Email is a daily part of our ministry and a vital way to communicate.  However, as ministry leaders, we need to consider how we use email in the context of our work. Following are some ideas for you to consider so that your emails are most effective.

Professional look.  Every catechetical leader needs a professional email address. When the recipient receives an email from you, the address itself should indicate that it is from you as a ministry leader.  Thus, avoid email addresses such as momlovesyou@aol.com.  Instead, use your formal name (or a variant) or the title of your ministry — for example, linda.jones@outlook.com or youth.minister@stpatrick.org.

Ministry-only email address.  Always use an email address specifically for your ministry work. Using a personal email address for ministry confuses the personal with the professional.  A ministry email is used only to conduct parish business.

Consider the what/who.  Before writing or responding to an email, consider what you are communicating.  Ask yourself if this is the best method.  Emails are best for short exchanges.  Perhaps a phone call or a meeting would be more appropriate than an email.  Always remember that you are responding to a person.  Don’t forget the Golden Rule!

Count to ten.  Consider your emotional state when you respond to an email.  Think before you send; you cannot take the email back.  If an email makes you feel disrespected or angry, you’ll want to give yourself some time before responding.  Consider writing a draft and let it sit for a day.  An emotional reaction could damage a relationship that may be difficult or impossible to repair.

To the point.  When writing emails, try to be as clear and concise as possible.  Emails should never be long and rambling.  Put essential information first.  People generally skim rather than read.  Remember that the recipient only sees the words but can’t see body language, voice inflection, or gestures.  Your manner should be friendly but business-like.

Communicate absences.  Be efficient and respond to emails promptly.  If you do not have time to respond to an email, let the person know when you will be able to respond.  If you are temporarily unavailable, use an out-of-office reply so that people understand your availability.  This is a courtesy to people contacting you and awaiting a response.

Spelling counts.  Always use good grammar and spelling, which is professional and a sign of respect.  Use the spell check, realizing that it is not infallible.  If the email is important, ask a colleague to proofread it.

Forwarding and reply to all.  Use forwards selectively.  Receiving a cartoon, story, joke, or prayer request that you think is terrific doesn’t necessarily mean you should share it.  However, if it is something of value, consider who would best be served by the forward and send selectively.  Also, consider your use of “reply to all” and whether everyone needs copying on a reply.

Plan regular emails and protect privacy.  Consider how you regularly email groups of people.  Avoid a helter-skelter approach. Planning a weekly emailing to catechists or youth ministers is more effective than emailing them several times a week.  Protect the privacy of the people who gave you their email address by using Bcc (blind carbon copy) when emailing groups.  This prevents recipients from seeing the email addresses of those who received the same email.

Email is forever.  You’ll never want to write something or respond in a way that diminishes your integrity, ministry, or other people.  Even when you delete an email, it remains archived by your email provider.  And it is so easily shared.  So beware!  Your email may take on a life of its own!

Jim Connell
Digital Learning and Technology Specialist

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.