Clarifying Communication Using a Common Language
Every profession has its own language. Lawyers, electricians, plumbers and auto-mechanics all have terminology unique to their profession. They use these common terms to create mutual understanding and shape behavior.
A common language is especially critical with doctors, firemen, policemen and the military who are in life and death situations where even the slightest misunderstanding can have tragic implications.
A common language is also vital for organizations. Business consultants agree that clear communication within an organization is a key to effectiveness and efficiency, and one of the most effective ways to improve communication is to establish a common language.
This is no less true in the local church. Supervisors need a common organizational language to interact with staff and give understandable instructions. Staff need to understand terminology and concepts to properly communicate with fellow staff and church members. Church members need to clearly understand the vernacular to embrace the mission, vision, values and strategies of the church.
As our churches become more diverse with people from different generations, cultures, faith traditions and denominations the likelihood of confusion over the terms we use is heightened. A simple perusing of church websites illustrates the significant differences in the terms that are used even within the same denomination. Words such as mobilization, multiplication, connection, discipleship, evangelism and family can have different meanings from church to church.
Benefits of a Common Language for Church Communication
- A common language assures that all members of the church understand expectations of membership.
- A common language allows attendees to hear consistency throughout the church’s ministries and messaging, which provides a feeling of cohesiveness, camaraderie, and community.
- A common language creates clarity and minimizes confusion around the church’s mission, vision, values and strategies.
- A common language creates a sense of the church’s DNA and culture for those working and serving within the church.
- A common language provides a sort of shorthand among the churches leadership and staff, speeding up communication and increasing understanding.
Critical Success Factors For An Effective Common Language
Developing a common language is not as easy as it may appear. Words and phrases unique to the pastor and church need to be identified and their meaning and usage defined and regularly used. Here are several critical factors to successfully identifying and integrating a common language into your church culture.
- The new words and phrases must flow easily, naturally and frequently from the pastor’s mouth. If the pastor doesn’t own the vernacular most likely he won’t consistently use the agreed upon terms, minimizing the likelihood of successful integration and adoption of the common language.
- Church staff and key lay leaders need to be a part of the process of identification and implementation of a common language to be effective. If they are a part of the identification process they are much more likely to adopt and regularly use the terms.
- The new words and phrases must be used repeatedly in all church communications.
- The new words and phrases must be regularly incorporated into worship services, ministry gatherings, leadership meetings and staff meetings.
- The new words and phrases, with definitions, must be documented and listed on the church website and provided to new members, new staff, church leaders, etc.
Tools for Implementing a Common Language
Use a variety of communication platforms to insure the agreed upon terms are inculcated into your church. Commonly used devices include:
- Preaching Series
- Oral and Written Announcements
- Videos and Screen Slides
- Banners and Posters
- Indoor and Outdoor Signage
- Brochures and Sunday Bulletins
- Website, Emails and Social Media
- New Member Classes
- Leader Meetings and Staff Meetings
- A Written Glossary of Common Language Terms and Definitions
Posted on May 9, 2017