How do you get church folks to read the important stuff? Like, say, that assessment report that details the problems and maps out the solutions?
Cut it up into tasty pieces that they can handle, one at a time.
Interim pastors have to deal with a dilemma when it comes to the
You spend days pouring over dusty tomes and mind-numbing meeting notes.
Untold hours are spent in personal interviews and small group meetings. The commercial profile tool you’ve selected spits out sixty pages of prose.
Getting this across will tax your writing skills, your communications
expertise and even then some folks just won’t listen. But still, you’ve got to try.
Here’s the course of action I’ve used with varying degrees of success.
Maybe you can set me and the readers on a better course.
Whet their appetites
- The second Sunday of every month I give a brief progress report. I make a report on the interim process every second Sunday during the entire interim period. It reminds them that they are a church in transition and there’s work to be done.
- I let a few details of what I’ve uncovered “leak out” via the drip method to the thought leaders and influencers in the congregation
- I make occasional process comments such as, “this is evidence of something I discovered during the assessment” in the appropriate venue
Write a readable report
- The written report should detail only the items you’ll recommend for action during the interim.
- Make mention of the items that will need to be handled by the settled pastor.
- Break the written report into logical sections. In my reports I include sections on “Document Review”; “Personal Interviews”; “Survey Tools”; “Conclusion and Recommendations”.
- Give an honest appraisal of the harmful system patterns and decisions you find in the documents, but minimize the sting where possible.
- Be sure to include choice comments from the interviews. In the church I’m now serving one observer said, “There’s no apparent reason why these people gather together at this church on Sunday morning. But when they do, something sweet happens.”
- Where possible use graphs and diagrams as they convey lots of information at a glance.
- Write a two-page Executive Summary
- No theological terms
- Write for an 8th grade reading level
- Present the first draft (less the recommendations and Executive Summary) to the Board to clarify misunderstandings and fill in missing information.
- Prepare the final report for the congregation and schedule a delivery date. It should be delivered in a venue that affords ample opportunity for questions and interaction. (In one church the Board delivered the report to the congregation. Each of the eight Board members was in a different room and church members were assigned alphabetically to the eight rooms. After an hour of discussion the entire church met in the auditorium where the Board members gave a five minute readout on the discussion in their rooms)
- Present the Executive Summary to the congregation as that’s all that most of them will care about anyhow. Make sure copies or download links are available for those who want to read all the details; there’ll be a few.
- Use a slide deck to accompany the Executive Summary. Keep it to bullet points, no more than three bullet points per slide, no more than five words per bullet point.
- Major on the recommendations! Yes, you’ll need to help them see the past because some correction will be in order. But convey a genuine faith that if the church makes the recommended changes they will successfully navigate the transition and emerge the better for it.
- Before you deliver the presentation you’d better have plans for implementing the recommendations in place â€” at least in part.
- Be diligent. Make sure that the recommendations are implemented.
- Keep them informed. <rinse and repeat>