church communications

Less Clutter Less Noise: 13) Find the YES behind the NO

change clock
Written by Sarah Holbrook

change clockThey say only constant in life is change. I remember when I was first married, I had to get used to someone else leaving his dirty socks around the house. I didn’t mind my dirty socks on the floor, but seeing his socks littering the floor was a completely different proposition.

In chapter 13 of Less Clutter. Less Noise., Kem  shares some simple communication tools for finding the “yes” behind the “no” when navigating change in an organization:.

  • Current reality: Use practical examples and stories to describe the situation.
  • Solution: Introduce one item of change and a timeline for the next couple of steps. Transitions will go so much smoother when everyone knows when and where the change is happening. Keep it simple. Allow room for questions. There is a chance you may have missed something.
  • Benefits: Don’t take anything away without giving something back.

Our communications team used this checklist to help the missions committee with a recent change that happened at our church.  We usually have a spring festival to raise money for outreach and missions.  This festival was a tradition for many years and was near and dear to many people as a fun family gathering. However, it was hard to find volunteers to staff it, so the missions committee decided to try something new this year. In order to clearly communicate this change, we wrote a letter to the congregation, announced the change to staff, and then communicated the change to our congregation in our weekly email newsletter. Below is the letter:

Dear Friends,

2011 is an exciting year for Cypress UMC and our Missions Committee.  We are looking forward to upcoming outreach opportunities, youth outreach during the summer and helping with the Pumpkin Patch in the fall, in addition we are ever mindful of opportunities that God presents for being in His service.

One great thing we are planning this year is a formal gala designed to celebrate outreach and missions, recognize volunteers, and raise money for the Missions Committee for ongoing and upcoming mission and outreach opportunities.  The gala will take the place of Mayfest.  Through much prayer it is the Mission and Mayfest Committee’s belief that this step is a positive step toward fruitful gain and future outreach for our community.

The date is set for Saturday, May 7, 2001 in the Ministry Activity Center and the time is tentatively set for 6-9pm.

Exciting things planned:

  • Telling the stories of lives impacted through testimonies
  • Guest Speakers
  • Great Food
  • Fellowship with the Congregation and Community
  • Celebrate the many years of Mayfest and service
  • Silent and Live Auctions
  • Prizes for the most creative table decorations
  • Opportunities to share needs in our community
  • Opportunities to become a part of an outreach team
  • Entertainment
  • The cost will be $30.00 per person ($50.00 for couples). While there are still details that will be worked out, please join me in prayer as we move forward to the place where God is calling us.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Dropping Mayfest for a gala has brought about many positive responses with people who are eager to be a part of the new idea. But there are still some negative responses from people who don’t see the reason for the change. Negative responses cannot be avoided, but if you provide a positive framework to communicate the change, it will be a healthy approach for all parties involved. “A heart softened, even in paperwork, is a two-way street…instead of coming at people, come alongside them.” (Meyer)

Questions to consider:

  1. Has your church gone through recent change?  How did it go?
  2. What are some ways your church/organization communicates change?

12) Ask, Don’t Tell <– Less Clutter, Less Noise –>14) Bring the glue

About the author

Sarah Holbrook

Sarah Holbrook is the Communications Director for Cypress United Methodist Church (a suburb church in North West Houston). She has been married to Brandon for 14 years and has two boys. She believes whole heartedly that she is a work in progress and is happy to have Jesus mold her, she shares ideas at her blog God Is My Gardener. In her spare time, she loves to teach adult Sunday school, cook, create jewelry and garden.


  • Thanks for the post today!

    I agree that transparency is key when it comes to changes. No one likes knowing that decisions are being made without them behind closed doors, "black box" type style. Keeping a flow of information available (not necessarily pushed out) to those that are interested will go a long way toward support and assimilation.

    Sometimes, devices like polls, surveys, town meetings also help in facilitating change.

    Thanks for sharing your ministry example too!

    • Kenny, we just started to use surveys, and have been excited about the results. Also, during our 2 year long range planning, we took polls, and did town hall meetings, retreats and interviews. That also went well. People want to feel that they have a voice.

  • Great post today, Sarah. I love the example. I like the way you explained the reason for the change, and I like that you followed the "Don’t take anything away without giving something back" principle.

    Some of the things I've done when introducing change that have helped:

    1) Float the idea before a final decision is made and invite people to ask questions, give feedback, and offer suggestions on the best way to make the transition if it happens. People just don't like surprises, so giving a heads-up helps people ease into the change. Giving the opportunity to speak into the process let's them know their opinions matter. You may also get some good suggestions that will make the change better.

    2) If the change is really big, float the idea with key stakeholders before floating the idea publicly.

    3) Relate the change to the overall vision and mission of the organization. Explain how the change is in line with the mission and will help you get closer to the vision.

    4) Celebrate the change. If you're ending something, honor the people who were involved and their accomplishments. If your'e starting something new, kick it off with a party.

  • A lot of chapter 13 had to do with implementing communication guidelines and policies. I'm curious as to how many of you who read this have a communications handbooks, style guidelines, and/or blogging/social media policies? If so, how was the introduction of those received? What suggestions do you have for creating those guidelines/policies and getting people on board with them?

  • Freedom within a framework. Isn't that what the Body of Christ also illustrates? Great principles in this chapter. Love the gentle push again to thinking and approaching communications in a different way. For so long we have been captive to cultural ideas rather than dealing with our humanity and that of those with whom we relate.

  • Great post Sarah.

    Change is constant. Change IS inevitable. Change is seen and unseen both corporately in a church and culturally throughout a church.

    We have gone through significant changes here at Crossway in the last 2 years. Our website is a great example of change. Structurally it doesn't reflect who we are as well as it did 2 years ago. Courses that were on, are no longer on. Our culture has changed. Many of our staff have changed bringing new vision, new expressions of the way forward.

    Interesting times and very challenging times for me as the person responsible to help us communicate who we are!

  • I think the biggest challenge is our individual biases. We all hear things differently. We filter it through our own experiences and what we expect to hear… Or want to hear.

  • Great thoughts on communication here. I have a tendency to clutter, which is one reason I’m so interested in this book.

    Meanwhile, for lunch I had breakfast…bacon, poached eggs, sausages, mushrooms, home-made baked beans, potato rosti, all washed down with cloudy apple juice. Yum.

  • […] 13) Find the YES behind the NO <– Less Clutter, Less Noise I am mother, wife, master of, Director of Communications & Community Outreach for Crossroads Christian Fellowship, Outreach Specialist for the Church Volunteer Network, and an Associate at Thurmond Consulting Group. church, communications advocate, customer, service, Subway Web Design Showcase: Syosset Gospel Church and Grace and Truth Ministries […]

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