When it comes to crisis communications, choose to be proactive, brave, empathetic, intentional and open.
Pastor and church communicator ... I want to start by acknowledging the obvious. You're facing hard things (we all are). So much hurt, division and even tragedy in our local communities, nation and world.
In addition, our churches and denominations are facing hard things. How do we love God, love others and live out the Fruit of the Spirit while navigating tough issues, divided groups, scandals, investigations and so much fallout from it all?
And while I don't know your specific situation ... I know there is hope! We know God sees it all and is sovereign. He loves us and is always at work. His purposes will prevail.
As we seek to lead, serve and communicate through it all - what should we know? What can we do?
There are some guiding principles that can help us each day. Have you considered ...
1. Your focus each day Since God is sovereign, we don't have to force anything. Did you start today quietly seeking Him? Prayer, gratefulness and looking to God's Word can literally change the course of your focus and day (in all the good ways).
2. Your connection with others Who is leading and serving with you? Bring people along with you to carry the load. Pray together. Ask questions. Listen. Develop a plan together. Move forward. Continually assess. Problem solve. Take next steps. Keep sharing. Keep persevering. All together.
3. When hard news comes, we respond
Our team recognizes that there are many complex and very difficult situations facing our churches and communities. It can be overwhelming, at times. From a communications standpoint - we urge our clients (churches and ministries) to be as brave, empathetic, intentional and open as possible. What does this look like?
Be brave:We humbly ask questions, listen, plan and say the hard things. We find hope even when, at times, it can seem hopeless. Trust is lost when we don't share. We have to help our staff teams, other leaders, congregations and communities navigate both the joys and the disappointments of any given season - and that means talking about the hard and disappointing things (as well as the wins and joys).
Be empathetic:It's important to look around and see what others are experiencing, feeling and need. As leaders, we have to continually consider where others are at. And then we journey with them as we love like Jesus, share and lead them to a better place.
Be intentional:We always want to consider the time, place, what we'll say, and how we'll say it. Not everyone needs to hear everything all of the time (or at the same time). Be discerning. Anticipate what is needed and where you are striving to take people.
Be open:We live in a day and age where people value open, authentic communication. Be real and open in a way that honors God. Share the facts. Answer both the easy and hard questions. Help people know God-honoring next steps. Cast vision for where you are headed, help them process (give them some time), and ask people to prayerfully join you. This will build trust, respect and commitment.
4. Overall, we choose to be proactive
Hard news and situations can cause you to react. But as much as possible and overall - strive to be proactive. What is your mission? Values? Priorities? Define and allow these key drivers to direct you, your staff and congregation as you make decisions, carry out ministry, and in all of your communications (one on one, to a large group, online, etc.).
Then, be brave, empathetic, intentional and open about your mission, values and priorities consistently and ongoing. This will energize and guide your work and communications each day. And it will help you pray and persevere - along with your staff, other leaders, congregation and community when the hard times and seasons come.
One final note - an important part of being proactive is being ready for the hard times (the crisis and the unexpected). Does your church have a crisis management team ready to lead when a crisis situation arises? Do you have a crisis communications plan developed to guide you? This is important planning. You can learn more from Fishhook with these sample crisis communications resources.
Pastor and church communicator - we know you're facing hard things. With God's help, we can carry on. You and your work matter.