The 2nd post of a series reflecting on things I’ve learned from leading both a smaller and larger church: some thoughts on communication.
Vision casting is vital but vision is multi-headed. Read books on church leadership and many stress the importance of a senior minister casting vision. Naturally people want to know what you think and where you think you're heading but the reality is more nuanced.
First, vision and direction come through listening to God together as a church. Leaders who act as if God dictates the vision to them by themselves are dangerous and deluded. As ministers we need to be listening for the voice of God through every member of the congregation, through others in positions of oversight in the church and prayerful gatherings to seek the mind of Christ. Effective leaders are those who articulate what has been worked through in conversation with others.
Second, leadership is not primarily about what we do this month or this year but is about what we are becoming. Slowly, through your preaching, teaching and oversight you are changing the culture of the church. Being able to describe the values and picture the culture three years hence is vital. The journey of faith isn’t what we are now but what we are becoming; transformed into the likeness of Christ.
Third, communication is about trust. When you stand on the platform and speak people want to be able to trust you. Trust that you are not going off the rails but speak from conviction. Trust that you know what you are talking about. Trust that you understand what you are doing. Different people manage this in different ways, but being able to share an analysis of the situation, an awareness of the issues involved and how the resources of faith, Scripture and church can help map the way forward all play a part. It is also about character and people knowing you to be someone of integrity, who is honest, open and spends time in prayer. In other words people need to know you are more than simplistic slogans, you have used your brain and what you say is linked to who you are before God.
Nevertheless I think there are four elements which make communication of vision and direction clear in church life.
1. Consistent course: most people don’t remember what you say, they certainly don’t remember what you think, so you need to spell it out regularly and keep the main thrust the same.
2. Considered and thought through: people want to know that what you are sharing is the result of a thought process not made up on the spot. It matters that you have engaged the questions and the issues before you speak.
3. Crafted and planned. The old adage of ‘keep it simple, stupid’ still holds true. But to keep it simple you need to have understood it deeply and put effort into honing the message. It is never good enough to say I can’t comprehend complexity so I’ve given up, you need to show how what you say is a concise, clear and careful summary.
4. Convincing and changing. Usually direction in church life isn’t about information it is about persuading people to go on a journey, inspiring them with the possibilities for transformation. Communicating with people is an art not a science.
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