Technological advancements have made communication much easier. We can email, text, instant message, call or Skype. While this makes meeting easier, it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians, we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.
In my experience, particularly in pastoral ministry, the preferred format for meetings is face to face. If there is ever a potential to be misunderstood or if the subject matter is wired with emotion, then a face-to-face meeting is nearly essential. Here are some reasons:
1. Eye Contact
You cannot undervalue the impact of looking someone in the eyes. While I don’t want to lean too heavily on the subjective, the eyes speak. We can hear the concern, sincerity, compassion and love through the eyes that we would not hear simply in the voice. Let me give you an example. Many guys are very even in their speech, and even more in their writing. However, if the same guy says something to you face to face, you may see his eyes water or his face frame his eyes in such a way that communicates a different level of emotional investment in the statement. This is invaluable.
Emails and texts are very efficient for information but often not sufficient for communication. In a recent exchange with a brother, I received an email that surprised me. I followed up with some questions, admitting that I was taken back what he wrote. He followed up with explanation that I understood. However, it wasn’t until three weeks later that we sat down and had breakfast together that I actually felt what he was saying. Please note: He never amended what he said but he did say it differently. It was in person. Face-to-face meetings are invaluable.
3. Immediate Answers
Many times in meetings, we will have a question about something that was just said. If we are conducting the meeting over email or instant message, then you have to almost begin writing something akin to a legal brief to ask follow up questions. However, in a meeting, face to face, you can politely say, “I want to go back to something you just said to make sure I understand you fully … .” This level of humble back and forth goes a long way toward loving communication. For this purpose, face-to-face meetings are invaluable.
4. Feeling Uncomfortable
Perhaps a bit surprising on the list is the feeling of being uncomfortable. You might say, “I thought this was supposed to be loving communication.” It is. And it is precisely the loving communication that so often makes us feel so uncomfortable. Have you ever gotten an email or text and then got frustrated? Maybe? OK–what do you do? Oftentimes we exhale and then do something else to distract us while we stew on the subject. In a face-to-face meeting, this doesn’t happen. We are forced to sit there and interact with the subject. If we are in sin, then we need to feel uncomfortable. If we are being offensive to our brother or sister, then that feeling of being uncomfortable is a key component of understanding them and moving forward with resolution.
5. It Corresponds With Importance
I don’t know where I heard it first, but “it’s been said” that your meetings should correspond with the importance of the subject or request. For example, you wouldn’t email a marriage proposal or text a guy to see if he wants to be an elder in your church. But you would text if you were looking for help with moving furniture or cutting down some tree limbs. You assign the importance of the subject to an appropriate meeting venue. For many pastoral subjects, face-to-face meetings are essential. Since many of the topics overlap, Christians meeting with other Christians should consider assessing the importance of the topic and assigning a meeting setting that corresponds with it. If it is important, then face-to-face meetings are invaluable.
Ease Mustn’t Trump Love
I am all about efficiency, but sometimes we can become inefficient in our communication if we are not careful. Technology makes meeting easier, but it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians, we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.