Telemarketing gets a bad rap. Because it should. People are tired of sales calls. Phones ringing are disruptive and often annoying – because we weren’t going to answer anyway. We’ve looked for studies to back this up, but there aren’t any that give a comprehensive picture of phone marketing. The broad consensus, however, is that we initiated calls with people who are close to us, or if we believe we can get an answer faster, but rarely do individuals engage with unsolicited calls. Does that mean phones have no place in church ministry? Not at all. We just have to use them more strategically and hone in on a particular audience.

There are different stages of involvement that people have with local churches. Some are unaware, others are occasional visitors, a few attend regularly, and fewer still become members. Reaching out to the unaware and occasional visitors through phone calls are the no fly zone for phone calls. Send these people e-mail, reach them on social media, but don’t call them. Even if you left them a voicemail, there’s no reason to believe they would call back.

Here’s our golden rule: only call if the person has your number saved. If someone attends regularly and is sparsely involved, be sure that a lay or staff leader has connected with them and they’ve exchanged contact information. As people are becoming members, ask them to save the church’s number in their phones – as well as the church’s leaders. This benefits them because they can reach out in times of need, but it also gives you the chance to call and get an answer. Random numbers and unknown callers are nuisances but church staff is an uncommon treat.

Why do we, as a society, prefer email or social media? We live in the world of customization and watch-later. Our media are controlled. We choose when to partake in our favorite shows, music, and news. Today’s systems don’t pressure us into an in-the-moment conversation with someone we’ve never met and probably never will meet. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. We expect to interact with the outside world when we flip through emails and social media, and we can choose to continue scrolling or to delete those messages. Phone calls are just met with an immediate “decline,” and we don’t think about it again.

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