As your church grow so must you grow as a communicator or might I say as you grow as a communicator so grows your church. This is in no way to say that improving your communication is a sure way to grow your church. There are many different aspects to growing a healthy missional church. At the same time improving your communication is one of the keys. The good news is communication is both a gift and a skill. You can improve your skill as a communicator. Here are some of our best practices when it comes to communications.
1. Listen to great communicators. If you are tasked with the role of communicator in your church you should have 3 or 4 guys you are listening to all the time. In choosing these guys pick a variety of communicators for different reason. Load up your ipod and keep the podcast coming if you want to improve your communication. At the same time at the end of the day be yourself.
2. Take regular breaks. Some communicators feel compelled to preach 50 weeks out of the year. While some may be able to do this we have found that taking regular breaks is one of the best ways of staying fresh and relevant. At MLC our lead pastor and communicator, Shawn Lovejoy has preached as little as 60% of the time in a given year. We recently moved into a new building and with hundreds of new people coming to our church every weekend he has step the teaching percentage up to around 80%. In addition to this he takes four weeks late spring and the beginning of summer where he is out of the office working on it and vacationing. Incorporating this kind of regiment into our church calendar has gone a long way toward improving an sharpening his communication skills.
3. Invest time in preparation. We do a lot to protect whoever is carrying the ball for the weekend. Most weeks our weekend communicator will spend 3 to 5 hours every morning preparing for the message. This includes his day off. Obviously for some taking a complete day to get away from it can be beneficial, but over all our communicator will spend 18 to 25 hours preparing for one message every week. You can’t be lazy about communicating and be a good communicator.
4. Prepare with a team. Each week we begin the teaching process with a team. Currently there are three primary guys who input the communication prep. Other teams approach it differently. Few great communicators go it alone.
5. Incorporate other discipline into the teaching. Communicators have to be discipline. Not simply disciplined about their study habits, that should go unsaid. They also have to be discipline about their lifestyle. We have had as many as five weekend services where the same communicated had to communicate on a single weekend. In the age of multiple services good energy and health is a must. Guarding your week and weekend when it comes to diet and rest goes a long way. If you cram your Saturdays full of stuff and fail to get good rest expect your Sunday morning to come across as crammed and cramped.
6. Get feedback from key people around you. One of my regular Sunday responsibilities is to evaluate the first message. I meet the communicator after the first service and give him feedback. This means I sit in the message and make notes. Some of the things I’m looking for include: Was the big idea clear? Was the message communicated with passion and authority? Was it free of Christianese? Was the message relevant? Did the application move people to a specific response? Was the message sound as it relates to theology?
We only have a few minutes between services so we are hover at about 10,000 feet in this evaluation time, but make quick fixes that improve the overall communication. On Monday we meet with our Creative Team, Teaching Team, and Strategic Team to evaluate further. At the same time we are not near as hard on the communicator as we use to be. We generally try to answer two questions when as it relates to our overall worship service and teaching: What was helpful? What needs to be improved?
7. Preach from the overflow. Spending time with God, preaching from your own passion and experience, and memorizing your message goes a long way toward allow you to preach from the overflow. This usually mean you need to have your message written two to three days before you deliver it. This is easier said then done. Go over your message 5 or 6 time out loud before you deliver it.
This is my take on improving your communication, it would be interesting to hear from what others are doing to improve their communication.