Start Small, Reach Big

The Times They Are A-Changin’

The great songwriter and theologian (cough, cough) Bob Dylan was right when he declared “The times they are a-changin” in 1964, and he continues to be right today. Wherever you lead and communicate, don’t you feel like things have changed and continue to change drastically? Do you find it harder to communicate with and lead your people right now than in the past? I know I do.

What if we were approaching our communication with the right intent but the wrong strategy? What if there was a better way emerging to reach our people and move them toward engagement?

The Funnel of Communication

I get to serve at Journey Church in the southeast corner of Grand Rapids, and these questions are some of the things (among many others) our staff has wrestled with during the last several months. Through discussion and experimentation, we’ve started to use the term “The Funnel of Communication” to describe who we are trying to reach and how and when we communicate with them. Disclaimer: This is mainly in the context of trying to engage and mobilize people that call our church “home.”

Simply put, the funnel is a tool that can help you strategically think through how to build momentum in your events, sign-ups, and calls-to-action you are putting in front of people.

Here’s a breakdown that may represent how most of us have approached communicating these significant efforts in the past (or perhaps still do):

    • Conversation (ex. 1-10 people): Someone makes a decision and we communicate among staff or a leadership team regarding an upcoming event, outreach, or significant change. (This is the group that is responsible for seeing this project through).
    • Announcement (ex. 5-25 people): After the first level of people is in the loop, we might mention it to a broader group like a ministry team or a large group of leaders. (This is the group that will likely be “bought-in” and will contribute.)
    • Announcement (ex. 30-300 people): After fielding some questions or getting responses, we put the opportunity out to the whole church, organization, team, etc. (This is the group that we have to work hardest to engage.)

Maybe for your context, directly after someone makes a decision and initial planning occurs, you communicate to a broader audience through a video, in-person announcement, or email. In essence, you go from a tiny group (staff, leadership team, etc.) to a large group (ministry volunteers, congregation, youth group, etc.) very quickly.

What if you give your projects more time to build momentum by starting small, person-to-person, in your communication?

Here’s why: In a world full of noise, especially online, the most influential voice in someone’s life is the one across the table from them. So maybe it’s time to flip the funnel of communication. Don’t waste your people’s attention by starting with the broadest part of the funnel. Instead, start small and then work your way out to a bigger audience.

Start Small, Reach Big

We can’t assume that we can mention something one time to hundreds of people and get significant buy-in. So, what if the communication for your next all-church outreach started with every staff member on your team having one-on-one conversations inviting people in their circles of influence to be a part of it?

What if you waited to announce something on Facebook and instead had a Zoom call with three small group leaders who might influence their groups to join in what you are planning? Communicating like this will help your key people be informed and increase engagement because personal invitations are involved in what’s happening.

What if starting small in your communication is the strategy that will lead you to reaching big?

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