We’re working our way through Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.
Lencioni consults with businesses, nonprofits, and churches, and he frequently explains how the lessons apply especially to churches, because the work churches do is so much more important than the work done by anyone else.
Many executives ask if they can communicate the results of a meeting using e-mail or even voice mail. The answer is no. Although these tools are certainly more efficient than having to communicate live, they are drastically less effective. For one, employees don’t have a chance to ask questions for clarification. Moreover, when employees read an e-mail or listen to a voice mail, they can’t help but wonder how the message was edited, and they try to read between the lines to discern the underlying meaning. The best way to do cascading communication is face-to-face and live. Seeing a leader and hearing the tone of his or her voice is critical for employees, as is being able to ask a question or two. Having said that, the realities of virtual teams and geographically dispersed employees sometimes make face-to-face communication impossible.
In other words, if you want the church to hear the message, deliver it in person, preferably in a context where there can be questions and answers.
In a small congregation, where everyone can meet in a single classroom, this is no problem. The elders needs to stand up, present the vision, and take questions. The preacher can reinforce and emphasize through sermons, but it starts with the elders.
In a larger church, it can be harder. Perhaps the elders split up among the Bible classes. Or maybe they present to the church as a whole and then meet with the classes for follow up questions. Or maybe they take the time to visit all the small groups in their homes.
One obvious problem is that, depending on the numbers, it may not be possible to meet with everyone in a single week, meaning some members will have gotten to ask their questions before others. You just do the best you can with the numbers as they are.
And yet timeliness matters. People talk, and those who have to wait a month for the presentation will feel left out — and frustrated with second-hand information from their friends.
Another approach would be to meet with various ministry leaders and class teachers, and to then ask the leaders and teachers to help you spread the word. If you take this approach (which may be the only realistic approach in a large church), be sure to spend enough time with the leaders so that they are very well prepared to answer questions and explain the concept thoroughly.
One advantage of bringing in ministry leaders is that they will likely be more inclined to support the initiative if they are trusted with the task of helping to shape and to communicate it. They become defenders of the idea at the outset, and so the elders can begin with a substantial base of well-respected advocates.
Just as importantly, the ministry leaders will add a perspective that the elders and ministers won’t have. They’ll represent a wider range of opinions. They’ll likely be older and younger, richer and poorer, and more racially diverse than the ministers and elders. And so they can help shape the initiative in healthy ways before it’s brought to the church as a whole.
You see, especially in an ad-saturated world, person to person communication is rare and very appreciated. We’re so used to emails and text messages and video, that for someone to take the time to be in our immediate presence to take the time to listen and answer questions can be a remarkably powerful motivator.