Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pastoral Care 101: return phone calls

I overheard a conversation recently about a pastor who was described in one sentence: "He's the one who never returns phone calls." Ouch! I mentioned that observation to some friends, both pastors and teachers and there was a similar refrain: this generation does not think returning phone calls is valuable.
When I began ministry in 1980 I had a rotary phone and a secretary who answered the church phone and left pink "return call" slips taped to my door with the name, number and topic I needed to call back about. Then voice mail came to the church with the flashing red light that meant waiting voice mails. That became part of "office hygiene" when I arrived in the morning, after lunch and before I left in the evening: unpack and answer voice-mails. Then came the personal cell phones, but the routine was the same: respond to all voice mails. But I observed a growing phenomena: people would look at their phone face as a call came in and then and there determine whether to answer it and return it. Now the best way (notice I said "now") is to text someone. That seems to generate a better response time than leaving a voice-mail.
Some of this is plain sociology. As we are deluged with incoming data, we sift and sort it appropriately. The sheer volume of emails I receive today has grown year by year. And a lot of it is junk.
But here's the pastoral concern: do congregants have a right to expect us to return their calls? I would argue that the only answer Jesus would give is YES. Seminaries and supervisors should teach pastors in training that all calls should be returned as a common courtesy within the day they were received. What do you think?


At 6:14 PM , Blogger simplicity said...

I sometimes dread even listening to voicemail. When people leave long, winding messages and don't get to the point I tend to get annoyed as I feel like I'm "wasting" time. So sometimes I've found I will go days without checking even when I see that there are messages. I will most likely call back if I see it on the caller id (on the cell phone and home phone now) or get back to texts/emails quicker.
Wonder if voice messages will ever go away completely? ha!


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