3 Keys To Effective Communication Within Your Church Staff
By: Sarah Robins
At first thought, a guide to communicating with your church staff coworkers may seem a little unnecessary. If someone emails you, you reply. If they walk to your desk to ask a question, you acknowledge and answer their questions. Simple right?
Unfortunately, inter-office communication is so much more nuanced than this. Ask any marriage counselor what the majority of their time is spent on when working with couples, and they’ll say communication.
Our team here at Vanderbloemen has a huge focus on maintaining great staff culture, and we believe that stellar communication is a huge component of a thriving and healthy company and church culture. Why wouldn’t we want to improve the way we communicate when we spend 75% of our waking hours together as a team?
Below are three important keys to healthy and effective inter-office communication for your church staff.
1. Establish clear guidelines.
It’s always best to start with a clear baseline of your church or organization’s expectations for communication – what channels you are to use, which are preferred, how quickly you need to respond, etc.
Here at Vanderbloemen, where one of our staff’s core values is “Ridiculous Responsiveness,” our entire team knows and operates by the following communication channel & speed guidelines:
- If I email you, a response is expected within 24 hours.
- If I text you, a response is expected within an hour or two.
- If I call you, get back to me as soon as you can.
Our whole team knows this and functions within these parameters. This avoids unrealistic expectations and anxiety around reply times, and it also limits texts and phone calls unless they are urgent.
Make clear to your church staff team these two basic elements:
- How will we communicate? (email, phone, in-person, slack, imessage, etc.)
- What are the expected response times to your different means of communication?
2. Know thyself & thy neighbor.
Once basic staff communication guidelines are established, we suggest that you take intentional time to make sure you know both your communication style and that of your co-workers – especially the ones you interact with on a daily basis. Everyone is wired differently, so your preferred method of communication may vary wildly from your leader or assistant or other church staff members. For example, some people need more details. Some people prefer a quick text. Some people prefer you verbally give them instructions. Some people need everything in writing.
Understanding the communications preferences of those around you is key to creating a cohesive work environment.
If you don’t know where to start, we suggest running your team through a personality assessment and evaluation. We love the Insights and Leading From Your Strengths assessments. Our entire team has taken the Insights assessment and has been through a workshop that coaches and explains the different personality types. Part of this workshop was focused on communication preferences and styles. Using this knowledge, we are able to tailor and improve the way we communicate with each other. Even when communicating change or dealing with confrontation, we are able to be sensitive to everyone on our team.
One example: I tend to walk over to someone’s desk and talk through an idea or issue. But now I know that some of my team members are wired in a way that when I do this, I’m disrupting their workflow and they process things in writing rather than verbally. So now, before I approach a coworker, I ask myself, "Is this urgent enough for me to interrupt them or can I email this?"
3. Additional Communication Best Practices
Beyond the two big points above, here are a few more best practices for effective inter-office communication on your church staff:
- Before you send an email, always consider, “If our email system somehow got hacked, would this be okay to get out? Or would it embarrass me and/or the church?” When in doubt, don’t put it in writing.
- Praise is best received in written form, and criticism is best received in spoken form.
- In your emails, be clear when a “Reply All” is necessary or unnecessary. If you have liberal use of the “Reply All” function, your team could be wasting hours a week reading through long email chains that don’t pertain to them.
Remember, the goal isn’t to make things more complicated, but more clear, thoughtful, and effective.
How can your church staff improve their communication?
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