As pastors and Christian leaders, we strive to lead ministries that are pleasing to God and accomplish the mission for which they are intended. We work hard at it. But sometimes, in our effort to make it “just right”, we can overdo it. We can include non-crucial details, add cumbersome verbiage and reemphasize already-made points. While we think we are making it better, we’re actually muddying the water. We’re diluting our mission.
Pastor and author Andy Stanley speaks of narrowing the ministry focus. He says, “There is a natural tendency to drift toward complexity…Resist complexity and pursue simplicity.”
That’s why it’s important to streamline and simplify. If we’re always adding elements to existing programs, and not eliminating ineffective ones, our attenders will experience ministry overload that will paralyze their thought making process. Too many announcements, too many service elements, too much of anything can become white noise to our audience.
White noise is defined as the sound of every frequency that can be heard by the human ear. And since you hear all of them at once, you really can’t hear any.
This applies to the things we communicate and the programs we offer. Let’s look at four things we often think are helping accomplish our mission, but are not.
Lots of Announcements
When everything is important, nothing is important. Or, as the founder of Church Fuel, Pastor Michael Lukaszewski says, “When people hear too many announcements, they don’t pay attention to any of them.”
But they will probably remember one. So why not focus attention on just one announcement every week? Cast vision for it. Give the WWIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) and minimize details that are available online.
Practice the announcements. Memorize them so they came across clearly and naturally. Remember, doing a great job at a few things is better than doing an ok job at many things.
Additional Service Elements
We should never mistake activity for progress. Again, Stanley says, “We think that just because people are busy and doing a lot of stuff that we are being successful…If all that activity isn’t taking you where you want to go, then it’s just wasted time.”
The same is true with our service elements. So strategically design your services with the end in mind. We should ask ourselves, what do we want people to understand, to feel, and to do. Once we answer those key questions, all our service elements should point to one clear message and one clear action point.
And there’s no need to add a sermon re-cap after you’ve preached, or reemphasize announcements at the end of the service. If you’ve done a good job communicating it once, that’s enough.
Numerous Special Events
The Numbers Game, from Church Community Builder emphasizes that events need to be missional and focused, if they’re going to be successful. The authors say, “Events should work in tandem with the vision of your church. If the two don’t sync up, scratch the event. It’s a waste of valuable resources to carry out an event simply because you’ve always done it.”
Here again the point is that many activities lead to unproductive busyness. Often, special events create “sideways momentum,” or activity that doesn’t move people forward, toward the intended goal. Offering too many options gives people more of a chance to miss what they really need.
Using internal language is a sure-fire way of making newcomers feel they don’t belong. Some churches even have a “taboo list.” It’s a list of “churchy,” theological phrases that are confusing to outsiders and are no longer allowed in their vernacular. The list gives the taboo word and then a corresponding clearer word instead.
So, “righteousness” becomes “right living.” “Testimony” becomes “faith story.” And “being the hands and feet of Jesus” becomes “showing people Christ’s love in a practical way.” Not to mention being “washed in the blood.” Clarity increases understand and eliminates confusion.
So, if you want people to engage with, and understand your message and programming, remember that simplicity creates clarity. And additional elements typically muddy the waters. So, eliminate white noise and focus only on what’s of critical importance, so that your message can make an impact on the people God brings your way.