Want your church newsletter to stand out from the crowd? Our expert tips will help you achieve mailout heaven
What’s the biggest challenge facing your church community? If you’re anything like me, it’s keeping in contact with occasional visitors. You know, the people who come to the odd baptism or wedding, turn up at Christmas and Easter and maybe attend the church jumble sale or fete.
These people usually hold the church in pretty high esteem. They view themselves as members, even though they don’t attend all that frequently. And they’re always interested to find out about the latest news. They want to keep in touch.
A church newsletter is an ideal way of staying connected to such people, and to your wider church community. It’s an opportunity to disseminate your latest goings-on, and establish and communicate the culture of your church. You can use it to set up prayer lists, let people know who’s on duty on any given Sunday and what services to expect. You can even use it to help raise funds.
So the church newsletter is a valuable tool for mission, and it’s a simple task to create and issue one if you have a church management programme such as ChurchDesk. This collates all the contact details you need to send it, and provides a template for your mailing.
That just leaves you with the task of deciding what to say, and how to say it. Here are 10 simple tips to help you get the content just right. Happy mailing!
1. Lead with the most important stories
Look at how newspapers are laid out. The most important stuff is always near the front. When you plan your church newsletter, adopt the same approach. Make a list of all the content you want to include, and list it in order of priority. Then put all the stuff that’s high on the list near the top of your newsletter, to maximise the chances of people reading it.
2. Be concise
No one likes a windbag. Say what you need to say, in the simplest possible terms. Then move onto the next story.
3. Remember the ‘inverted pyramid of news’
Don’t worry, this is much simpler than it sounds. Basically, all news stories are written in descending order of importance. So the most important information is at the top, usually in the first sentence or paragraph. People tend to be lazy readers, so this ensures they glean what they need to, even if they then stop reading. Less relevant information appears lower down in each story. It’s there to add colour and background.
4. Use pictures and graphics
Remember that saying about a picture painting a thousand words? Like most clichés, it’s absolutely true. Be sure to pepper your newsletter with eye-catching images, photographs, drawings, and cartoons (but avoid cheap clipart; it looks really naff). They’ll attract the reader’s eye, helping to draw them in.
5. Use furniture
Publishers talk a lot about “furniture”. By this, they mean the callout boxes and bullet-point lists that sit alongside the main copy in a publication and break up the design, bringing structure to the page. Use these in your newsletter. Like images, they give the reader something to focus on, hooking their attention.
6. People like people
If you really want a story to resonate, make sure you find the people angle. There’s a reason newspapers tend to lead with images of human beings. We find each other endlessly fascinating. Rather than telling an abstract story about your recent youth camp in France, for example, tell it through the eyes of the attendees. Better still, ask one of the young people to write the story themselves. That’ll make it leap off the page.
7. Use plenty of quotations
This is related to the point above. “People love to read the thoughts of others,” says Christian Steffensen, Founder and CEO of ChurchDesk. “By including quotations in your newsletter, you lend credibility to the content, and engage more directly with readers.”
See. Works, doesn’t it?
8. Avoid repetition
If you’ve said something in one place, resist the urge to say it again. Readers may not notice the repetition, but they will sense that something’s off kilter. So never say the same thing twice, unless it’s really important. Got it?
9. Always use an editor
So, you’ve written the newsletter and laid out all the images. Looks good, doesn’t it? But now comes the most important thing of all: getting someone else to read it through.
They will undoubtedly spot errors that you simply can’t see, because you’re too close to the content. And while your church community may forgive the occasional typo, no one will thank you for getting the name of Mrs Willis’s recently baptised daughter wrong. Especially if you give her a boy’s name by mistake.
10. Keep it human
No one expects your church newsletter to be 100 per cent professional. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create a work of art. In fact, the best church communications have a healthy dose of personality. They give a flavour of the church community and its people. Aim for that, and you won’t go far wrong.