Let’s discuss the topic of spamming!

It is known about a group of people that have been granted access to a resource and have been abusing that resource through other’s eyes. In their eyes they have done nothing wrong. They used a resource to help them and their family and may even consider themselves as having done/doing it in the will of God for their lives. They have stated that it has reduced time in waiting for other resources to work themselves out and has really been a “blessing” to their family by being able to use this new resource in this capacity. Others though are saying the way they used this resource is wrong and that it is illegal, but it has been helpful to this family and it has freed up much time to accomplish other tasks. Would you say it was wrong? Would you care if I said it was wrong? Does the law really condemn it as wrong? These are the questions we are going to answer for you.

Is spamming even an important topic to talk about? A good principle to follow is “misusing a resource other than what it is intended for is wrong.” Churches have setup email accounts for an intended purpose and spamming their email account is abusing a resource for your own personal gain. The principle is either right or wrong no matter which topic the principle applies. But the principle remains the same throughout. The resource could be either a financial bank account or a list of personal email addresses. But using that resource outside of it’s designated purpose is wrong.

But what I am doing is not called spamming. Excellent point to make. What is spamming? Aside from the mysterious canned meat product, spamming is the “irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients.” “But my emails that I send out are relevant and appropriate”, some of you may be thinking to yourselves right now. And I will agree with a few on this matter. But we need to break down this topic to even simpler terms to what is CONSIDERED spam from a pastor’s viewpoint and what is not.

From the pastor’s perspective this can again vary greatly. Seeing that my pastor barely knows how to check his email, I discussed this with my assistant pastor for his perspective. Sharing information on a one-time basis that he may not know from a individual he may never have met before can be excused away as non-spam. Remember this is his thoughts on the matter and not mine. If he received the same information again at any point in time, he would consider it spam. If he received a weekly/monthly/quarterly or any kind of recurring email concerning a blog, field, or ministry that was not directed towards him individually and asking for his reply, would DEFINATELY be considered spam. There was more to that conversation but for now that will suffice. I personally have heard spam defined by a pastor as unsolicited email period. That is one extreme and the other would be the use of my personal email freely welcoming all missionaries freely adding me to their blog subscriptions, prayer letter lists, ministry updates, etc. Then there is a wide rande in between. I believe my assistant pastor defined it very well for him personally and for all generally.
So what does IFBMT cnsider to be “spamming”? If a user adds an email address to any type of recurring email list that is sent our regularly and consistently without an individual being asked to be added to that list personally, or without them being a “supporting” church, we would consider that to be spamming. “But what good is having a list of email addresses if we are not allowed to use them?” Again this is where this conversation is going. I think you should have access to our list of email addresses, but that you should use them politely, respectfully, and lawfully.

So how can I best use email addresses to my advantage?

ONE TIME – Initial Contact. We can agree on a one time use for every email address in our list, but this may still not be the most effective method. We have devised methods allowing you to refine a church list to a geographic focus area, and further refinement through the public tags. What I suggest for missionaries just starting out and wanting to do a one-time email blast to make their presence known is to first define a short list of churches and then working those churches before moving to a wider or braoder range of churches for a focus group and excluding the original list(s) from the expanded list(s). Also I would encouarge users to implement emailing in such a way that is personalizes the email.

PERSONAL – There may be a contact in IFBMT that you already personally know and want to send them an email, but before did not have their email address. We believe you can use the email address(es) associated with the contact to send PERSONAL messages. To clarify, this is not BULK emailing as we will discuss in the next point. This would be for possibly the purpose of sharing a personal need or checking-in on a contact who may have recently been going through a trial in their lives. These PERSONAL emails can be very powerful tools to build relationships on an individual level.

PERSONALIZED, TARGETED, REQUEST – This title may be somewhat vague. I do believe that email can be used in a way that receivers of the email do NOT believe themselves to be on a BULK email list. There are several ways to personalize emails to individuals to successfully schedule meetings and make initial contact. Let me provide you with some details of how one of IFBMT’s users did this well. This missionary first defined a very targeted audience based upon his already scheduled itinierary and included information in the email to appear personal. Let me provide you with two example and I believe you will be able to see the difference:
“Pastor, my family and I are missionaries to Mexico and will be traveling through your area. I wanted to reach out to you, to see about potentially scheduling a meeting. Thank you for your time.”
“Pastor Theroux, my family and I are missionaries to Mexico and will be traveling through McAlester in November and December. We currently have November 17th, and December 15th and 22nd open for scheduling. We are very interested in sharing our burden for Mexico with Cornerstone Baptist Church. If you are able to have us in on one of the dates listed above please let me know. If you have a preferred method of contact or a specific missionary process, could you please let me know to go through the proper channels. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.”
What are different about the two emails above? One is very generic and can be sent to several hundred emails at once with a simple BCC. The other is very specific to my pastor, our town, and our church. It is like you might already know us. It puts me on the spot of saying is this a person in the ministry I might have known before and I may have had some previous contact with. It also provides me with a quick way out. If the pastor would prefer an alternative contact method maybe via a direct phone call or a packet in the mail, he is welcome to make that request without the response needed of “No we can’t have you in right now”

PRAYER LETTERS/BLOG SUBSCRIPTIONS. While it is true that the best way for someone to eventually support a ministry is by helping them get a burden for a ministry. That is NOT done by adding everyone to your email subscription lists. For supporting churches, ask them how they would like to receive your prayer letters. If it is via email, then by all means add them to your email list (ask which email is best to use). If someone is interested in your ministry present a way for them to easily sign up for your ministry updates whether in blog format of alternative methods such as text updates. Remember that using SMS holds even more reprecussion if abused than email does! I am all for people subscribing to your ministry and reading your blog, but it needs to be done the correct way. You can even pass around a clipboard allowing people to subscribe (Keeping the sign-up sheet for future reference/proof is in many uses a requirement, so keep that in mind as well.) For the more technologically advanced generation you could even provide a digital method for people to subscribe at your table or through your own device by entering their own information.

WHY? Why are we even discussing this? There will be rammifications for users who are using IFBMT’s database to gather email addresses to use in a spamming fashion. We may take actions such as limiting or restricting access to different functions or from the site as a whole. Why would we do that? Don’t you want to see missionaries get to the field faster? We Do! And we believe we are better together. But being together puts a burden on all of us to be accountable to each other. A small group of users could potentially ruin a relationship between a pastor and ALL missionaries present and future. “But they can easily just delete the email. It is not that big of a deal.” While some may agree with you, the issue at hand is much larger. Email addresses may quickly stop becoming a preferred method of contact. Think about the cost if ALL pastors required a physical hard copy of yoru information packet before even considering you for support. Think of the printing cost, and the postage costs, sending BULK mail with very little return for the investment and worst still no way of knowing if the email was read or even received without using expensinve certified mail. While email is a great tool and can be used very successfully, it can also be easily ruined for many very quickly.

So what am I asking? Before you export the next list of email addresses, before you add a group of emails to your subscription lists, before you send out your next BULK email, stop and consider. Consider if you are really using email for the best results as it was intended to be used, or are you abusing a system and could potentially ruin a tool for many missionaries and churches alike.

I, Anthony Master, want to serve missionaries for life and believe that we are better together and should focus on less for better results to make deputation great again and in doing so we will be serving the next generation. From IFBMT’s core values

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