By Kem Meyer
Noise and activity are the refuges of the bereaved and guilty. -Tris Prior, Insurgent
People are stressed out, fed up, overcommitted (in time and money), and overstimulated. Under any kind of stress (i.e., traffic, deadline, crying kids, finances), the loudest signals your brain sends out are about what’s happening right at this moment and how to survive it. Anything that’s not critical to this moment is physiologically drowned out. It’s how God designed the human brain to prioritize. People need inspiration first, so the information will sink in. Many times that inspiration will come from how you make them feel, not by what you have to say.
People argue, “It doesn’t matter how we make people feel; our job isn’t to make them feel good. Our job is to tell the truth in love.”
Does it matter how people feel? If your goal is effective communication, then yes, it matters immensely. A person needs to be reachable before they’re teachable.
If you have families in your church, I wonder if you know what they’re dealing with outside the church walls.
I’ll use my friend Michelle as just one example. Just five days into the school year, her two girls — one in third grade and one in fourth grade — had brought home over 100 pieces of paper. One hundred pieces of paper in five days. For two children. Just two.
There is something terribly wrong here. How many weeks of school are there? After one month, her two girls had brought home over 200 pieces of paper between them. Michelle asked, “Can you help me figure out what is important and what I should keep? I went to college, and I can’t figure it out.”
Before my kids reached high school, it used to take me twenty minutes to sort through the handouts, flyers and forms they brought home with them every day. (I don’t know if the school stopped sending them home, or if the kids just stopped bringing them home.) That may not sound like a lot. But, with a young family and two working parents, our time was stretched and we were tired. There wasn’t a big emotional margin to solve the daily paper puzzle from the kids’ school. It was frustrating trying to figure out what to keep and what to throw away, what to pay attention to and what to ignore, and what was due when; everything was treated the same.
How could I figure out what was important when they communicated that everything was important?
It stressed me out, and it felt like someone else was taking control of my life and my kitchen counter by overwhelming me with clutter.
You might be asking yourself, “Why is she telling me this?” You might catch yourself thinking, “Look, missy, your issue is not my issue.” Well, maybe. And, maybe not. Before you drop another postcard to your entire database or send that mass email,* ask yourself,
Will this information I intend to be helpful just add to the clutter?
If you can’t be sure, go farther.
Is there any way to simplify what my audience sees to make their experience with the church easier and more rewarding?
Because, Lord knows, the public school officials aren’t asking themselves these questions. It’s the least we can do as the Church.
Our job isn’t to add stress—we want to reduce it. Don’t you think?
Reduce the noise. A best practice you can count on.
*As I typed this, Barracuda network had blocked more than 256,847,725 spam emails so far that day (it was barely noon and that’s the stats for just one security network). Can you tell me why your email is different?
Kem Meyer has spent nearly three decades helping people communicate better. She spent 15 years in corporate communications, and led communications at Granger Community Church. Kem lives to simplify complexity and reduce information obesity in churches and organizations. She is the author of Less Chaos. Less Noise: Effective Communications for an Effective Church.