Every once in awhile, even the most experienced youth worker needs to be reminded of some basic skills that he or she must master. Just recently, I was forced to revisit one of those skills.
Today, there are dozens of ways by which we communicate. And for a great many of us in youth ministry, mastery of multiple forms of communication is crucial. But it’s when we become overly confident in our chosen methods that we too often discover that we haven’t yet mastered the art of communication.
What I recently had to re-learn is just how crucial it is that people are informed and connected to what’s going on in your ministry. I’ve strategically used multiple forms of communication. From the looping announcement slides before and after worship, to the up-front announcements spoken during our Sunday service, to emails, tweets, texting, and so on, I thought I’d covered all my bases.
But I had forgotten the value of the phone call. Again. ☺ Which reminded me of a few important truths of communication.
You can’t say it enough
Repetition is good. Whether you’re talking to students or adults, you’ll need to repeat yourself, over and over and over again. As you think about making your announcements, you should plan ahead so that you have three or more weeks to verbally make your announcement.
Beyond your up-front announcements, train your team to reinforce the announcement by repeatedly speaking the announcement details to their students. This works well with student ministries that run with small groups. Be sure you provide the small group leaders with all the appropriate information so they can remind their small group students of upcoming activities.
Information trumps flare
I’m an artsy kind-of-a guy. Creating posters and fliers that look good is important to me. But what needs to be more important then the look is that the fliers and posters have the necessary information for the activity they promote. If they don’t answer the question of Who, What, Where, When, and How Much, then you’ve failed to communicate your activity.
Embrace multiple forms of communication
I’ve learned that different people, students included, prefer different methods of communication. In the past I’ve had students that faithfully checked their email. For them, email was the best way to stay in touch. I also have students that are fanatical about texting. I can text them and within minutes I get a response, even if they are in school. Not always sure how they do that . . .
As long as it doesn’t consume your day, I see no problem with utilizing all forms of communication. But if you chose to use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and email, make sure your students and parents know that they exist and how they can benefit from them.
Evaluate and downsize
You want to use your time well, so take the time to find out what communication method works best for you in your context of ministry. For example, 8 years ago not many of my students used Twitter. So Twitter was not a great use of my time. Currently, not many of my students are using Facebook. So I don’t spend time posting or updating my Facebook status. But they do text and they do use Instagram regularly. So, guess where I will be posting?
Take the time now to find out what your students and your parents are using and make it work for you. Don’t waste your time communicating with platforms that no one is using.
When in doubt, pick up the phone and call
Here’s a moment of confession: I HATE making phone calls. It’s too time consuming. But, it’s still the best way to get in touch with someone when you need to talk. When all other forms of communication fail, pick up the phone and make a call. And yes, it might be a little time consuming to make a bunch of phone calls. But it’s nothing compared to the amount of time, hurt, and pain you might have to deal with when someone misses out because you chose not to make the call.
Communication is important. But what’s more important is getting your communication right.
Don’t overlook the value of taking the time to learn how your students and parents communicate. There are plenty of different options to choose from and doing your homework will payoff in the long run.