It might surprise you to know I have a few pet peeves (and also, that our U.S. Congress is divided). I don’t like it when fast food cashiers are hired based on their spiritual gift of mumbling. It chaps my lips when “your” and “you’re” are intertwined. And for the love of Pete, Siri: why don’t you understand my wife’s name? We’ve had this conversation for two solid years now.
But one of my biggies is emails that go into black holes. Clarify that: emails to people in ministry that go into black holes.
Think about it for a moment, pastor: if someone shows up at your office door today – asking a question, having a crisis, needing some counsel – would you ignore them? Would you make eye contact, acknowledge their presence, and then turn your back and get back to sermon prep, to ministry planning, to whatever?
Spoiler alert: no. No, you would not. You would treat them as the valued soul that they are. Their problems become yours. Their questions get your attention. Their crisis gets your prayers.
Yet so many times we pull off the digital equivalent of turning our back when a parishioner’s email hits our inbox. We put it off, ignore it, assume someone else will grab it, or worse, hit “delete” and send it to that big trash bin in the sky.
Here’s the point: emails are people, too. Or at least emails represent the people who send them. Is digital communication a necessary nuisance? Maybe. But that’s irrelevant. Emails aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and when they come from our people we should never view them as a nuisance (unless they’re sending cat videos, then all bets are off).
To my friends in ministry: I don’t want to pile on the guilt. I know what it is to deal with dozens upon dozens of emails in a day. Don’t beat yourself up, but do develop a system (you can see my plan to slay the beast here). Tackle your inbox, because every message represents a person, and people are the mission.