You toil over your newsletter articles. You prepare diligently for meetings. Yet despite all your efforts, you are sometimes met with the following:
- Blank stares.
- “No one told me about this,” said with indignation.
- “Who was involved in this decision? No one asked me for my opinion,” said with hostility.
- Silence and disengagement.
You and I are bombarded with emails, voice messages, and social media contacts every day. So are the people we minister alongside. This means we should be even clearer and more concise in our communications than we think necessary. One of the areas we can eliminate ambiguity is in announcements and discussion. Which are we doing, providing information about something that has already been decided or inviting others to be part of the decision-making? What does that delineation mean for what details we share and how?
In You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World, Paul Hellman helps readers think through these considerations in terms of risk and control. Announcements are low-risk and high-control for the leader. Discussion is high-risk and low-control. Within those two extremes there are combinations of these two approaches. Here is an example, from announcement to discussion:
- Our church will be starting a community clothes closet.
- Our church will be starting a community clothes closet because there is a need in our neighborhood for free, quality clothing for children and adults so that they can use their limited funds for other essentials and go to school and work feeling confident in their appearance.
- Our church will be starting a community clothes closet. How might we go about setting this up, staffing it, and advertising it?
- Interest in and need for a community clothes closet has bubbled up. What are your thoughts about this potential ministry opportunity?
- What need/potential ministry opportunity has been on your hearts and minds?
In ministry we are likely to tend more toward the discussion end of the spectrum. (Stereotypically, clergywomen lean this way more than clergymen do.) Every point along the range is needed at times. The trick is to know when to use which approach and to be clear about what input you are (and aren’t) asking for. Here are some questions to ask yourself when identifying your path forward:
- How would Jesus come at this kind of message?
- How acute is the situation?
- How much ownership from others is needed?
- Whose expertise do you need to have all the relevant data?
- How attached to the outcome are you?
- How is God nudging you and others?
Asking yourself all of these questions can help you firm up your approach to an issue, know how to show up for the announcement/discussion, and clarify what you’re saying and asking for. The result will be increased trust and more forward motion.