No one knows much about what the future holds as some COVID-19 restrictions are eased, but we know that a lot feels uncertain.
Church leaders are hearing questions such as…
What’s our plan?
Will we reopen soon?
Will there be any layoffs?
With so much uncertainty in the world, your answer might be, “I don’t know.” And rightfully so.
But “I don’t know” doesn’t help and doesn’t give people a lot of confidence. On the other hand, communicating with clarity reduces anxiety.
We have two suggestions that we believe will help you communicate even when you don’t know what to say. When the answer is, “I don’t know,” here’s what you can do.
#1 – Bring your process front and center
Where “we don’t know right now” can be frustrating, communicating a plan or process is reassuring to people.
Simply knowing that there’s a plan being worked on puts people at ease.
Fewer people cared about the church’s cleaning process a few months ago. Everyone assumed that this hidden process excited and that it was happening behind the scenes.
But now, especially as churches consider reopening buildings for in-person services, plans and processes need to be front and center.
Even if you don’t have all of the answers yet, share the process you’ll use to get there. For example, “We’re not reopening the building this month, but we’ve put together a team of health professionals in our church family to help us do it safely. This group of people will meet every week during the month of July and work on safety and sanitation policies, reopening guidelines, and ordering the equipment we need.”
You can communicate this process for any decision when the answer is still “I don’t know.” Communicate how you’re making the decision, who is a part of the team helping to make the decision, and how you’re ultimately going to process it and decide.
#2 – Share trigger points or milestones
If you’ve spent any time on social media or watching the news from March 2020 to now, you know that opinions vary on staying home, wearing masks, and reopening businesses.
But one of the main, common frustrations seems to be that people hear “We’re closing things down” and there’s no answer in response when they ask, “Until when?”
You don’t have to know the final answer to say, “Here’s what we’re waiting for before we make our decision.”
We’re going to close the building down until we see cases reach this level.
We’re requiring masks until we see this happen.
We won’t meet publicly until these things happen.
We’re taking our cues from here.
We don’t have to cut anyone’s salary right now, but if our reserve account dips below this number, then we’re going to start reevaluating.
Communicating trigger points or milestones is more reassuring than saying, “We’re monitoring the situation.” It gives people specific things to look toward for answers and moments of change to look forward to.
When you say, “Here’s our process” or “These are the key milestones for us as we make decisions” even in the midst of uncertainty, people can have confidence in your communication and your leadership.
Watch our practical tips on communicating without knowing the final answer:
Take a Next Step
Knowing what to say can be a big leadership hurdle right now, but that’s understandable. We’ve never been in a situation like this before and “pastoring through a pandemic” isn’t taught in seminary. But that’s why we created those twelve prewritten emails—to help you save time and communicate well.
You can serve through communicating and these email templates can help you get started. These pre-written emails will help you communicate with clarity, care, and concern and offer the hope and consistency that people need in these uncertain times.