E-Mail for Ministry?

Sure, e-mail is a good administrative tool. But a ministry tool?

There was a time when calling someone on the phone, even over a great distance, to express condolences was considered a rude insult. However, as our culture came to use the telephone more and more, that same way of communicating with the bereaved gained acceptance.

I do not know if e-mail for such a purpose has gained acceptance yet; but, it will. 

I do know that e-mails of encouragement that I have sent out to pastors have been appreciatively described as "like receiving a card or note of encouragement."

I would recommend that each church and pastor consider the disciplined use of this tool. Use your internet connection; if you do not yet have one, get connected.

Pastoral, Technical, and Legal Considerations:

  • How will the e-mail be received?
  • If the person being e-mailed has not come to the point of perceiving this as personally authentic, then use a note and a first class stamp until this type of communication becomes more mainstream.
  • There will be a progression of acceptance. E-mail will first be accepted as personal FYI notes (information), then encouragement, only lastly very serious pastoral communications.
  • If the person is open to using e-mail in this way, use it, but be careful in specifics. Remember, e-mail could be intercepted. Your e-mail is not secure unless you have taken steps for making it secure. Most of us have not.
  • Churches have used e-mail to get the word out of needed prayer for people's health. Permission must be given for this, especially if you are sending out a "mass" e-mailing.(Recent laws and regulations have mandated that specific contact and "opt-out" information be included in all "mass-mailed" e-mails.)
  • If you are sending to multiple recipients, use the BCC: option. This will hide the email addresses of the other recipients. Some persons have asked that we be more careful so as to lessen the chance of their becoming listed in a "spam" list.
  • Other churches have used e-mail to send electronic newsletters (best in Acrobat PDF format). This saves paper and publishing costs.

In a personal visit with Kennon Callahan, I asked the noted author and consultant, "If you were to update your book, Twelve Keys to an Effective Church, would you include technology as one of the 12 keys?"

Kennon surprised me with his answer.  I had assumed he would list it with the second group of  "keys" - the functional characteristics. But, this seasoned veteran of ministry responded with, "Yes, I would include high-tech in the 'Keys.'  If I were to put in one of the two groups, I would place it in the first group, the relational list. Technology is a tool that can help relationships. For example, the phone and the fax are such tools."

Kennon continued by reminding me of his observations about the relational and functional characteristics:

  1. The relational characteristics are the sources of satisfaction in a congregation.
  2. The functional characteristics, if they are in place, are the sources of dissatisfaction in a congregation.
  3. There is no correlation between the two.

See also: Tips for Writing E-Mail and E-Mail for the Church