I have a confession to make: It has taken me a year and a half to access my office voicemail. When I finally figured it out, I had 22 messages. I listened to them all. Each one represented an important communication that someone was trying to convey to me. Fortunately, each person got in touch with me in other ways and nothing fell through the cracks.
I do not have a good reason for taking so long to figure the voicemail system out. Though it took some steps to get the access code, I could have done it the first week on the job, but I didn’t. The reason this particular task has been on the back burner for so long is because I just don’t think about voicemail messages very often. In fact, I don’t think about phones as stationery office equipment that have to be attended to upon arriving at work. The only phone that I think about is my cell phone, the one that I carry with me everywhere. I give out my number freely (it’s in my email signature) and expect that all communication will be channeled through it, whether by email, text or phone call. But some people, many people, still think that if they want to get in touch with the pastor, they start with the office phone first. Unfortunately, it might have seemed as if I didn’t care when I didn’t call them back, or even knew that they had called.
We have so many channels of communication these days. When I was a youth pastor I had to get a Facebook account because the only way to reach the kids back then was by Messenger. My own three kids send each other messages on Instagram while we are on a family zoom call, leaving my husband and I oblivious to what they are laughing at. My extended family communicates through a group text chat, which is great for funny cat memes but horrible for deciding when the next family reunion should be. Here in the office, we send out worship reminders by email, because it is an efficient way to communicate regular messages to a variety of people. It is ironic that having so many means of communication leads to a lot of missed communications. Personally, I think we need a reset.
There is nothing wrong with all of these means of communication, but it helps if we are clear about their strengths and weaknesses. Texts are great for short, urgent messages (“I’m running late!”). Emails work well if there are documents or for regular business (“attached you will find the agenda for our next meeting”). Phone calls are best when lots of details need to be worked out (“let’s go over our plan for next Friday”). Zoom meetings are good for groups of people to work together on projects. In person meetings make it possible to get to know the whole person, to fully communicate appreciation, warmth, fellowship, and openness to one another.
So, next time you want to get in touch with me, know that I am open to all forms of communication, but some will work better than others depending on the circumstances. Email for business, text for urgency, phone calls for details, and zoom for groups. Keep in mind as well that whenever you want to just talk, you can come into the office for a visit or we can meet for coffee or lunch. I love to sit with people, face-to-face and get to know them. If you let me know ahead of time, I’ll be ready and waiting for you.
P.S. Some of you may be wondering why I am not writing about GA this week. The answer is that GA is still ongoing. I am in the office, attending the plenaries on zoom. I will write about it next week, once I can reflect on the whole process.