“Communications: Clearly Making a Difference”
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® Vol.6
– Communication Skills
written by Johnnie C. Godwin with Lloyd Elder and Joyce M. Byrd
Everything has to have a beginning, or at least a place to continue. So it is with this series of articles. Because of his effective skill as a Christian communicator, we asked our long-time friend and co-worker, Johnnie C. Godwin,
to take the lead role in researching and writing a study volume on church communications. Early in designing this project, Johnnie told us about an experience in 1976 he had with the theologian, Dr. Elton Trueblood. Just before the renowned scholar stood to address a conference of Christian educators in Williamsburg, Virginia,
he leaned over and whispered to Johnnie: “I didn’t come to give a speech, but to make a difference!”
I thought, then and now: “That’s it! That’s what we want this SkillTrack® volume to do–to make a difference.”
So the title of Vol. 6 was named, Communication Skills: Clearly Making a Difference, and the project continued on its way.
Course Objective: The study objective emerged and is supported in four sections, each presented with instruction, evaluation, and application folded together–as life, leadership, and ministry proves to be.
Clearly making a difference by assisting church leaders,
- to understand communications in a Christian context;
- to evaluate and develop communication skills;
- to explore the channels of communication ranging from person-to-person to comprehensive church marketing;
- to apply the principles and practice of communication to Christian ministry.
1. Servant Leaders Library©
This series of articles prepared for the Servant Leaders Library are adapted primarily from SkillTrack® Vol. 6, Communication Skills: Clearly Making a Difference, and are addressed to those in any role or type of Christian ministry. Biblical material and the best of contemporary resources have been utilized in the research and writing. This article, as a front piece for those articles, sets out the four subcategories:
Communication Cause and Effect: focusing on message, messenger, and receiver, this article series relates the fundamental reason for church communication: to God’s message; to the church’s messages; to our role as messengers; and to ten personal communication factors. “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how.’” –Nietzsche
Ten Communication Commandments: This series of articles reports and applies ten skills and practices essential to every Christian communication process, task or goal. “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” –St. Francis of Assisi
Communication Considerations: These articles seek to present commendations and cautions (Do’s and Don’ts) of communication that sharpen the skill of getting your message across. “Put it before them briefly, so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all accurately so they will be guided by its light.”–Joseph Pulitzer
Communications As Marketing: Focusing on audiences within and beyond the church, these articles will explore and illustrate the principles and practices of marketing to the comprehensive task of sharing the messages of Christian ministry internally and externally. “The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” –Peter Drucker
2. A Christian Communications Model
Christian leaders urgently need to develop effective communication skills because of (1) their unique message, (2) their unique mandate, (3) the receivers’ universal needs, and (4) the deadline to make a difference in getting the message through to the receivers.
Typically, a communications model tries to show the pattern or process of communications visually through a symbol, pattern, or diagram. Secular textbooks identify elements in a communications model this way: (1) the sender as the source, (2) the message and its form, (3) the medium of transmission, and (4) the receiver of the message. And there’s nothing wrong with such a model for much of our communications. However, a Christian communications model has elements that precede and differ from the secular starting point. God is our Original Source with a divine message that He chooses to communicate through us as receivers-senders. The arrows indicate that the whole process continually interacts with the Original Source of the message. So a Christian communications model might look like this:
This Christian Communications Model shows (1) the unique Source, (2) the essential message, (3) the chosen receivers-senders, (4) the mandated message transmission, the world of intended receivers of God’s message, and a finite time frame for receiving the message. Other elements for such a model include the way the package (message) is worded, what’s in the package, medium of transportation, how the package is received and unwrapped, and then some method of feedback to let the sender know the message got through. There are many varied communication models with technical terms, but this Christian Communications Model shows its
uniqueness and essential elements necessarily added to the typical communications model.
Keeping a picture of our Christian communications model in mind is foundational to what this series of articles is all about. Refer to the model often. It is intended to be a reminder, a motivator, a modifier, and an energizer in developing and using Christian communication skills “clearly to make a difference!”
3. Glossary: Terms, Players, and Functions
How are we using terms in this model? The Christian communications model not only expresses basic elements of the communication process but also presents God as the unique Source impacting the whole task within a given time/experience framework:
- God’s Message of redeeming love to and through the body of Christ is the context and enabling force of all Christian communications.
- Our Mandate is to listen, hear, and faithfully receive what God is saying about Himself and His work in the world and through each church.
- As Receivers from God, we are to become effective and faithful Senders of messages about Him and His work.
- Formation of the message(s) requires prayer, Bible study, reflection, consultation, information–all with confidence and humility.
- Message(s), simple or complex, is based on God’s message, what you want to express to others in words, behavior, and deeds.
- Connection–How will you send the message? What channels or media would best be used to carry the message, even becoming part of the “message package”?
- Channels/Media must be congruent with the message and its intended purpose for the audience(s). This may vary from one message/one media to a comprehensive communications plan.
- Transmission of the message is its delivery through selected words, deeds, or systems–giving attention to the message, its timing, potential barriers, and opportunity for response.
- Receiver/Responder is an active, not passive, participant in the communication process–whether one person, one group, or many publics. The choice of receiving and responding belongs to the receiver who then becomes a “sender” in the cycle.
- Response/Action to the message may close the loop with believing, understanding, agreement, and positive action; or it may be questions, options, even disagreement and resistance.
4. Starting Where You Are You
You may feel you haven’t gotten to first base in your knowledge and practice of communication skills within the church context. If that’s your case, don’t be discouraged. Whatever your communication skill level may be, you will be able to find help in your study and grow in your communication skills.
And for those who are polished, professional speakers, trained in communication skills, it might be helpful to consider this reminder: “You don’t have to be sick to get better.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus . . . to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). In a similar way, even if you are practicing good communication skills, there is the opportunity to do even better. And the best speakers are humbled when a variation of Murphy’s Law goes into effect, namely: “If miscommunication can occur, it will.” Jennings’ corollary says, “Murphy was an optimist.”
Although we may vary in our levels of communication skills, we all start together with a need and an opportunity. We have not arrived. The nature of this series of articles will allow you to identify your own communication strengths and weaknesses. And it will let you choose how best to focus on improving your communication
clearly to make a difference in the lives of all those with whom you try to communicate.
So here’s what you can expect in this series of articles: (1) heighten and sharpen existing communication skills, (2) learn new skills, (3) practice and self-evaluate improvement in skills, (4) apply those skills to church ministry.
Response: This study exists to clearly make a difference in your communication skills. How would you begin?
- Review the concepts in our Christian Communications Model and seek to apply them to your communication planning.
- Review these concepts with others, perhaps with church leaders who help with the communications task.
- How would you state them differently, or what would you add?
- Would you revise the assumptions of the authors to fit your particular circumstance?
If so, how? and when?
5. Conclusion: Clearly Making a Difference
Assumptions about the Basics: The authors assume that you already know and practice some good communication skills. You know the basics of public speaking and communication. Whether you were trained as a professional speaker or received your communication knowledge at some other level, you likely know these basics:
- Have a clear, purposeful message that has a good beginning, middle, and end.
- Make sure the message is accurate, interesting, and meets the audience’s needs or wants.
- Establish eye contact and keep the focus as you speak.
- Use the right volume, tone, pacing, and speed when you speak.
- Pronounce your words well; don’t mumble.
- Be your best self in use of grammar and choosing “people-talk” words.
- Illustrate what you say for understanding and memory.
- Plan to clearly make a difference with your communication.
Difference in the Lives of Others: The Apostle Paul expressed it this way: “Seeing then that we have such hope [in Christ], we use great plainness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12). It is our prayer that this leadership series will assist church ministers in making an immediate and eternal difference:
- in sharing the love of God for all people;
- in winning the unsaved to faith in Jesus Christ;
- in enlisting all church members in the service of Christ;
- in informing members and the community of the church’s ministries;
- in nurturing effective relationships, systems, and structures;
- in heralding the kingdom of Christ in a world broken and searching for truth.
© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership