Whenever I think of communication, I think of the 1945 Abbot and Costello baseball comedy sketch “Who’s on First.” It is one of the most perfectly timed, hilarious, comedy sketches ever performed (and if you have never seen it Google it). In the sketch Costello asks Abbot to give him the starting line up for his baseball team. Let’s just say the player’s last names are unique which causes confusion and eventual frustration. The sketch ends with Costello being infuriated because he doesn’t understand what Abbot is telling him, shouting, “I throw the ball to whom. Whoever it is drops the ball and the guy runs to second. Who picks up the ball and throws it to What. What throws it to I Don’t Know. I Don’t Know throws it back to Tomorrow, Triple play. Another guy gets up and hits a long fly ball to Because. Why? I don’t know! He’s on third and I don’t give a darn!”
Communication (or the lack of it) can often leave us frustrated like Abbot and Costello. We need to accept that the days of face-to-face communication are limited (unless you are using iChat or Skype). People are busier than ever juggling career, family, activities, volunteer commitments, school, faith, and personal lives. The tools we use to communicate make as much of an impact as the message we are sending. If we think one form of communication is all we need, we are wrong!
In this blog we will explore various aspects of communication. “Who’s on First” will address what is important to each generation and what they value as it pertains to communication. “What’s on Second” will allow us to explore the tools and styles of communication each generation prefer. Finally, we will do our best to avoid the answer “I don’t know,” which is given all too often when our communication efforts have failed to reach the people we need to reach. So, if you’re ready, let’s play ball!
Who’s on First (Generational Values)
- Veterans value formal, organized structures. Known as the “silent generation,” you should not expect them to share thoughts immediately. Trust is earned through time and hard work and face-to-face or written communication is preferred. Warning – Don’t waste their time.
- Baby Boomers value hard work especially through teamwork and inclusiveness. They speak volumes through body language and prefer face-to-face interactions. Change is also something they embrace more than most generations.
- Generation X values information and loves plenty of it. They enjoy receiving feedback and will use that feedback to adapt to new situations. They value creativity and prefer to solve their own problems verses be micro-managed.
- Generation Y values positive reinforcement and are generally optimistic. Diversity has been a part of their everyday life and media exposure. Technology is valued and used so they can multi-task with the best of them.
What’s on Second (Preferred Forms of Communication)
- Veterans prefer face-to-face communication over written. They are usually not technology savvy so avoid Facebook and email to communicate with them. Provide written materials for them to work with verses PDF emailed files.
- Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face communication where they can see your body language. Speak in an open, direct style but avoid being controlling. Details are important, so avoid being vague and think about questions your Core might need answered to avoid frustration with a lack of information.
- Generation X use email as a primary way of communication. To keep their attention, talk in small sound bites (less is more) and ask for and provide feedback consistently. Informal communication is preferred over formal.
- Generation Y responds well to email, text, Facebook and twitter communication (however when something new comes along, they will more than likely adapt to that as well). Challenge them, use positive feedback, encourage and use humor but avoid talking down to them.
For all generations, phone calls are the weakest form of overall communication, but are great when you need to talk directly to one individual or set up an appointment to meet face-to-face.
I Don’t Know (Avoiding Confusion)
Too often we hear Core Members saying, “I don’t know?” when asked what is going on or what they are supposed to be doing. Most of the time this is due to a failure to communicate and delegate tasks. Everyone involved in your ministry should at any given moment of a night be able to communicate what is going on and know who is assigned to what tasks and what is coming up next. All Core Members should feel confident with all aspects of the ministry to be able to share their excitement with parents and teens of the parish throughout the week. Clear communication is necessary and the answer “I don’t know” is simply unacceptable.
However, it is important to strike a good balance when it comes to communication with your Core Team. Over communication can cause confusion if done poorly and by poorly I mean eight separate emails, texts or phone calls that are long winded or simply fail to communicate what you NEED to communicate.
Some simple facts to remember when communicating with Core is to:
- Keep it simple and concrete
- Cover the information that everyone needs to know
- When you have specific information for one or more Core Member, communicate with that individual or group separately
- Be clear with the task you are asking them to complete (include deadlines, expectations, and necessary tools needed to accomplish the task such as Life Night PDF files)
- Use one universal form of communication that is most effective for the entire Core Team
- To ensure that everyone has been reached, provide a specific secondary form of communication for Core based on generational or a known personal preference
It is encouraged to have some form of consistent communication with your Core on a weekly basis. For example, send out an email weekly the day following your Life Night with the following information:
- A brief evaluation and affirmation of previous night
- The upcoming weeks outline or PDF file
- Reminders of additional meetings or events
- Upcoming relational ministry opportunities
- Teen and Core Birthday announcements
Setting up notification alerts in your email folder that allows you to know when your email has been opened will ensure that your entire Core Team has received the information they need to be successful in reaching the teens.
The key is to communicate consistently and know that not everyone communicates the same. Try some new things and ask your Core what form of communication they respond quickest to and adapt your style of leadership to remain effective. This will go a long way in keeping your focus on leading teens closer to Christ verses unnecessary confusion and frustration.