As the day wore on, the rain turned to ice, and event after event around the city was being canceled.
The simple act of using all available resources to communicate with staff, volunteers, and your community shows respect for their time and concern for their safety.
Schools closed early, and nobody had been in the church office since noon. It was Thursday, which meant there were no events to cancel or announcements to make.
Except there was.
Respect Your Volunteers
Tim was a loyal tech team volunteer, who had been serving in one position or another at the church for decades. He lived a couple miles from the church in a rented room, and hadn't driven in years. For every service, every practice, and every event, Tim walked to church and was usually the first to arrive.
Tim was the kind of volunteer who never forgot to accept his Planning Center Online invitations, and perhaps surprisingly, he was one of the best in the church at wielding hashtags and chronicling his adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
When the weather is bad, it takes twice as long to get to church, and Tim didn't want to risk getting to worship practice before the doors were opened, so he thought he'd leave extra early and get there before the office closed at 4:30. It sounded like a good opportunity to sneak a nap on the lobby sofa when the place was empty.
Before heading out, he checked the church website, no closings were posted on the announcement banner or Twitter feed. He checked the church Facebook page, no posts since Sunday. He then checked his email and texts, and there were no notifications from Planning Center or his team leader, so he headed out into the freezing rain. It was 2 p.m.
Respect Your Ministry Leaders
Amber used to beg to work in the church café, until she was finally 13 and old enough to volunteer at the counter, and wash the pots after service. By the time she was a college student, she'd become a full-fledged barista, and able to run an entire shift on her own. Her life was getting busier, though, and managing her schedule was getting harder.
Keeping in touch with the café manager and remembering what weeks she was "on" had never been a problem before, but midway through her second semester, Amber was a no-call/no-show three times in a row.
This particular icy Thursday, Amber couldn't be reached by her ministry leader, who had scheduled a meeting with her to see how she could help Amber get more organized, or to find out if she needed to take a break until summer.
The ministry leader couldn't rely on Amber getting her text to cancel, so on the off-chance that today would be the day Amber would show up, her ministry leader trekked out in the dangerous weather to the Panera where the two had agreed to meet.
Respect Your Community
For years, the church had a Thursday night support group meeting for parents of addicts. It wasn't a large gathering, and many of the people who came didn't go to the church. In addition, some of them only came once in a while.
Several months ago, the group leaders moved away, and the Thursday night meetings were canceled. At the time, there was an announcement in the bulletin, and the group leaders sent an email to inform the folks who had been regularly attending.
Mary stopped going to the group when her son overdosed last year. It was too hard to listen to the other parents whose children still struggled, but still had hope. She needed a different type of support now.
Today's frigid storm, though, brought a level of gloom to Mary and the anniversary of his death that she couldn't bear. She desperately needed to feel hope somewhere. She checked the online community calendar where the group used to promote their meetings, and was relieved to see the meeting still listed as a weekly event at the same familiar location. She clicked the link in the posting to check the church website, just in case they were closed because of the weather. After finding no indication of a closing announcement, she cautiously made her way to the church.
Communicate Early, Communicate Often, Communicate Everywhere.
Perhaps you live in the enormous rest of the country, where spring showers bring sweet smells and happy buds on perky limbs.
On the "North Coast" along Lake Ontario, though, it can snow until May, and often does.
The scenarios above are only partially fictional, and since this is an article and not a novella, you're on your own to imagine the endings, but rest assured that God was gracious.
Regardless of their disappointment and inconvenience, each of the intrepid travelers made it home safely. Eventually.
You likely had no problem identifying the key missed opportunities where in each instance, the simplest communication would have made a big difference to each of those individuals who trekked out in the bad weather.
By neglecting to communicate, the church in the story caused a mess and literally put people in harm's way unintentionally.
Just scanning for the main points? Here's a quick recap:
Your church has communication channels - use them: There's no point in having a website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Planning Center, email list, or sms list ... if they aren't being used reliably!
Empower ministry leaders at various levels to initiate social media posts, group emails or texts, and train more than one person to edit the church website.
It may sound harsh, but we are solidly 25 years into this internet thing, and at this point, choosing not to communicate important information consistently, sends the message that your church leadership doesn't respect their congregation, and even their community at large.
Never assume there's "nothing going on," or "everybody knows": Your church has people coming and going constantly, for all kinds of reasons. Even when there's nothing happening, there could be someone looking for a timely update.
Even when you are positive that all key people have the information they need, they don't. Post it somewhere.
Do your part: Don't leave your ministry leaders hanging. Do your part to communicate, especially when you have to cancel, and be responsive when your ministry leaders or the volunteers serving with you reach out.
Help your leadership by checking the church website and social media channels for updates, and leave comments or messages to alert them when things are missed.
Track and clean up loose ends: Kudos to leaders who take advantage of community calendars and various means of promoting events for free. However, ministry leaders need to keep track of where they've published information, especially if they've set recurring events. Remember to update these portals as necessary.
Use every means possible: It bears repeating: communicate to your volunteers, ministry leaders, congregation, and community using every means possible - frequently, consistently, and reliably.
Communication equals respect, and love. Every church claims to be built on love, but many fail to show love to their community in this simple way.
(Mikayla Kayne is a mar-com specialist, demystifying social media and equipping business and ministry leaders to be thought leaders and content providers. Check out her socmed board on Pinterest, or her website at www.mikaylakayne.com.)