The aforementioned comments were made in recent months by some church members at Howell Nazarene Church, a church averaging 100 Sunday morning attendees, including children. Because comments such as these were coming to the attention of the church leadership more and more often, the pastor thought the church would benefit from a thorough communication audit. He expressed interest in discussing the results of such a project to improve church communication.
This research sought to provide solutions and communication strategies designed to improve areas of communication that the research indicated was problematic for the Howell Nazarene Church. Study participants included teens and adults who attend Howell Nazarene Church on Sunday mornings as well as those who participated in mid-week activities.
There were four Research Questions that guided this research. They were:RQ1: Are there real or perceived communication problems at Howell Nazarene Church?RQ2: Do communication problems exist which stem from the Howell Nazarene leadership?
RQ3: Are there communication problems in the information presented in the church publications or website?RQ4: What can be done to improve communication at Howell Nazarene Church?
There were four assessments given to church members. They were:Preliminary Research Survey – The study participants for the preliminary research survey were the general church population, including community people who were involved with church activities, but not necessarily Sunday morning services. The information gleaned from it was used to guide suggestions as to the improvement of the indicated areas. Forty-seven people completed this survey. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire – This research assessment was conducted on behalf of the paid staff leadership at Howell Nazarene Church. Staff members and various church leaders and members filled out the questionnaire. Staffers assessed themselves by completing the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) and each staff member was assessed by other individuals who serve with them in ministry. Leaders’ scores were added to the scores of the individuals who rated them and an average was computed. This gave the leader an overall assessment his/her scores as they compared to the scores of an average person. The five staff members’ scores were added together and the average was taken from the compiled score to rate them as a team.
Meetings Assessment – On the first Sunday of each month, Howell Nazarene Church holds what is called the Ministry Team Day meeting. These meetings are open to the entire church body. In a private discussion with the author, prior to the communication audit, the pastor indicated Ministry Team Day is one of the main communication avenues between the staff and congregation. Sunday morning attendees are invited to stay after church for a luncheon during which the pastor and staff present a variety of information. After the luncheon and meeting, individual ministry groups are encouraged to stay and hold their own monthly meetings. The meeting evaluation survey was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the monthly church meeting as a communication vehicle. Twenty-one adults filled out surveys for this evaluation at the March, 2010 meeting. 4)Website & Publications survey – Seventy-five attendees were requested to participate in this survey and 33 responses were received. A 45% response rate is sufficient to provide an overview of the perceptions of the efficiency and usefulness of the communication received via the website and publications of Howell Nazarene Church. Nearly all respondents attend the Sunday morning service weekly.
The largest demographics at Howell are 51-60 years old and 31-40 years old. The largest demographic to participate in the Preliminary Survey, the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire and the Meetings Assessment were 51-60 years old. The Website & Publications Survey did not request age demographics.
Questions in the preliminary research survey, were designed to help discover if there were real or perceived communication challenges at Howell Church. The study participants for the preliminary research survey were the general church population, including community people who are involved with church activities, but not necessarily Sunday morning services. The information gleaned from it was used to guide suggestions as to the improvement of the indicated areas. Forty-seven people completed this survey.
There were a wide variety of venues through which people received communication. An open-ended question in the survey asked respondents to name the main venue(s) through which they received communication at Howell Nazarene Church. The majority of respondents indicated they primarily receive information equally from the Sunday morning announcements and the church bulletin, which is distributed on Sunday morning. The fact that 21% of respondents indicated that they do not attend the church on a weekly basis suggests this group of people consistently misses the most accurate and widely-used forms of communication utilized by the church.
While the MLQ is designed to assess many leadership skills, much of the assessment deals with the effectiveness of communication skills. Three attributes of leadership assessed by the MLQ rely heavily on communication skills that build relationships between the leader and followers. They are Idealized Behaviors, Inspirational Motivation, and Intellectual Stimulation. Examining these attributes is important because strong relationships built on respect and shared vision are an important component of the communication loop and contribute to the development of shalom in the church.Idealized behaviors. The attribute of Idealized Behaviors includes the ability to communicate a leader’s deepest values. Knowing these builds trust in followers. Leaders who exhibit idealized behaviors communicate their values through value-oriented actions. Followers want to emulate leaders who hold firmly to their values.Inspirational motivation. A leader with a well-developed attribute of Inspirational Motivation is able to communicate with followers with enthusiasm and optimism. He/she communicates positive vision for the future. This type of leader motivates followers through inspiration. Intellectual stimulation. NEW IDEAS PROBLEMS SOLVED Intellectual Stimulation deals with a leader’s ability to encourage subordinates to discover new ways to solve problems. It also measures a leader’s ability to help followers assess their opinions and to deviate from the status quo. The ability to intellectually stimulate followers without insulting them or causing negative reactions is critical to organizational communication that moves an organization forward.
Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire results are interpreted in terms of a comparison with population norms. As a group, the staff leadership generally rated higher than average in Idealized Behaviors and Inspirational Motivation, but lower than average in Intellectual Stimulation. This means they are good at promoting enthusiasm, motivation, and adherence to church cultural norms, but not at encouraging critical thinking. This could contribute to communication difficulties because Intellectual Stimulation skills are important for keeping followers engaged and involved.
This is a visual representation of information from the previous slide.
Overall, the perceptions of the Ministry Team Day meetings were positive, with the majority of respondents indicating that the meetings were conducted in an effective manner. Most people believed there was ample time allowed for communication between the staff and the attendees and the majority of people felt they were informed and part of the decision-making process at the meetings. The only areas that appeared to be in need of improvement were the areas of keeping minutes for the meeting and performing evaluations of meeting effectiveness. These apparently are rarely done at Howell Nazarene Church. This research did not query the participants as to their desire to have minutes or meeting evaluations; it only asked if they were regularly made available.
The pastor indicated he would like to see the church body utilize the Howell website more frequently. Half of the respondents did not visit the website on a regular basis. The main reason given for not using it was it did not contain accurate information such as correct dates and contact information. In contrast, those who did use the website indicated the site contained accurate, up-to-date information. Most individuals who used the website found it visually appealing, easy to navigate, and easy to read. This survey also indicated the website was mostly used to obtain information about the church and about church activities.
The church bulletin and other publications were the final communication sources examined in this assessment tool. Most of the participants said they received information from the weekly church bulletin and other publications. Overall, the perception was information gleaned from church publications was accurate. The church bulletin was cited as one of the most-important publications for church announcements. The only area of the bulletin mentioned for improvement was the prayer request section. Most respondents reported the prayer request list needed to be updated more regularly.
While this survey did not reveal any glaring communication problems at Howell Nazarene,it did show there are real communication problems that could use improvement: There is too much reliability on Sunday morning verbal and bulletin announcements for which a large percentage of activity participants are not present. Interpersonal talk between members through the grapevine, is widely-used, yet were found to be unreliable. Church leaders in various positions are trusted but under-utilized. E-mail blasts are received by too few individuals. And few people use the church website to gain communication about church activities.
This survey showed many individuals do not utilize church leaders as a source of information despite the fact they are considered a reliable source of information. Sunday morning announcements are a popular and relied-upon source of communication for the church, but some people felt the announcements needed to cover a broader range of ministry events. This source of communication was also not helpful for those who donot attend the church regularly. The survey also disclosed e-mail blasts are not received by many church members and the website is rarely visited by participants. An additional finding showed informal communication, the grapevine, is widely-used, despite the fact it is considered unreliable. These areas of communication are perceived to be sources of communication problems for Howell Nazarene Church.
The MLQ showed the leaders rated higher than average in two key areas of leadership communication: Idealized Behaviors and Inspirational Motivation. But they were well below average in Intellectual Stimulation – this is an area needing improvement. The Meetings Survey showed overall participants were satisfied with ministry meeting communication and the only areas that could be addressed are: attendees indicated they never receive minutes or meeting evaluations.
The results of this survey revealed people utilized the bulletin more than any other publication or the website as a source of information; in addition, they found information in the bulletin to be correct and trustworthy. There was an interesting twist in the results for the questions pertaining to the website. People who used the website regularly indicated it was a reliable, trustworthy source of church information. Those who didnot use it indicated it was unreliable and not trustworthy. This indicates that perceptions of the site are directly correlated to personal use.
The communication audit identified several communication weaknesses for which recommendations were made. The suggestions include strategies for improving: inaccurate communication through informal means; utilizing church leaders’ and e-mail communication more effectively; leadership communication skills; producing more minutes and evaluations for meetings; solving perceived website inaccuracies; and bulletin prayer request updates.
Individual ministry leaders, board members and staff were considered reliable sources of information; however, they are largely under-utilized. Howell leadership should investigate the reason why a relatively low percentage of members receive information from them. It is recommended that all leaders participate in drafting and executing a communication strategy. It appears church leaders are well-known for communication accuracy and could be valuable assets in improving communication at Howell Nazarene Church.
Howell leadership appears to do a fine job of communicating during monthly Ministry Team Day meetings. Leaders do not provide minutes of the meetings or perform periodic evaluations of them. It is suggested leaders provide minutes to attendees after the meetings. This could help ensure they have correct information to pass on about what took place at the meetings. Additionally, it is useful to perform occasional meeting evaluations to discover attendees’ responses to the meetings and help ensure continued success.
Church staff could improve their Intellectual Stimulation communication skills. This can be done by establishing individual communication plans that challenge leaders to develop the critical thinking skills in their followers. The MLQ assessment tool has a workbook designed to help leaders strengthen weak areas. The workbook contains seven objectives and over 100 action steps for leaders to improve their Intellectual Stimulation skills. It is recommended the staff as a whole considers the section on improving Intellectual Stimulation and work as a group to complete action steps provided in the MLQ workbook to strengthen this area. As accountability partners, they could hold each other responsible for following the suggested action steps that will increase their success in communicating through Intellectual Stimulation.
Overall, participants gave positive ratings on the church website. Church leaders should evaluate the website for accuracy and possibly outdated content. It is also recommended that more effort be put into adding new and deleting old content at least every week so the site is more dynamic and constituents perceive it as a timely and useful resource. It is possible there is a perceptual problem and church leaders could address it by launching a communication campaign designed to educate and inform church membership about the benefits of the site.
Occasional e-mail blitzes are a weak area of communication for the church. Church leaders should investigate why a large percentage of members do not utilize e-mail communication. The e-mail address database should be updated and maintained. The church is encouraged to use this resource well by ensuring that all communiqués are short, well-written, timely and necessary. Church attendees should be informed that the church will begin relying on more communiqués by e-mail. They should also address concerns with those who are reluctant to share their e-mail addresses because of concerns about receiving electronic spam. Church leadership could ask members to provide e-mail addresses while reassuring them their e-mail addresses will be used by church leaders solely for informing addressees about church business.
People were satisfied with the bulletin as a publication and used it regularly as a source of communication. However, several participants pointed out the church bulletin frequently contained prayer requests which were outdated andtoo infrequently updated. The bulletin editor should consider the how the prayer request list is assimilated and monitored. If it is not already done, it might helpful to ask those who are submitting prayer requests to indicate how long they desire prayer requests to run in the bulletin. Additionally, the prayer request list should be reviewed and updated regularly.
Informal communication such as the grapevine was not designated by the pastor as an area of communication utilized by church leaders. A large majority of respondents indicated the grapevine is used but inaccurate a majority of participants named the grapevine as the greatest communication weakness at Howell Nazarene Church. Firstly the church can implement the recommendations given in this proposal to ensure timely, accurate and memorable communication. Filling in communication gaps and inaccuracies, will eliminate much of the grapevine activity that adds to confusion and miscommunication. Secondly, church leaders must strengthen communication between themselves to ensure they have access to the same information, are on the same page in understanding, and communicate unified rather than conflicting messages to the lay population. Thirdly, church leaders must recognize that constituents do talk with each other and share information about church events, so they can use this informal channel by sharing and reinforcing timely and accurate information with key parishioners.
A few limitations are recognized in this study. In certain instances it could have been helpful to include focus group discussions and personal interviews. Using focus groups could have helped shed light on the reasons behind some of the findings, particularly in understanding constituents’ perceptions of leaders’ communication and interpersonal communication during ministry meetings. It would have also been helpful to have some additional questions which were formulated to dig deeper into why constituents held specific perceptions.
The recommendations resulting from this audit would help church members create a community of shalom (life as God intended). Healthy, effective communication unifies members and builds community. Howell church would be blessed and their faith community made stronger by leaders who proactively recognize and address communication breakdowns.
Howell Nazarene Church Audit
Howell Nazarene Church <br />Communication Audit & Recommendations<br />Sample of work and understanding of organizational communication<br />Study & Recommendations<br />by Rhonda Callanan<br />
The Problem & Justification<br />“Seems like communication here at Howell Nazarene Church isn’t at its best right now.” <br />“The communication at this church is terrible.” <br />
Study Overview<br />The purpose was to identify communication weaknesses and prepare recommendations to improve communication effectiveness.<br />
?<br />Research Questions<br />?<br />?<br />RQ1: Are there real or perceived communication problems at Howell Nazarene Church?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />RQ2: Do communication problems exist which stem from the Howell Nazarene leadership?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />
?<br />Research Questions<br />?<br />RQ3: Are there communication problems in the information presented in the church publications or website?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />RQ4: What can be done to improve communication at Howell Nazarene Church?<br />?<br />?<br />?<br />
Assessment Tools<br /><ul><li>Preliminary Survey –perceptions of communication
Meeting evaluations</li></li></ul><li>Conclusions<br />Website & Publications<br /><ul><li> Website misperception</li></li></ul><li>Recommendations<br />RQ4: What can be done to improve communication at Howell Nazarene Church?<br /><ul><li> Church leaders
MLQ Workbook suggestions</li></li></ul><li>Recommendations<br />Website<br /><ul><li> Keep the site dynamic by updating at least weekly
Church-wide campaign to encourage church to check website regularly</li></li></ul><li>Recommendations<br />E-mail<br /><ul><li> Create a new database of constituent e-mail addresses
Devise a system for maintaining accurate e-mail addresses
Make sure e-mail communiqués are short, well-written, timely & necessary
Carry out a church-wide campaign to encourage constituents to open & read e-mails
Dispel fears that e-mail addresses will be compromised </li></li></ul><li>Recommendations<br />Bulletin<br /><ul><li>Make sure all information is up-to-date
Eliminate old information such as prayer topics that are no longer relevant</li></li></ul><li>Recommendations<br />Grapevine<br /><ul><li> Ensure church communication is timely, accurate and memorable
Strengthen interpersonal leadership communication
Reinforce timely and accurate information with key parishioners</li></li></ul><li>Limitations<br />Quantitative<br /><ul><li> All paper or online surveys
Additional questions</li></li></ul><li>Conclusion<br />“Communication can be amazingly powerful. When we recognize our fallenness, transcend our corrupted communities, reject the urge to dominate others, and stop squandering our gifts, we are on the road to shalom” <br />(Schultze, 2002, p. 86).<br />