12 Game-Changing and Tweetable Proverbs

Here’s a challenge you’ve likely heard before, but may need to practice again. For a month, read a Proverbs everyday. There are 31 Proverbs – enough to fill the longest months. If you’re reading this mid-month, start with the day of the month where you are at the moment.

Proverbs are filled with wisdom. They are practical – even if you are not a follower of God, but especially for those of us who claim to be.

Let me get you started.

<h3>Here are 12 Proverbs, which if applied to your life, could actually change the quality of your life.</h3>

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. – Proverbs 15:1

A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. – Proverbs 15:22

Greed brings grief to the whole family – Proverbs 15:27

Pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18

Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it – Proverbs 16:22

Kind words are like honey— – Proverbs 16:24

Better to be patient than powerful – Proverbs 16:32

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven. – Proverbs 17:9

A cheerful heart is good medicine. – Proverbs 17:22

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. – Proverbs 18:13

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes. – Proverbs 19:2

How could the relationships in your life, and your life, change if you placed a few of these nuggets into practice more often? Don’t we tend to perform opposite of these many times? How does that work for you?

Which of these most speak to you? 

Five Personal Reflection Questions to Evaluate Your Year and Start the New Year Right

I’m a reflective person. This time of year, when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

I think its a great exercise.

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so – get alone – and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating – sin can have an immediate pleasure – but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships – spend more time with family and friends. Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But, chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended – and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again – even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed). I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year – one decision – one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But, would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Maybe you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life – and start living the life God has called you to. Maybe you need to stop delaying the risk – and go for it! Maybe you need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream? Is this the year you mend the broken relationship? Is the year you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being – planning for the future? Is this the year you surrender your will to God’s will – and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Maybe getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself. This can be a powerful exercise.

Try answering some of these questions and see how they help you start your best year ever!

5 Criteria for Making New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

I love a fresh start.

Perhaps it’s because grace is the doctrine I’ve needed so much, but there’s something about a clean slate, which motivates me towards achievement.

I’m like this with my desk at the office. I create stacks. Magazines to be read. Notes to be written. Lists to be completed. Bulletins from other churches. (I am always looking for better ideas.) Stacks, stacks, and more stacks. When the stacks are at capacity – I call it organized chaos.

But, then one day I’ve had enough of the stacks and I go on a cleaning spree. I sort. I file. I trash until the top of my desk shows far more wood than paper. Ahhh… Finally, I’m inspired to work again.

I love a fresh start.

I think this may be why I’m one of the people who appreciates New Year’s resolutions. It’s like a line on the calendar, which screams to me: FRESH START!

But, as much as I appreciate the value in them – beginning new things, stretching myself, making my life better – I’m like everyone else. I find it easier to make resolutions than to keep them.

How do we make resolutions we will actually keep? 

Because resolutions – even the strongest ones – aren’t going to improve anything if you don’t follow through with them. And, they probably just make you more frustrated than before you made them. Who needs more frustration?

So, what can you do? Let me try to help. 

First, write them down. This is huge. I’ve heard people say you are twice as likely to keep a written resolution than one you simply state in your mind. 

Second, try not to have too many. You will be overwhelmed and give up before you start. 
And, then, here are some suggestions for the type of resolutions which seem to work. This help me. 

5 criteria for making resolutions you can actually keep:

Reasonable

Another word might be attainable. The resolution must make sense for you to actually be able to do this year. Saying you want to read 50 books in a year – because you heard someone else does it – and, yet you didn’t read any this past year is probably going to be a stretch. You might be able to do it, but it likely isn’t a reasonable goal. Don’t be afraid of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). The key is you’re trying to achieve something, which makes your life better. If you’re successful this year you can set a higher goal next year.

Measurable

To be successful in keeping a resolution you need some way to monitor success towards it – certainly a way to know when you’ve achieved it. If your resolution is simply to lose weight you won’t be as motivated as if you say you want to lose a pound a week. You can track that goal and see your progress. Obviously it will still require discipline, but there is something about a measurable goal which – for most of us – drives us to meet it.

Sustainable

This one doesn’t apply for every resolution, but does in many. Ultimately I have found I’m more motivated to reach goals, which change my life for the better over a longer period of time. It’s great to meet those milestone, once in a lifetime type of achievements – such as running a marathon, or writing a book. And, we should have those type goals in our life – and maybe a milestone resolution is reasonable for you this year. The problem I have seen is if we get off track on reaching them it’s easy to simply give up – maybe even write it off as an unreasonable goal. We feel defeated and so we quit making any resolutions. In making New Year’s resolutions, I find I’m more successful if it’s something which I possibly adopt as a new lifestyle. Some examples would be changing my eating habits, beginning to exercise more often, Bible-reading, journaling, etc – again reasonable and measurable – but something I will sustain beyond the New Year.

Accountable

This is key. Weight Watchers is a great example here of this principle. There is something about their system, which works, and part of it is the reporting portion – where you have to be accountable to others for your progress. If you don’t build in a system of accountability – whether it’s with other people or some visible reminder of your resolution and progress – it’s easy to give up when the New Year euphoria begins to fade.

Reward-able

And, this may be the most important and the least practiced. One secret to actually achieving your resolution may be to find the “carrot”, which will continually motivate you to stretch for the finish line. If losing weight is a goal it could be a new suit or dress when you reach a pre-determined number. If it’s running a marathon (and if this is a reasonable resolution for you this year) it could be you run the marathon in some destination city you can’t wait to visit. If it’s reading your Bible through in a year – promise yourself a new Bible at the end of the year. The reward should fit the degree of stretching and effort it took to accomplish the resolution, but this often serves as a good incentive to helping you reach your goals – especially during the times you are tempting to quit trying.

I hope this will help. It does for me. I have some daily disciplines in my life now, which started as New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found resolutions can help me start the year with fresh goals, and the discipline towards achieving them helps me have more discipline in other areas of my life.

Here’s to a great New Year! God bless!

Why I use Social Media as a Pastor

A video I made for Exponential

Social media is being used with increasing frequency by churches and church leaders. In this training video, I was asked to explain how you can be effective with social media and how to do it without using up too much of your time.

Key Social Media Highlights:

  • 5 reasons you should be using social media
  • The top platforms to consider
  • 5 tips to using social media

And, don’t miss Exponential East 2017 and your opportunity to engage in multiple workshop tracks devoted to launching a new church and leadership. I hope to see you there.

7 of the Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience

This post, and the opposite one before it, (7 of the Most Exciting Things Pastors Experience) actually began when I received this question on my blog.

Ron – What do you think are some of the most frustrating things pastors experience?

Great question. I decided to first address some of the exciting things, but, like most jobs, there are frustrating things about the job. Leadership deals with people – different people, with different expectations, demands and opinions. And, anytime there are differences in people there will be frustrations. This is true even among people who love each other greatly. 

The actual question was about what is “most frustrating”. I had to think about the question. There are lots of little things which can frustrate me. I don’t understand why some people leave a room and don’t turn out the lights, or how someone would ever put a toilet paper roll on which unfolds from the bottom. (Slight attempt at humor there.) But, those are small examples – not “most frustrating”. So, I had to think a bit. 

I should first mention I’m sharing frustrations, but I am not frustrated. I love the local church and I love my church. (I shouldn’t have to mention it, but I will.) I believe the church is the hope for the world. I am a proponent of the local, Bible-believing church. We are filled with imperfect people, but our mission is God-inspired, God-given and supposed to be God-glorifying.

With this disclosure, here is my reply of some of my most frustrating things I see as a pastor. Please understand, I’m simply being honest.

7 of the most frustrating things pastors experience:

People who abuse their power or position.

I have witnessed this first hand in some churches where I have pastored, but even more so in churches where friends have been pastor. I know a couple of churches – as this is being written – where a few people in the church are literally controlling the church and causing potentially irreversible damage. 

It always bothers me for people to abuse power, but even more so when it happens in the church. This includes, of course, when the pastor abuses power. Abuse of power is wrong regardless of who is doing so. Ultimately, we are to follow Christ, but sometimes we can let positions and power get in the way of humility and obedience.

People who live opposite lives in and out of the church.

It is frustrating to me when people who have one church face and one community face. It gives the church a bad name. Many of my unchurched friends won’t come to church because they know someone who comes to church already. And, they aren’t impressed. They know the person in the office on Monday morning is not the person who claims to be so wonderful on Sunday morning. 

I should say, I’m not referring to new Christians, and certainly not those who are attending, but not yet believers. I’m talking about those who claim a history with truth, but don’t exhibit truth in the way they live their life. They would shout amen to “love one another” while sitting in the pew, but their actions outside the walls of the church say otherwise. 

Rumors which spread with no basis of truth.

How many times have I been caught in the middle of this one? I once had to dispel a rumor I was going to tear down the church’s steeple. I must admit, I’m not a fan of tradition for tradition, but I sorta like our steeple. Granted, our building looks very “churchy” – and, this can be an initial barrier to people coming. And, this is possibly where rumors start, because I’ve said similar before, but, this means we must meet and embrace people outside the church, inviting them to join us. It never meant demolition. But, rumors like spread rapidly in the right environment. 

And, this is a minor example. When the rumors involve other people they can be very damaging to character and reputation. Gossip destroys a person’s witness. 

Selfishness.

People who want what they want, even at the expense and inconvenience of others. These are people who will allow their personal preference to interfere with carrying out the ultimate mission of the church. They guard “their seats”. They protect “their programs”. They never complain about change – until it makes them uncomfortable. This one probably frustrates me because it has never seemed very biblical to me. I certainly can’t find it in Scriptures. 

Tradition for the sake of tradition.

Again, I’m not against tradition per se. I like meeting at a set time every week, for example. I love giving and receiving gifts at Christmas – let’s not stop this one. I get frustrated, however, with tradition which is adhered to only because of tradition especially if it gets in the way of making disciples. If it’s biblical I’ll be the biggest proponent for it, but if it’s simply because we’ve always done it this way I get frustrated with those who insist it never be changed, even if it is no longer effective in fulfilling the mission of the church. 

Wasting time.

I’m on a mission. A number of years ago God called me out of the business world and into full-time vocational ministry. In the business world we knew we had no time to waste. Our livelihoods depended on effecient use of time and resources.

Now in ministry, I have a keen sense time is short and it moves faster than I can fathom. I don’t want to waste precious Kingdom-time debating issues which simply don’t matter or doing activity which has little Kingdom impact.

Half-heartedness.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I got this one from Jesus. He called it being lukewarm. I sense it when the Spirit of God is obviously active in the room, but people who have claimed to be Christians for years look at me as if it’s a typical Sunday. I see it when people are more concerned if the rules were followed than they are excited about lives which are changing. I notice it when people choose to get involved only when it’s convenient for their schedule. I sense it when someone has been in the church for many years, but hasn’t grown deeper and more passionately in love with Christ than when they began attending. Some days I wish we were a ballgame – with bleachers – and a favorite team. Then maybe they’d get excited.

So, there’s my honest list. While I am confessing frustrations, can I tell you the person who is staring at the phone when the light turn greens or pulls out in front of me then drives ten miles under the speed limit frustrates me also – greatly. I feel better getting this off my chest. I guess I should remind readers I’m human. Just as things frustrate you, they frustrate me. 

But, let me share again, I love the local church. And, I learned years ago – actually I was convicted years ago – I must also love the people of the local church. Even if someone or something someone does frustrates me – I must love them too. And, I strive to do so. 

And, a word to my fellow pastors, I know when I am allowing frustrations to control me more than what the Spirit of God wants to do in and through me I need to take a break, rest, and renew my soul. 

7 of the Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

There are many common factors pastors seem to get excited about in their work. Pastors get to see the best and worst of life, but there are so many positive things we get to experience.

Obviously, seeing someone become a follower of Christ or baptism of a believer, has to rank as a highlight of the pastor’s experience. This is what we are called to do. But, that experience isn’t unique to pastors. Every believer, hopefully, gets excited about seeing people’s entry into faith. This is the call of the church – not only pastors.

So, my list of the most exciting things a pastor experiences consists of things which may be more unique to the work of pastors. I’m not saying only pastors get excited about these experiences, but to pastors, these are especially exciting. I am certain different pastors will have different answers, which is where the comments section can make this post even better.

Here are 7 of the most exciting things pastors experience:

A child who loves church.

Children are the future of the church! Jesus loves the little children – and so should we. I love when a little child leads “them” to church – when I hear from a parent, “They woke up this morning excited it is Sunday!” That thrills me! I have little to do with the experience our children have a church – this is driven by other staff and volunteers (for whom I am eternally grateful), but when a child loves church, I know the parent is sure to be excited also. And, our future as an individual church is brighter.

Note takers and truth-livers.

Seeing someone follow a message closely gives me goosebumps of humility. Hearing pages of the Bible turn – that’s priceless. Even better, seeing people actually live the truths they are learning – don’t even get me started. When people start to understand the principles of grace and live out their faith individually, I feel we truly are living our mission of making disciples.

Sacrificial givers.

Whether in time, resources or talents, the church is built on people willing to invest in her work. The generous giver – who gives with no strings attached, and especially not seeking personal recognition – is a sure way to make a pastor smile – maybe even dance. And, honestly, there are always a minority who really learn and practice the principle and joy of giving, which may be what makes it so exciting when it happens. When I see a man or woman in the parking lot or a baby rocker in preschool, or someone who says “Pastor, I’m here to help you any way I can”, I am encouraged to keep going. Their enthusiasm for serving others encourages me.

Visitors and people who invite them

Visitors – could we grow the church and sustain it long-term without them? Of course not. Every person in the church today, unless they were born into it, started as a visitor. Every new church member and every new opportunity to add someone to our discipleship efforts starts with a single visit. I love people who invite. I love those who come when invited (and statistics are in our favor they will come if they are invited). I just want to hug them all. (I promise though not to hug you on your first visit – or ever if you prefer, because I want you to visit. Visit. Visit. Visit.) But, one of my favorite things on Sunday is meeting visitors and on Mondays following up on visitors.

True disciple-making.

Those who invest in others, to genuinely help them grow in their faith – and those who are truly becoming disciples – thrills me! Those who help people understand the principles of grace and truth – whether through individual mentoring or leading Bible studies – helps me know we are doing more than going through the motions. We are living the mission of the church.

New people joining the church

It’s not just because I like church growth, which I do. It’s because I know the church is a family and every pastor loves when the family grows. When people who have been visiting start coming more often, and eventually decide this is the church family – WOW! Exciting! I may try to look like it’s a normal day – I don’t want you to think we are desperate for new members, or scare you as I shout real loud, but inside, I’m bursting with joy.

When the church is the church!

I am encouraged when I hear someone is in the hospital and a church member has already made a visit, without being asked. I get excited when I hear needs within the church have already been met, because someone took it upon themselves to help. When individual church members are concerned more about those outside the church coming to faith than their personal comfort inside the church – I know we are being the church! When the church behaves like we were called to behave, without a staff member or me having to lead the effort, I’m energized. Elated. Blessed.

There is my list.

Pastors, what would you add?

In my next post I will share 7 of the Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience.

15 Lessons Life Has Taught Me

And you should learn...

The best principles we learn in life, apart from revelation in God’s Word, comes from life experience. Experience is a great teacher.

Here are some of my favorites. Granted, these are random.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying I live by these always, just that I’ve lived long enough to know they are true.

Here are 15 lessons I have learned from life:

Above all else guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life..

Proverbs 4:23, Eventually it all boils down to the heart of the matter. If you lose your heart in a situation it becomes very difficult to regain momentum. Consider a sports team – at the moment they give up – as soon as they think they’re beaten – they have lost the game. Protect your soul.

God cares more about our character development than He does many of the individual decisions we make.

God cares more where you are going than where you are at or where you have been. If we are not careful we spend more of our prayer time focusing on current problems than future opportunities.

This principle works the other way also. If you spend too much of your energies on getting the next best thing you may sacrifice the best God has for you today. Being a good father is more important than buying the best house in town. 

You’ve got to know when to fold them; know when to walk away; and know when to run.

Kenny Rogers was right. There are times to fight and times you know you can’t win and times when you shouldn’t be fighting anyway. Learning the difference is huge.

If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.

Thumper knew a truth that Scripture plays out too. There are times when we need to “shut up” and say, email – or post – nothing. Don’t add fuel to a fire you know shouldn’t be flaming. Unless you’re responding to a calling to strike a match, be an agent of peace.

Humility is an attractive quality.

Pride turns people away from us. When the applause are solicited they are seldom genuine.

It takes time to mend a broken heart.

As believers we don’t grieve like a world without hope, but we still hurt. Healing wounds take time, prayer, and truth. Words and actions of others do hurt. We shouldn’t pretend otherwise. (Some marriages need to know this principle.)

Letting people get credit for something I did is okay if the organization is moving forward.

In the end, if I’m leading, I’ll get all the credit I deserve and more. Great leaders understand this.

We don’t always know the good we are doing.

It just sort of works this way. It would be encouraging, and probably build more momentum for us to know more, if people would tell us how wonderful we are, but they simply don’t We have to live in the security of knowing we are doing good things. Plus, the reality is if we do a good job at anything for long, we eventually quit hearing as many applauds.

More of the same will not produce change.

You can’t keep doing the same things and expect to get different results. Didn’t someone (Einstein) say this was the definition of insanity?

Sometimes the greatest fear we have is the greatest opportunity God has to use us for His glory.

God seems to always call us to that which seems bigger than we are. This causes us to rely on Him more, gives Him glory, and builds our character more than if it was something easy to do.

God is faithful – you can trust Him.

This one comes with test after test, but He has proven Himself to be a God of His word in my life – every time.

We tend to end in the direction we are headed.

We shouldn’t be surprised if we end up in a bad situation, if this was the direction we were aiming our life.

You get more bees with honey than vinegar.

Being nice to people usually gets better results than beating them into submission. (Bible truth: It’s the kindness of God which leads to repentance.

People are different from me.

I tend to want people to respond to life and me as I respond to life and others. They don’t. And, they shouldn’t. I’m not always right.

Every life experience can be used of God for something which gives God glory.

Everything! Maybe even reading this post!

Any you would add?

A Word of Encouragement to the Small Town Pastor

Over the last dozen years or so I’ve had the privilege of ministering with dozens of pastors in other churches. Many of these were in person. Others were virtual. I’ve been in large and small churches. I’ve been to big cities and small towns with only one stop light. (Or none at all.).

In the process, I’ve learned a few things about pastors and churches. In fact, much of what I write this blog about comes from those experiences.

A couple years ago I had back to back weeks in small cities dealing with, by some standards, smaller churches. I realized quickly, probably because I was coming from a larger city and a larger church, they were going to be shy about sharing their success.

I led a leadership retreat for a church with 150 leaders from different churches in the room. I was amazed they could attract that size crowd in a small city – and actually bring people from different churches together. But, talking to the host pastor, it was as if they had no success at all – at least when compared to my perceived “success”. (I’ve realized, too, if you have a decently read blog and you’re from out of town – people credit you with more success than you deserve. I’m sometimes seen as the “expert”. Just please don’t ask our staff about that one.)

It wasn’t humility on this pastor’s part. I’m not saying he wasn’t a humble person, but I don’t think that was keeping him from talking about the good things God was doing through his church. It was more. I think it almost always is.

That’s when it occurred to me something I’ve observed numerous times, but never put into words.

Sometimes people don’t know how well they are doing.

It’s true.

Take my good friend Artie Davis as an example. His church is a mega impact on the small town of Orangeburg, SC. I would love to see the church I pastor have half the influence in the community where I live. Artie also leads The Sticks Network of churches ministering in small towns. The impact of those church is amazing every year I attended their conference.

Many times the small city pastors compare themselves to the big city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress. They compare size rather than context. They compare notoriety rather than influence.

And, because of that, many times, they don’t know how well they are really doing.

I see the connections, networking and influence the small town pastor has and I wish I could have this kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, in many ways they are miles ahead of me.

Small city pastor. God is using you. You are making a Kingdom difference. You just sometimes don’t know how well you are doing.

Do you know a small town pastor doing great Kingdom work?

5 Tips to Write Better Informational Emails

Which actually get read...

Can I be candid with you? I don’t read every email I receive. I’m not even talking about forwards of cute stories that get massed emailed. I almost never read those. I’m talking about informational emails. The emails which have information in them I probably need. I don’t often absorb all of it.

I know. It sounds awful. Hopefully, someone in the comments will let me off the hook of seeming cruel or weird and admit they are the same way. But, here’s the fact. I’m not detail-oriented. At all. If you send me a “book email” – one which appears exceptionally long and full of details – you often lose me before I really get started. (Again, just being honest.)

Keep in mind, I receive hundreds of emails everyday. Many times I am one of many recipients. I know it’s probably vital information. You wouldn’t send it to me unless you wanted me to read it, right? But, if I want to be effective at all, I simply can’t digest everything in an extremely long, detailed email. Sometimes, I have to email back and ask for a summary.

So, what can we do about it?

I could tell you I’ll change. I’ll bite the bullet and read all longer than necessary emails, but the truth is I probably won’t. History proves otherwise. Plus, there are only so many hours in every day. Show me more than a few paragraphs and I’m probably out of here. Again, time simply won’t allow it.

Frankly, sometimes when the email gets too long it’s time to have a meeting. But, when email is the only practical means, ultimately, we have to write better emails.

Let me give you a few suggestions.

And, I should tell you, I’ve given these to staff members who write really long – packed with detail – emails. Some have taken my advice and learned it actually increased their communication results. People seemed to more closely read their emails. They actually appeared to know more of the details the person emailing was trying to communicate. And, isn’t that the goal?

Here are 5 suggestions for better emails:

Personalize the email

This has to be said first. Mass emails get read less by me. If I see there are many people on the list of recipients, I figure I’m not that necessary as a reader. Someone else will respond. (I know, to some this seems arrogant of me, but at least I’m truthful. And, I suspect I’m not alone here either.) An email written just to me is far more likely to grab my attention. Thankfully there are programs now which do a mail merge type function for you.

Make the main point early

What is the point of the email? What do you want to communicate if I get nothing else. Say that immediately. If it’s multiple pieces of information, say that up front too. It might be helpful to bold or underline the main ideas, (but don’t use weird colors or oversized font.) Highlight the most pertinent facts you want to convey, dates or locations, especially if the email is very long. Here’s the bottom line, if you don’t capture my attention soon in a longer email, I’m probably less likely to absorb the key points you want to make sure I get. I realize that’s my fault, not yours, but if you want the information absorbed – you’d want to know your audience, right? And again, I suspect I’m not alone. If you write especially long emails, I suspect you are losing more readers than you think.

Highlight or bullet-point main ideas

People can often read lists easier than paragraphs when dissecting detailed information. The points you want to make will seem more streamlined and easier to follow if you number them, use bullet points or highlight them in some way.

I hear frequently people like how I do this with blog posts like this one. Some wired like me may only read the points in bold. I already know this, so I try to write accordingly. If that’s you, you’re not reading this right now – are you?

Another suggestion here is to offer the main points to consider, such as an upcoming meeting date and time, and then provide a clickable link to access additional information for those who want or need more details. I write a Saturday informational email to our church and try to use this one – as well as bold highlighting the main subject in each paragraph – often.

Consider an opening summary statement.

On especially longer emails, or emails with lots of details, consider opening with the main highlights for quick and busy readers, listing only the points you’ll expand upon later.

You could write something such as, “In this email, I hope to address several issues. I want to talk about…”. Then list the things which will later be expanded upon in the email.

Readers can scan down if they want or need more details, but this way your main ideas get attention and hopefully you capture the reader’s interest enough so they read what you have to say before they disappear.

Proofread

Before hitting the send button, read over it as if you were reading it aloud for the first time. Does it sound like you? Is it complete in thought? Are there obvious grammatical or spelling errors? Are there any lines or words you could cut and the point still be made? (If so, cut them.) You’ll lose some readers if it is not a tightly written email.

There might be more I could add, but this post is getting kind of long. And, I’ve already lost some of you. The main point is if you want to make sure the email you took time to write is read consider the reader and how it will be read – or not.

Here’s to writing better emails.

What suggestions do you have?