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Is e-mail the new “parking lot”?

Is e-mail the new “parking lot”?

Susan Nienaber of Alban Institute addresses the positives and negatives of email and church communications:

It is more than a little ironic that you are reading an e-mail message that is about to warn you of the dangers of e-mail, but here goes:

You may be familiar with—perhaps even have participated in—”parking lot meetings.” Those unofficial conversations (often held in parking lots following official meetings) that tend to undermine decisions, complain about individuals, and stir up discontent. They are extremely effective forms of communication, but they are not always helpful. In some important ways, e-mail has become the new “parking lot meeting. It spreads information (accurate or not) quickly and widely, it is impossible to stop, and it can be very damaging.

Many of us could not do our jobs without e-mail, certainly not me. I depend on e-mail to schedule appointments, share documents and stay connected with various groups. The Internet, with its e-mail and blogging, is an important technological advance that helps us work more effectively and efficiently. Many churches are making excellent use of these new electronic resources in very creative ways. Indeed, Alban depends largely on e-mail to communicate with you.

However, when a congregation is in the midst of conflict, the Internet, and particularly e-mail, can become a serious problem. Just about every church I consult with these days is dealing with the downside of computer technology as they struggle with conflict.

Read more about how email and the internet can be a curse and a blessing for churches and their leadership.


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Rod Gillis

@ Jon White, Jon I’m not on face book, but if I were, I would definitely “like” your comment. ( :


My first reaction was; “email – how 2003.” Facebook and texting seem to have displaced e-mail for most people I know who are under 40. My second reaction was to consider ways in which perhaps I might contribute to the felt need to have conversations aside from the “official” ones. Rather than throwing up gossip (which like the poor will always be with us) as some sort of bogeyman to be feared we should be seeking to make it as unnecessary as possible by not privileging information.

Jon White

Rod Gillis

Some years ago at a diocesan meeting a colleague leaned over and said to me “Pay attention, we are about to be ‘Albanized’ “. I thought of that remark this morning as I read Susan Nienaber’s article in its entirety.

Consulting agencies do good work, but they have a tendency to morph into the tidy bowl man at times.

Email can be a democratic tool for people feel who are

disempowered. It can be an effective counter measure in dealing with judicatory bodies when the latter don’t consult with stake holders, or issue pious communiques aimed at shaming the contrary minded into conformity.

Parking lot meetings are part of human discourse, its conversation over the clothes line about what is going on in the neighborhood.

Although, I’m not sure email is the equivalent of a parking lot meeting. Most parking lot meetings happen after the actual meeting, where presumably participants have already had opportunity to speak and to vote. Email can be helpful to folks to don’t get invited to meetings in the first place–melodramatic anecdotes about hitting “send” aside.

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