What does your newsletter really communicate about your ministry? What impression does it leave?
I recently invited churches around the country to send me samples of their newsletters. They responded with an assortment of newsletters–printed, emailed, and web-based–from all kinds of churches.
I found some good examples, some bad examples, and some ugly examples. Here’s a quick review.
Short bits. The better newsletters keep it short. People are busy and already information-soaked. They tend to pay attention to newsletter articles that are concise–two or three paragraphs. Longer essays look daunting, and tend to get ignored. Less is more.
Graphics and photos. Some newsletters show good use of art and photos. Especially photos. People love seeing their friends pictured in ministry activities, and just being funny. The best newsletters make their photos big enough to clearly see faces. So, one larger photo is usually better than three or four little ones.
Names. The church is people. So, the best newsletters mention lots of people by name. They describe people involved in activities at church, and outside of church. And they accentuate the names by printing them in bold-face type.
Insider jargon. Some newsletters tend to confound visitors, new members, and casual attenders with mysterious insider language. “Join the CYI and the SNiFers for Work-n-Word in the narthex.”
Eye strain. Some newsletters run text across the entire width of the page, which is difficult to read from line to line. Better newsletters keep line lengths to three or four inches maximum.
ABCs. I’m referring to some churches’ fixation with Attendance, Buildings, and Cash. Some newsletters regularly devote space to the very data that are easy to measure but tend to detract from the true ministry of the church.
Let me amend that subtitle. I think MISSING would be more accurate. There’s something missing from nearly every newsletter I received. And, sadly, this particular something is the most important ingredient for any ministry newsletter.
What is the missing part? Stories. Stories of God at work through your ministries. Stories of changed lives.
The best news that a ministry news-letter can send is the news of God at work in your midst. This is the news your people crave. More than anything else, they need and want to be reminded of God’s presence, and God’s active role in your community of believers.
Tell the story of a member’s answered prayer. Tell the story of your youth group impacting a Mexican orphanage with God’s love. Tell the story of a girl who remembers and applies a learning from your children’s ministry. Tell the story of a “divine appointment” that a member recognized and seized.
These are “God sightings.” They are potent evidences of the reason for your existence. If the purpose of your newsletter is to inform, inspire, and enthuse, actual present-day God stories do the job like nothing else.
The best newsletters tell the story–the story of God in action amongst his people?