The pastor is in the communication business. Whatever else he is, he is a communicator. Everything he does is about communication. Communication is his “product” or “service.” Whether he is preaching, counseling, chairing a board of elders, emailing, blogging, facebooking, writing newsletters, evangelizing, meeting someone on the street, or even just standing in a public place – he is communicating; he is communicating a message. His words, his expressions, his tone of voice, his body language, and even his clothes are communicating a message. An awareness of this continuous communication mode is the first step we take in becoming good communicators. There is no point in being a skillful preacher, if our person-to-person communication skills are poor. The one will undermine the other. We can be as eloquent as Cicero, but if we spell like an infant in our emails then our credibility and reliability will be undermined. So, here are four preliminary questions to consider in all pastoral communication.1. What is my message?
Whether we are preaching, leading a Bible study, visiting a sick person, or writing a report, we need a clear statement of purpose. What do I want to get across here? And can I sum it up in a simple sentence? 2. Is my message accurate?
Is this true? Am I telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? We hope that spiritual leaders would never intentionally tell a lie. However, it can be very tempting to tell the truth, but not the whole truth, especially when we are facing problems in a congregation or in a personal relationship. We may hold back something that does not present ourselves in the best possible light. 3. Is my message appropriate?
We can be clear and truthful about our message and yet fail to communicate because our message may use words that are too big, or sentences that are too long. Alternatively, if we are addressing educated and mature Christians, we must not come across as condescending and demeaning. And what about the tone of the message? If dealing with hurt and wounded people, am I communicating like a sympathetic friend, or like a math teacher dealing with statistics? If communicating with critics, am I addressing them as an angry opponent out to win an argument, or as a gentle peacemaker out to win them over. If dealing with serious sin, am I communicating the gravity of the situation, or am I trying to sweeten the bitter pill with lashings of comedy?
4. Is this the right medium?
The pastor has many vehicles for his words today. On top of sermons, he has bible studies, fellowship meetings, counseling sessions, family visitation, private conversation, email, private letters, congregational newsletters, pulpit announcements, telephone, letters to newspapers, blogs, podcasts, etc. The medium is part of the message and has to be chosen wisely if we do not want to damage the message itself.