November 16, 2023

Tuesday Newsday

“Shock and Awe” is not a good strategy for church communications.

Some church traditions have a custom of announcing staff transitions and other timely information during Sunday morning worship. I understand the logic: Everyone is together, and everyone gets the same information at the same time. But, there are more pastoral and effective ways to share breaking news.

Any surprise announcement will evoke a diverse set of responses: Some people will be disappointed by the news while others will be pleased by it. Some people will be anxious about the future while others will be excited about new adventures. Each person needs space to process her own emotions, and each needs an appropriate outlet for her emotions. Sunday morning worship offers neither.

I much prefer the “Tuesday Newsday” approach: Announce momentous news on a Tuesday, give people time to work through the shock, take counsel as they wish, and then re-gather as a community the following Sunday.

Here’s the three-step process that we recently used to handle a “Tuesday Newsday” announcement in our parish:

1. Staff Meeting – When the parish staff gathered for its weekly meeting, I invited a member of our team to tell her colleagues that she was leaving to pursue another opportunity. Putting our faith in the trust of the team, we asked the staff to hold the information confidential until a public announcement was made.

2. Special Notices – After staff meeting, I sent an e-mail to the vestry letting them know in advance that a staff transition was about to be announced. At the same time, the departing staff member called a small list of the parishioners with whom she had worked most closely and who most needed to hear the information directly from her.

3. Public Announcement – I sent an e-mail to the congregation announcing the transition and the date of an upcoming farewell celebration for our departing colleague.

We were able to accomplish all three of these steps in about four hours. We intentionally limited the time in which members of the parish staff had to hold the confidential information, and we didn’t ask anyone to hold the secret overnight.

As the week unfolded, a parade of parishioners filed in and out of the departing staff member’s office. Each person shared words of appreciation and congratulations. Many more sent e-mails and text messages of encouragement.

By the time we gathered for Sunday worship – and, truthfully, even by the time we gathered for Wednesday supper – the shock had passed. We were able to support our friend, be sad about her departure, and begin anticipating what our next chapter would be.