The freedom of immediacy

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“I’ll e-mail it to you when I get home.”

Thus has much important data been lost in congregations all over the world. Most congregations, for better or for worse, are volunteer organizations. This means that, for better or worse, most of the people doing the work of the congregation have a life away from it. This often means that “regular life” distracts people from following through on tasks they are being counted on to accomplish. While many pastors, including myself, tend to offer complaints about this state of affairs — the truth is we often commit the very same violations. Usually we commit them in organizations other than the congregation we pastor, but we even commit them for “Church work” that tends to fall out of our normal realm of activities. Stuff just “comes up” and we forget. When this happens, it leads to some rather awkward board meetings.

Yet, we don’t have to “send it out later.” A link to a story, the results from research, the worship songs (order, lyrics, and music), meeting notes, event invitations, and even data analysis can all be done before we even get home. When you have a smart phone, tablet, or even a laptop (as long as there is wifi acces) whatever information was going to be passed on later can be passed on immediately. It’s becoming increasingly the case that other members won’t even have to get home before they receive the data, as they have mobile access to the Internet themselves. For tasks which need to be accomplished later, the same devices can be used to program reminders (both for the one assigned to the task and to for the rest of the group to encourage a task’s completion). This way, a great many of the communication which needs to be passed on between meetings can happen before a meeting is over, and even be presented in a format which encourages continued dialog.

This freedom also works for members of a committee or team who may not be present for a meeting, but can be available. If someone was to get a quote for a purchase but was unable to get to the meeting, for example, there is no need to shelve the proposal until the next meeting. Text messages can reach someone wherever they are, and replies can be easily sent back (Central Baptist got our quote for mulch via this method — I didn’t say it was exciting, just efficient).

Is there a downside? Of course. People are used to contacting me immediately which can be a pain when, like now, I’m on vacation. I might be IMing a friend, but someone from work can still chime in as well. My phone still rings, and I have to remember not to answer it when it’s a work related number. Text messages are still pushed to my device, and it’s difficult not to jump into something during my “down time.”. I said, “Hard,” however, not, “Impossible.” just like pastors from previous generations, I need to guard my times of rest. Sure it’s a difficult spiritual discipline to master, but it’s one worth striving for nonetheless. While might say that this always connected world makes it more difficult to find down time, I disagree. It is because I’m always connected that I am so free! I’m not chained to an office, or even a phone, I can to pastoral check-ins at any time of the day without worrying about intruding or interrupting a meal. I can discuss an issue, make a proposal, and come to a decision with people without needing to wait for a monthly meeting. I’ll take being always connected towards old-school church any day.

if you’ve discovered that, “I’ll get it to you later” really means, “I’m going to forget to do send this to you,” then perhaps it’s time to try something new. We can say, “How about you send it to us now?”. You’d be surprised at how freeing it can be.