Let’s say the pastor said something that upset you. Or, your church Board made a decision you don’t like. Or, you just got an e-mail from someone else in your church that had something like that happen to them, and they told you about it.
Here is what we are seeing in churches: (1) an increasing number of people who use e-mail; (2) an increasing number of those who misuse e-mail – from the Christian perspective. From Denver to Detroit, from Boston to Phoenix, we are seeing churches in the middle of an e-mail firestorm, out of control.
The results are serious: people with their feelings hurt, choosing sides and damaging relationships. In the church! Come on people! Before you touch the keypad, think about how God guides you when you communicate to one another.
Just because you have the internet at your fingertips, remember, there are several ways to communicate. Even you, pastor. Just because you get a long e-mail from someone who unloads on you with 15 issues in the church that make them unhappy, you are not required to reply by an equally long e-mail. Just because they use the wrong method of communication, that does not give you the license to multiply the mess!
There are few biblical principles that speak to how we communicate to one another as people of faith. (They also apply to everyone.)
First, if you really require a conversation, then have a conversation. We see people get a long e-mail and respond with one equally as long. Then the two go back and forth, and back and forth again. The issue is resolved better with a conversation. Pick up the phone and talk.
If the issues are sensitive or personal, meet face-to-face and dialog. This provides the opportunity for body language and facial expressions. It gives the opportunity to shake hands or hug. If you are going to meet, pick the spot carefully. Don’t demand that you “meet on my turf” and act as a bully. Sometimes it is best to meet over coffee, or even buy lunch.
If you think someone has offended you, reread Matthew 18:15-16. Basically, it says “go” (not e-mail or phone) to the person privately (not a group) and settle it between the two of you never tell others). If that doesn’t work, do it again and take another carefully selected person with you. If that does not work, ask for help from the leadership of the church.
Finally, if you do e-mail, and it’s a volatile subject, don’t ever copy it to twenty others and escalate the tension. Even though “misery loves company,” don’t do it.
As you communicate, try to generate light, not heat. God will be pleased. Life has enough challenges. You don’t have to multiply them!
What have you learned about communication in light of today’s technology? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.