Now, on to the really important thing: how you communicate with your people. I love stumbling upon blogs that are gems. One that I've gotten attached to recently is Ann Wylie's blog, "Wylie's Writing Tips."
The old adage, K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid), applies. It's not "dumbing down," it's really "reaching out." It's being inclusive of more people, recognizing that not everyone out there had the good fortune to go to college or has a college-level vocabulary.
In the post, "U.S. Literacy Rate: Can You Read Me Now?," Wylie points out the rather depressing levels of literacy among adults in the United States. A ten-year study conducted by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies found:
52% of all U.S. adults read at basic or below literacy levels.
Let that one sink in.
- 4% are non-literate.
- 14% have below-basic literacy levels. That means they can read and write at a first- to third-grade level.
- 34% have basic literacy levels. That's at the fourth- to fifth-grade level.
4% plus 14% plus 34% equals 52%.
Only 2% of U.S. adults read at the college level.
You may think the majority of people in your pews or in your organization are well-read (and of course, they undoubtedly are), but even if they are…who are you leaving behind?
Do your written materials (including your sermons) really say:
- You need to reach my level.
- You should be able to understand all my big words.
- You really aren't smart enough to be here.
- You probably need to go somewhere else if you don't understand my big words.
If that's your attitude and it's working for you, well (I guess), good for you. However, if your goal is to increase the number of people who hear the Good News or who know about the incredibly important work you are doing, it might be time to re-think how you are addressing the 52% of all Americans who read at or below the basic literacy level.
For a free analysis of the readability of one of your written documents, go to Readability Formulas. I've just checked the readability of this blog post and the result? "Fairly easy to read." You're welcome.
We talk a lot about making our places of worship (and all our organizations) warm, welcoming, and inclusive. Making your written documents easy to read and understand is yet another way to help roll out the red carpet to all of God's children.
P.S. Here's one more fabulous (and a lot more spiritual) idea for remembering people's names. A saint from our church came up to me and said, "I pray for the new person by name every day." Wow. What a great tip!
Cesie Delve Scheuermann, consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing, Oregon-Idaho AC
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.
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