Why Communication Skills Are Crucial for the Church
- Philip Nation Adult Ministry Publishing Director for LifeWay Christian Resources
- 2015 24 Sep
An area often highlighted in the literature regarding leadership is the ability to communicate goals to the organization. For a leader to lead, communication must take place in some form for members of the organization to know what action must come next, or what knowledge needs to be learned. Leo Hindery Jr. works in the fields of television and print media. Having served as an executive in numerous media companies, including serving as the chief executive officer for AT & T Broadband, Hindery has a unique position to speak about communication. He stated, “A leader cannot lead without being able to articulate his vision. This means having the ability first to think straight and then to express thoughts and ideas clearly and directly. And a leader must give brain and heart equal access to his tongue.” Hindery’s position is that the leader must be able to communicate both passion and information. Certainly, sufficient literary weight exists behind this idea.
John Maxwell has written dozens of books and articles on the issue of leadership. In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he teaches that communication by a leader must include both information and inspiration. His thesis is that the “non-connecting” leaders only transfer information around the organization. On the other hand, leaders that connect with the organization at a deep level are able to move people to action through right information and encouragement. He has constructed an “Inspiration Equation,” which aligns knowing, seeing, and feeling so that followers will move forward with the leader. He wrote,
Greek philosopher Aristotle understood this and commented on it in The Rhetoric. In the context of persuasion, he identified the most important element as pathos, the communicators’ ability to connect with the feelings, desires, wishes, fears, and passions of their listeners. It’s a way of giving people reassurance, of letting them know they can trust you, of telling them they should listen to you.
The ancient philosopher obviously believed in the power of communication in that he wrote an entire work on the idea of rhetoric. However, as Maxwell writes, the content and ability to communicate well is key.
Malcolm Gladwell, writer for the New Yorker, has authored several best-selling books about the nature of change and leadership in organizations, including Blink and Outliers. In his book The Tipping Point, he discusses what must take place for a significant cultural or organizational movement to occur. Throughout the book, he discusses the three key factors of a tipping point, and one of them is the “Stickiness Factor.” He wrote, “The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes.” By using television shows for children, such as Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues, Gladwell established the need for communicators to distinguish between the details that engage and those that distract. Gladwell leans into his knowledge of advertising and shows how new characters, seemingly awkward pauses, and repeating questions all add to the stickiness of a message.
Gladwell wrote, “We all want to believe that the key to making an impact on someone lies with the inherent quality of the ideas we present.” Instead, he concluded that the real need of a communicator is to adjust the form of communication that will fit the circumstances. Leaders must become masters at knowing what form will connect with their audiences or followers. For the makers of children’s television programming, the balance between repeating elements of a story and the introduction of new characters must be found in order simultaneously to keep their audience and provide educational value to the show. In business, little difference exists in that a manager must find the ways to best communicate in their environment.
In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin makes the case that every member of an organization can be indispensable and also can lead in some capacity. In order to do so, a person must engage in the “culture of connection,” because one cannot succeed in isolation. He wrote, “If you can’t sell your ideas, your ideas go nowhere. And if you lie about your ideas, we will know and we’ll reject them. The Internet amplifies both of these traits. The new media rewards ideas that resonate. It helps them spread. If your work persuades, you prosper. And the new media punishes those who seek to mislead.” Once again, the ideas of John Maxwell seem to return into the process that a leader must both inspire and inform. Godin’s caution is that it be done with absolute honesty in order to engender loyalty for the leaders, salesman, or manager.
The communication acumen required for serious leadership is evident in that great leaders are generally known as effective communicators. The literary sources highlighted are but a small sampling of a significant theme that runs throughout much of the written work regarding leadership.
Within the church, communication is likewise a fundamental part of leadership. In a business, in politics, and other pursuits, the leader often fills the role of the ultimate authority for the work. Not so with the church. Or, perhaps I should say, it should not be so with the church. Rather, leaders in the church are operating under the authority of Christ, who is the Head of the church. So, leaders are required to communicate His message while Jesus is not physically present with us. To that end, leaders in the church should be dutiful in sharpening their communication skills.
 Dormann, Letters from Leaders, 124–25.
 John Maxwell, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010), 201–02.
 Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown, and Co., 2005).
 Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success (New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown, and Co., 2008).
 Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Boston, Mass.: Back Bay Books, 2002), 25.
 Ibid., 131.
 Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (New York, N.Y.: Portfolio, 2010), 210.