Clear, Open Communication is the Key to a Healthy, Unified Staff
As a church leader, you know that clear, open communication is the key to a healthy, unified staff. When your team communicates effectively, they can collaborate smoothly, resolve conflicts, and ultimately further the mission of your church. But when communication breaks down, isolated silos form, frustration builds, and petty conflicts arise.
Improving communication takes some intentional effort, but it's worth it. Follow these tips to foster better communication habits within your church staff:
- Promote Active Listening: Good communication starts with listening. Train your team to become active listeners who give their full attention when others are speaking. Encourage them to avoid interrupting, multitasking, or mentally planning their response. Teach them to restate key points to demonstrate understanding. This prevents miscommunications from assumptions.
- Ask More Open-Ended Questions: Closed-ended yes/no questions don't spark in-depth dialogue. Get your staff comfortable asking open-ended questions that unpack issues more deeply. “How did executing that new program go for your team?” or “What creative ideas do you have for improving our engagement with young families?” model this well.
- Express Needs Without Blaming: We often couch criticism as “communication issues.” Help your team share needs and disagreements in constructive ways. Saying “I felt concerned when I wasn't included in that meeting” expresses a need without attacking the other person’s character. Criticize the action, not the person.
- Avoid Stonewalling and Defensiveness: Some cope with conflict by shutting down. Others get defensive. Teach your team to stay engaged in the hard talks. Take a break to calm down, but reconvene once emotions have settled. Seek to understand before being understood.
- Mind Your Tone: A message's tone can completely change its meaning. Your staff should reflect before reacting and think about how their body language, cadence, and word choice affect others. A tension-diffusing joke may fall flat as an email. Gently challenge each other when tones cross lines.
- Schedule Quality Connection Time: Don’t let busyness crowd out meaningful interactions. Calendar regular one-on-one coffees to check in on big pictures things beyond daily tasks. Or, set aside time after staff meetings for peers to connect personally and pray for each other.
- Minimize Digital Distractions: Phones and laptops are communication impediments, tempting us away from being fully present. For important talks, have everyone silence devices, avoid multitasking, and focus eye contact on the speaker. Model this behavior, especially in meetings.
- Address Communication Breakdowns Head-On: When communication isn’t improving, don’t let frustrations fester. Have courageous conversations to address breakdowns directly, not through gossip. Reset relationships through confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Seek mediation if you’ve reached an impasse.
- Equip with Communication Tools: Not everyone intuitively communicates well, especially under stress. Offer your team books, online resources, or courses in communication skills. Bring in experts for active training workshops focused on listening, conflict resolution, and nonviolent communication.
- Make Communication a Core Value: Keep communication top of mind by setting it as a core value your staff lives out. Reinforce this through leadership training and team policies. Celebrate wins like a successfully resolved conflict. Measure communication effectiveness in staff reviews.
Healthy communication won't happen overnight. But with some focused effort to build staff communication capacity, you will see trust, understanding, and teamwork grow. And your staff will be better poised to build a vibrant church community. Need help developing a customized communication improvement plan? Let's talk. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.