4 Tips for Managing Communication During the Holidays

When temperatures drop and schedules fill up, there’s little doubt that the holiday season is approaching. For a ministry scheduler, this can be a daunting time. Volunteers often have less mental space for communication and even fewer hours to dedicate to meetings, emails, and other common communication methods. But, this is also the time of year when ministry leaders find that they need more of volunteers’ time to ensure all regular and special services run smoothly. With careful planning, it’s possible to cut down on some of the biggest pitfalls of communication during the craziness of Christmas.

1. Consider timing

It’s tempting to try and get ahead. Pending tasks can loom large on a to-do list. But, if you’re in the middle of a busy holiday season, be sure to take a look at the calendar and determine if there’s time to communicate any pending tasks once volunteers’ schedules have opened up a bit. Many ministry volunteers may find it hard to think beyond the weekend for fear of forgetting what they need to do today!

One strategy to do this is to establish the due date, and then work backwards. Once you’ve identified the due date, ask these questions:

  • How much time do volunteers need to respond or complete required actions?
  • Are there any potential hiccups that might prolong response times?
  • Are there external deadlines to consider (e.g., vendor deadlines)?

Whatever timeframe you determine, add a few extra days as a buffer. Also, keep in mind that in-person events may require a quick “save the date” notice, while brainstorming and planning tasks might be best to do later.

2. Determine the method

It might appear obvious that volunteers would prefer getting an email rather than having a meeting during the holidays, but this may not always be true. Sometimes meetings can provide clearer, faster conversations. Meeting before a choir practice or after a service may be better than working through delayed email chains.

Here are a few guiding questions to ask when determining whether meetings or emails would be best:

  • Do you have complex information to share?
  • Do you have a tight deadline to meet?
  • Is there the potential for feedback to change the direction of the plan?
  • Are members located in one place where a quick meeting is feasible?

If your answers to most of these are yes, consider setting up a quick meeting to ensure there are no misunderstandings and decisions can be made quickly. If an in-person meeting isn't possible, consider sending a text blast, which is one of MSP’s best features, since texting can often move things along faster than email when there’s a last-minute turn of events.

When email is the best way to communicate, be sure to follow best practices. Write as precisely and clearly as possible. For example, be sure to write it, let it sit, and then re-read it later to check for typos and clarity. You’re more likely to see mistakes or areas where the text could be improved if you put time between writing and editing. Also, find someone who can act as an editor to catch things you may have missed.

If you have more to explain, or show, than can be done in an email, consider using a screen recording tool, like Loom or Snagit, to review and explain processes and information. Then, you can send the link to volunteers who can watch it as they have time.

3. Make replying easy

The less you make busy people do, the more likely you are to get a response. This includes creating concise emails that are easy for volunteers to reply to.

Ensure action items are clear in email communication. One best practice is to list action items at the end of the email or bold them within the text. The less that a volunteer needs to weed through to give you a reply, the better. Also, consider using a communication tool, like Unison where you can email or text volunteers with easy-to-complete action items. SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are other ways to ensure questions are easy to answer.

Set deadlines and ensure they’re clear. Schedule reminders to send to those who haven’t replied. When you provide deadlines, volunteers can determine when they need to set aside time to respond and perhaps add it to their calendar as a reminder.

4. Say thank you

Even if they’re just giving quick replies, it still takes time for volunteers to read and answer a question. Be sure to acknowledge that. Recognize that with everything going on during the busy holiday season, volunteers have taken the time to read, review, and respond to communication requests. Whether it’s a global thank you email when the communication process is over, or a thank you note embedded within the ask itself, it’s good form to let volunteers hear that you value and appreciate the time they’re giving.

With Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter, and everything in between, church calendars are busy and require ministry leaders to communicate effectively with their volunteer base to keep volunteers engaged. What are some best practices your church observes? Share below and help other ministry schedules adopt methods for clear and concise communication.