Churches sometimes use auto-responders—the messages that are sent out automatically with your email programs to people who either join a church mailing list or who have been entered into a church management software system.
These are useful in that the church doesn’t have to create individual follow-up messages for every person, but they can be a disaster is they are done with the wrong expectation as I recently discovered from a series of irritating auto-responders I received.
My irritation resulted from incorrect assumptions that the sending organization made. I’ll list them below with church applications.
#1 Irritation—That people want to hear from you
I didn’t. I was checking out a piece of information I needed and to download it, I had to give them my email. I know that is common practice (I don’t do it on the Effective Church Communication website), but just because someone is forced to give an email that they want to hear from you.
If someone visits your church and you send a follow-up email, please do so with kindness, courtesy and no assumptions that they are dying to hear from you. Especially if the people did not initially give you any permission to contact them (e.g. they simply filled out a visitor or connection card), don’t assume they want to be contacted.
Be brief, be kind, be gracious on any initial follow-up or outreach email. Give them a way to opt-out from hearing from you in the future.
#2 Irritation –Assuming I’d done what they wanted me to do
The company assumed (based on no interaction whatsoever) that I had tried their product, found it was wonderful, and without any evidence of these things happening wanted to tell me what to do next with the product.
Don’t assume the spiritual condition of people who showed up at your church and filled out a connection card. This includes not using church jargon or phrases that make little sense to an unchurched person.
#3 Irritation—it was all about them, nothing about how they might help me
In contrast to this irritating company, I’m also checking out another company that I am probably going to be using in the future. The auto-responses from this company are consistently helpful and primarily a series of questions on how they could help me accomplish my goals.
You can be less irritating and more helpful in similar ways when you offer to pray and answer questions.
PLEASE do be sure that if you reach out in these ways you have someone who monitors the church email constantly through the day and who promptly responds with answers to questions and assurances of prayer.
Technology has given us great tools with which to interact and reach out to help people come to know Jesus and grow in their faith. Let’s be sure to use them intentionally, prayerfully, and graciously. Let’s be a help and not an irritation as we serve our Lord.