January 22, 2024 The Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Noble Virtues of Church Communications
No matter the denomination, size or setting, each church faces the challenge of communicating effectively with its congregation and community.
At Fishhook, we are often invited to “open up the hood” of a church’s communications efforts to assess how things are going. Then, we create a roadmap for improvement. We strive to understand how communications works internally with a church’s staff and leaders and as they communicate with their congregation and communities. We find unique things at each church, but there are often overlapping communications issues or themes that many churches are working to overcome.
And just as the Seven Deadly Sins have been considered "gateway sins" leading to other sins, communication missteps within a church can open the door to a host of problems. Therefore, we want to call out a few of these missteps with the aim that the local church can more effectively connect and encourage others as they share the hope and love of Jesus.
Then, we’ll also add a positive perspective—the Seven Noble Virtues. By living out these virtues, churches can cultivate a communication strategy that encourages connection, understanding and ministry growth.
Here are the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Noble Virtues of Church Communications
Pride: Overlooking the Congregation or Community’s Needs
The Sin: Pride in communication blinds us to the diverse needs and perspectives within our congregation and communities.
- Assuming the leadership knows best without seeking input from the congregation or understanding what felt needs the community experiences.
- Communicating in a way that excludes or dismisses the concerns of certain groups.
Humility: Understanding the Congregation and Community’s Diverse Needs
The Virtue: Humility encourages leaders to ask about and understand the diverse needs and perspectives within the congregation and the broader community.
- Foster a culture of humility, encouraging leaders to actively seek input and feedback.
- Use surveys and have intentional conversations or feedback sessions to understand the varied needs and perspectives of the congregation.
- Intentionally be involved and serve in the community to understand the felt needs and opportunities for supporting others beyond your church.
- Demonstrate a willingness to learn and adapt communication strategies based on the evolving needs and preferences of your audience.
Envy: Copying Without Context
The Sin: Envy leads us to imitate others’ successful communication strategies without considering our unique context.
- Adopting the tactics of other successful churches or organizations without understanding their congregation or organization’s demographics and goals.
- Focusing on replicating external successes rather than nurturing internal strengths.
Gratitude: Celebrating Internal Strengths
The Virtue: Gratitude shifts the focus from external success to appreciating and nurturing internal strengths.
- Acknowledge and celebrate the unique qualities that make your church and community special.
- Express gratitude for the dedicated volunteers and members who contribute to the church's vibrancy.
- Draw inspiration from others but adapt strategies to fit your congregation's distinct characteristics.
- Invest time in understanding your church's unique strengths and weaknesses.
- Collaborate closely with your staff, leaders and volunteers to bring meaningful initiatives to life that will be meaningful to your congregation and community.
Wrath: Reactive Communication
The Sin: Defensive communication reacts impulsively to criticism or negative feedback, and reactive communication doesn’t help strategically accomplish your ministry goals.
- Responding harshly to criticism or ignoring negative feedback all together damages relationships within your staff, with leaders, the congregation and community.
- Jumping quickly to communicate anything or everything that is in front of you when no strategic plans have been created to guide or prioritize what gets communicated.
Patience: Responding Thoughtfully to Feedback
The Virtue: Patience encourages leaders to respond thoughtfully to criticism or negative feedback.
- Approach criticism with a calm and measured response, seeking to understand perspectives.
- Cultivate an environment where constructive feedback is valued and used as an opportunity for growth.
- Start by calendaring out the ministry year, adding things you value so those items become the most important things to communicate and you can cut through the clutter and chaos even as other communications issues emerge.
Sloth: Inconsistent Communication
The Sin: Lazy or haphazard communication neglects consistency and reliability.
- Irregular updates on ways to get involved or leaving the staff, key leaders or congregation uninformed or confused.
- Not communicating the church’s mission, vision or values, and not giving people simple next steps for how to get involved to support these priorities.
- Inconsistencies in messaging and branding across different platforms.
Consistency: Building Trust Through Reliable Communication
The Virtue: Consistency in communication builds trust and reliability.
- Establish and maintain a regular communication schedule to keep all of your key audiences (staff, key leaders, the congregation and others) informed and engaged.
- Build a communications team with staff or volunteers who can help you implement in a more consistent way.
- Develop guidelines for consistent branding across all communication channels.
Greed: Focusing Solely on Numbers
The Sin: Greed in communication fixates on numerical metrics without considering qualitative aspects. (One note: While having numerical goals and making data-driven decisions in your planning is a positive thing, anything taken to an extreme isn’t constructive.)
- Emphasizing attendance numbers over the depth of community engagement.
- Prioritizing numerical growth at the expense of meaningful connections within the congregation and community.
Stewardship: Balancing Quantitative and Qualitative Growth
The Virtue: Stewardship encourages a balanced approach to growth, considering both numerical metrics and qualitative aspects.
- Balance quantitative metrics with qualitative stories of life change happening in the lives of your congregation members.
- Celebrate not just numerical growth but also the depth of relationships within the church and community.
Gluttony: Overwhelming Information
The Sin: Gluttonous communication bombards the congregation with excessive information.
- Overflowing bulletins or announcements from the stage that dilute important messages.
- Overloading social media with posts that bring little value, causing information fatigue.
Moderation: Providing Just the Right Amount of Information
The Virtue: Moderation in communication avoids overwhelming the congregation and community with excessive information.
- Prioritize essential messages to avoid overwhelming the congregation.
- Utilize different communication channels strategically, tailoring content for each platform.
Lust: Sensationalizing for Attention
The Sin: Lustful communication resorts to sensationalism for attention.
- Using clickbait language or controversial topics to grab attention.
- Sacrificing the integrity of the message for the sake of increased visibility or an individual’s platform.
Integrity: Communicating Authentically and Respectfully
The Virtue: Integrity in communication involves crafting messages that align with the core values and mission of the church.
- Prioritize authenticity and respect in communication.
- Craft messages that align with the core values and mission of your church.
Steering clear of these Seven Deadly Sins can pave the way for more trust and engagement with your staff team, key leaders and throughout your full congregation and with others in the community. Then, by embracing these Seven Noble Virtues in your church communications, you can build a foundation for a community that is not only informed but also connected and engaged.
Let's commit to fostering humility and a genuine concern for the diverse needs of our congregations and communities. By avoiding these communication pitfalls, we can build a foundation for ministry growth that is both sustainable and impactful in reaching others with the hope of Jesus.
Need help evaluating your church's communications strategy?
Fishhook offers Communications Assessments that fit your church's needs and context. Learn more about our assessment process and where you're winning or have room for growth.
Written by Shayla Kenworthy
Partner & Director of Business Development