The first year of marriage for my wife and me was the most difficult. We moved to a new city in a new state. We started new jobs. We changed schools. We switched churches. Everything in our lives was new. On top of that, we lived on next to nothing. Both seminary students, we worked side jobs to pay our bills.
As tough as our new life of changes and financial stress was, we had a much bigger problem that made our lives difficult: We had no idea how to communicate with one another.
I can distinctly remember one day in the car when our lack of communication skills made for a painful experience:
My wife: "You need to turn here, babe."
Me: "You sure? Because I thought we were supposed to go straight."
My wife: "Nope. I thought this through. You need to turn."
Me: "Let's just see where straight takes us."
My wife: "It'll take us 'lost.' Turn."
Me: "I'm driving, so I'm going straight."
My wife: "Then you're going the wrong way."
Me: "I just want to see if this is the right way."
My wife: (mumbles under her breath)
Me: "Who has the keys right now? Me? Good. Next time, when you have them, you can turn."
We had to learn to communicate. It simply wasn't coming naturally.
Why did we have to learn? Because we were married, we loved each other, and we knew that if we weren't actively headed in the same direction, we were headed in opposite directions. Even passive, nonexistent communication moves you somewhere.
Communication, or lack thereof, is never neutral when you are dealing with people. The question is whether you're headed in parallel directions, or beginning to veer off course from one another. An ever-so-slight move off course can have a huge impact down the road.
This is true for small groups, too. In effect, small groups are churches within a church, which means that a local congregation is a combination of multiple small groups, or multiple churches, coming together to worship. It's a beautiful thing. All those groups are filled with people, and how we communicate with them will determine the trajectory of the groups.
There's a danger in not communicating well to small groups. Without oversight and leadership, small groups become unhealthy pockets of church life. It's far too easy to get disconnected. They're meeting somewhere private, and they're led by lay leaders. They're talking about tough issues, and there isn't a guide to handle every situation that comes up. Without a coach checking in regularly with the group leader, a group can get really weird, really quickly.
Even if a group starts out strong, things can turn south. Andy Stanley says, "Vision leaks." Over time, without a constant drip of communication, leaders will lose the vision. The group will drift from the primary mission. Leaders will lose focus, and they'll find themselves off the intended course. Without clear, consistent communication, lots of weird things can happen.
You may be nodding your head in agreement, knowing from experience how quickly things can go sideways in a small group when communication has broken down. Leadership owes it to group leaders to give thorough, reasoned, compelling communication.
In order to do that, church leaders should use all means necessary to ensure delivery. Choosing the correct method for the information you're communicating is important, though. Before you put your next message together, read through the different methods below.