Darren Lee River Valley Church

Darren Lee is the Communications Director for River Valley Church in Minnesota. With his wife, Allison, they have three kids and are loving every minute of it.... read more

Yup, I Killed Our Church’s Communication Request Forms And So Can You.

Buy now with one click. Amazon Prime is a wonder. Especially if you live in an area with Prime Now. We’re talking less than an hour from tapping the button on your phone to enjoying the product in your home. And that’s the kind of relationship I want with Amazon – faceless, on-demand, get what I want when I want it for a cheaper price than anywhere else. They serve my every whim at all hours of the day or night.

Communication request forms can create a similar type of relationship. There is an expectation that by submitting the form, the product will be delivered perfectly to spec and expedited without further conversation or relationship. As a result, the Communication Request form can be a barrier to building trust and relationships.

On the other hand, a well-designed form and process can become like an extra employee to you – especially if you are a one-(wo)man-band. Well-designed processes should show empathy for the user and an understanding of how they best communicate their needs. The reality is, regardless of how well-designed it may be, most people don’t communicate well through a form. We are at our best when we can express our ideas and understand others through a face-to-face conversation.

Seth Godin recently said, “All deals are handshake deals. The only variable is how specific you’re willing to be about who is promising what.”

Often we use the communications request form as a substitute for good relationships with our ministry departments. In the end, even the best designed form or process can’t replace the speed, clarity and empowerment of a high-trust relationship built through listening and shared experiences.

With that in mind, here is how you can kill your communication request form:

1. Fill out the form for them

If you’re not quite ready to kill it all together, instead of asking someone to fill out the form via a piece of paper or an online portal, set a time to walk them through the questions in person, over the phone or even on a video call. Being able to discuss the questions and ask follow up questions will save you time in the long-run. Then, follow up with a complete form or creative brief asking if this represents your discussion well and if they anything else they would like to add.

2. Reverse the flow

Be the one bringing a communication strategy to them instead of reacting to their requests. This is a game changer! Annual roadmaps of all deliverables paired with monthly check-ins are great ways to grow your voice and influence. Strategy, development, execution, evaluation – be a partner in all of it rather than responding to part of it. When you are known as a listener and a learner, ministries will be drawn to you as a resource to make their ideas better.

3. Define not demand

Help your ministries understand what you will do for them – not what you won’t do. Communications people are often the king or queen of ‘No’. Lose the attitude and build a new reputation around defining a vision and resourcing it with every available tool. We are called to resource ministry, not limit it. Focus on defining the resources available rather than demanding ministries follow your guidelines.

4. Learn how to say a qualified ‘Yes’

Anything can be done, but not everything should be done. When the one-off requests come your way, if it’s reasonable and within the vision of the ministry – help them understand what it will cost to accomplish this idea. What projects will need to be delayed or cancelled? What is the cost of saying ‘yes’ to that idea? Often a conversation like this will lead to greater trust, whereas a form may lead to greater frustration.

5. Limit yourself to forms with a purpose

Not all forms are bad. Use public forms in a limited and specific capacity where it serves the vision and purpose of the ministries you are supporting. And ask yourself, does this process fit the personality of our organization? If not, it is probably time to reimagine it.

Over the years, I’ve designed my fair share of forms. All with the best intentions, but so many failed to accomplish what I set out to do. Through all those failures, I’ve realized relationship trumps process every time.

Let me encourage and challenge you to focus first on building relationships with your team, leadership and volunteers. Write your processes down as you refine them and always be looking for ways to improve them. As you embrace this idea, you’ll find yourself reacting less and leading more, allowing the ministries you serve to stay focused on their work and trusting you to amplify their message to those who need it most.

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