We just bought a house in Florida. It had been sitting empty for months, and when we walked through it, we were excited about how good everything looked. It was perfect for us. It almost seemed too good to be true.

We returned a second time to make an offer after we perused other neighborhoods. This time, we looked "deeper" at the house by turning on taps, opening cupboard doors, trying the garage door opener and looking in the appliances. The owner said in the MLS listing that all appliances were in full working condition and came with the house. Nice!

Except, unknown to the seller, it appeared another potential buyer went in-depth by "trying" the appliances. So, much to our horror as we opened the dishwasher door, we discovered someone had filled the dishwasher several weeks before, and there was a scummy green growth like a Florida swamp growing in the bottom. Yuck!

We voiced our concern, so our agent said, "Don't worry about it, the home inspector will check the appliance and let you know." We ended up buying the house, and today received the news. The appliance is ruined and needs replacing.

Perhaps your church communication system is broken like this dishwasher. Do you know?

1. Many aren't aware things are broken. Except for the smell.

I often talk to church leaders who say they think everything's fine and in good working order. I'll ask them to describe issues they're having, and they practically hold their noses as they talk about systemic troubles.

They know something is wrong, but they believe it's not their issue. They're wrong. Maybe it was an inexperienced, well-intentioned person who started it all. It's up to you to discover it.

2. Go looking. The earlier you catch the issues, the easier they are to fix.

Be on the lookout for communication issues (congregation not paying attention to events, community not aware of the benefits of attending, ministries overlapping schedules, etc.). Don't wait for people to come to you with the problems; make sure you're seeking them.

Open doors and ask leaders on your staff about their ministries. Conduct focus groups and talk to your congregation and community.

3. If you're not sure, get an expert to inspect.

Even after "smelling" or sensing a communication problem with your communication strategy or process, you may not be able to figure it out on your own. The cost of hiring a consultant to find and solve an issue is so much better than allowing your church to be ruined by it.

Is your church struggling with attendance? Are you leveling off, or worse, in a decline? Sometimes the issues are much deeper than communication. Maybe you need a new leader, but that's drastic.

Often, you need to assess and determine your communication thread based on your community, give direction for content, and then make sure your tools and process are solid. You'll never know unless you go looking.