How Fast Should Church Leaders Reply to Email?

If you’re like most church leaders, you probably constantly struggle with a full email in-box.

Some email is necessary, to be sure.

But many times, it gets overwhelming.

Too many people want a piece of your day… and email is the perfect way to demand at least a piece of your time and attention.

But how long should it take you to reply to email?

The HR Capitalist gives some suggestions:

1.  They suggest the right amount of time is 4-5 hours to respond.  Their reasoning:  if you reply too quickly, people will think you have a ton of time to respond.  If you take too long, people feel ignored.  So… they suggest a 4-5 hour delay.  Seems reasonable to me.

2.  They also suggest that you adjust your response time according to the person who sent the email.  We all kind of do this naturally, I think… Your boss should probably get a quicker (read that as near immediate) response.  Your peers should be within the 4-5 hour window; and others might be a tad bit longer.

3.  The suggest that you never, ever be the first one (in fact, you should be the last one) to reply to the dreaded CC: message.  You almost always look smarter not being the first to respond.

4.  They suggest sending fewer replies… especially when you’re ticked.  Don’t click send on that type of email.  It can and will be used against you at some point; and you’ll regret it.

I use a nice plug-in for gmail that changes the date received on all my emails to how long it’s been sitting in my inbox.  So rather than saying an email arrived at 12:03 pm today, it says that it arrived 3 hours ago.  It helps give a little better perspective on how I’m doing in this area.  (I’m using Chrome and Gmail… and the extension is called “Reply Now“)

How long does it take you (on average) to reply to email?  And how many emails do you have in your inbox right now?  (Leave a comment below if you would!)

Right now, I have 5 emails in my inbox (which is pretty good for me!)


HT:  HR Capitalist


  • RevJay February 3, 2015 Reply

    This might work for HR people, however we are dealing with real people in need of us real time. It is one thing to get back to a repairman in 4-5 hours, but a mother who’s child was just hit by a car begs to differ. We are in the people business if we are seen by anyone as not caring for the needs of Gods people we may as well get out of the ministry and become a grocery stocker.

  • Todd Rhoades February 3, 2015 Reply

    Obviously, we are not condoning taking 4-5 hours to get back to a mother whose child was just hit by a car.

    That would be redonkulous.

    Honestly, those types of requests don’t come via email normally anyway.

    What we’re saying is that you have some cushion when replying to non ‘my kid got hit by a car’ emails… which make up about 99.9% of our in-box.

    Some pastors get over a hundred emails a day. Learning to respond accordingly and timely is part of the people part of the job as well. And if it’s done poorly, you’ll actually have LESS time to do your most important tasks.


  • Ken Schwanke February 5, 2015 Reply

    I found much of the advice in this particular article to be pretty disconnected from what takes place in the corporate world. And the comment that “You almost always look smarter not being the first to respond” when you’ve been included in the cc line to be probably the worst piece of advice.

    I get it that sometimes being cc’d on something means you can ignore it because it’s really just for information only, but not everyone uses the cc line for that purpose. Some use it for everyone who has a stake in the outcome of the discussion.

    I work in a corporate communications setting within a much larger organization and being the last to join the party usually comes across as neglectful or disinterested. If I don’t contribute to the conversation shortly after it is initiated on email, decisions are made and directions can be set that will directly impact my work and I have to work extra hard to stop where it’s going. Speaking up sooner than later is a far better approach than trying to play catch-up late in the game after people have hashed things out and have made up their minds.

    I would also suggest that in some settings people use email like an instant messenger service. They expect an almost immediate response and the purpose of email becomes exchanging information for the purpose of collaborative decision making. We have about 3500 employees and my experience has consistently been that if you don’t respond to your email you are left out of decision making. If I were to wait 4 or 5 hours to respond, I would have probably lost my job by now by communicating disinterest in the work of the organization. And I certainly wouldn’t have the influence I have today by being out of the loop on so many crucial decisions that are made by email over the course of a few hours.

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