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Staff Changes - what to say when you can't say anything yet

We were asked by a client to help them with some delicate communication planning as they worked through a major staff reorganization. The staff knew the details of each of their own situations and had a clear picture of the new staff structure. However, all of the changes would not be public for a period of time. Knowing the dynamics of any workplace (and especially a church), church leaders and staff were anticipating questions from the congregation. Questions quickly came and rumors had already started. As it started, leaders and staff were asking a big question of their own:

"If we can't talk openly now, what can we say about the staff changes when people ask?"

Everyone involved wanted to maintain truthful communication, but leaders were stressing to the staff that there were important reasons why the full picture of changes should not be made known right away. 

Here were Fishhook's recommended outline/talking points for communication for every staff member and elder as they responded to questions from the congregation:

  1. Acknowledge and Affirm
    • As a member of the church staff/elder, I'm aware of some upcoming staff changes as our church leaders work to make us the best church we can be.
    • I appreciate your interest/concern/question. And here's what I can share with you at this time.

  2. Convey Trust
    • First, let me say that I trust God is sovereign – and I trust He's in control.
    • Second, I trust our church leaders – and I trust they are praying through the changes and they are seeking God's will for our church.
    • Third, I trust that I can ask you to be patient until more information can be shared because these changes involve real people, real families and real work and ministry assignments.

  3. Outline Next Steps
    • You may hear both accurate and inaccurate information circulating in the weeks to come. Please be patient until you hear more information directly from our church leaders. Soon, more details about our vision and future plans will be shared with the entire congregation.
    • Staff – you can share broad personal feelings: I'm excited, It's hard, I'm praying, etc.  
    • Staff – if you sense someone needs/wants to know or discuss more, suggest they contact (specific church leaders by name).

While this language was geared to staff changes, the basic outline could be applied to many types of changes within a congregation. The staff received this information well and knowing what to say gave them greater confidence.  

How would it work for you? Does it feel authentic and complete enough for your world?

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About the Author

Leah Norton

Team connector. Client advocate. Corporate and agency P.R. type. Wife. Mom. Dog owner. Unconditionally loved. Forever grateful.

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