GUEST POST: Do Parents Read Your Emails?

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There are few things more frustrating than talking with an uninformed parent even though you’ve tried to give them information over and over and over again.

It happened to me last week.

We’d been pushing a large event for the better part of a month, Sunday came around, and things went very well. Then on Monday, I got a call from a parent, upset because she didn’t know about it.

I bit my tongue (nearly all the way through), and listened to her, but I knew that I’d emailed her at least three times in the past month about it. Turns out she hadn’t read a single one of those emails. There are many reasons why your email communication might be ineffective. Here are just a few of them.

You Don’t Have a Current Email Address: 

31% of people change their primary email address every year. If your email list is a few years old, how good could it possibly be? If you’re going to use email frequently, you need to find a way to confirm addresses at least once a year.

You (Or Your Church) Sends Unimportant Emails: 
The average person sends and receives 140 emails per day and can’t possibly process all of them. Email users learn to ignore unimportant messages, and if your church sends too many of those, they’ll learn to ignore all of them, unimportant or not.

Your Subject Line Is Bad:
Remember, people don’t open and read all of their emails. Your subject line needs to be persuasive. Here are a few examples:
  • BAD: Camp Information
  • GOOD: Sign Up for Camp this Week and Save $49
  • BAD: Youth Newsletter for 3/12/11
  • GOOD: [Youth Newsletter] We’re Going to Costa Rica!
  • BAD: Youth Group this Weekend
  • GOOD: Youth Meets at MY HOUSE this Sunday at 6:00

You’re Sending Emails At a Bad Time:  
This is my thorn. I typically work at home in the evening after I put kids to bed. The problem here is that if I send an email at 10 p.m. to someone’s work address, they might not check email until the next morning when my message has come in along with three dozen other overnight messages. Use a scheduled send program like Outlook or Boomerang for Gmail to deliver emails at appropriate times.
Did I miss anything? What do you do to make sure your emails get read?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like effective communication. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

Join the discussion No Comments

  • joe says:


    Totally agree with two thoughts – too many emails from the church and emails need to go out at the right time to be read (not too early and not too late).

    There are lots of email software out there that is free and will tell you exactly who has opened your email and who has read it. Pretty sure Mailchimp is free and it personalizes the subject lines.

    I think it is important for your promotion campaigns to involve several touch points – a timely email, church bulletin/newsletter announcement, and text or fb updates.

    • Joe, thanks for your comments, I couldn’t agree more with you and Aaron.

      I think if we also divide the responsibility of communication amongst our leaders it will help personalize the message. For example instead of email blasting all the parents in your ministry, have the small group leaders contact their teens’ families with the same message.

    • Aaron Helman says:

      Yes, MailChimp does offer a free service, and they do show you exactly who has opened your email. Might be an interesting way to look at it. Look back at the analytics at the end of the day, then call the people who didn’t open the message?