In our recent newsletter, I shared a few ways to minimize the distractions that our smart phones bring when it comes to ministry. In this post for today, I want to address another distraction that, when left unchecked, can take us away from the important parts of our ministry… email.
I sat in on a recent webinar on dealing with email and the one statement that really stuck to me was, “Email is a to-do list that someone else can add stuff to.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve had days before where an email (or three) ended up consuming my day because I chose to focus on it rather than the more important tasks on my “to do” list. So how can we manage email so that’s not distracting us from the more important aspects of ministry. I offer three suggestions.
- Establish set times to check and process email. In other words, don’t just check it randomly. Set aside times where you can take 15-30 minutes to address emails and process them. One rule to go buy is the “Dr. Pepper Rule”, checking emails at 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM.
- Get your inbox to zero if at all possible. For each email, decide if there’s an action that needs to be taken and either do it, or give yourself a reminder to do it at some point in the future, then file it away. Emails in our inboxes just build up over time and psychologically can be overwhelming.
- Communicate boundaries with your staff in regard to email. I tell my co-workers that I don’t keep my email program open all the time and I have certain times when I check it. If there’s something they need an immediate response to, they either drop by my office or call my desk phone. Also, I at most only check my email one time a day on my day off, and prefer not to check it at all.
I realize these suggestions may or may not work for everyone, but I feel that implementing variations of them based on your context will help you focus on what matters most in ministry and avoid being a slave to email.
These thoughts above are from Rev. Richard Wood, our partner in ministry for youth, children and social media ministry. He is an associate pastor in Sanford, North Carolina .