10 Reasons to Use the Telephone Rather than Email in Ministry

I appreciate email, especially because I can communicate with people around the world at the touch of the “send” button. So, I’m not arguing against using email. I’m arguing that there are still good reasons to use the telephone when doing ministry. Here’s why:

  1. The telephone often takes less time. I can usually ask a question, and get an answer more rapidly over the phone than I can by typing, sending, receiving, and responding to multiple emails. 
  2. A voice can exude passion much more than an email can. If you want to convince someone to join you in a ministry task, you’re more likely to show your fire for the task in a phone call than in an email. Urgency in a voice goes a long way. 
  3. Emails can be easily misread. We’ve all spent far too many hours explaining and re-explaining emails that recipients misunderstood. All the emojis in the world can’t take care of what a simple phone call can. 
  4. An email can’t always do what ministry requires. An email in a time of grief or anger or questioning or fear might be a start, but it’s seldom the best way to minister to someone who needs to hear a comforting word. 
  5. Ministry is about people . . . with names . . . and faces . . . and voices. Frankly, I have friends with whom I communicate often, but whose voice I haven’t heard in years. Even I as write these words, I realize that I’ve been missing a bit of who they are. 
  6. A telephone call is almost unexpected now. We’ve become so accustomed to emailing that a phone call catches us off guard. Maybe that’s a reason to use the phone: to show somebody how much he or she matters. 
  7. Email can be a ministry copout. Sometimes we use email to avoid the hard work of face-to-face, voice-to-voice confrontation, or challenge. That’s more cowardice than effective ministry. 
  8. Ministry is incarnational. That means that ministry requires our being present “in the flesh.” I realize that a phone call isn’t fully incarnational, either, but it still requires us to talk to somebody. Even the letters in the Bible were often hand-delivered and read by a person. 
  9. Phone calls sometimes allow for dealing with issues more rapidly.  Sure, email is instant, but that assumes the recipient has immediate Internet access. Sometimes it’s just quicker to make a phone call when dealing with a pressing matter.   
  10. Ministry is often about oral communication. Most of us (including me) will continue doing emails, regardless of this post – and I understand that necessity. The more we can actually speak to people and communicate clearly, though, the more we can improve this critical aspect of ministry. Practice – even on the phone – is good. 

What are your thoughts?  

Posted on September 9, 2020

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Bill Effler says on

    This was a wonderful, simple, practical and subtly profound encouragement…totolly agree!

  • Vince David says on

    Great stuff. Thanks so much. There are times when it is necessary to call people rather than email them.

  • that was so well done…
    at once ‘common-sensical’ AND counter-intuitive
    I needed those- especially the ‘cop-out’ one… ouch!

  • I like it when people call me. I like to hear their voices when I can not see their faces. Thank you for encouraging us to make the calls. There are some good comments posted as well. I try to call my members monthly or as needed. In addition to a brief voice mail I will send a follow up text in the future. In the text I will state that I called and ask for a good time to call back.

    Thank you again,


  • Robin G Jordan says on

    A phone call is much more personal than an email or a text. You also get immediate feedback. You may never get a response to your email or text.

  • Dave Rolph says on

    The premise that one must choose between a phone call or an email is a false premise. Emails are dying out for personal use because of spam. Most people who want to communicate today do so through text messages, not emails. And phone calls are now being ruined by robocalls and other intrusive sales tactics. If you call someone on the phone you are basically interrupting whatever it is they are doing at the moment, presuming that whatever you want to talk about is more important than what they are doing. Of course they don’t have to answer, in which case you have to leave a message, which they’ll have to listen to, then the game of phone tag is on. A much better approach is to text, setting up an appointment for a call. Then all the benefits you mentioned can be accomplished respectfully.

  • It is surprising to hear how much a phone call, even if you only speak to the voice mail, meant to someone who just needed someone to say,”I was just praying for you a wanted to let you know how valuable you are.”

  • Alex Fraddy Ocen says on

    I agree with you that telephone is more accurate. you cannot give me an excuse after receiving my communication directly from me. An excuse after that means disloyalty and i will get to know how to handle it.

  • Hal Hunter says on

    It really depends on who you need to communicate with. We discovered, when making followup calls with visitor response cards, that people will not answer a call from an unknown number, or number not in your contact list, or even answer at all. I do this, and have a call blocker to boot. The best you can hope for is to leave voice mail and start a telephone tag chain. Hardly a time saver.

    We have better success with emailing and/or texting a request for a call back, for those times when verbal conversation is best. This also gives you the opportunity to give them a heads up for needed background or prep for the conversation.

    As to #7, the difficult conversation point, sometimes a clear record of what was, and was not, communicated is important.

  • Joe De Leon says on

    Good list of reasons to call.
    I wonder, which is more correct. Is what I say more correct than what I write? For example if I say “I’ll meet you at 3 p.m. at the designated location” and I later confirm in writing “I’ll meet you at 4 p.m. at the designated location”. What would you think the meeting time is?

  • Tony Jones says on

    How about this: If you say something you shouldn’t on a phone call, it usually can’t be used against you in the future. I had a pastor one time who sent a scathing email to a deacon with whom he disagreed. Guess what got photocopied and handed out at the next deacons meeting?

  • Phone calls are a dialogue; emails are a monologue until the recipient sends a reply.

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