I Killed Communication Request Forms and So Can You

I Killed Communication Request Forms and So Can You

September 13, 2017 by

Amazon Prime is a wonder, especially if you live in an area with Prime Now. Buy now with one click. We’re talking less than an hour from tapping the button on your phone to enjoying the product in your home. And that’s the kind of relationship I want with Amazon—faceless, on-demand, get what I want when I want it for a cheaper price than anywhere else. They serve my every whim at all hours of the day or night.

Communication request forms should follow the model because your church staff already expects it. When they submit the form, they expect to receive the product delivered perfectly to spec and expedited without further conversation. But reality rarely plays out the way. They submit the form only to discover it’s the first of many steps to final product. When that occurs, the communication request form becomes a barrier to building trust and relationships.

Well-constructed processes show empathy for the user.

As a contrast, a well-designed form and workflow acts like an extra employee—a huge benefit if you are a one-person-band. And well-constructed processes show empathy for the user and an understanding of how they communicate their needs. We know this. No matter how well designed a form is, people struggle to communicate through it. We are at our best when we can express our ideas and understand others through a face-to-face conversation.

With that in mind, let’s talk about five ways to kill the communication request form and get back to creating good relationships and conversation with our ministry departments.

1. Fill out the Form for Them

If you’re not quite ready to kill the communication request form, don’t continue to ask people to fill out the form via a piece of paper or an online portal. Instead, set a time to walk through the questions in person, over the phone, or on a video call.

Looking at the questions together lets you ask follow-up questions in the moment, which will save you time in the long-run. Then, follow up with a complete form or creative brief and ask the person to confirm if it represents your discussion well and if he or she would like to add anything else.

2. Reverse the Flow

Bring a communication strategy to the ministry department instead of responding to ad hoc requests. That is, be proactive rather than reactive. It’s a game changer!

Annual roadmaps of deliverables, paired with monthly check-ins, are great ways to grow relationships, as well as your voice and influence. Strategy, development, execution, and evaluation—be the department’s partner in all of it. Doing so establishes you as a listener and a learner, which will compel ministries to see you as a resource to make their ideas better.

3. Define Not Demand

Help your ministries understand what you will do for them, not what you won’t do. Too often, communications people have a reputation as the king or queen of “no.” If you have one, lose it!

We are called to resource ministry, not limitation ministry.

Then, build a new reputation for defining a church-wide communications vision and equipping it with every available tool. We are called to resource ministry, not limitation ministry. So, focus on outlining the resources available rather than demanding ministries follow your guidelines.

4. Learn How to Say a Qualified Yes

Anything can be done, but not everything should be done. When the one-off request comes your way, assess whether the request is reasonable and within the vision of the ministry. If it is, help the person submitting it to understand what it will cost to accomplish this idea.

Address questions like, “What projects will need to be delayed or cancelled?” and “What is the cost of saying ‘yes’ to that idea?” Often a qualified yes will lead to greater trust, whereas a form may lead to greater frustration.

5. Limit Yourself to Forms With a Purpose

Not all forms are bad. Use public forms in a limited and specific capacity where it serves the vision and purpose of the ministries you are supporting. Also remember to ask, “Does this process fit the personality of our organization?” If not, it’s probably time to reimagine it.

Relationship trumps process every time.

Over the years, I’ve designed my fair share of forms. All with the best intentions, but so many failed to accomplish what I set out to do. Sometimes, the fault lay with a lack of purpose and specificity. Other times, I was at fault for failing to think of the people using the forms. In all those failures and occasional successes, I’ve realized one thing: Relationship trumps process every time.

Let me encourage and challenge you to first build relationships with your team, leadership and volunteers. Second, write down your processes and track changes as you refine them. Third, always be looking for ways to improve your forms and processes. As you embrace those three concepts, you’ll find yourself reacting less and leading more, allowing the ministries you serve to stay focused on their work and to trust you to amplify their message to those who need it most.


If you need more help with processes and ways to efficiently get things done, that’s what we’re talking about this month on Courageous Storytellers. We’ve got lots of resources to help, from productivity tips to how to choose a project management system. Join now!

Image: rawpixel.com (Creative Commons)
Post By:

Darren Lee

Darren Lee is the communications director for River Valley Church in Minnesota. With his wife, Allison, they have three kids and are loving every minute of it.
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2 Responses to “I Killed Communication Request Forms and So Can You”

  • Jared Brandon
    September 14, 2017

    Oh, this is gold! I’ve been hesitant to release a communications request process that is based on forms because it forces us into this world of back and forth, yes or no, conversation instead of meaningful dialogue around a marketing need. Forms will still play a part, but I much prefer an approach that involves the voices of the stakeholders of ministries working together with our communications department to find the best approach.

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  • Steven W. Murray
    October 20, 2017

    We function in a “both/and” environment with our requests. We have great relationships with the ministries we serve, and we require an online “Collaboration Request” form to be completed. Honestly, it’s just to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. We receive an average of 10-15 requests per week, and sometimes as many as 60 per month. A “request” might actually entail multiple deliverables — such as all the collateral needed for a retreat or camp.

    The request form provides basic information we need to get a project going in Basecamp — including quantities, requested due dates, and the related account numbers we’ll need for billing for any printed collateral. Some requests are routine repeats of previous jobs, so we simply get the form and get to work. Some requests are for new projects, so we schedule a face-to-face to better understand the client’s needs. Occasionally, we’ll meet with them first to talk through ideas and strategy, and then the ministry completes the request form reflecting our input and advice.

    So, yes — have relationships! Also, if your workload and scope necessitate it, have a form to capture the essentials, provide a digital paper trail, and keep everybody on the same page — without “reply to all” email fiascos! ;-)

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