Arment Dietrich

Internal Communications, Sunday Style

By: Arment Dietrich | October 29, 2014 | 
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Internal Communications, Sunday Styleby Clay Morgan

Time for a little church.

I know.

It’s not Sunday.

It’s not Easter.

And it isn’t Christmas.

Yet.

So why?

Because churches have one of the most complex internal communications challenges of any organization.

At the church I attend—admittedly a large church—internal communications must flow through many different people including:

  • Pastoral staff.
  • Support staff.
  • Volunteers.
  • Class teachers of well more than 30 classes.
  • Mission and ministry leaders who are not necessarily on pastoral staff, but lead church-supported activities locally and around the world.
  • Activity leaders (choir, praise band, hospitality, security, etc.).
  • More than 100 deacons and lay staff.
  • Thousands of members ranging in age from birth through their 90s, with varying levels of activity and engagement.

Deeper Internal Communications Challenges

It isn’t just that there are a lot of people to keep happy.

Most organizations have myriad stakeholders, with very different interests.

Hunter Mobley, executive pastor at Christ Church Nashville, told me:

There is not just one message to tell. There are 100 messages to tell. Each area of ministry in the church has different stakeholders and with limited Sunday morning platform time and bulletin space to give to announcements, someone’s favorite event gets left out each week.

That could be any large multi-tiered organization, could it not?

Then there is the broader internal communications culture.

Hunter admits churches are new to…

recognizing the need for church communications personnel and strategies, so [we are] educating and empowering dedicated staff and lay leaders to put time and resources into intentional communications personnel and policies.

In business, we think deeply about public relations, social media, and how we communicate with our customers and prospects.

Do we spend the same amount of time thinking about how we communicate with our teams? With our members, if we are a non-profit organization?

At Arment Dietrich we pride ourselves on being communications professionals, but even we sometimes get so wrapped up in the day-to-day of how we communicate with clients, prospects, and the readers of Spin Sucks, we forget to dissect whether our own internal communications efforts could use a boost.

Addressing the Internal Communications Challenges

Our church is addressing internal communications needs in a variety of ways.

There is still the traditional church bulletin, given out to all attendees each week, and a pastor usually takes time to make a couple of announcements that affect the church, as a whole.

There is also the power of the pulpit.

Every now and then, the senior pastor will, from the pulpit, announce something and place emphasis on the importance of it.

It is no different than a respected CEO standing in front of his or her employees and saying, “Pay attention to this. This is important.”

The organization has also taken major steps to use email communication effectively, and to substantially increase use of social media and the church website.

These are now integrated and provide a much more effective means of internal communications than we had even a year ago.

Hunter also ensures all lay leaders have a staff point person related to their ministry.

This means that the communication department is only communicating with church staff members and not the broader congregation of lay leaders in planning and scheduling communications content. If the communications department has non-staff generating direct demands on their work, it creates lots of inefficiencies.

This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve served in non-profit organizations where anyone on the board, or any other volunteer, could reach out to the communications department to ask for their assistance.

It’s chaos.

Elements for Internal Communications Success

An effective internal communications system that works best for an organization should have several elements:

  1. Diverse audiences might mean diverse communications tools—including some old-school approaches similar to the church bulletin.
  2. The bully pulpit is so-called for a reason. The CEO should weigh in regularly, but the clout should be reserved for matters affecting the entire company.
  3. Take time to talk to staff at all levels, including volunteers, and even vendors about how the internal communications are working and how they can be improved.
  4. Recognize that internal communications, like external communications, require resources—namely staff, strategies, and processes.
  5. Create a specific process for staff members at all levels to request help from the communications department.

Get Serious

Internal communications is a complex topic. It requires time and thought—and the more complex the organization, the more complex the internal communications strategies and processes are likely to be.

When Hunter was hired as executive pastor—essentially chief operating officer—I don’t mind saying the church’s internal communications, aside from the pulpit and the bulletin, were a bit of a haphazard mess.

There has been huge improvement in the last year, and I think I know why.

Hunter takes it seriously and gives internal communications significant attention.

It is not an, “Oh yeah, we need to do that,” thought.

He recognizes the church’s communications, both internally and externally, are integral to the growth of the organization as a whole.

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