In 2003, I attended the “Communicating in Today’s Reality” conference at Willow Creek Community Church. The conference was designed to help those who communicate regularly in churches, businesses, or other organizations to get better at communication. At the time, I was serving on staff at a church in Texas, and I wanted to get better at what I saw to be a critically important skill. That investment is one I’ve never regretted. Did it improve my communication? Well, that depends on who you talk to! But it clarified so many things in my mind around the topic of effective communication.
Later this week, I’m going to a gathering of host site pastors for the Global Leadership Summit, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to spend two days focused on intentional learning with regard to leadership. One of the speakers will be Ken Davis, who I first heard at that communication conference in 2003. Here are four principles that really impacted me when I first heard Ken speak.
1. “If you’re going to stand and deliver, you must deliver with crystal clear focus.”
How many times have I messed this up! A seminary professor named Howard Hendricks used to say it this way: “a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.” If communicators and teachers are not communicating with crystal clear focus (a mist), then by the time the hearers hear it, it’s just a fog – it can’t be grasped at all. Clarity is critically important.
2. “A survey was done of 2500 people coming out of church:
• 75% of people couldn’t say what the point was in a sentence
• 50% of pastors couldn’t say what the point was in a sentence
If you can’t say in one sentence what the point is, you can’t do it in 30 minutes”
Crafting one point statements that are memorable and sticky is challenging week in and week out. But if we don’t spend the time and do it, we’ll find that the main idea that we struggled with all week will float out of people’s minds very quickly. Sometimes, before they leave the room.
3. “Ask other to critique you.”
Every week at Southview, all of the pastors fill out an evaluation form where we think through how every element of the weekend went. From our Adventure Zone kids ministry to our First Impressions team, from our 412 student ministry to our weekend services, we evaluate everything. And that includes the sermon! I’ve found it incredibly helpful to get feedback on what worked, what didn’t, what was helpful, and what could have been left out. It’s not always what I’d like to hear, but it’s almost always what I need to hear. While this is subjective, it’s very helpful to get different perspectives. But if I didn’t ask for the critique, I likely wouldn’t get it. We have to ask.
4. “Who killed the Bible people? We did! We suck all of the emotion and drama out of the people and stories.”
This idea changed the way I read the Bible. When I read, I try very hard to read it with emotion, with passion, with feeling – like I would if I were telling a story that happened to me the other day. I believe the accounts in the Bible really happened, just like the story of when I was at the grocery store – and I need to communicate it with the same level of passion and feeling. When we read it in a tired, monotone way, or we create a big difference in how we read the text and how we tell a story, we communicate that there’s a big difference between what happens to me and what happened to people then.
Leaders know how important communication is. And the best way I know to get better at communication and leadership is to get around people who are farther down the road and better at it than you are so you can learn from them. That’s why I go to gatherings like the one this week; that’s why I go to conferences like the Global Leadership Summit and Leadercast; and that’s why I read books about leadership and communication. Leaders, getting better doesn’t just happen – it’s up to you to invest in yourself and your leadership.
What communication mistakes do you see happen often when people stand to speak? How are you intentionally seeking to get better at this in 2015?