Effective Communication

Why Leaders Need to Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is the most powerful tool in the work of the Church. Like a brush to a painter, communication is to the Church. Psychological manipulation, physical force, and emotionalism are not among the tools that the Church may use to bring people to the Lord. Scripture mentions only one tool that has the power to perform the work of the church — communication.

Paul recognized the power of the gospel — That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Rom 1:15-16). He saw the need to communicate this powerful gospel — For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1 Cor 1:17). And, he saw that effective communication makes a leader worthy of honor — Theelders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Tim 5:17). Evangelism requires effective communication —How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:14-15).

Nearly all of the church’s functions can be seen as the work of communication.

  • Evangelism is the effective communication of the gospel to unbelievers.
  • Fellowship is the effective communication of love to one another.
  • Teaching is the effective communication of God’s ways to believers.
  • Worship is the effective communication of praise to God.

In short, leaders must know how to communicate because… Effective communication makes the gospel clear. Effective communication makes instructions clear. Effective communication makes goals clear.

How to Communicate Your Thoughts Clearly

  1. Use concrete words
    Principle: People draw attention to that which is specific, vivid, and concrete.
  2. Write it out
    Principle: A written message lives until destroyed.
  3. Use visual aids
    Principle: People draw attention to what they see, over what they hear.
  4. Skip the obvious
    Principle: People draw attention to that which is novel, unusual, or unexpected.
  5. Be personal
    Principle: People draw attention to things related to their personal needs.
  6. Use the familiar to explain the unfamiliar
    Principle: When the subject matter is unfamiliar and unknown, people draw attention to that which is familiar.
  7. Speak faster to keep up with your listener
    Principle: People draw attention to speech that keeps up with their listening speed.
  8. Focus a speech to one main idea
    Principle: People tend to remember one idea, rather than several unrelated ideas.

Turning Conversation Into A Ministry

  1. Listen to the other person —
    paraphrase his/her remarks, nod affirmatively, keep good eye contact. Know when to take your turn — wait for the finishing pause (.8 sec), anticipate the finishing pause, notice when the other makes eye contact with you. Note: 96% of all interruptions are by men.
  2. Know when they’re bored — over-relaxed posture, leaning head on arm, wandering eyes, glancing at clock/watch.
  3. Know why you’re boring them —
    • The Valley Girl syndrome —
      distracting, too much slang, too much small talk, easily sidetracked
    • The Lurch syndrome —
      unenthusiastic, speaking in a monotone
    • The Mr. Spock syndrome —
      over-serious, always maintaining a serious voice and serious subject matter even in informal home gatherings
    • The Nag —
      negative, constantly complaining about the world and your problems
    • The Wimp —
      passive, continually conforming to the other person’s viewpoint
    • The Slow Driver In the Fast Lane —
      tedious, talking too slowly, taking too long to make a point
    • The Never Ending Testimony —
      self-preoccupied, showing little interest in others, talking about yourself too much
    • The Weatherman —
      banal, never getting beyond the weather, superficial, shallow, interested in only one subject, repeat the same stories and jokes again and again
  4. Encourage him/her with words that he/she needs to hear —
    Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19). Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (1 Thes 5:11). First, determine what they need to hear. For first-time visitors to your church, “I’m glad you were able to join us today. Come again next week.” For a developing friendship, “I really enjoy being with you.” For a friend awaiting surgery in the hospital, “Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
  5. Know when to end the conversation — Don’t drag the conversation on when it looks like the others are ready to finish. Abandon your own agenda. Note the signals of an ending conversation: sighs, longer pauses, restlessness, less eye contact, movement away. Then bring it to a close.

What Holds Their Attention?

Usually, people’s attention shifts quite involuntarily. They do not consciously control it; it simply gravitates to the stimuli in their environment which call most loudly for it. What is it that tends to draw their involuntary attention? Below is a list of characteristics which are likely to command our primary focus. Notice that most are rooted in some form of contrast.

  1. Novelty:
    our attention is drawn to things that are different from what we would expect.
  2. Movement or activity:
    when all else is relatively still, movement will capture our attention; likewise, when all else is moving, the stationary will often stand out. It is the contrast that captures our attention.
  3. Proximity:
    of the wide range of stimuli we receive, those which are perceived as being close to us in time and space will claim our involuntary attention.
  4. Concreteness:
    that which is specific, vivid, and concrete stands out from the abstract, the general, and the bland.
  5. Familiarity:
    in a setting where things are unfamiliar and unknown, that which is familiar stands out.
  6. Conflict:
    where harmony generally prevails, opposition between two or more things tends to grasp our attention.
  7. Suspense:
    when we have the entire picture except a few pieces, we are drawn to the missing pieces to see how the whole fits together.
  8. Intensity:
    when something stands out as more intense than its surroundings, we will involuntarily pay attention to it.
  9. Humor:
    at the heart of almost all humor is some form in incongruity, something which is not where or what it is supposed to be.
  10. Life-relatedness:
    those things which are related to our “felt needs” in life tend to draw our attention.
(Litfin, A. Duane, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians,
Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1981, p. 42)