Communication in Ministry: Essential or Optional?

“Probably about 80% of my office time each week is spent communicating our ministry with others, not just calendar events and news items, but the vision of who we are that drives what we do,” writes Student Pastor Tim Schomayer.

Building a ministry means building relationships and building relationships means consistent, quality communication.

Communication is more than imparting information – dates, times, places, events.  It’s a vital part of perception – influencing how people will perceive the ministry.   Says Schomayer:

“Solid communication gives the impression that the ministry’s leadership is trustworthy, capable, and competent, whereas weak communication, even if the actual ministry is solid, leaves people feeling that the leadership is lacking direction and credibility.”

Strong ministry and strong communication go hand in glove.    Here are some tips and tools to help strengthen this vital area within your ministry:

– A Quarterly Calendar is a great tool.  Include important dates and times, events, any associated costs, and contact info.  Always include a  “for more info., contact…” line.  Calendar can be single or double-sided, plain text, B&W or include graphics, photos, color.  Aim for creative and eye-catching.  These are great low-costs tools for letting parents and kids know what’s happening and when.  Easily added to any bulletin board or fridge.  (Be sure these are mailed out in a timely manner or the calendar loses its efficacy.  A week prior to the upcoming month should be sufficient.  For example, a September – November calendar should be in the mail  the last week in August.)

– Be sure to send out Thank You notes at regular intervals to all your volunteers.  A verbal “thank you” is great, but there’s nothing quite like a personalized, hand-written hard copy note expressing your thanks  for a specific event or effort to help make your workers feel appreciated and affirmed.

– Do you have a brochure and/or a DVD that provides an overview of the various opportunities and areas within Children’s Ministry?  Both can be easily distributed at “new friends” events, church potlucks, socials and to visitors and guests.

– Be sure to have Visitor’s Packets in each classroom.  Contents may include a welcome message from you to parents and kids, a map of the facility, your ministry vision or mission statement, opportunities, special or seasonal events, names of teachers for each grade and where classes are located as well as a “for more information, contact…” line.  Be sure to include a link to your web site and/or Facebook page!

– A monthly newsletter is a a great communication tool.  Use it! Keep it crisp, friendly and upbeat.  Some story ideas:

Highlight a specific age or ministry area each month.

–   Include a “birthday roll” celebrating each child and their special day for that month.

–  A VBS re-cap, volunteer opportunities, an upcoming Christmas program or seasonal event.

–   Include interviews with SS teachers, AWANA workers, song leaders, grandparents and kids.  Anyone who’s involved with or connected to children’s ministry.

– Include reviews of family friendly literature, movies, or local happenings around town.

–   Write your own monthly column, or get someone to help you write it.  You might share recent victories, opportunities, challenges, vision, resources, or what you’ve been learning in your own walk with God.  Nor sermons here.  Keep it real.  Keep it positive.  Keep the tone friendly and “kitchen table” conversational.  Don’t forget lots of pictures (with parental permission.)

– Do you have a separate email account? If you’re a C.M. Director or Children’s Pastor, a unique email account is crucial.  It’s not only a quick, cost-effective way to shoot quick notes and FYIs, but a separate email account  also sets children’s ministry apart from all-church mailings in which children’s events too easily get “lost in the noise.”  (Constant Contact or Vertical Response are two leading contenders offering attractive, easy-to-use templates and HTML content to punch up plain text.  If cost is a major consideration, Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail.  All offer free plain text accounts.  Also, use email judiciously.   Constantly inundating folks’ In Box with irrelevant or untimely minutia is a great way to get tuned out, blocked, or both.)

– Build a web site or make sure Children’s Ministry has a unique page on your organization’s site.  Parents like seeing their kids, so include photos (with parental permission), interviews, upcoming events, opportunities, vision.  Also a “for more info., contact” link.  You may also want to host a blog, which can be more interactive than a web site.

Put technology to work.  Does your Children’s Ministry have a Facebook fan or group page?  Are you on Twitter?  Do you know how to Text and IM?  Check it out.  Many of these resources are free.  They’re a great way to connect, increase visibility and invite fans and friends – and punch up your ministry’s perception and reputation as well as keeping your vision at the forefront of what you’re doing and why.

And don’t forget the “tried and true”: bulletin inserts, flyers, verbal announcements and affirmation, Powerpoint presentations, including kids in services as appropriate, bulletin boards…

REMEMBER: none of these tools replace personal, face-to-face contact.  Keep in mind that ministry is about far more than just imparting information, technology, charts, graphs, class series, calendars, dates or blog posts – no matter how catchy or cool.  Bottom line: ministry is about relationships. Your best and most effective way to communicate and cultivate relationships is the same way Jesus did:  face-to-face, in person.

Go for it!

***

These are just a few tools and tips  to get you started.  Remember, the name of the game is “connect” – however you can make that happen.  What are your ideas?  What’s worked best – and how?

Also check out: Don’t Waste Your Time Partnering With Parents – an excellent post from Orange Leadership.

Up next: putting social media to work for you.

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