The Dangers of Over-Communicating
Finding the balance
Most church leaders would agree that communication with parents is more of an art than a science. However, we often fail to realize that just because a little is good, does not mean a lot would be better. This is particularly true of communication.
Many would argue that too much communication is better than too little communicating. However, I would disagree. If our goal is to ensure parents are fully equipped to disciple their children and that they will want to utilize the services of the church, then over-communicating can be just as dangerous as under-communicating.
Consider the following consequences of tipping the scales toward too much communication.
- Too many voices make it hard to hear what is most critical. In many instances parents will want to make sure they don’t miss an opportunity for their child, but they are also interested in ministry opportunities for other areas. If they receive messages about the children’s department, the youth department, adult Bible studies, and any other churchwide communication, all the messages can end up competing for time and attention. This may cause the most important communication to be received as equal with less important information.
- Too much communication with inconsistency makes it unreliable. If the model of sending a message to families when it’s on your mind has been your practice you might end up flooding families with communication one week and then having a drought another week. Parents want to know they can count on the message being what they need when they need it. It’s important to create a rhythm of when you will deliver messages, and to discipline yourself to not send things just when they are on your mind. If the communication is really as important as you want them to believe, then make sure you take the time to treat it with importance.
- Too many appeals and too much repetition can cause people to disengage. Our goal as a church is to equip parents to disciple in the home. However, we also need their support when it comes to weekly ministry and special events. This requires communication of deadlines and details. However, when our strategy is not built with the busy parent and/or leader in mind, we can often flip the model from investing in their development to depending on their investment. When this is done only through group communication, it begins to indicate to the parent they are only important to their church when they perform what the church needs.
So what is the solution? Each church is different, but consider the following recommendations if you think your church may be over-communicating with parents on a regular basis.
- Consider a churchwide strategy. Discuss the most important messages that need to go out to the largest groups of people. The goal is to to get all the various ministry representatives to buy into a churchwide communication policy. Ensure that each ministry area gives their input and content to the policy. They are key stakeholders and may already have well-defined strategies that can be merged into a churchwide plan. For instance, if all parents of children living in the home are on one communication list, then you can promote all summer camp opportunities at the same time.
- Don’t forget the personal touch. The danger of text, Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail is that they depersonalize the relationship between the church and the parent. This is a dangerous place to be, because people are more likely to disengage or become distant when if they feel they are not important enough for a personal contact. This may seem like an impossible task at first, but in reality, personal conversations (over the phone or in person) are far more likely to maintain the relationship in the long-term. As a result, the team will become larger, and the sense of importance and satisfaction will rise among leaders and parents.
- Create a simple description of how you will use different forms of communication. An example is shown below.
- Personal conversation—when looking for a higher level of commitment.
- Personal e-mail—when asynchronous communication and dialogue is okay.
- Group e-mail—for details that must be updated regularly.
- Website—for details that remain static for a period of time.
- Text—for elements that need immediate response with low commitment.
- Meetings—when none of the other forms of communication will satisfy the need.