It's unbelievable how important clarity is in communication. Too often churches communicate to the insiders in their congregations without any thought about how it impacts guests or infrequent attendees. This morning in our ministry staff meeting we discussed plans for how we're reworking Wednesday nights in the fall. This impacts almost every ministry in the church in some way. As part of that conversation we realized how many ministries have names that really don't mean anything.
We have Sonshine Kids, Sprouts, Tweens, Joyful Noise Choir, Promise Choir, Melody Choir in our Children's ministry. Stephanie made the comment that she's had kids in these ministries for 16 years and has no idea what age goes with each name. Buildings have names that don't mean anything. There are rooms that have names based on colors and rooms that have numbers. We refer to places using language that is significant to us as insiders, but outsiders end up being confused. One of our older classes is named Homebuilders (from when the group was starting families 30 years ago). We have acronyms that have cool meanings, but if you don't know that STEW means Schweitzer Together Every Wednesday or what happens at that event, the likelihood you'll try it out is slim.
We're starting a process of making sure names have meaning. It starts primarily with new ministries. It's incorporated into how we describe events and locations. Making sure there is clarity in communication minimizes confusion, reduces questions and helps everybody be more effective.
Questions that are worth asking:
- What does this name/acronym mean to somebody who doesn't know the history?
- Does this language decrease or increase the chance of somebody getting confused?
- How would renaming this ministry, room, group, etc. impact the group? What about others?
- Can the name accurately describe the ministry? activity? location?
Improving clarity impacts more than just names, but that's an immediate focus. Direct, clear communication in bulletins, newsletters, announcements, and pretty much everywhere else increases the chance that what you have to say will actually be heard. More importantly, clarity in communication makes it possible for people to act rather than ask questions or give up in confusion.