I was recently at a church that uses an online email service to communicate with congregants. We were discussing how effective it had been for them. They were very happy that 31% of their church opens the email every week. I even congratulated them on having such a high number. Stats say that is you are between 25 and 30% you are doing well.
I have to ask this question though. Is 30% as good as it gets? Have we reached the plateau of communication excellence when a third of the people in our church are actually listening? After all, these are people who, at one time, made a personal decision to give you their email addresses. They took the plunge and said “Yes, I would love to hear form you!” What has happened? Why are people not hearing our message? You may have even heard a member or two actually say, “I didn’t know anything about…” or “Was it in the bulletin?” How did we get here? Well there could be lots of reasons.
Let me start by saying, we are inundated by information in our society. This is not a big revelation to you of course because you feel that strain too. Ads everywhere we look and more choices than we have ever had before. The best example of this may be the cereal aisle at your large chain store. Cereal as far as the eye can see. So many choices it is overwhelming. We are so overwhelmed that we begin to look for ways to filter out the noise. We have filters on our email to block out unwanted information. We may even go so far as to create “rules” that when certain emails come in, we delete it or move it to a folder where we can read it when we have time, which usually never comes.
You may be asking, “What does this have to do with the Church?” Well, sadly many times we do the same thing with our churchgoers. We want to make sure everyone knows what is going on at church so we try to tell everyone everything. It is critical that we get the word so we literally tell everyone we can! There is one major problem with this strategy. When you tell everyone everything, no one hears anything. Our message just became noise, and noise is something to be filtered out. Sometimes we even compound the problem by using different avenues to promote the same message.
Picture this. You have that critical announcement about the women’s retreat so you put it in the e-news. But you want to make sure everyone sees it so you put it on the website too, then Facebook, and in the announcement slides and on the bulletin board and in the weekly bulletin and if it is important enough, you may even print it out, put a stamp on it an mail it out. Now, the listener is hearing the same message five or six times and none of them apply to him because he cant go to women’s retreat! Whether you realize it or not, over time people begin to filter you out as not being relevant in their lives.
What is the answer? There isn’t a silver bullet for communication, but we can do better! One thing Facebook has taught us is that people are more receptive when they have control over how information is served up to them. They actually listen more. Information from family members takes the top spot versus what your buddy from high school had for dinner last night. Realm® Connect
allows church goers to set their communication preferences too! Group members can decide how they will receive information for each group. By doing so, they are making the choice on what is important to them allowing them to filter out noise. A member can choose to receive a push notification and an email, or maybe just an email when group communication occurs. Maybe they would just like a daily digest of what went on in their groups or maybe they don’t want any notifications and they will catch up when they have time. All of these are available to each congregant on every group they are in. When congregants get to choose what is important to them, they listen more, engage more, and participate more in the conversation.