Tag Archive: information

Church members: They want just a little bit of info

How do those who come to your church feel about your church’s communication?

During a recent vacation, I saw a variety of good and poor communication from leadership. It reminded me what it might feel like to be a church member (not in a staff or leadership position) and to not be well-informed regarding church issues.

I had a airplane pilot who communicated well.  Although he couldn’t control the weather, our diversion to another city, or sitting on a tarmac for almost two hours, he communicated clearly and often with us about our status and next steps.

I also had my family pulled from a theme park because of a fire alarm. No fire trucks responded, and no one communicated to patrons how long we’d be standing in the sun with our kids pleading to go back in.

When I arrived home, I saw a church communicating the removal of their founding and senior pastor for “unfortunate choices.” I won’t weigh in on whether it was good or bad communication because I don’t have enough information to earn that right, but I’ll say this: I know they were faced with communicating a really difficult message.

All these experiences reminded me of the need for church-leaders to be really great communicators.

When churches don’t communicate, or do so slowly or ambiguously, one of these usually happen:

  1. You frustrate committed members who’ve earned the right to know information
  2. You leave a gaping hole about what’s going on, and people begin their own narrative to fill the void
  3. You create an atmosphere of mistrust, or at least a feeling that there’s a lack of transparency
  4. You lose credibility when you need to communicate something important

Many times, releasing small amounts of meaningful information will satisfy church members. But communicating even small amounts of meaningful information can be difficult because it’s complicated (confidentiality concerns, trust, managing the message, timing, and the possibility of it being live tweeted or captured via video).

So, how can church leaders communicate well, considering the many factors that impact information sharing?

Anticipate FAQs.  Consider your audience, determine what they want to know, and get ahead of it. Be succinct. When possible, say the last 2% first. As I wrote recently, three-fourths of an answer is better than an answer and a half.

Stick to the facts. Church leaders have a tendency to add more information than necessary, and that can lead to missteps. See previous remark.

Be prepared. You lose credibility if you’re unable to speak to key information. (Some of the content I wrote about being prepared for the media will relate here too.)

Manage, but don’t spin. In my interpretation, spinning is misleading or communicating with an ulterior motive – whereas managing speaks to providing limited amounts of information and having an intentional way of releasing it.

Be sincere. This is particularly relevant if it’s a difficult message (like the one relating to the removal of a pastor, mentioned earlier in the post). The only thing worse than a lack of communication is insincere communication.

Have a go-to forum. Whether it’s a town hall meeting, business meeting, bulletin, or remarks at the conclusion of the service, have a solid forum at a specific place and time for communicating important information.

Be considerate. Just because you don’t think changing the bulletin or replacing the pews with chairs is a big deal, it can be to the person who uses the bulletin as their only way to get their church information, or to the person who accepted Christ kneeling at one of those pews. I’ve seen a tendency in my generation (including me) and the one after me to be a little cavalier when it comes to interpreting which things should matter to others.

Not every church member wants fodder for gossip, and there are people who are invested in your church who’ll likely want to know things occurring there. So when confidentiality or governance guidelines don’t prohibit it, share meaningful information as often as needed.

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Being Outside the Information Loop

Everyone likes to be included.

Most people want to be informed.

You’ve likely been left outside an information loop you would’ve liked to be in. And you’ve likely had to make a decision about who’s in and who’s out with information you had to share.

Those who are left out of the loop can feel hurt. Your choice of intentionally leaving someone out of the loop can be absolutely correct, but you must be aware that being left out may make people vulnerable. If it happens repetitively or without reason, they may distrust you or possibly even leave your team.  Your decision to bring someone in or leave them out is an important decision.

Since it’s important, here are a few reminders for the loop-makers and also a few for those feeling hurt or vulnerable who are outside of the loop.

Before you get too upset you’re being left out of the loop — consider:

  1. Don’t assume or presume on those making the information-sharing decisions.
  2. Ask yourself: Does this person who’s leaving me out have a habit of keeping me in the dark or deceiving me?
  3. Check your motives. Why are you bothered you’re not in the loop?
  4. Have you told your boss or those you work with that you’re busy or overwhelmed? If so, they may be trying to protect your time.
  5. When you have been in the loop before, have you ever shared the information with those who it wasn’t meant for?
  6. Remember, the loop-makers may be trying to limit collateral damage to others, or there even may be legal issues at stake. The choice to share or withhold information could be out of their control.

When determining who’s in your information loop — consider:

  1. Be consistently trustworthy and transparent. That way, when you do have to withhold information from a person(s), they’ll assume the best about your reasoning.
  2. Be willing to talk about the process for decision-making, even if not the details.
  3. Give people a heads up… “You may hear about some things going on, and while I can’t talk about the details, I know it’s a big deal – and as it impacts you, I’ll make sure you’re in the know as I can.”
  4. Be consistent. People will be okay with certain informational boundaries, as long as you’re consistent about level of leadership who gets it. If you choose to share information based on who sits near you at lunch or who has favor with you lately, that inconsistency may be meet with a lack of trust.
  5. Have a philosophy and method that dictates your communication groupings that makes sense to onlookers. Each time you have to limit the sharing of information, the determination of those persons or groups should have an objective pathway of determination.
  6. When you can, throw out some substantive “inside information.” Maybe it doesn’t totally relate to directly to them, but giving your team an inside look at information will go a long way. The information must still be appropriate, and it may not impact their job at all – but hearing it will make them feel more involved.


In a moment of frustration, I once quipped to a person who was feeling left out of the loop, “This information is above your pay grade.” (Since I still feel guilty, public exposure on this incident via my blog makes me feel better.) I shouldn’t have said that. True, the information was beyond what the person’s role warranted – but I didn’t follow my suggested steps for how to communicate that well. So, don’t be that me. Be better than me. Whether in or out of the information loop, be considerate of how the other may feel, and act accordingly.

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Making Your Church Staff Better, With Information


A couple years into my role as Executive Pastor at my previous church, I saw a need to develop some staff values. These weren’t published for our church member’s consumption or developed for official use by our personnel team. These were merely created by and used for our staff, as a way of communicating practical expectations. Specifically, they provided a common language for ministry and accountability.

We settled on four values to focus on. As a staff we taught them, lived them, measured against them, and ultimately began to reflect them. They were:

1.         Information sharing

2.         Silo-free zone

3.         Owning it

4.         Saying the last 2%

Over the next couple weeks on this blog,  I’ll unpack the practical takeaways for each of these four values.

Today, I’ll begin with Information Sharing.

The concept is simple – what information do I have and need to share with fellow staff that’ll make them better at their jobs? Determine what that information is, and then share it freely.

This sounds like something everyone would do, right? Not really.

Here’s the struggle. If you share too much information with others, they will be able to do things more effectively. Maybe more effectively than you. You might even find out you’re dispensable.

For example, if you share a church-member’s pastoral care need to a fellow staff member, they might respond quicker than you or your ministry area. If that happens, you may not get all the attention for your pastoral care response to them.

It sounds selfish, but it happens a lot.

Another scenario I’ve witnessed often:

You find out that a member has felt God’s call to begin serving, or perhaps to designate money to a ministry in need. Do you keep that information to yourself so you have first dibs on their time or their financial gift?

Or do you share the information with your staff, determine  together what the greatest need is, and let the ministry with the biggest need follow up with the church member?

Information sharing means you have to:

  • Be mindful of others and how they might benefit from the information you have
  • Not care who gets the credit
  • Live out Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

When you ‘information share’ on your staff,  it becomes a cultural norm – and ultimately, it’s reciprocated. When information sharing happens freely, your whole team improves. And when leadership improves, so does your church.

Practice this week. When you get information, ask yourself if anyone else could benefit from having this same information. And if so, provide it and see what happens.

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