THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
Churches are communities of people, so good lines of communications are necessary in order to work most effectively together. Thriving organizations have excellent internal communication systems in place. These systems help leaders cast visions and set goals. They help organize the congregation to achieve these goals. Solid communications help members feel connected and involved with your church. An effective internal communications system creates a dialogue that is clear and healthy between your congregation and the church leaders.
You cannot begin to reach out and attract new people to your church community if you don't have a solid internal communications system. Otherwise, when new people come, they may not experience a warm welcome. Instead, they may feel left out of the loop, confused, and frustrated about how to fit in with your church. In short, good communications effectively integrate new people into your church community.
WHAT IS AN INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM?
Your internal communications system is composed of all the channels that you use to communicate with the members of your congregation. In the past, communication was simple. Church bulletins, pulpit announcements, and phone calls made sure that everyone knew what was going on.
Today, communication is more complex. People are busy, and they don't always read the bulletin or attend weekly planning meetings. If you want to keep your entire congregation in the loop, you are going to have to communicate across more channels. Email, social media, text messaging, and possibly mobile apps will all be important components of your internal communications system.
In other words, your internal communications system is going to have an external layer. The phrase used to describe this is 'church online.' This means that your online presence will replicate the experience of participating in your live congregation. It will be a fully interactive experience that your members and visitors can engage in beyond weekend services and live events. An effective, online, church experience is created from strategically using all the digital and mobile communication channels at your disposal.
WHERE IS THE FOCUS OF INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS?
Internal communications is a church-wide effort to dialogue with church staff and members of the congregation. It covers all the communications channels and includes the software and hardware that allows your church to engage in a dialogue with its loyal visitors and members while laying the foundation
to interact with the outside world.
WHO HAS RESPONSIBILITY FOR INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS?
For many churches, no one has ownership over the communication channels. Secretaries produce the bulletins, volunteers run the website and social media, and others manage the email. In order to bring all your communications together in a strategic way, someone has to take leadership.
It will be very helpful for your church to designate a Communication Director / Manager. Some churches may be able to hire someone to fill this position. Others may simply give these responsibilities to someone already on the pastoral team or a committed volunteer. This person will manage a team of people to execute an overall digital communications strategy.
After planning, the Communication Director / Manager works very closely with the pastoral team to ensure that the digital strategy synergizes with the overall pastoral plan for the year.
To be most effective, internal communications needs to work closely with external marketing (next chapter). As a result, the communication director (or communication manager) will be interfacing with both systems. It is recommended to select a lead person who is capable of seeing the overall picture and
how each aspect of the strategy plays its part.
The target audience for your internal communications is going to be both members and visitors. You will need to focus on these two groups and their needs. You will also want to prioritize the training of members to interact effectively with visitors.
HOW TO DESIGN AN INTERNAL COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
With so many potential communication channels out there, you might be wondering where to start. The best way is to survey your congregation. You want to find out what communications channels they have available to them. Setting up a Twitter account is not going to help you if the members of your congregation do not use Twitter. Once you have good data on the preferred communications channels of your congregation, you can begin to make decisions about how to design your own internal communications system.
Armed with this knowledge about your congregation, you can begin to look at the kinds of messages you want to communicate to your congregation and outline a content strategy. Then proceed with the following steps:
Before you tackle the steps above, be sure to define your brand and develop your overall communications
strategy. In reality, you are already communicating with your congregation in some way. Most congregations use pulpit announcements and bulletins. Many have websites with online sermons. Some churches may also use email and social media. So, this part of the digital strategy process involves taking stock of what you are already doing and aligning it with the vision and goals that you have developed. Once you do this, you can add new components to your internal communications system to help you to achieve your goals.
Posted with permission from the book reTHINK.Ministry.