20070125emailbad1Now, I’m a big fan of technology. Frankly, I’m kind of a sucker for it. I always seem to find a way to get the latest toys in some way or another. I design websites for a living and do a lot of my pastoral work with a computer in front of me so needless to say, I believe technology is helpful when it comes to ministry.

But I also think it can be a hinderance.

I heard a quote from (I think) Patrick Lencioni recently where he said the following:

“Don’t get in the habit of using technology do what you can/should do in person.”

Think about this for a minute. Last time you had to deal with a hard situation, was your first inclination to shoot off an e-mail or, worse, a text message? Working through a hard situation over e-mail is one of those things that works just well enough to make us think that we should keep on doing it.

I’m becoming a believer that in hard situations, using technology is the easy way out. It allows you to think you can say what you want to/have to say without any of the emotional challenges. Of course, if passive aggressive behavior, avoidance and confusion is what you are going for in your relationships, then by all means, e-mail your leadership team member next time they say something you passionately don’t agree with. Of course, you could just call them or meet with them and work it out the old-fashioned hard way. Sure, face to face can stink, be more uncomfortable and even more painful. But at least it accomplishes what you are looking for: clarity. In my experience, things like e-mail usually just cause more confusion.

The other thing about using e-mail, facebook, text messaging, etc, is that it often doubles the amount of time that it takes to get something accomplished.

A simple example: this week I need to schedule a time for our Leadership Team at The Well to have our annual all-day winter planning meeting. Now, I could send out an e-mail about this but we all know what will happen. One person won’t check their e-mail for three days. Another person will read it and plan on checking their schedule and will forget all about it because the Office is on. Another person will get back to me and say they can’t make it that day and would like to propose three others days but they won’t CC everyone so no one else is in the loop. Finally, another person will accidentally delete the message and not know how to get it back again because they haven’t used a computer before.. okay, you get the idea. (Btw, this is not a one-to-one description of the people on my leadership team!)

But seriously, do you know how much easier it is to take 30 minutes and make five phone calls and just get it done? Now, I might still use e-mail to follow-up and even send one to prepare them for my call.

I’m not anti-technology. Far from it.

But frankly, I’d rather take 30 minutes to make phone calls than spend the next two weeks in a confusing e-mail exchange with five other people. (And yes, I know a phone is technology, but its a heck of a lot better than e-mail and I think you get my point).

In all of this, e-mail isn’t evil. Sometimes it can even be a starting point for a conversation so that one person can get out what they for some reason can’t do in person. But e-mail is a terrible way to resolve conflict or something that needs lots of coordination or deep discussion.

All this makes me think, how do you think our parents and grandparents led churches before Al Gore invented the internet?

I think it would do us well to remember what it would have been like to pastor in 1989.