. Say “Remember to check-in to get your name tag”. Or, “door prize” or “food”…whatever makes the check-in about them. Don’t talk about the database or F1.

2. People aren’t motivated by your need. They’re motivated by theirs.

It’s about great things that are good for the guest, not about what you, or the church, needs. When guests hear “We really need small group leaders” or “We really need your help with this”, they hear desperation and selfishness. Again, this communicates our need, it’s all about us. We want to make it about the guest. Instead, say “Here’s a cool opportunity you’ll want to hear about” or “You might want to check out this one of a kind experience” or “Come find out the fun ways you can be part of the behind the scenes”. This makes it about the guest, not us, and it motivates them to act.

3. People don’t care about their next step until they know they’re valued where they are now.

Encourage next steps, but affirm what people are doing now. When someone hears “you need to step it up” or “it’s time to go deeper” it communicates that they aren’t ok where they’re at and they’re not as good as they should be. Of course, that’s not your intent, but it is the filter many of our guests receive it through. Instead, we can encourage people to “take their next steps”. “This might be your next step” or “what is your next step” or “here are some next step opportunities for you to consider”. But remember, everyone’s next step looks very different. One person’s next step might be to invest more serving time or to volunteer at a higher impact capacity, but for another it may be to finish out the evening without leaving early. And, each of these next steps is equally important.

4. People don’t know who you are, no matter how long you’ve been around the church.

Introduce yourself, every time. If by chance there is just one person in the group that doesn’t know you and you just get up and start talking, it communicates two things. One, it communicates exclusivity (everyone’s already in the club except for you) and two, it communicates that you are “all that” in assuming that people automatically know who you are. So, take the time to introduce yourself and why you’re the one standing in front of the group (if necessary).

5. People multi-task and can’t remember squat.

Visually support your verbal announcement to make it attention-getting and memorable. It’s human nature to tune out the talking head in the front of the room as you look through your purse, write notes to your friend or mentally run through your to-do list for the week. And, if you’re lucky enough that people are listening to you when you’re talking, there is no guarantee they will remember what you said when they walk out of the room and back into their life. Whenever possible, visually support your verbal announcement to grab and hold attention, clarify information and raise the interest level of your audience. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate; you can reinforce your verbal announcement with a printed program, PowerPoint slide, table tent, postcard, basic signage, etc. But, remember, don’t read directly from your visual aids. They exist as a separate component that reinforces your announcement.

6. People are turned off by lack of preparation.

Prepare to cast vision for the opportunity by rehearsing it so your audience “catches it” within 90 seconds. If it’s important enough to announce, then it’s important enough to prepare for. Your vision-casting should answer these questions. What’s so special about this opportunity? Why should I spend my time on it? How is it going to make me and my life better? In no more than 90 seconds.

7. People relate when you talk about them or people like them.

Tailor your announcement to your audience. Whenever possible, taking the extra minute to customize a broad message to a specific audience make a bigger impact. Even if the message doesn’t change, but you find a way to highlight a unique component for your specific audience, it makes all the difference. For example, if you’re talking about the food drop to a group of Moms, tell them about the opportunity to include their entire family. Help them see how they can specifically use the information you’re sharing.

8. People feel left out and frustrated when you use insider’s language.

Avoid the use of acronyms or insiders language. Don’t assume everyone is in the know, most people aren’t. For example, instead of talking about MC3, talk about GCC’s food pantry. Instead of talking about Oasis, talk about our gathering for middle-schoolers. Once people are on the inside, feel free to use the insider’s language. But, it’s never cool to use it in announcements for large groups, connection events, first-serve opportunities, etc. When you do, you can bet that you’re alienating guests. [The specific ministry examples used here are for illustrative purposes only.]

9. People aren’t impressed with your theological vocabulary and holy dialect.

Use normal, everyday language. When we use phrases traditionally associated with Christianity, guests either don’t get it or will run from us so they don’t “catch it”. These phrases are weird and scary to guests (actually, to the majority of people): “demonic spirit”, “binding the hands of Satan”, “forces of evil” and the overuse of an entire list of “blessed” phrases. Keep it simple, keep it real and avoid over-spiritualizing your conversation.

10. People love stories not lectures.

Use stories and illustrations whenever possible. Don’t just read the information. Make it yours. Bring in the human interest. You’ll draw people in, spark interest and engage that personal connection. Then it’s no longer a boring announcement, but a conversation they don’t want to miss.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Nobody's listening:

» A Peek Inside from Volunteer Life
Ok, so have you heard that I'm working on a secret project? (Actually, there's more than one he-he.) Now don't get too excited, I'm not going to reveal any super juicy details, but since my good friend Kem Meyer has [Read More]

» 10 Things You Should Know About People from Church Marketing Sucks
Kem Meyer, a sometimes guest blogger here and communications director at Granger Community Church in South Bend, Ind., recently shared a list of lessons she'd learned about how to better communicate. In the process she learned a lesson herself in how n... [Read More]

» 10 Things You Should Know from Chasing the Wind
This is great entry by Kim Meyer : 10 Things You Should Know About People … if you want them to hear what you’re saying. [Via]... [Read More]

» 10 Things You Should Know About People... from rob KELLY
if you want them to hear what you're saying. This is the title of a great post by Kem Meyer. According to Kem, here are the 10: 1. People don’t care about the church database. Talk about what makes life [Read More]


Excellent reminders! They all seem to point to one truth: just as God communicated/gave to us in ways we could understand, so we should do the same. Communication can so easily build barriers - thanks for reminding us how to tear them down.

Good information Kem. Seeing things from a newcomers few you have hit the nail on the head! Then seeing things from the side of being new in leadership this is a big help in knowing just how to phrase things to get people to want to be more involved. Thanks again!

You don’t need to apologize for stating the truth. No matter what setting it maybe, it these things actually happen. We put up this wall to others that this doesn’t happen in the workplace of the church, but it does. Its okay . . . by the way . . . it was also great that you mentioned the core value of encouragement not discouragement. You did a wonderful communicating it well!

Good stuff Kem! Thanks

Post a comment