The sober truth!
How many of your people would say the notices are the most interesting part of your church service?! I venture to guess – not many. Why? Because the church service is about meeting – first with God and then with other believers. Vital components of such meetings are, of course, Worship, Prayer, Preaching etc. But notices also have an important part to play. For instance they can be a great way of promoting a family feel in the church. Yet, in many churches, they are the ‘turn off’ time when people often hear but don’t listen. Why? There may be many reasons: too wordy, delivered by an administrator who is not confident in public, content not been carefully prepared, to name a few. So let’s take a fresh look.
The reason for giving any particular notice should fall into one of three categories – to Envision, to Inform or to Edify/Inspire.
• Envisioning expands faith – this may be about a programme-with-purpose, such as about an Alpha course; about a building project to help the church fulfil its vision (e.g. to reach its community); about money and future Gift Days (for what purpose is the money being given?); about some overseas church you may link with etc.
• Information is probably what people most expect from notices. But even this should not be dry – it must be clear and there must be good reason for giving it verbally rather than in some other way. (We will look at alternative ways later).
• Notices can also edify and inspire. Testimonies are powerful for edifying people. They also help build the family of your church as people get to know what God is doing others’ lives.
Let me give you an example. A notice about giving, if well presented, can be very inspirational. Recently I visited the Newfrontiers church in Bath (UK) and Andy, the leader, spoke excellently in the notice time about money and the importance of the elders ensuring that their people have plenty of opportunity to give in order to be blessed. Jesus said ‘it is more blessed to give than receive’ (Acts 20:35) and Paul commended the churches in Achaia for their expressed wish to give out of their poverty (2 Cor 8:1-5). Generosity produces blessing for the giver as well as the receiver. By the end of this short ‘notice’ people were really inspired and wanting to give for the particular purpose being presented.
I have already touched on some possible content – testimonies and giving. But, here are a few general principles that are worthy of consideration:
• Matters that need particular emphasis.
• Matters that need ‘platform’ presentation, not just general information.
• Matters for which a ‘public’ notice is the best way to communicate. With sufficient forethought would a handout be better? If a notice is not relevant to the majority of people present would a letter or email do the job better?
Information can, of course, be very dry and thought needs to be given to presentation in order to communicate the content in a memorable way. Do you want to highlight a matter that is referred to in some handout? If so, what are the salient points and what would be redundant? For instance, it is not necessary to give the time of an event – focus on the purpose and the ‘take aways’ from the event (nothing to do with McDonalds!). Are you wanting to tell people some family news – an engagement or a birth perhaps? This should be done with joy (and perhaps humour!).
Are you looking for a response? If so I have two tips:
1) Specify the group of people you want to communicate with before giving the detail e.g. ‘this notice is for mothers with young children’.
2) Be sure that people know what they are expected to do in order to make that response e.g. ‘Go to the Table at the back of the hall at the end of the meeting and Josie will take your name and give you more details’ (make sure Josie knows about this and is prepared!).
If you are looking for helpers consider carefully whether a notice is the best way to identify them, particularly if they are committing to a long term role (e.g. ministry with the children). It is much better and more honouring to think of the types of people you need (i.e. what skills and gifting you want) and then consider who has that gifting.
Then approach them.
‘I have noticed how you are always encouraging people (pastoral gift?). Well done! I really would like you to consider welcoming people as they arrive on a Sunday as I know how well you would do that. Could you pray about this and see if you would like to join a rota?’
Approaching someone in this way tells them you care about them – you don’t just want to get a job done, which is the subliminal message of a notice asking for volunteers.
In the second part of this series on notices I shall consider some other questions: How? When? Who?