Reviving the Church Newsletter – Part 2
You know you’ve hit on a timely topic when your inbox blows up. And doesn’t that sound awesome to have your inbox blow up? Kaboom! Clearly, the church newsletter is not dead. In fact, people feel quite passionate about it. And to feel passionately about anything, friends, is great news.
Last week, I announced my bias for the paper newsletter. I had been getting the e-version of our church’s Spire and realized that I had not read it in months, simply because it was (and I know this sounds very lame) too much of a hassle to make a couple of clicks and read it all the way through while sitting at my computer. I requested to get it in the paper format and now I love how I can casually pick it up and read portions at my leisure. Then again, I still get two newspapers. Maybe I’m a dinosaur.
All that being said, how can you make your newsletter better?
Make it disciple-focused. In non-profit terms that means “donor-centric.” Call it reader-focused if you like but the point is, see everything from the viewpoint of the person – the disciple in the pew – who is reading your newsletter. Use the word “you” more frequently. To that end…
Include more stories of impact and change. This is your opportunity to let the disciples in your congregation know how their time, talent, and treasures (yes, their financial offerings) have made a difference and have changed your corner of the world. Did you recently host homeless families? Tell a story about a family. Has an AA group utilized your facilities? Give a brief blurb, “Last month, because of you, five AA groups met once a week. That’s 45 people you (and we) are impacting each week!” Did a child have an epiphany in Sunday School? Let everyone know so that they can be blessed as well. Yes, that means you will have to collect these stories but what a difference it will make.
Say thank you more often. People love to see their name in print. If someone did something outstanding, was super helpful, or deserves a shout out, find a way to do it in the newsletter.
Make it shorter. This is especially true if you are primarily sending an electronic version. An electronic newsletter should not be a paper version just pdf-ed and sent along. People, as you may have experienced yourself, read differently when they are staring at a computer. Right or wrong, our attention spans are shorter. Keep that in mind.
Cut your announcements in half. This reminds me of an old Camp Colby tradition. When the dean would stand up and say, “I have a few announcements” we’d start singing “Announcements…a horrible death to die…a horrible death to be talked to death…” It often feels like that in newsletters too. Find another, more efficient way to get current news into the hands of your readers. This may be where a weekly e-blast of current announcements would come in handy. Here’s an example from Christ Church (Monmouth, OR), La Grande UMC (OR) and the non-profit Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network.
Include more stories of impact and change. Oh, did I mention that already? I’m saying it again because it’s that important and a glaring missed opportunity. And be sure (this is a repeat too) to make it disciple-focused. Remind people in the newsletter that what happens in the church can only happen because of their dedication to and love for Jesus.
The church newsletter (electronic or paper) is not dead. But, it may be in need of an overhaul. That will take some time and effort. You might need to give one trusted person editing power over the whole thing for a singular focus. It’s worth it. And here’s a bonus: your disciples/readers/donors just may want to share the newsletter with their non-church friends to let them know all the amazing things that are happening because of and through your congregation. Kaboom!
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. After writing “Kaboom” twice she ran out and bought a bottle of the stuff to do some house cleaning. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at email@example.com or https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.