I spend a lot of time in a lot of different churches around the country, from small, medium and large ones to rural, suburban and urban core ones. The worship services and styles vary greatly, but there is one consistent aspect of every church I spend time in that more often than not feels like the weak link in the whole experience. The dreaded announcements. Ask many church leaders and they’ll tell you, announcements sometimes feel like a necessary evil—most don’t want to do them but know they have to. But you can make announcements interesting.
Is there really a good place for them? What about all the late people at the beginning of the service? Will it interrupt the flow of worship in the middle of the service? Will people be disengaged and ready to leave by the end of the service? It’s hard to know where they “fit” best.
This post is less about strategy and more about stewardship. As leaders, you have the responsibility to communicate well to your people but limited opportunities to do that in a personal setting. There are 168 hours in a week, and you have the captive attention of most of your people for only 1-1.5 of those hours during a worship gathering. How are you stewarding that time wisely and ensuring that what needs to be communicated is being done so effectively and efficiently? By giving people the following five things, I’m convinced your announcements can become a powerful pipeline of communication and one of the most impactful components of your worship gatherings:
1) SOMETHING TO LOOK AT
Some people learn audibly, many others learn visually. Consider the reality that in an average church service you have a variety of different types of learners that process and retain information differently. One person may simply need to hear the announcement; another may need to “see” it. This can be easily accomplished through a well-designed slide on the screen that is being projected while the announcement is being made. Very helpful.
2) SOMEWHERE TO GO
It’s as simple as, “We’re hosting this event, and if you have any questions we’ll be at the info table in the hall after service.” Or, “This event is coming up and there’s more information on the website.” They’ve now heard an announcement about something going on at the church, but they’ve also been told where they can go to learn more about it. Very helpful.
3) SOMETHING TO HOLD ONTO
Don’t just give people something to listen to, but give them something to hold onto that reminds them about what they’ve heard. It could be a blurb in the bulletin or a postcard in their seats. By giving them something tangible you’ve extended the lifespan and reach of your announcement—they heard it once that day, but now they’ll be reminded throughout the week every time they see what you’ve given them. Very helpful.
4) SOMEONE TO TALK TO
Announcements, events and scheduling can often sound very logistical and organizational; all the more reason to help make it as personal and relational for your people as possible. It can be as simple as, “We’re hosting a luncheon, and if you have any questions you can talk to Sue Smith at the info table or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.” You’ve given them a real life human being to connect with. Very helpful.
5) SOMETHING TO SIGN UP FOR
If what you are announcing requires a sign-up, make sure there is an opportunity for people to immediately act upon it. It could be a portion of the bulletin, on a postcard left in their seats, at an info table after service or an online form—or all of the above! By giving people some easy and immediate way(s) to sign up for the event you increase your chances of capturing them in the moment and the likelihood of them attending. Very helpful.
While every church may not have the capacity to do every one of these things all the time, every church does have the responsibility to steward how and what they are communicating to their people well. Maybe a first step for your leadership team is to set a new rule: We will not announce something from stage unless we have these five (or three or four out of five) things in place. The goal is to make it clear, abundantly clear, to your church that you are willing to steward well for them what you are sharing with them because you believe it is valuable enough to them in their walks with God and their participation in the life of the church.
Ask many church leaders and they’ll tell you, announcements sometimes feel like a necessary evil—most don’t want to do them but know they have to. For many church leaders, announcements are the “Achilles heal” of their worship services. But perhaps they don’t have to be. Let’s talk about how, with some simple changes, announcements can be strategically used to cast the vision and reinforce the core values of your church in powerful ways.
Not long ago I helped a church launch their foster care and adoption ministry—this story has nothing to do with that other than to say I was at the church that Sunday and learned a lot about announcements. It was around Christmas time and the women’s ministry was planning a cookie decorating party. The pastor got on stage and began making the announcement about the party, instructing ladies to purchase their tickets in the lobby, when suddenly, from the back of the sanctuary, someone yells, “It’s sold out!” The pastor, quick on his feet, makes a joke about ladies missing out and having to wait until next Christmas to decorate cookies when suddenly, from the side of the sanctuary, someone else yells, “Suzy has tickets!”
At this point I get the distinct feeling like the wheels on this bus are about to fall off. The pastor, again makes a quick joke letting everyone know they can scalp some tickets from Suzy in the lobby after service that day…when suddenly, from the opposite side of the sanctuary, it happens again—someone else yells, “Suzy’s not here today!” That’s it, we’ve lost control of this thing. The train has officially left the track. The pastor kindly tells everyone they will figure out if there are more tickets available and include an announcement about it in the weekly email newsletter. He then dismisses us.
That’s how the service ended. There’s so much to say about that, but the one thing I was left wondering was, Why? Not why was the announcement so bad, but why were the women getting together to decorate Christmas cookies? I’m not against women decorating Christmas cookies, I simply want to know why they are?
START WITH WHY
Simon Sinek, best-selling author of Start with Why, says, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
That’s the key: Why are you doing what you’re doing? What do you believe? The announcement answered (kind of) two questions for me: 1) What is the event? and 2) How do we participate in it? Those are two very important questions to answer, but the most important question went unanswered—in fact, its answer was assumed on the audience but never actually given. The question I needed answered was: Why are you doing this event? Why are the women getting together to decorate Christmas cookies? The assumed answers could be a) because it’s Christmas time or b) because women like to decorate cookies or c) because we needed to fill the calendar with something and that was our best option. We could go on. Again, the “what” and the “how” were clear (kind of), but the “why” was completely absent. I was told a little about what the church is doing and how they are doing it, but I was not told anything about why they are doing it.
When we talk about giving vision-driven announcements what we are suggesting is that it’s not enough to simply answer the “what” and “how,” but we must also communicate the “why.” The “what” and “how” answer functional questions about the church; the “why” answers inspirational questions about it. That’s vision.
In the most simplistic terms, here’s how the announcement sounded:
Announcement A: “There’s a women’s cookie decorating event (WHAT) next week. Get tickets from Suzy (HOW).”
Here’s how it would sound if it was driven by vision:
Announcement B: “At _________ __________ Church, we value women living in authentic, biblical community with one another (WHY) so next week some women are hosting a cookie decorating party to spend time together (WHAT) and if you want to get tickets you can contact Suzy (HOW).”
Announcement A told me what the church is doing and how they are doing it (functional). Announcement B told me what the church believes and values and why they are doing what they’re doing (inspirational). With a slight change, these become two completely different announcements that communicate two completely different messages.
As you develop your process and strategy for announcements, ensure you are using them as opportunities to cast vision on your church and reinforce the “why” of what you are doing and how you are doing it.
Let’s use an informational luncheon about getting involved in an orphan care ministry as an example. Here are two different ways to announce it:
1) “There’s a luncheon in three weeks for anyone who is interested in foster care or adoption. You can sign up online.”
2) “At __________ _________ Church we care deeply about the orphaned and vulnerable and want to reflect God’s heart in how we care for them. If you have ever considered your role in foster care, adoption or other forms of support we invite you to attend this luncheon in three weeks. You can sign up online.”
Both of these announcements tell me “what” and “how,” but only one tells me “why.”
In the end, with some simple language change, announcements can become powerful communicators of vision for your church. Saturate your messaging with vision to continually declare and reinforce the “why” of your church and invite people into the “what” and the “how” more strategically and effectively.
This article first appeared at Jason Johnson’s blog, and is used by his kind permission.