I Don’t do Phones

I don’t do phones. I hate them. [MORE]


Matt Guthrie said...

I do not answer the phone 98% of the time between the time I get home and the kids go to bed. The only exceptions I make are for call that I can tell from the caller id is an expected call that needs to be answered. I also do not answer the phone on family night - the one night of the week I give completely to my family. My church knows this and I tell them if they call during these times to leave a voicemail and I will check it immediately. I know that emergencies don't wait.

Caller id helps so that I can tell when the live person needs to be out on hold as well.

I'm probably not a good people person ;-) It's amazing how these policies have seriously cut down on my phone calls. Shoot, my people don't even email me anymore.

tricia said...

Sounds applicable to all parents, not just pastors, but I understand it is especially a challenge for pastors.
I pick up my son around 5 p.m. and this is the first time I am seeing him all day. Inevitably, in the 30 minutes to get home I get a call. I try to be aware of how much of his time I am taking, but after reading this I will commit to added vigilance on the issue. I already have a no e-mail rule between the time I pick him up and the time he goes to bed.
Thanks for the reminder.

Bill Barnwell said...

I'm a pastor and I hate when the phone rings at my house. My experience also is that it is almost NEVER good news. I'm now psychologically conditioned to get anxious whenever the phone rings. My first feeling is always one of fear. Same whenever the other person on the other end is calling from the "prayer chain." They never call with "praises" just to tell me what bad thing or bad emergency happened today that needs attention or prayer.

The AJ Thomas said...

Next time you are in NB let me know and I'll buy you lunch. As for phones I don't have a cell phone and I don't generally anwer the phone at home or at church for that matter. I've always gone by the idea that if they think it's important they will leave a message and if I think it's important I will call them back. I'm happy to be on call for emergencies but real emergencies in ministry are few and far between. Might be harsh, might be because I'm a PK don't know but it works for me.

randy.dewing said...

A ringing phone usually makes me cringe too...but not for the same reason.

When I'm at work, I live on the phone. I almost always have a phone call (or two) going and an email half-typed at any given time when I'm at work (in fact, one of the things I love about email is that I can type while I'm on the phone!). Given the nature of my job I can never ignore the phone. I always have to answer it. I don't go to the restroom without leaving someone standing by my phone.

When I'm in someone else's office and the phone is ringing I usually answer it--I can't let it ring. If I'm at a resteraunt and I can hear a phone ringing (my wife usually doesn't even notice it) I get nervous--by the fourth ring I'm involuntarily standing up to look for the phone. I just KNOW that the staff should not be ignorning that telephone!

So, when I'm at home, I don't answer the phone. There are roughly 5 prople in the world who call me at home--plus my dentist, and I let my wife answer it--the phone is the last thing I want to mess with if I'm off duty.

A cell phone? Forget it! Why would I want people to call me when I'm not at home or at work? The telephone is a harsh task master to me--so I slip it's bonds whenever I get a chance. I cannot fathom wanting to carry a phone with me wherever I go!

Sure, I spend 10 hours a day captured by modern communication, staying in contact with everyone--but that's my job, and I have no desire to live like that on my time.

Why do so many people seem to "revel" in what I want to escape?

Kurt A Beard said...

There are some good up and coming solutions to the pastoral phone issue (and the phone issue in general). With the rise of VOIP and more technological advances in phones phone management is becoming easier. A few VOIP (voice over internet protocol) services allow users to select multiple phones to ring when a number is called, so right now if you call my VOIP number my wife’s cell phone and mine ring. Some of these services also come with the ability to select which phones ring when; this gives a pastor the ability to set his home phone and cell phone not to ring during family time and dinner each night.
This solves the practical side of the issue but does not resolve the emotional and professional side of handle phone calls while at home.

::athada:: said...

Glad to see you can "recycle" Coach ;)

My communications prof has an alternative theory - "I don't do e-mails". Being a com prof means he knows that 80-90% of communication is non-verbal, meaning e-mail is only 10-20% effective (so you get 5-10x as many e-mails!). During the end of his first semester here, he finally checked his e-mail and had some 300+ waiting in his inbox!

Cell phones work great in theory - you can turn them off, or to vibrate, or simply leave them at home and pretend they are landlines. In my 10 months of cell-practice, they have proven hard to tame :)

I'm not sure whose theory I like more... but I'll admire you both for sticking hard to your values!

Evan and Julia said...

I'm a PK and now a pastor. I can't remember a single vacation that wasn't stifled by some sort of pastoral emergency or another. I remember several vacations, Washington DC, Niagra Falls, Yellowstone NP that were interupted by a death in the church. Dad would have to fly home and deal with it, or we'd all have to leave vacation early. I remember my dad being just exhausted when he was home. I know how important communication is, but nothing beats a dad whose there with his kids for some good quality time.

luke middleton said...

I'm a P.K. too, Dr. Drury. You're right, that stuff comes with the territory, but there do need to be boundaries (the whole congregation respecting the pastor's keeping the sabbath and resting one day -- if he doesn't have time to care for his own soul, how can he care for others and his family?).

What was most frustrating for me was that at two churches my dad pastored at, our home was next door to the church and we shared the church's phone number. Every call for the church building went to our house, also. Every call for our home went to the church, also.

I survived, though.

Christy said...

Things can't control you anymore than you let them. A phone is just a thing - supposedly a tool. It has its positive uses, but I understand that it can overwhelm. I'm not a PK. I don't know what that is like, but I do know what it feels like when your boundaries are consistently intruded upon. Is avoidance the answer? Maybe for you, it is...maybe not, though.

We each have to identify and make known our own boundaries. Set limits on from whom and when you will recieve phone calls and stick to it. Whether you use caller idea to screen calls, unplug the phone at certain times, maintain an unlisted number or use other filtering methods is up to you. Not having a phone is an option. Can you find no benefit to a phone? Define acceptable calls for those who might try and contact you. What if someone doesn't have internet access?

I don't like it when people email me spam, do I stop emailing? I don't like it when coffee burns my mouth, do I stop drinking coffee? I don't like being in an automible accident, do I stop driving cars? For everything, we must decide what our limit is and draw a line. At what point do the costs outweigh the benefits?

Joel Gorveatte said...

For our family, the cell phone has actually become a blessing.

In days gone by, we would cringe whenever coming home to find the land line answering machine blinking with messages. I don't know why, but that little blinking light always made me nervous.

Years ago, we dumped the landline altogether. Now with the cell phone, I can just let it go to voicemail and check it whenever I get a chance.

Also that makes me constantly available to my wife and children. We are much more connected to one another and our schedules.

While my cell phone is not a "private number", we also don't publish it publicly for everybody. At Faith Church, people have always been very respectful.

Part of it is probably due to our growth into a multiple staff, multiple ministry church. Many people know not to call me about "this event" or "that issue" because I DON'T KNOW all the things going on at the church. They need to call that ministry leader for the info. And most of our hospital visitation is done by volunteer teams and HomeGroups. They keep the staff up to date, not the other way around.

But I think it must be part of the DNA of just a very considerate church. Because even when we were small in attendance, our people (well...most people) were great at respecting boundaries.

I love my church (after 12 years and still going strong)! Just thought you might like to hear some positive stories.

Joel Gorveatte said...

Oops. That last thought was meant to read "I love OUR church". God is constantly reminding me that it is HIS church and it is a place of community. It ain't mine!

Keith Drury said...

Boy these ideas here the first day are good ones! Thanks for the hints and helpful ideas for pastors-parents. Keep 'em coming as you have other ideas--these are really helpful to my students preparing for pastoring-parenting.

matthew said...

I think one of the cures to this problem is building a healthy small group network in the church. If small groups are working well, an 'emergency' will be handled by the other members of that person's small group immediately and the pastor can respond to the appropriate degree later on.

On a more silly note, I simply refuse to get a cell phone. Instead, I got a sponsor child. So if anyone tries to make me feel guilty for not having a cell phone I simply say I felt the starving kid was more important and then they pretty much quit the conversation :)

Herb said...

I'm not a pastor, but the key for us is to have 2 lines. One line is listed, appears on our checks, etc. and is also the number we usually use for outgoing calls (displaying caller ID to everyone we call). We also give this number to most of the businesses we deal with. The bell is turned off on this phone and we never answer it. It has AT&T Unified Messaging which allows it to take voice messages and also FAXes. Then we have an unlisted number which we give to friends, family, employers, church, doctors and schools. This line has caller ID and "The Message Center" which is voicemail without the FAX option. Based on who is calling we can decide whether to take the call immediately or let it go to voice mail. This is working good for us. We all have cell phones but we turn them off when we are at home (and work). They have been really good to have when going on school band trips when you need to communicate with the other chaperones & leaders and also on family trips like to Disneyland when you want to go separate ways but then meet up again later. We used to attend a large church (over 2000) and never had occasion to call any of the pastors at home. I think they had a system where if you called the church after hours it would tell you which pastor was "on call." We go to a smaller church now (about 200) and while the pastor's number is in the directory and isn't a secret, the names and numbers of all 10 deacons are listed on the back of the bulletin each week and inside the bulletin it tells you who the "deacon of the week" is and has his number again. This information is also on the church website. I haven't called a deacon yet, but I have the impression that this is what they want you to do.

P.S. I have been meaning to respond to your article "Who Reads This column?" FYI, I fit into almost all your categories:

1. “Thinking Baptists” - We've been attending a Baptist church for 4 years now (since we moved) and we think a lot.
2. Nazarenes are second. - We are still members of the Church of the Nazarene and have been so since 1972.
3. There are lots of readers from secular campuses. - I work at a secular University and this is where I am when reading your column.
4. Lay folk are more numerous than I thought. - I am a lay person.

Number 5 doesn't apply (Many reside outside the USA) and #6 used to apply (Most never write at all) but not any more!

I really like your column. Thanks and keep writing!

ViaMediaHaze said...

Coach D,
Here is what I am noticing here at Seminary concerning phone calls and in particular cell phones. We have many people who are pastors that attend seminary and I would say 95% of the whole student body have a cell phone. The problem we have is not from those younger students but of the older students who disrupt class by having their cell phones on in class. Sure it could be on vibrate but have you heard a phone on vibrate while it is sitting on a table. UGH!!!! Sometimes I want to stand up and say "That call is not so important week in to week out that you have to have your phone on all the time." We have one gentleman that will get up and leave 2-3 times during every class because of phone calls and he feals that he must answer it right then. So instead of waiting for break he just leaves, talks out in the hallway, then comes right back in. To any of you who might not think your phone is a distraction, guess what?!?, IT IS!!!
I agree that we need to make ourselves available for emergencies that happen in the church but at the same time we should not be sacrificing time with family or becoming known as "that person who's phone is always going off in class"!

David Drury said...

We don't answer the phone during dinner--so that helps us. And I wrote my cell phone out of the budget here at our church so I wouldn't have to deal with that (I must be one of the few that HAD such a budget and got rid of it--instead of the other way around).

However, having been both a solo-pastor/church planter and a staff pastor (now) I must say that the demand and home calling issue completely different and you really can't compare. We staff pastors and large church pastors just don't recognize the pressure a solo-pastor has on them for their time. Yes--we have pressure too but it's a different kind.

And for those that don't like interruptions with cell phones please check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hut3VRL5XRE


G.R. ''Scott'' Cundiff said...

I'm the odd one out I guess. The phone is no big deal to this pastor. I know my congregation isn't as large as some, but the phone isn't an issue so far as I can tell. These days it is just my wife and me at home, but even "back when" I don't think it was all that much of a problem. It may be that now that we are in our 8th year here that we have somehow struck a balance with our people and it is true that our congregation is pretty healthy so far as relationships are concerned, so they do a fine job of supporting one another.

I will pass along the idea of having a "phone tree" for church announcements and prayer requests. I handle it myself, so when there is a prayer request, it comes to me first, then I record it and send it out to the church. That way everyone gets the same message and people don't feel a need to phone me to tell me stuff (since I am the one to told them via the phone tree.)

Anyway, the phone (cell or otherwise) isn't much of a concern for me. When people call me, it usually means that they really need me and if I get a few unnecessary calls they pretty much roll off my back -- no harm, no foul.

We do have caller ID, so I don't answer calls from "unknowns" but I almost always answer when it is part of my church family.

Tony Myles said...

As a new senior pastor, I was happily handed the habits of the last guy. One of them included him overseeing the church phone (a cell phone).

I declined.

Instead, I handed that over to our Connection Pastor (because we're hip and emergent with cool pastoral titles like that) and he has done a great job of being my filter. The only people who have my cell phone number are my family members, key staff, and a few strategic volunteers. Even then, unless I hear the pre-programmed ringtone of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," I don't respond to usual ringtone of Kirk Franklin's "Revolution."

Recently I got an email:

Hi Tony,
I received your email address from Ryan at the church. He said this is probably the best way to get in touch with you. Your old pastor had ordered pens from my company last March and I had spoke to him a couple of time throughout last year. I was calling today to touch base and see if the church had any needs for promotional items when I was informed that you are now handling this and that the old pastor is no longer there. If you need me to send the information from the previous order or further information on my company, please let me know. I do look forward to a continued business relationship with Connection Church. Thank you for your time.

Totally innocent, and so here was my response:
Thanks, Lainey! I try to stay away from sales calls (sorry!) but I do appreciate the email. I'm sure we'll reconnect in the future when we have some promotional needs.



Connection Church

His reply:

Hi Tony,
I understand not wanting to take Sales Calls and I hope that you come to think of me more than just another telemarketing sales person. :) I like dealing in email myself as many of my clients I know are busy and that way I don't interrupt a thought with a call (although sometimes that is important). Thank you kindly for responding to my email! I look forward to working with you in the near future.

That's ten minutes I saved... which I was able to spend on this blog. :)

Denniston said...

I'm with you. You too Joel. I hate the phone. Luckily my pastor or the secretary on her days takes most of the calls. I do have a cell phone, and I try to answer it as much as possible, but I've always believe that a phone shouldn't control you. My last phone got pretty bad reception, so I got the label of not answering my phone, but I'm ok with that. The great thing is kids don't call any more, it's all txt msgs. If I'm in a conversation I rarely pick up the phone. Tony, I do what you do, and have special rings for different group.

Keith Drury said...

Thada caught me.. I was recycling this column from 1994, 13 years ago. In the original column I even called them "Cellular phones" and mentioned "beepers" which were popular with some pastors then.

Having passed 60 years since then I am freer to not have a phone now of course. My students actually DO have my cell phone number--it is on each of my syllabi--but luckily students never read the syllabus for a course, and they are more inclined to email anyway which is perfect for me--they email me at 3AM and I answer at 6AM --we are seldom up at the same time anyway.

When I turned 60 I quit doing guest devotions in dorms too--when they are scheduled I have already been asleep for 2 hours and I no longer get up to go do them. :-)

These comments have been helpful. Thanks all!

K said...

Wow, Coach. Can I call you that, even though I never had you as a prof? :-) You really hit the nail on the head with this one! I despise phones, too! - well, at least land lines. I am a pk, and I just HATE answering landlines. I hate to hear the sound, and the last thing I want to do is to pick up the receiver.

In my life as a PK, the problem wasn't the phone stealing my dad's attention. The problem was having to answer the ever-ringing phone when my dad was out and about. Like Luke, my family had the church line and the house line connected in both the church and the house. So, the phone was ALWAYS ringing. If I answered it, I would generally not have the desired answer for the caller or I would have to go run around the church/house premises to see if my dad was there but had somehow escaped the reverberations of resounding phone rings.

For some reason cells don't really bother me. Cell phones must be better b/c the ring sounds different, and I feel like I have more power over them. Sometimes, I turn off my cell for hours or even a day - gasp!

Dave <> said...

Hey Coach...

I agree 100% with you. I do receive a lot of phone calls out of the office on my cell, and since I have made that number available to everyone in my church, it does get called upon with some frequency.

I do understand the importance of down time and the ability to connect with my spouse (as often as possible) and I won't sacrifice that for something that can wait till office hours the next day.

I think that people have an over inflated view of who a pastor really is (as though time didn't apply to them because they are so close to deity themselves) and that there is no such thing as interruption because of the seemingly endless availablity of the pastor.

I do love e-mail though.

Thanks from a former student.