Our ministry once hosted a “Battle of the Bands” fundraiser that required a lot of work. Our team had to audition bands, price out food, order speakers and recruit volunteers. We put so much work into this event; however, we forgot one key component: to invite people.
We had sent out an email and made a few flyers; however, that was it. What was the response? Embarrassing. While a few people showed up, they were mostly friends and families of the bands. It was a disaster.
Developing a communication strategy is a must in youth ministry, and while it doesn’t seem like the most attractive responsibility, without it you can’t expect your ministry to grow. Developing a strategy for how you communicate means being intentional about what you say, how you say it and to whom. That means you should do the following:
Schedule a Designated Time: Your communication efforts need your focus; therefore, give yourself allotted time to respond to emails and voicemails. Carve out time to work on a message, and schedule your social media posts ahead of time with software like Simply Youth Ministry Tools, Hootsuite and Buffer. Develop a plan so you don’t rush and create a costly mistake.
Understand Your Mediums: Part of a communication strategy is understanding that people utilize different mediums. We are no longer in the days of emails and phone calls. Understanding the power of your platform by utilizing social media, texts and even your message is key to getting your point across. Pick a few resources that you feel most of your target audience uses, and practice using them.
Gain Feedback: Get someone’s insight and feedback before you post something online, respond to an important email or deliver a message. The problem with electronic communication is that it can be difficult to read emotion, and once it’s out there, it’s out there. You never want to come off patronizing, sarcastic or offensive to your audience. So before you hit send, ask a friend to share their thoughts.
Know Your Audience: Come off patronizing to parents, and they won’t take you seriously. Speak over a teenager’s head, and you’ll lose their engagement. Know your audience by spending time with them; however, do not try to be them. The best way to speak to any audience is to acknowledge when you're an expert and when you're not. People will appreciate your humility if they know it’s coming from sincerity.
Repeat, Repeat and Repeat: You can’t say something only once and expect people to remember it. Repeat it, tweak it and then repeat it again. Utilize all the different mediums, and stagger the timing of your blasts so they don't get lost in the noise.
If you communicate clearly and effectively, you will be able to mobilize the next generation. Develop a strategy, and make it a part of your daily responsibilities so that you are never wondering if you’ve been heard. Getting a strategy started takes a little bit of commitment; however, once you get going, the possibilities are endless.
Which of these tips is the hardest one for you to embrace?
Chris Wesley is the director of student ministry at the Roman Catholic parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Md. Connect with Chris on Twitter at @chrisrwesley.