In the words of the playwright George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Have you had this problem before? You have meetings and make presentations. You think that everyone is on board with the new project, so you make an announcement or start the work. At first, questioning emails populate your inbox. Then, you receive a few phone calls from people who think you are moving too fast and no one knows what’s going on. Clearly, everyone was not on board.

Communication and leadership are inseparable. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, communication skills are among two of the top six competencies for great leaders. Poor communication lowers motivation, increases frustration and stifles the church’s forward progress. Churches specialize in sharing a life-transforming message of good news. What we say and how we say it really matters. Sometimes we fail to communicate with enough people. Other times we don’t communicate with the right people. Both missteps can derail even the best intentions. How can you turn communication into one of your greatest leadership strengths?

  • Communicate more effectively – and more often. Whether we like it or not, every word said (or not said) and every symbol used (or not used) sends a message to stakeholders. If you’ve ever waited until you could gather more information before you called a meeting, leadership expert Amy Edmondson says that may not be the best option: the sooner you communicate, the better. It’s as important to communicate when you don’t know the answers as it is to share when you do.

  • Today, churches have access to a variety of communication tools. Be sure you know how to use the tool you’re using. Tweeting requires a different strategy than writing a one-page letter. These articles from Gartner and Slack describe communication tools that are common in workplaces and tips on using them. Use all the tools you have at your disposal, but discern which tools your community uses. We no longer have all the people in a room together. No longer can churches afford to wait until people come to us. We must find the people and communicate clearly with them wherever they are.


How to lead in a crisis

From Amy Edmondson

Before you go…

Is anyone reading your weekly church newsletter? If you’re communicating and no one is paying attention, try inspiring people instead of just informing them. Use your weekly communications to encourage readers and to minister to their spiritual needs – and always give the audience a call to action. What are you asking people to do? What do you hope to see happen as a result of the message? In other words, why should anyone care what you’re saying?

You’re probably working very hard these days. Make sure you’re communicating the right message in the right way so that the church can “equip the saints for the work of ministry…” (Ephesians 4:12). Be sure to check out this week’s resources on communication. You are always welcome to email comments and ideas to Peace and blessings!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity