I first heard the phrase from one of the best church communicators I’ve ever known: Floyd Craig. He was talking about how to communicate in tense situations, when there’s controversy or division in the church. Floyd is now president of Floyd Craig Communications in Franklin, TN, specializing in crisis communications. Among the several books Floyd has written are Christian Communicator’s Handbook, and a publication written for the United Methodist Church, Not IF, But When – a Crisis Communication Manual.
Over the last 30 years in church communication I’ve evolved a variation on the phrase: “Trust God and tell the truth… early and often.”
Before, during and after everything else: Trust God. And simply tell the truth.
The advice doesn’t apply only to crisis or controversial situations. If you’re starting a new ministry in the church, or contemplating a change in the way things are done, or challenging the congregation in a particular area of spiritual growth – trust God and tell the truth.
“Early and often” – It is certainly true in crisis situations: The first telling of the story is the standard by which all subsequent versions are measured. The first speaker is proactive. The next ones are reactive. If the first version of the story is corroborated by the following ones, the story is verified. If different versions begin to appear, the truth of the original is called into question.
Be the first to tell your story. And if you tell it the way it is, you won’t have to remember which version you told to which group. Your message will be consistent across all channels of communication.
And if you make a mistake, admit it. Be the first to claim the mistake. Trust God and tell the truth.
Floyd shared another anecdote in an email message the other day. He wrote, “Congressman Brooks Hays and I were walking in a hall of the capitol and a lady came up to him, poking at him and went about complaining about some issue on which he had taken a stand. He listened and listened and when she finally ran down, he said, ‘You know, you may be right!’ The lady immediately ceased her tirade, smiled and said, ‘Thank you so much, congressman.’ As we walked on, he said under his breath, ‘And she may not be right!’ I wish I had learned to say more ‘you know, you may be right’ statements. I probably would not have died on so many small crosses or wasted my time on some things.”