According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, updated in May 2010, 94% of American Internet users send or read email. This number continues to grow and that means that people in responsible ministry positions need to be accessible by email and need to know how to use it properly. Every email contact is an opportunity to witness to the unconditional love of God. Each email needs to convey respect and care to those we serve. Here are twelve rules to facilitate that result:
1) Parishes, dioceses, Catholic institutions, organizations and religious communities need to provide ministry email addresses to staff and employees.
2) Ministry email should be used for ministry. A minister should have his/her own separate personal email address if he/she wishes to use email to communicate with friends and family or for other non-ministry tasks. (There are many free options: Gmail, Yahoo, hotmail, etc.)
3) It is always safe to use the traditional letter format for email: greeting, body, closing.
4) Always use correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Avoid using all caps or all lower case words.
5) Keep messages brief and to the point. Do not overload an email with multiple subjects. If you need to cover more than one subject, send separate emails.
6) Do not give out the email addresses of others without their permission. When sending an email to a list of people, put the email addresses in the BCC (blind carbon copy) section, so as not to inadvertently give everyone access to all of the other addresses.
7) Respond to every email that requires a response in a timely manner (within 24 hours if possible). Either respond to everything in the email at once or acknowledge receipt of the email and let the person know when he/she can expect a complete response. If you are not going to be accessible by email for more than 24 hours, use the Out of Office auto-responder.
8) As a courtesy, use a “signature” at the bottom of your email that includes your full name, title, organization, address (with zip code) and phone number (with area code), so that people can use other means to contact you, if necessary.
9) Be mindful of your tone. Without having the benefit of your verbal and non-verbal clues, the reader could misinterpret what you are saying and even be offended. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the better.
10) Never use email to criticize others and never reply in anger. Once you press send—you cannot undo your message.
11) Always re-read your email before you send it in order to be sure that you have communicated clearly and politely.
12) Do not use email when a phone call, a note, or a meeting is really what is needed. This is after all about ministry.
These are my twelve rules. Do you have others to add?