Effective Outpost Communication

In marketing, there is a strategy named “The Rule of 7”.  Behind this strategy is the notion that consumers need to hear or see something seven times before they remember it.  In reality, there is no science to the number of 7, rather the strategy simply implies that the marketer must constantly keep their message in front of the consumer in order to get through when the consumer is positioned to receive the message.

Before we lay out possible ways of applying these principles within an outpost, let’s first take a glance at some different types of barriers that exist which obfuscate or dilute our message.

Barriers to Effective Communication

The biggest issue that we must overcome within church circles is noise.  From Sunday morning bulletins to announcements, to newsletters and all things in between, most of our parents are inundated with the latest and greatest from every ministry that their family is involved in.  Additionally, church time is an excellent opportunity for people to fellowship and catch up with one another, so the pieces of paper that we are handing out do not always get the amount of attention that we’d like.  Likewise, passing conversations can easily be forgotten because chances are several other conversations will occur between the time we’ve said our piece and that person gets to their car.  Noise in the context that we’re using it does not entail anything bad, it simply is a challenge that we must contend with.

Parents may not always understand the need or urgency of our message.  For example, they may not realize that the weekend activity that you are organizing is a leadership merit meant to challenge their son and help him on his way to meeting annual goals.  This can be especially challenging when attempting to get boys signed up for a camp, and rest assured this issue is not specific to Royal Rangers.  Youth and children’s ministries are constantly battling against the same issues that we do with regard to communicating with parents.

In our constantly changing economy, family finances are constantly in flux.  If you are trying to raise money, schedule an event, or take a boy on a trip there is typically a cost involved.  Not all parents will be able to shoulder the financial burden that so many of our ministries place on them.  Believe it or not, your message may not be receiving traction due to the time of the month it is based on the parent’s pay check cycle.  Having your message come out at the wrong time could mean that it is ignored.

Another issue that we face in communicating with our Outpost is trust.  Do your parents know who you are?  Do they know what the Royal Rangers mission is, and do they believe that you are working toward that mission with their son?  It is very important for us as leaders to constantly reinforce the mission of Royal Rangers to avoid trust issues.  Looking at it objectively, many parents only see Royal Rangers before and after service.  For many outposts this time is spent as recreation or forming and can appear on the surface to be unorganized chaos.  Any Royal Rangers Leader knows that a lot of what makes our ministry special does not occur before or at the of our outpost meeting, but during the time that we spend mentoring our boys in bible study, developing a skill merit, or experiencing an adventure outside of church.

Applying the Rule of Seven

First and foremost, we can never rely on one type of communication.  People recognize and perceive things very differently from another, so we should attempt to share our message with them multiple times using four different methods of communication.  We must also be cognoscente that timing can impact the effectiveness of our message, so anything that is important for us to share should be coordinated well in advance of any due date.

The following list provides some ideas for different types of communication methods that can be used along with how that method is effective.

Printed Letter
This is a very common communication method, and is typically something that we should try to do multiple times.  The printed letter is effective because it can be referenced multiple times.  The challenge with this method is ensuring that it gets to the proper audience.  Trusting that a boy delivered the letter to the intended recipient is not a certainty, so unless we are able to specifically hand this to the proper person we cannot know that the message was received.

Many parents rely on email for work related matters and have become accustomed to checking them and reading them daily.  If you are able to harvest the email addresses for your parents and target email to them then you have a good chance that many of them will see your message.  Again, email is something that can be flagged or kept for an indefinite amount of time which increases the chances that it will be viewed.  There are barriers to this method, which include lack of email capabilities for your audience and junk filters which hide your message.  If you are going to employ email as a method you should ensure that parents know where the email is being sent from so that they can add it their safe list, or at the very least be looking for it in their junk list.

Social Media
Social media is all the hype these days with the rise in popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  These communication methods are effective because statistics indicate that many people utilize social media multiples times per day.  Facebook alone serves over 1 billion users daily.  Communicating your message over social media not only has the potential to reach your intended audience, but in the process you may also be able to communicate the activities that you are doing with new families.  When using social media it is important that we understand the role of each of the major social media sites.  For communicating ministry events the most applicable site is Facebook.  Twitter is more single thought based and not really intended to communicate a large amount of information.  It seems that anymore Twitter has been relegated to social awareness and trending news and events.  LinkedIn is purely a professional networking site and should for the most part be avoided when communicating outpost activities.  Social media is another method that if used, should be employed numerous times leading up to the activity.

Many churches have abandoned the traditional bulletin to save on costs and reduce administrative overhead.  If this is an option for you, having a regular spot on the bulleting can be an effective way to share what you’re doing.  Challenges include making sure that the content is updated regularly and not static, and that the deadlines for submitting are understood and adhered to so that messages are timely.

Text Message
SMS texting is yet another option that can be used to communicate with your outpost.  These messages are delivered directly to the parent’s mobile device and there is a very good chance that they will receive it.  Challenges include collecting applicable mobile numbers and ensuring that parents agree to receiving text messages from you.  We must be mindful that some mobile users still pay for SMS messages per message.  When using this method messages should be concise and sent sparingly.

Service Announcement
If your church allows your message to be shared in a pre-service video or by someone who recites upcoming news and events, this is a great way to get a message out to your church.  Challenges with this include knowing that your intended recipients are seeing or hearing the message, and unless you are delivering the message, ensuring that it is accurately conveyed to the audience.

Last but not least is the age old method of verbally sharing your message.  This is likely the most effective way to convey your message and requires that you know who your audience is personally.  Drop off and pick up times are excellent opportunities to share a message verbally, and by studying body language we can get a good feel for whether or not our message was heard and understood.  The downside to this method is that it can easily be forgotten and there is not anything tangible to reference back to.

Regardless of the method or methods employed, all of the aforementioned methods can be an effective part of your communication strategy when applied at the right time with the right amount of information.  Additionally, with all of these methods, there is an opportunity after our activity has concluded to communicate the results of the event.  This type of follow up helps to effectively break down trust issues and earn buy-in from parents who want to know that you are ministering to their son.

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