Pastoral Fine Points

Correct theology, passionate preaching, a heart for God, an emphasis on Christ, and good people skills are big matters essential to quality ministry. But ministry also contains mundane matters, which are the nitty-gritty of pastoral basics. Our attention to these details can be the polish that makes our leadership shine. By practicing the following fine points, we can gain respect that will provide support for undertaking the bigger ventures.

  • Keep regular office hours. Most business people are obligated to a consistent schedule.  Their customers depend on it. Your people should be able to count on you.
  • Attend to personal grooming. Appearance is important. Whether you choose to dress in a suit and tie or go with a more casual look, you should be neat. Iron your shirts and pants, keep your hair trimmed, shave your neck, polish your shoes, and clean your glasses.
  • Keep your office orderly. Take a few minutes to file old papers, put books back on the shelf, and get rid of the clutter on your desk. You send a message about your organizational competencies by the way you arrange your office (and your car!).
  • Remember your commitments. Keep your calendar with you. Whether you use a hard copy or digital system, always record appointments and show up on time.
  • Prepare for events. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Work through the logistics of special events well in advance. By being prepared, you enable the event to be more beneficial for your people and less distracting due to the awkwardness of impromptu.
  • Order supplies and resources with ample time allowance. Make sure you have a good system in place to facilitate ordering of Sunday School materials and other resources you use.
  • Speak clearly. You can help your credibility dramatically by using good diction when you speak. Avoid rushing your words, mumbling, or consistently talking too soft or too loud.
  • Keep up on correspondence. Whether you are exchanging information by e-mail or snail mail, respond promptly to the communication you receive, use spell check, and incorporate good grammar when writing.

As leaders, representing Jesus Christ, we are to carry out our ministries with excellence. Attention to mundane matters does matter. Our faithfulness in attending to little things impacts our success in endeavoring big things.

John Greening, GARBC national representative
Schaumburg, Ill.

Avoiding E-mail Miscues

Communication with business associates, family, and friends has changed venues. Conversations that once took place face-to-face or over the phone are now shifting to the medium of e-mail. I have 10 business contacts in the Far East with whom I seldom talk over the phone but communicate with via e-mail. In the multitude of our e-mail exchanges, miscues in communication (sometimes comical, sometimes not) occur all too frequently. In personal e-mails where exchanges might include sensitive issues, misunderstandings are certain to occur.

The following observations, learned through my clicking of “send,” may help you avoid e-mail miscues:

  • E-mail is a limited form of communication. Words, body language, tone of voice, intensity, and facial expression are impossible to send by e-mail—even when using emoticons. You may be thinking one thing, but your reader may read into your message something entirely different. So . . . avoid sending messages that are negative. If you need to confront, share bad news, or unburden, do it in person or, at the minimum, over the phone. The extra time, expense, delay, or discomfort it takes to communicate in person is a small investment compared to the enormous mess that could result from dumping and dashing by e-mail.
  • Refrain from reading more meaning into the messages you receive. Even if you know the person well, try to take the message at face value. Assume good intentions unless something in the e-mail leads you to assume otherwise.
  • Don’t ignore or reply hastily to messages that cause you concern. Avoid hitting reply and sending back a message that might add fuel to a kindling fire. Call the person; you can express your concern and attempt to resolve the question or problem more quickly and effectively.
  • Steer clear from sending long messages. Lengthy missives tend to be difficult to understand. Also, the greater the number of words, the greater the potential for miscues. It takes longer to write a well-understood message than to pick up the phone and call.
  • Remember that e-mail is one-way communication. By conversing over the phone or in person, you invite dialogue and have the opportunity to adjust your words so the hearer understands your message. Consider the following illustration: You get in your car to pick up a few things at the store. As you start driving in the correct direction, you close your eyes while keeping a firm grip on the wheel, and in doing so, you expect to reach your destination. It’s a straight two-minute shot. Right? No! Whenever you get behind the wheel, you keep your eyes  open—ready to adjust to weather, pedestrians, traffic, and other variables on the road. Communication by e-mail, especially lengthy communication, can be like driving with your eyes shut. The inability to adjust, modify, or correct what you are saying based on the other person’s response or understanding can take you to an undesired destination—even into the ditch.

Two-way communication results in better understanding for all parties involved in the exchange and is more enriching to our lives. However, e-mail has its purposes. I use e-mail primarily for:

  • sharing important details that need to be remembered or acted upon;
  • communicating during odd hours or at times when the individual is not available to speak; and
  • encouraging or affirming others or sharing upbeat, positive information.

When crafting e-mails, remember Paul’s encouragement: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Tim Richie, president/owner of National Running Center
Member of Summit Baptist Bible Church
Clarks Summit, Pa.