Communication = Connection + Community

Communication Model by Wilbur Schramm, from http://fatherhood.about.com
Communication Model by Wilbur Schramm, from http://fatherhood.about.com

If you had to summarize the role of communication in the church with two words, I can’t think of any better than “Connection” and “Community.”

Those are the two words that jumped out at me when I read the report of the Communication Ministry Visioning Team. They had just completed their work: taking a look at the past, present and potential future of communication at Richmond’s First Baptist Church. They were laying the groundwork for the team that will search for my successor as Associate Pastor for Communication when I retire in September.

Communication is not just about transferring information. As church communicators, we want to let everybody know what time the worship service begins, where to park their cars, and what’s on the menu for Wednesday night supper. But if we stop there, we’re just scratching the surface. We want to connect with people in meaningful, life-changing ways. That involves listening as well as speaking.

Communication is not just about technology. The cameras, computers, microphones, and printing presses are tools of the trade. The webcast, broadcast, digital signage, brochures, e-blasts, and website are channels of communication. They are the means, not the end. We want to use these tools and channels to create Christian community.

So what does the Communication Ministry Leader spend his time doing?

He concentrates most of his time on Handling the Message. Listening carefully and discerning what we’re doing as a congregation, he constantly searches for the most effective words and images, tools and channels to interpret the church’s mission. He develops and implements a communication strategy. He has a seat at the table as options are discussed and decisions are made about the church’s mission, ministries and activities. He helps shape the agenda. He helps folks inside and outside the congregation connect the dots. He gives creative direction.

from National Communication Association
from National Communication Association

The Church Communicator constantly monitors the channels for noise. He tweaks the message encoding just like an airline pilot accounts for wind currents. He listens for feedback and adjusts the communication just as the pilot listens to instructions from the Air Traffic Controller.

The Church Communicator is a key strategist and player in the church’s mission to connect people with God and with each other, and build community… or as we say around Richmond’s First Baptist Church these days, “Bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia.”