Each week churches disseminate a wide variety of information through announcements, slides, web sites, bulletins, brochures, posters, videos, email and social media. A continual challenge is to communicate in a way that the reader or listener both understands and retains the information.
Immediately upon receiving incoming information the brain starts to categorize it, therefore, it makes sense to order communication in a way that the mind can easily process and store it. There are five ways the brain tends to order information: Most Important to Least Important, General to Specific, Simple to Complex, Known to Unknown, and Chronological.
Five Guidelines for Organizing Oral and Written Communication
#1. Most Important to Least Important: People immediately assign a value to incoming information. You never want for the reader or listener to have to guess at what is most important. You can help them by organizing information starting with the most important part of your message.
This is particularly helpful if you are providing a bulleted or numbered list of items. Always list the most important first in the event the reader or listener fails to make it all the way through the list.
#2. General to Specific: Start your communication with too many specifics and you decrease attention and comprehension. Communication effectiveness is increased when your information is organized where the eye and mind can easily flow from general to specific. A great example is how Bibles are organized, starting with the Book, then Chapter and Verse. Most Bibles also put general headings within Chapters to identify the specific topic of that section.
General to specific especially improves church bulletin communication effectiveness. An example would be a Discipleship section of the bulletin under which there are categories for children, youth and adults and specific age related events listed beneath each.
Another example is communication plans that show the church’s vision followed by the mission statement, church values, objectives and specific goals.
#3. Known to Unknown: Here the idea is to link new information with material that is already known and understood by the reader or listener. Jesus was masterful with this technique, using known images such as sheep, shepherds, vines, slaves and servants to illustrate new truths.
Faith sharing that begins with a statement that the world is broken helps link the listener to something they already know, and create interest in hearing God’s plan for restoration. Linking a new capital stewardship campaign to a previously church approved Master Plan increases understanding and acceptance.
#4. Simple to Complex: This approach works well when you must communicate complex information. The idea is to break down the information into its separate parts. Staff Organization Charts that break staff down by departments and then areas of ministry are an example.
Simple to complex works especially well with initiatives that have a lot of moving parts such as building programs, strategic planning, land purchases, discipleship strategies, church mergers, and multi-site proposals. Breaking the initiative down into its various parts for explanation and description, then reassembling them again into a big idea or recommendation will improve comprehension.
#5. Chronological: This approach is used when it is helpful to list events in their order of occurrence. An obvious example is when sharing a church’s history. Another example is when a process needs to be communicated. Most church members are more open to a recommendation when they understand the step by step process that was followed to come to the decision or recommendation.
This approach can also be used in forward looking initiatives or decisions by listing the time line or sequence that events will occur.
Regardless of the delivery channel you use, consistently organizing the information you wish to communicate in these five ways will improve your communication effectiveness.
Posted on February 7, 2017