3 Problems with Unresponsiveness

I met with a young man in our church recently. I love his heart. I baptized him a few months ago and have taken a personal interest in him. I see such kindness in him, that I asked him to serve in our children’s ministry. He was delighted.

After we talked about the opportunity, he said he filled out a card asking to serve in our preschool ministry a year ago and never heard anything. He assumed we weren’t interested in him. I was devastated. Hopefully, he simply fell through the cracks of our system, but this type of thing frustrates me more than just about anything.

Responsiveness is paramount in ministry and leadership. Whether it’s an email, a phone call, or Facebook message, most people expect some sort of response. I realize busyness makes this difficult, but it’s an important enough issue to address. I encourage leaders to figure out a process that allows for diligent responsiveness.

Here are 3 problems with unresponsiveness:

It makes a person feel unappreciated – When someone doesn’t get a response back, the person feels they aren’t important enough. They wonder what they’ve done wrong or why they aren’t good enough.

It makes a person feel unloved – Like it or not, unresponsiveness is translated, especially in the church setting, as an indicator of love. If you don’t respond, you must not love them very much.

It makes a person mistrust you or the organization – People will only tolerate unresponsiveness a few times. Want to wreck an organization’s credibility? Become known as unresponsiveness.

So what do you do about it?

  • Make responsiveness an extremely high value in the organization.
  • Leaders should lead by example.
  • Answer all emails and return calls promptly, even if you don’t have an answer yet.
  • Have a system is in place to respond to all queries.
  • Never ignore a request.

Even in the best environments, situations like the example above will happen. People will feel they’ve not been listened to, that no one cares, or that they are unloved. They’ll take it personal enough to leave the organization.

The more you can do to avoid it the better you will build an atmosphere of genuine trust.

How does it make you feel when someone doesn’t respond to an inquiry?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “3 Problems with Unresponsiveness

  1. Ron, thanks for reminding those of us in church leadership positions that we are the inspiration, we are the engine of responsiveness change in our congregations.

    Unresponsiveness breeds unresponsiveness. And when a congregation is unresponsive long to encouragement and exhortation from the pastor (and/or other church leaders, if the pastor is lucky) the pastor and/or other leaders get discouraged and we are tempted to stop trying. What's the point? I have a saying that's a mash-up of two cliches: if you beat your head against a wall long enough, some of it will stick.

    In my situation, the question is how long do I persist in exhorting my congregation to action, to response, to acts on Christ's invitation to partner in the work of the Kingdom for the sake of the world when the response is underwhelming to say the least? It's hard on a daily basis, but I really try to adopt Jesus' instruction to the apostles about forgiveness: how often do I keep at this? 70 times 7 times…

    • It sounds like you are dealing with stubbornness, not an issue needing forgiveness. I'd ask myself, if these people are unresponsive and I can't help them get there, is it me, is it them, or is it a systems issue? Based on that answer I think you'll have an easier time discerning what you do next.

  2. So true! I now personal know and feel the effect of unresponsiveness. I spent 12 years in the Dallas/Ft Worth area and had a wonderful home church. I have now moved to the west coast of British Columbia where I have spent over a year trying to find the same. Unresponsiveness? There are no small group s here and no interest in starting them. No fellowship at all – no outreach opportunities either. Sad.

  3. sir, you have really dealt with an important topic here. My first time visiting your site. I’ve subscribed for updates. Please keep in touch. God bless you. Amen

  4. Just a quick thank you can work wonders! I've noticed that you acknowledge most every post that you can on your blog….thank you for that.

    Can you imagine how different things would be with acknowledgement (or at least effort if in the form of a nod, handshake, smiley icon (cornball I know), or thank you were made…or even the dreaded RSVP that I see you have listed in the photo tag for his blog. :)

    Thanks as always Ron

    • Yea, I'm afraid we neglect RSVP's these days. When planning events it can be very hard to know who is coming and who is not.

  5. Thanks Ron, It’s great to see someone as busy as you responding so quickly. Thanks for all your advice and quick responses\time given to me. Jerry

  6. Twice our church put out requests for help in various areas of ministry and twice I offered to volunteer in the office. (I have extensive experience there.) Twice I never received a response.

    The third time the request was put out I ignored it for feeling a but blacklisted. I REALLY wanted to help and am already familiar with the machines (copy, fax etc), the people (they’re my friends) and how things flow in general. It makes me sad they don’t call since I’m a stay-at-home with free time. :(
    Twitter: kathyfannon

  7. I heard Dr. Holly Latty Mann say on more than one occasion, "in the absence of communication, people go negative." Yikes. I just remembered I've dropped the ball on something…

  8. We had similar things happen in our church. It wasn't malicious – things just fell between the cracks. But people were left feeling insignificant. I think people in positions of influence need to understand the power that even their smallest actions can have. Something as simple as a pastor not fully paying attention when you're talking can lead to long-lasting relational scars.
    I think the real key you've pointed out is to have a system about being responsive. So often, we just hope for the best – and that's when things slip between the cracks. Being responsive is something we need to be intentional about.

  9. Ron, I am glad you wrote this – it rings true for me personally. A simple click of the like button or share link, or a +1 can mean so much. I know it is a little thing, but when one is trying to get a positive message out it is nice to get at least one response. :-)

  10. I've got a similar story. Probably between 15 and 20 years ago, a friend of my wife and me and his wife came to our church to visit. We don't have the little stickers in the pews, but do have an area where new people can put down their information and asked to be contacted. I was not on the committee involved with this. A few weeks went by and I only saw them come back perhaps once. Something prompted me one evening to give them a call to ask how they liked the church. My friend answered and when we started to talk he said he was so glad that I had called, that no one from the church had bothered and he and his wife were about to write us off and move on. He put me on speaker phone and he and his wife and I talked about the church and the beliefs and the mechanics of the workings of the body for probably over an hour.

    From that conversation, they decided to start coming and now he is the worship and song leader and he and his family have ministered to the body for the last 10-15 years in a might way.

  11. It gives me the sense that I am feeling a need that the organization, church in this case, does not recognize as valid. I think things like, "They must already have plenty of help" or "I guess they were looking for someone with more experience" etc. If you're naturally self-conscious or introverted it can be a big de-motivator. I've since realized that these are rarely true and ministries are usually aching for help but they have a poor system for connecting with volunteers. I now try to put the burden on myself to get inserted in places where I would like to serve.