Recently I shared some rules for leadership to help you function when anxiety is high. In addition to these, today I want to recommend you develop some rules for yourself for how you relate to email and texting.
These are both tools, and vary in effectiveness depending on how they are used. They can be valuable for the purposes they serve well, and not so useful for other tasks. You don’t use a screwdriver to pound a nail, and you don’t use a hammer to turn a screw!
So, how can we best use these tools in our ministries? Here are some suggestions:
1. Never respond quickly to an email or text that upsets you. Always take the time to think through your response. Do not respond to any message that causes your anxiety to spike while you are still experiencing the anxiety spike. Calm down first.
2. You don’t have to respond to someone with as long an email or text as they send you. If someone is sending you repeated lengthy emails rehashing the same ground, you don’t even have to read it all every time. (Yes, really.)
3. Make choices about when you will read emails and texts, and how you want to be contacted in an emergency. If you have to read every text church members send you and respond immediately, you may spend your whole evening at home with your family checking texts. That’s not the best way to be present with your family. Set policies for yourself. Then follow them.
4. Use email to communicate information, not emotion. Corollary: don’t argue via email. It rarely helps.
5. Don’t make a decision much bigger than setting or changing a meeting via an email thread. “Let’s talk about this.” can become your new mantra. You might even consider having a conversation with your board so you can develop congregational principles together for the use of email/texting, such as the role they will have in decision-making.
6. Resist the pressure to use email and texting exactly the way your church members want you to. Of course you need to understand your context, and communicate in ways that get their attention. However, you get to decide when and how you will respond.
7. You don’t have to be in touch as often as your most anxious people want you to be.
8. Periodically review your rules. We’re in a changing context.
True confessions: I’m not a big texter. I find it’s a great way to communicate with my young adult children, and to send information when I’m travelling. Otherwise, I don’t text much. You may love to text. Figure out a way that works for you.
Perhaps the biggest recommendation is this: Think about these matters and develop some rules for yourself, so that when things heat up you have something to fall back on. Anxiety (others’ and our own) can easily get transmitted via email or text. You don’t have to take the bait. Take some time to think it through.
What rules do you have for yourself re: emails and texts? Comment and let me know.