As I was preparing to write this article and introduce the topic of the importance of personal communications, including how we communicate on the phone, my husband who is a bi-vocational pastor (unpaid pastoral position at church, handyman for income) came home for lunch and shared this story with me.
My husband was doing some repairs on the mobile home next door to the home of a Christian man who passed away a few days earlier. The son was in town to take care of the details for the funeral. The mother was frail and both parents had not been able to attend church consistently over the last couple of years because of ill health. The son wanted to hold his father's funeral at the church they had attended for a number of years in the past.
He shared with my husband, over the course of a couple of days, his attempts to reach the church to arrange the funeral. He left messages. He talked to one person and was referred to another. He left more messages. He himself was a pastor and told my husband that the family had over 100 relatives in town who would be coming to the service, most of whom who were not Christians. After a few days of not receiving a call back, he decided to hold the funeral service at the clubhouse of the mobile home community and he, the son, would do the service. Other than being an emotional support and encouragement, my husband was extremely sad and frustrated as he told me the story. I'm making it sound over-spiritual--I think my husband wanted to punch somebody--but knew that would not be appropriate.
Obviously somebody dropped the ball in a big way in this situation, but these days of answering machines in churches that route calls to answering systems of staff, it's not hard to imagine this happening. Who knows why this happened, but what could have been a time to personally minister to a hurting family and unreached friends became a situation of sadness, resentment and pain--all because phone messages were not answered.
Technology is never more important than people.
We serve a God who became human to show us how much he loved us, to live among us and die for us. The importance of personal interaction was modeled for us by our Savior and caring, professional personal interactions should characterize all our church communications.
We may not make mistakes with phone messages, but we all fall short in various communication areas. It's easy to think that we can wow people with the beauty of our creativity or the technical wizardry of our websites and worship graphics. It's easy to focus on the layout and looks of newsletters, brochures, and PR and we do want things to look good, but what people really care about is the quality of our interpersonal interactions. Whether they are communicated directly or through print or digitally, the personal interaction is always most important.
What to do
The links here will give you some suggestions for improving and balancing the personal aspects of your church communications:
- A brief article is from a reader who emailed me about a discussion he had with his church staff on the importance of personal communications. Click here to go to it.
- An in-depth professional article from ECC Contributor Gayle Hilligoss where she shares detailed tips on one of the most important and often forgotten areas of interpersonal church communications: telephone communications.Click here for this quality article that would be an excellent part of any church staff training.
- The article: The Five Steps Strategy #1: Create multi-channel communication, which will answer the question of how interpersonal communication fits in with print and web-based communication. Click here to go to this article.
Bottom line--communicate like Jesus
Jesus became flesh and blood to show us what God was like. He walked, talked, touched people.
Our tools should help us connect more effectively, not keep people at a distance, if we want to reflect our Lord.