Play Well With Others: How to Encourage Cooperation

Play Well With Others: How to Encourage Cooperation

August 26, 2015 by

“Why canʼt we all just get along?”

Iʼve muttered this many times in my three decades of working in marketing communication. Iʼm often left shaking my head after meetings: both sides dig their heels in so deep neither one gets their point heard—it’s all talking and no listening.

Ministries build silos where theyʼre simply protecting themselves to the detriment of the church. The ministry of communication, though, is about understanding our audience by listening and then providing a solution. People leave it up to us to create an environment that encourages interactivity, so we should tear down the silos and get ministries working together for a centralized brand story or promise. We really can reach further if we work together.

So how do we do it? Ministry leaders like you have three groups of people to manage—your boss(es), your co-workers and those who report to you—and each group must interact with you properly in order to complete your projects effectively. Your job is to create a ministry of encouragement with these teams rather than a ministry of obstruction. You all need to get along.

“We should tear down the silos and get ministries working together for a centralized brand story.”

Hereʼs how you can create this kind of cooperative, interactive environment:

  • Make the first move. When you have meetings ask the opening question and encourage the people around you to answer. Most expect the person calling the meeting to do most of the talking. Do the opposite. Listen.
  • Set ground rules in meetings and stick to them. Most conflict comes from a misperception of a meetingʼs role. The creative process needs exploration time (wide open, sky’s-the-limit, no-bad-idea brainstorming), but that’s a certain kind of meeting. Brainstorming canʼt go on forever, so you must ask permission to end it and move into a different kind of meeting: one where you judge the ideas people came up with by deciding the best ones. Once you narrow the ideas down you then need to work creatively to expand the ideas into a branded communication package. Make sure people understand which type of meeting youʼre in. Thereʼs nothing worse than having a ton of ideas flowing while youʼre trying to narrow down or packaging the communication plan. Conflict ensues.
  • Listen without emotions. Respond in the same way. Itʼs difficult to remove ownership from a discussion. People are emotionally invested in their ideas. As a good communicator you must respect all ideas, especially if theyʼre from ministry leaders. Allow your expertise to simply improve their ideas. And before you do that, make sure your ministry leaders respect you. Respect is earned, not demanded, and it comes from creating “wins” over time as a respected, proven voice at the table.
  • Concentrate on achieving goals. It’s helpful to think of the communications department as ministry facilitators helping ministry leaders achieve great things. The more we do this the more we’ll be invited to their table. So start there. Listen to your leaders’ dreams; get them to share from the heart. You could be the first person who really listen to what they want to do and encourages them. After they share, clarify what youʼve heard in order to understand (not correct), and then ask what theyʼd like you to accomplish for them.

This is incredibly important if you want to love doing what youʼve been called to do. Otherwise you’re constantly butting heads with ministry leaders, fighting pointless turf wars and headed for church communicator burnout.

Post By:

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is an author, speaker, and strategic communication catalyst with the Florida Baptist Convention. He’s also the author of Be Known For Something. Mark is also the executive director of our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication.
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One Response to “Play Well With Others: How to Encourage Cooperation”

  • Emily
    August 26, 2015

    I would add a fourth group to relate to and manage: the congregation. I interact with church members on a daily basis, whether it’s helping them resubscribe to church emails and find information on the website, responding to complaints about a misprint in the bulletin, or taking their ideas (but managing their expectations) for promoting their favorite ministry or program. Your third and fourth points about building cooperation are especially pertinent to working with congregants.

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