There was a moment of silence.
Not the type of silence that deafens a room during a memorial service. Nor the type of silence preceding a lame scare tactic in a movie.
But the type of deafening silence that fills the room when you’re waiting for feedback from your manager.
“He hates it. He’s going to hate me. I’ll need to look for another job”
These exaggerated thoughts didn’t necessarily run through my head. But they do capture an element of what I was thinking.
Honestly, I don’t recall the specific task I was working on. But the feedback I received stuck to me like a Velcro ball to a Velcro mitt. And it went something like this: “Tell people exactly what you’re talking about.”
Fighting Two Devils
Clear communication is a difficult task—especially within the church.
Christian communicators wrestle with the temptation to use Christian clichés, $20 theological words, and pithy Christian platitudes, while fighting the pressure to be hip, cool, and relevant. It’s like trying to think straight when you have a devil on both of your shoulders telling you what to do.
Crafting clear messages is one of the most important tasks of the church. Connecting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible to the Average Joe sitting in the pew is of eternal importance.
Here are five practices to help you cut through the clutter and craft clear, concise, and compelling messages for your audience.
1. Define Your Audience
Focus your communication on your audience.
Defining your audience will help you best connect with them by communicating in such a way that is helpful to them—not yourself.
Let the second greatest commandment guide your communication (Matt. 22:36-40). Serve your audience. Answer their questions. Meet their needs. And communicate with them in such a way that they can easily understand what you’re saying.
Now, unless your church has a regional, national, or international reach, your audience is your community. And you must have the people of your church in mind when communicating your message.
Ask the following questions to help you best understand the people in your congregation and community:
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What is their gender?
- How old are they?
- What is their profession? Are they currently employed?
- What is their level of education?
These are just some preliminary questions to ask. So use them as a launching pad to defining your audience.
2. Keep it Simple
Strive for simplicity in your messaging.
Focus on one big idea and make the assumption that your audience doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. This will help you avoid using jargon, insider language, and theologically loaded terms that need an advance Bible degree to define.
For instance, don’t haphazardly use the word sanctification on someone and not explain it. First, they probably don’t now what you’re taking about. And second, they may have a different understanding of the word than what you do.
Here are some helpful points from Demian Farnworth in communicating clearly with your audience:
- Banish jargon
- Explain abbreviations (and use them sparingly)
- Explain technical terms (copious use of for example, as in, and such as)
- Commit to the concrete (tangible objects people can imagine through the five senses)
- Read what you wrote out loud
- Listen to someone else read what you wrote
These excellent pointers will help you fight the temptation of communicating garbled messages.
Place yourself in your audience’s shoes. Walk in them. Feel them. Experience them. Learn to think like them. And talk like them.
3. Stay Brief
People consume content much like animals forage for food. They are hungry and in search for something to eat.
This means most people will not read what you write word-for-word. They will not listen to your entire announcement. And they will not watch your entire video.
They have limited time and short attention spans.
Tell them what you want to tell them. And quickly, too.
Which leads me to my next point.
4. Front Load Your Message
Tell people what they need to know up front.
Avoid burying your one big idea in the depths of a story, supporting information, or God forbid, a terrible joke. Preceding the one thing you need people to know with something else will lead your audience to tune you out and miss what you want them to read, see, or hear.
Let your audience know your one big idea up front.
Then you can provide whatever details you think they need to know.
5. Be Informed
Christian communicators need to be informed to inform.
Communication directors, leads, or volunteers should be held to a high standard of biblical literacy. Their education should not only include staying up with the latest trends and technological gadgets, but a regular dose of the Bible, Christian literature, and biblical studies.
This will not only help Christian communicators to live a life that aims to glorify and enjoy God. It will also help them to better communicate to your audience what God has communicated to us through the Bible.
Christian communicators will be better equipped to clearly communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and avoid cliché and tribe verbiage.
In the words of Tim Schrader, “Do all you can to make sure your church isn’t speaking in tongues so that people can hear the message of the gospel clearly and ultimately connect with Christ.”