Communications is a critical aspect of any relationship. When working with couples preparing to wed, I spend part of our time talking about how to improve their communications. Every relationship is dependent on communications. Even when a relationship is broken, we communicate that estrangement with the absence of communication.
This year one of the pastoral priorities that has been set for me is to increase and improve our congregational communications. We have made many positive steps over the past few years in the area of communications. A few places where I believe I have seen improvement are:
- A more centralized communication approach which has allowed for a consistent message with unified style and content.
- Focusing on quality over quantity. Rather than sending out too many emails, we have sought to bundle items and focus our efforts on the Sunday Bulletin and Tuesday Tidbits as our chief communications tools.
- Making communication timely and concise. Thus we have a weekly newsletter in the Tuesday Tidbits.
- Increasing the accessibility and information on the website to make it more than a static advertisement. Now it is growing to be an internal and external communication tool.
- A Pastor’s blog which is intended to be a two-way communications tool for all to contribute to discussions.
- The use of social media to expand our sense of fellowship and to facilitate conversation.
One area that the pre-marital counseling focuses on is the need for active listening. The reality of communication is that it takes two to get it done. A speaker without a listener is like a tree falling in the woods, “if no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Active listening is about using your ears and brain to develop understanding of what the other is saying. Today, especially in the political climate, communication is more about listening to respond than understanding what we hear. We often listen or read something to formulate a retort. It is critically important that we in the church work for understanding before response.
This need to be active in our listening is not only true in the realm of worldly relationships, but is critical in our relationship with God. For many of us prayer is time that is spent speaking and even at times “dumping” on God. Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to lay our burdens before his heavenly throne. Unfortunately, if that is all we do in our relationship with God, we miss an opportunity to hear the very Spirit of God responding to our deepest needs. Have you ever noticed how uncomfortable it can be when we follow the admonition to, “Be still and know that I am God”? There is a deep and powerful reality in the fact that our God is not a distant, disinterested figure but is one who is intimately aware of who and what we are. If we fail to give ourselves the opportunity to listen to God, we fail to experience the full nature of the relationship God has instituted through Christ.
But how do we listen to God? Of course there is the reality of God working through the still small voice that some would call the conscience. Each of us has daily interactions with God when deep within us we are called to make sound and ethical choices informed by our faith. Yet I think we fail to notice one way that God speaks. Often we see the institutional activities of our congregation as just that, simply our activities we create and lead. In the church we actually should find ourselves attentive to what we are doing and recognize it as the very actions of God.
I hope that each week when you read your bulletin or Tidbits, you find yourself connecting with more than a to-do list. I hope that you read this information and witness the Spirit working in our midst. This means that each week the information you read is more than announcements, but is also our testimony as well as God speaking. I pray you utilize this spiritual tool and are encouraged through your reading of it.