Never underestimate the power of email. It’s true, even though many of us have utilized email communication as perhaps our primary or secondary means of communication for the last 10-15 years, there are some—especially in the church world—that still don’t see the value in email communication.
How can it be in this day and age that some churches still don’t have a website or post email addresses for their pastor or at least their youth group leaders?
I came across an article yesterday in the Anniston Star (in Anniston, Alabama) about Will Willimon, bishop for the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, and how he spoke to a group of teenagers at a local youth group and after the talk, he asked if there were any questions. Dead silence in the room; however, he gave out his email address just in case, and the next day, he received 15 emails from kids with theological questions ranging from dating to calling to ministry.
We may not like it, but some people, especially younger people, are simply more comfortable discussing certain things with e-mail rather than saying it face-to-face,” said Willimon.
Willimon oversees hundreds of UMC churches across the state, and can’t understand why some are so slow to accept email as a viable means of communication within their congregations.
I’m amazed at the clergy who don’t have something as simple as e-mail,” Willimon says. “It’s irresponsible.”
He goes on to compare not having email to not having a physical mailbox. In this day and age, I totally agree. This morning, I just shot off an email to my senior pastor thanking him for the sermon and sending him an MP4 track of a song that fit in with yesterday’s message. I personally love the way email can compliment a face-to-face relationship. It’s valuable in so many ways; especially with people who might be too timid to ask life-changing questions about faith.
Now, I would say that text messaging is taking over email communication with people under 20; I made several posts about mobile computing last week, and feel strongly that churches need to be looking ahead to adopt some of the newer technologies to make sure they are appropriately reaching youth.
The November 2003 Barna Report discussing youth and faith notes that
a person’s response to the meaning and personal value of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection is usually determined before a person reaches eighteen. In fact, a majority of Americans make a lasting determination about the personal significance of Christ’s death and resurrection by age 12.”
If this is true, then it is more important than ever that pastors take a close look at the ways that young people communicate and do their best to incorporate these methods into their ministry. In some cases, it could be the only way to get through to them.