Feeding the Virtual Flock


Church emails can be a real blessing, communicating encouragement, concerns, information about the activities of the church body, service schedules and details, links to online services and classes, expectations for the future, and even teaching—a wide variety of information, the “how-to” of church life during the pandemic. Many will find that, even when the pandemic is gone, they will want to continue the practice of sending regular emails to the congregation.

Still, church emails can present difficulties that sometimes irritate already-frayed relations of the church with its isolated congregants. As the curator of the Christian Quotation of the Day, a daily Christian email that has run for 25 years, I have seen many of those problems in my own email ministry, as well as those of the churches I have attended over that time.

So, let me draw on that experience and present the seven deadly sins of church emails:

Sin #1: Breaking your publication schedule

If your email is regularly sent on Thursday at 3pm, make sure it goes out on that day, at that time, every time. By having a regular church email, you have created an expectation. Don’t frustrate that.

Sin #2: Exposing HTML gobbledygook

Make sure that the formatting of your church email works every time, or you can end up sending some mighty puzzling or funny-looking emails. Your computer geek can show you ways of checking the appearance of your email before you send it. (I am my own geek; if you aren’t your own geek, you need to get one.) Hide links so that they look like this, not like this— https://www.mychurch.com/impenetrable_gobbledygook.html

Sin #3: Using inconsistent organization

Your church email should have the same general organization every time, so that people know where to look for the information they are most interested in. When you must change the format, give people some warning, like, “Welcome to our new church email format.”

Sin #4: Using email for high priority or emergency communications

ABSOLUTELY NOT, NOT EVER. If there is an important or critical event, use the church’s telephone tree and back it up with an email or another means of communication. But never forget, email is inherently unreliable.

Sin #5: Confronting your readers with a long, multipage, unbroken block of prose

Just don’t. No explanation needed.

Sin #6: Leaving your readers wondering how to get more information

With CQOD, I back up the daily email post with a comprehensive, indexed website, Facebook page and daily posts, daily Twitter posts, and a downloadable smartphone format, all containing relevant links. This may be more than your church wants to invest in, but your congregation needs a way to get all the information elsewhere when the periodic email fails for any reason. 

Sin #7: Including the full names of members who are not officers or clergy

Remember that email is not secure, so it should never contain any personal or confidential information. The prayer and sick list should at the very most contain “We are praying for Nancy G. and Bob A.” And don’t even think about announcing memorial services by email.

Email is the domain of brevity and succinctness. With the regular church email, you have at most three minutes of their attention, maybe less. Limit the words to the essentials. Employ illustrations, but in moderation. 

When you are sending emails to the congregation, you are literally sending blessings to these precious believers who are in your care. Be genuine but frugal in your blessings—the Savior only gave nine blessings (Beatitudes), and they were all very short!

Robert McAnally Adams is a retired mathematician and curator of The Christian Quotation of the Day. See cqod.com

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