Monday, September 24, 2007

Wired Pastors

Jason Byassee wrote a very interesting post on the Theolog about wired pastors. I found it very informative and the comments even more interesting. How do we as pastors stay connected to our congregation and create healthy boundaries.

I am currently serving my second appointment in the WNCC but also spent a year in England before that. Each of these positions as pastors approached this topic differently. When I was in England I did not have a cell phone. In fact, I really didn't miss it. I look back at it now and I am amazed that we did live without that form of communication. I still was contacted by when emergencies happened.

My first appointment back in the states was one where they wanted to know a lot of about my accessibility. As their associate pastor they wanted to know that they could get a hold of me if they needed me. My cell number was readily accessible. To add to that the senior minister and I share an emergency pager. That way someone could get in contact with the minister on call if needed. Yet, since I was the associate I was not contacted as much, which fine by me.

Now that I am a senior pastor of a small church in a smaller town, I truly thought about how to use technology. Who do I tell my cell phone number to? Will it be overused? I decided that since I worked at home and checked the church's voicemail maybe twice a week that if there was an emergency people needed to know how to get a hold of me. That means I have left my cell number on the church's voicemail with instructions to call if there is an emergency. So far, three months in, there has been no calls to it. I have put my information out there and this congregation is doing very well on not overusing the communication options, email, home phone and cell phone.

Another point that Jason brings up is the etiquette in using these pieces of communication. Last week in a District meeting, a person answered his phone to tell the person he would call him back. This happened in the middle of a presentation by the bishop. I thought it was really rude and beyond that I see these people as not using the tools of technology to their advantage. Every cell phone now a days has a vibrate function on it and usually voice mail. Why answer to tell someone you would call them back when voice mail does the same thing? I cannot stand it when I am in a meeting and someone leaves to answer their phone. It communicates that the person on the other line is more important that the current human interaction happening. Now I do understand if there is an emergency situation but if that is case tell the people around you it may happen. If it is someone confirming a lunch meeting a week from now let it go to voice mail.

I think the best point Jason made was when he wrote, "I fear they conflate importance with accessibility, as if being incommunicado even briefly will lead to spiritual crisis." There are pastors have an ego that is too big for the room that they are in. They feel that their flock are simple sheep who cannot do anything right and need constant attention. Thus you have a pastors who answer phones in meetings, while at dinner with their family, and have to have the digital umbilical cord attached 24/7. In my opinion that leads to unhealthiness, in the pastor's home and at church. We in the UMC have to teach and mold congregations to be church without our constant hand holding for us clergy.

Could it be that new technology has created "Hover Pastors" like it has "Hover Parents"?

1 comment:

John said...

I list my cell phone number in the bulletin, but not my home number. Key church leaders need to have that, but I don't want to get anything but emergency calls at home after 9 PM.

I list my e-mail address and my myspace page. There has been quite a response to the latter: three kids friended me and now we IM regularly.