The 24 Hour Rule

This past week I had the privilege of teaching a couple of sessions at the annual Ohio A/G minister’s retreat. This event is always a highlight for me. The speakers and sessions are always good, but mostly, I enjoy the interaction and laid back atmosphere. There is so much of an iron sharpens iron element. In the lobbies, the cafeteria, hallways, throughout the campus there are conversations happening that are strengthening and encouraging. Leaders learning from each other is a great thing!

It was a very real honor when I was asked to be a part of this event as a presenter.

I taught both sessions on technology in ministry. The first was a basic look at organizing and using email effectively and efficiently. The second was talking about being mobile and leveraging technology for our benefit.

I will from time to time post some of what I taught as well as what I am currently learning in these areas.

Michael Hyatt has a great series of posts on his blog regarding email. Click here to read his insights. I used some of what he has written in my sessions this week as they are things I have implemented.

One thing we use around here that I feel is very important: the 24 hour rule. It simply states that ALL phone calls and emails are to be responded to within 24 hours (those that require a response , of course). This holds, even if the answer is no or not now. The reply might be as simple as, “Thanks for the email, I will get back to you with that information when it is available,” or, “Received your message, I will be in touch with you to follow up by ________.”

There are some specific reasons and benefits related to this rule.

  • It is common courtesy; something this world could use more of.
  • It keeps us responsive.
  • Nothing is more frustrating than feeling ignored.
  • It shows that we care about people.
  • It makes a person feel valued that they received a prompt response.
  • It keeps things from falling thru the cracks.

A couple of exceptions to the rule are days off and vacation. Otherwise, we return calls and emails. I do allow for exceptions to unsolicited sales calls. No need to rush a return call there, they will call back. I learned this rule a long time ago and rarely does it get broken. Now my staff follows it as well.

While I am on the subject, if you are a Pastor or church leader, return your calls! Even to missionaries. I know they are asking for platform time and money, but even when the answer is no, they will appreciate the returned call. It is hard to do what they do in contacting churches and pastors. I know how hard it is to tell a missionary no. I have to do it as well. At some point in the future you may be able to work with that missionary or may have an opportunity to get to know them. Think how much better that will be if there is already some respect there.

I have personally experienced this. At my last church, we supported missionaries, but did not have the ability to add more. The number, while good for that size and location church, was much smaller than the number of missionaries the church I am currently pastoring supports. When I moved here and suddenly became a supporting pastor for many missionaries I had not been for the previous years, it was great to know that I had no reason to avoid any missionaries because I had not returned their calls before. Several times, missionaries have commented how much they appreciated me returning their call, even when the answer was “no.” At least they knew and could move on and not spend time trying to track me down.

Sorry, I’ll get off me soap box now.

What rules do you have regarding emails, phone calls, etc. that work in your context?

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