This is the first in the ‘Do we really need’ series of blog posts, looking at a range of tools that are available to church communications departments, as well as key elements of a communication plan.
Find out a little more in my introductory blog post.
It’s time to introduce the first guest post, from the wonderful Peter Baker, Senior Minister at Lansdowne Church, Bournemouth.
So what sort of business are you in?
I’m often asked that question by a fellow passenger on a train journey; by a retailer trying to sell me something or by a cold caller on the phone who’s doing market research.
I know that if I’m in a hurry or want to stop the conversation dead, then the reply, “I’m a Minister of Religion,” really works! Some people react to the statement as if I might have something infectious. If I’m in a mischevious mood, I will sense their discomfort and say “Don’t worry it’s not catching!”
But the answer which really gets people positively hooked is this:
“I’m in the communications industry.”
That’s not only a great way of describing what I do, it effectively summarises a primary purpose of the Church; we’re here to get a message across – God’s message – the most important message ever. For the God of Christian faith is in the communications business. And that means we have to communicate His truth with clarity, creativity and conviction.
Clarity, because if we don’t get it right, people are going to get it wrong. Creativity, because if we don’t get it across first time, then often we won’t be given a second hearing. Conviction, because if we don’t believe passionately in what we’re saying, then why should we expect anyone else to!
I have spent my entire adult life trying to improve my communications skills. Successful marriages, parenting and Christian ministry are all profoundly shaped by competency in listening and speaking. And I’m still on that journey. I’ve preached at least one sermon a week for 35 years. Freelance work with BBC radio has added to my sense of the importance of speech. In my world, words matter.
The 21st Century Church must, in the phrase of theologian Jacques Ellul, “save the word in order to save the world.” In a culture saturated by social media, twenty-four hour news, blogs, tweets, ‘posts’ and the information superhighway – true, lasting words matter more than ever. The logo can never replace the logos.
Of course, effective communication involves image as well as word, the moving picture and not just static text. But every medium has a message.
And the Church has two audiences, the persuaded and the skeptical – the convinced and the curious. We need to find a voice and vocabulary which connects with both. Insiders and outsiders. That’s what makes the job of the minister and the Church so challenging.
Peter has been living and working in Bournemouth since 2013 and his blog, Bread of Heaven, is featured on the Lansdowne Church website.