Setting Your Church’s Communication Priorities for 2019

January 15, 2019 Stacy Yates


Happy new year!

For many, on a personal level, a new year means quitting a bad a habit, starting a good habit, making new goals, being more intentional about everyday tasks, and getting priorities straight. What about on a large-scale level for your church—specifically for priorities and communication?

When thinking about communication habits, goals, and priorities, many times we decide to change little things before thinking through the big picture. For example: We really need to change the format of our bulletin, or we are going to have a new process for submitting announcements, or if we launch a new tool to communicate info everyone will FINALLY listen. These are wonderful goals and a great way to start 2019 on the right foot.

But I do want you and your team to stop and ask: What are OUR church’s big priorities for 2019? What needs to be accomplished in the next year or even in the next six months to achieve these priorities?

The answers to these questions should be what guides communication for 2019.

Deciding on Priorities

There are SO many great ideas among church staff! That’s what makes a great team—fresh ideas, vision, and the ability to share the ideas. But especially at a church, there are many voices and factors that have the potential to totally derail the communication strategy for top priorities. Like congregants who have a passion for something and feel it should be number one on the list, or a grand idea that came to you in the middle of the night.

These ideas can be acknowledged, but if top priorities aren’t finalized, these little pop-up ideas are bound to throw your 2019 goals onto the back burner. By identifying top priorities, it is a little easier for a leader to say no or “not right now” about certain things (even if they have to tell themselves).

Peter Frank wrote two very good posts last summer about giving your communications focus and setting goals. If you haven’t already read these and downloaded the workable PDFs, I encourage you to do so.

If you have read them and the PDFs are at the bottom of the pile on your desk, dig them out (or reprint them) and work through them, maybe even with your team.

If you list only one main priority, at least you have one written down for you and your team to stay focused on! Remember, after thinking through the big goal, it is okay to settle on a smaller goal for the year. Starting small and focusing on little details is what lays the foundation for success of bigger goals as your church evolves.

Communicating Your Church’s Priorities to the Congregation

Okay! You got it! You have your 2019 priorities. Now what? How are you going to communicate these priorities and get your congregation excited about them?

First: Get your team onboard with the priorities.

Do you really have a cheering section? Have you talked through the priorities with your team and leadership, and is everyone onboard? It is VERY important when making plans and setting priorities that the team is onboard. Whether the team consists of you and the secretary, or a larger staff, or you and the leadership committee, having a cheering section is the key to taking these priorities to the finish line.

Also, this is where the grassroots initiatives start. The people in these initiatives are the ones who are going to communicate the message without you even asking. They are the ones who are going to have that same passion because they helped identify these priorities. Most importantly, these people are going to hold your team accountable for fulfilling the goals you set.

Second: Develop a common message the entire team knows.

While you may have a large group behind the plan, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot before even taking the first step if the common message hasn’t been established.

As a leader or staff member of the church, have you ever been asked something by a congregant that you have absolutely NO clue about? It’s like you’re a deer in headlights! This situation makes you feel like an unreliable resource and that the leadership team doesn’t have it together, which more than likely is not the case. There has just been a lack of communication, either from busyness or because something was simply forgotten.

For top priorities to take hold, it is important to communicate with your cheering section. Your team doesn’t have to know every in and out of the plan, but they do need to know the basics that apply. The who, what, when, where, and most importantly the why—why this is a priority for YOUR church right now. As the communicator, you may not have been the one who set these priorities, but hopefully you were in on the planning, and then leadership looked to you to help articulate the answers to questions about creating the common message.

Having your cheering section be consistent with the same common message will help the congregation know what they are being asked to do or support.

Third: Execute the communication tactics.

While all these steps play a key role in communicating your church’s priorities, this third one is the nitty-gritty. How are you actually going to get the information out and get people to hear it, take it in, and take action?

Hopefully you have a grasp on your key framework or go-to tools for communicating to your congregation. When communicating your priorities, you can’t abandon those tools. You have to enhance them and add more where needed. Give them an energy boost!

In my post “Choosing Communication Channels Based on Your Audience,” I talk about several channels you can use to communicate. Since your message is a priority for the year (or however long), you must do something different to help this message stand apart from the regular information, like the monthly voters meeting and weekly announcements. I encourage you to lean on your team. Do some brainstorming. Do some googling. Maybe this priority is something so big you want to start an annual event to get the message out, or maybe it is a priority that is going to cause a big change for your congregation. Whatever the message is, it has to be treated differently and look like a priority for your congregation to fully hang onto it and support it.

Since each church is different, I can’t give you an exact formula for how to get your message out. But don’t be scared to take a little risk. Remember that your team is cheering you on!

Fourth: Sustain the priority through the year (or until you’ve achieved your goal).

Many times, our goals (personal or professional) fizzle out by the end of the year. Research has reported that at least 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by February 1. So how can you make sure that doesn’t happen to you? How can you make sure your church’s 2019 priorities don’t fall to the wayside and fizzle out before you even make the first graphic in Canva?

Make sure in your planning and choosing of these priorities that there is a roadmap. Your roadmap may be a gravel road that looks a little foggy at first, but at least you know where you’re going. Make sure the roadmap includes checkpoints. Since this plan is a priority, the checkpoints should be a priority. Many times, meetings are set, but then things get busy and the meetings get rescheduled (or not rescheduled at all). Next thing you know, the team isn’t checking in with each other and no one knows what’s going on. Then it’s August and no one can even remember the priorities that were set back in January.

By writing down your priorities, having a team to hold each other accountable, and making a roadmap with checkpoints, it is easier to focus and make sure goals are achieved.

Go Forth and Communicate!

As I’m sure you already know, just because you’ve set priorities doesn’t mean all other things stop. It just means the staff and leadership are going to devote more time and resources to the prioritized things. If the communication is executed properly with a roadmap and the message is shared by a team with a united front, the congregation should understand these priorities in a way that ignites their passion to stand behind the priorities too.

In order for your church’s priorities to take root and grow, it is important to examine what your church’s needs are and find what fits YOUR church and the people who fill the pews.

I encourage you to meet with your team to talk through some ideas and set your priorities for 2019! Make a roadmap, hold each other accountable, focus, and go share your priorities with your congregation. It may seem daunting, but you can do it! Go team!

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