Once again, I was sadly shocked by someone who (I won't give the name so as not to embarrass a brother in Christ), who has a ministry proposing to tell churches how to be successful. Perhaps he can; I'll never know based on a recent email interaction with his company. Here is what happened and following a brief retelling, some advice for all of us.
I am working to get some materials into a more professional form for on-demand publishing and noticed this person worked with a company I was considering. I sent a short email asking for a brief response, did he find the company useful to work with?
His email address and CONTACT ME --were all clearly displayed. In addition, on his email page, he specifically invited people to email him personally.
I didn't expect much-- a "Yeah, they were OK" or "No, stay away" would have been fine. What I got back after several days was an email from one of his marketing manager informing me he was traveling and wouldn't have time to answer my email. She knew he used that company, but also several others also. No comments, no "I'll get back to you." End of email.
Don't do that please
It was a simple business request and I couldn't believe how bad I felt with her answer. I wondered if I'd use their contact form for consulting (that was another option) if Mr. X would have had time to interact with me. Again, I'll never know.
The lesson I came away with and wanted to share is that we must be so careful that we do not portray one persona online when we are a totally different person. It is perfectly OK if the head of an organization or ministry or church doesn't want to answer their own emails. The problem comes in when you say you will, when you invite people to email you and you don't.
Excuses don't count. I traveled for over 20 years and somehow managed to keep up on ministry emails. My life schedule now is very challenging and I continue the effort. I am the first to admit I'm not perfect in answering emails as promptly as I sometimes wish I could, but I do try hard and I hope I've never rudely dismissed someone (I apologize greatly if I have.)
You never know what is behind an email--the emotions, the real needs. I imagine most of you reading this do answer your emails, but during the holiday season especially, make an extra effort. We don't want anyone to feel ignored or less than important.
Have an honest conversation with your church staff and don't simply publish email contact information if people aren't going to answer. If they prefer texting, make that clear or show people how to get email on their phones and how to quickly respond. If they don't want to answer emails, be honest and remove their email contact or have it clear that someone else will answer them. If you have someone answering for you, be sure they do it with courtesy.
The person who answered the email I received was simply dismissive and rude when she really could have gracefully salvaged the situation with a little time (several typos also showed how quickly it was answered). For a ministry that loudly proclaims how they want to serve others in their ministry promotion page, I couldn't help but wonder how she identified service.
It isn't the length of a response that matters in emails, it is how we value the person with whom we are communicating and that comes through clearly. Pray that we all remember the importance of the one little sheep the Good Shepherd went after and that we focus the same love, care, and attention on every email interaction we have with people during this busy holiday season and always.