When it comes to purchasing property, location is everything. And when it comes to communicating effectively in youth ministry, method is everything.
Ultimately, we want to ensure that each person in our ministry is engaged, including students, parents, volunteers, and fellow staffers. Yet it can be tough to get kids to sign up for a retreat, to get volunteers to reply to an email, or to get parents to step forward and volunteer. The struggle is real.
We all know we should communicate. The key question is how. Effective communication is never about what works for us but what works for people we’re trying to connect with.
Set these two simple communication goals to see immediate results in 2017:
Goal #1: Value and use multiple layers of communication.
These include social media, texting, email, phone calls, paper mailers, and in-person communication. Use and value all these layers. Relying heavily on just one (such as social-media event invites) usually results in disappointment.
A layered communication approach leads to better and faster responses. In my experience, any layer paired with a good second layer (such as a personal invite via private message) works best.
Here’s an example: I was trying to schedule some training time with each of my eight volunteers. I sent out one email asking people to respond with a time that worked best for them (that was layer one). No one responded, and the training never took place. What if I had followed up the email with a text to everyone? That would’ve been layer two. I may have been more successful. If necessary, I could’ve added a third layer of communication and followed up with a call the next day. That’s not being pushy. People are busy, and multiple layers of communication help you connect. They also decrease the possibility of your efforts being ignored.
As you layer your communication, never underestimate the power of a phone call. Working down a list of 20 people and leaving messages might seem like a pain, but it’s fairly quick and can yield the results you need.
Goal #2: Know your audience and target them accordingly.
One of the most powerful questions you can ask anyone in your ministry is “What’s the best way to communicate with you?” That’s a great goal to set for 2017. Create a database of parents, students, fellow staffers, and volunteers, noting what each lists as their preferred method. Maybe you’ve been relying on Facebook to communicate with students but only half of them use it. Or maybe you’ve been relying on email to contact parents but few check their personal email regularly. Discovering these preferences helps you decrease any communication barriers.
After you know everyone’s preferred method, you can target groups accordingly. When I asked my volunteers how they wanted to hear from me, five said text and three said email. Now I know what layers to use.
Following through on these two goals will lead to incredible results. You’ll have no more sleepless nights caused by unresponsive volunteers. You’ll no longer agonize over parents who aren’t filling out paperwork for a trip. Best of all, you’ll increase people’s engagement with your ministry.
I’m committing to these two goals with you and look forward to improved communication in youth ministry for 2017.