In any organization, it’s extremely important for communicators to understand how the organization is perceived externally and internally. Why? Because perception dictates how you communicate with your audience. It informs what you will say and how you will say it.
For churches, communicators must understand how the church is perceived:
Internally – By members of the church
Externally – In the community the church resides
I have found many church communicators are busy with a ton of tasks and limited resources. They are on the go nonstop. They’re making sure this ministry is promoted, and that ministry is promoted. They’re trying to spotlight this event, and that event. They are constantly in production mode.
I advocate communication leaders step back and take time to think, evaluate and research. Why? Because your message – what you communicate – will eventually inspire the perceptions people have of your church.
Perceptions are formed in two ways:
#1 - How you communicate to your audience internally and externally.
(This is your mission and vision – who you are, why you exist, what you do, why you do it, how you do it, etc.)
#2 - The experience people have when they attend the church. Or what people hear from others who have attended the church.
So, on one side you have what you communicate to people: How you are messaging the heart of your church and passing along that information to people internally and externally. On the other side, you have what people ultimately experience when they visit your church. Those two factors merge together to form overall church perception.
What you communicate + an individual’s experience = The perception a person has of your church
Without question – whether people have a positive or negative perception of your church – they will share their perception with others. That’s why it’s so important for you to work to shape and protect the perception of your church within the minds of your audience. When people think about your church, you want their perception to be positive.
How you can help shape a positive perception of your church
First: Communicate who you are precisely. Don’t overstate or exaggerate your identity. Be honest and exact in communicating to people who you are and what you do. Spend time reflecting on your church, and identify what perception you want people to have inside their minds. Perception is reality. It’s what is true to that person. You can’t create perception, but you can help shape it through clear communication.
Second: Make sure what you communicate is what people experience when they walk into your church. You want the two to line up with each other as closely as possible. Give people an experience to match your messaging about your church. When they take in all the information you have provided about the church and why it is unique and then they actually experience it for themselves, a positive perception is born.
Remember, perception is a powerful tool. With a lot of research and diligence, church communicators have the opportunity to shape the perception inside your church and in your community. A more positive perception will ultimately produce a more positive future for your church.
What impact do you believe perceptions have on communication? How does your church attempt to shape perceptions?