Light Switches


The other day, I walked into my bedroom and flipped on the light switch and, for the first time in my life, it occurred to me how handy light switches are.

You’ve probably never thought about it but it’s a device that you’ve used thousands of times in your life, with very little explanation, that works nearly every time you use it (unless you are one of my children…then evidently you DON’T know how to use a light switch…but that’s another topic for another day). In fact, probably the only time you ever think about a light switch is when it doesn’t work as expected.

According to Wikiipedia, the light switch as we know it was invented in by John Henry Holmes in 1884. It was done so well that, with only a few exceptions, it hasn’t been improved upon in over 100 years.

I remember going to my great grandmother’s house when I was young and her old house didn’t have a switch on the wall. If you wanted to turn the overhead lights on or off, you had to walk over to the light and pull a string hanging down from it (she also didn’t have indoor plumbing…this was an old, old house). Can you imagine how big of a hassle it would be if, every time you walked into a dark room, you had to stumble to the middle of the room and fumble around with a string to get the lights on?!?

Here’s the thing: The light switch has a lot to teach us about church communications!

Just as with a light switch, when done well, good church communications can make life much better for those in your congregation and community. 

Here are a few tips for your church that we can learn from the light switch:

Use The Modern Tools Available To You
Many of us are stuck with outdated pull-string style church comms. We, for example, use old printed bulletins with outdated graphics instead of leveraging the digital tools available to us. We announce twenty things from the stage each week instead of using segmented communication tools to only speak to the relevant audiences. We rely on centralized communications broadcasts instead of equipping our folks with grass roots, de-centralized communications tools (i.e. social media, invite cards, email tools, etc.) to promote our events and ministries.

Simplify Your Church Comms
When I was on vacation, there was a light switch that you had to flip on, then push in, then turn a dial in order to get light in the room. At one of my friend’s house, they have a switch with a little slider beside it that you have to adjust for the lights to work. At my in-laws house, they have a bank of light switches that operate various lights around the room.

Do people at your church need a class or training manual in order to know how to use your communications tools? Have you gone through the great pains of simplifying your communications methods?

Be Consistent
I often talk about being remarkable (Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” concept), but perhaps even more important than that is being consistent. At my own house, the rooms that have multiple switches aren’t consistently ordered. For example, in my dining room, on one wall the first switch operates the lights in the next room and the second switch operates the lights in the dining room. On the other wall, the switches are reversed – dining room first and other room second. Similarly, in one of my children’s rooms, the first switch operates the fan and the second operates the light. In my bedroom, the first switch is the light and the second is the fan.

In the same way, I know of many churches who aren’t consistent. One week they might announce an event from the stage and next time an event might only be mentioned in the newsletter. Sometimes there’s information and a way to sign up on the website, but other times you have to use a paper signup form and write a check.

Are your communications consistent so that folks know where to find the information they need and when they can expect to see it there? 

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One final thought:

One of the latest trends in light switching is smart lights. Smart lights allow for automation and essentially allow people to be lazy…uh…more efficient in their turning on and off of lights. After 100+ years, even something so simple and amazing as the light switch is beginning to change to accommodate people’s preferences. 

Here’s the reality: people don’t care about your communications. They mostly don’t even care about your church. Even the most committed in your church think mostly about themselves and their lives. Your church only comes into play when it helps make their lives better and they only are interested in your church communications as a conduit to connecting to the things at your church that can improve their lot. If you’re not prepared to make changes to meet people where they’re at—using automation or whatever “smart light” type communications tools at your disposal—you’re going to hurt your church’s mission and miss out your church’s gospel calling.

I believe in a sovereign God, but I also believe the communication stakes are that high.

Go be a light [switch] to your community.