I get to see a lot of church newsletters pretty regularly. Some come by email, some with a stamp, but what they all have in common is that I get them. Since I’m not a member of most of these churches, I have to surmise that I’m not the only non-member who’s getting their news. In fact, I suspect that most visitors who bother to leave their contact information probably end up on the mailing list … that’s just good practice. Well, it should be good practice, but for many of the churches who are sending me newsletters, it would actually be a terrible practice.

There’s the newsletter I saw just the other day. It was a bit dated with lots of clip art that I tend to associate with the 1970s, but they had used their white space well enough. Most of the content was pretty inane for an outsider, with lots of “thank yous” to people for flowers, get well wishes for Bob, and a plea for more ushers. What wasn’t so inane was the pastor’s column. In fact, that was pretty entertaining. Seems like there was some sort of fiasco that went on in the previous board meeting and the pastor was lambasting both those who were there and those who were not. It would have brought a smile to my lips if it wasn’t for the fact that I was pretty sure there were  fifty or more non-members who were probably reading this rant. I know that if I had been considering joining the church, I’d be looking for somewhere else after reading that. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to create an effective church newsletter:

  • Be positive. Your newsletter is probably being read by more than just your congregation. Ask yourself this question before you approve (or write) any article: Would I really want my unchurched next-door neighbor or my district superintendent (bishop, regional minister, etc.) to read this? 
  • Have articles that matter. If you’re going to write an article, make it worth reading. Newsletters are not the congregational or community source for devotional material. Include articles that move, touch, and inspire. Help your readers to make their faith practical, teach them how to pray, help them keep their marriage afloat, and so on.
  • Limit “insider” information. Here’s the ideal: if it doesn’t apply to everyone, it doesn’t go into the newsletter. That’s the ideal. The real world is a bit more flexible, but if you expect your reader to know who Sue is, where the Women’s Parlor is, or what time and where the men’s breakfast is, you’re missing the boat.
  • Market upcoming events. If an event is worth having, it’s worth talking about – but only if it invites and includes those outside the congregation. Don’t use a list of bullet-point events. Instead, give the reader some information including why they should bother wanting to come to your new small group initiative.
  • Be accurate. There’s nothing worse than showing up for a six o’clock meeting at seven. Make sure your details are spot on.
  • Include testimonies. There’s an old saying that the best marketers are satisfied clients. Every issue of your newsletter ought to have at least one short article on why someone is involved or joined or comes to your church. Weed out the sentimentalism and include the inspired. That’s a fine line, but one worth heeding.
  • Proofread them – and proofread again. Don’t send out sloppy, grammatically incorrect, typo-filled newsletters. If you don’t have a critical eye, find someone who does. The quality of your newsletter is a reflection on who you are. If you don’t care enough to run spell and grammar check and then carefully read it, it really can’t be that important.

So, there you are: a few golden rules for newslettering. Remember, your members aren’t the only ones reading it, so make it great!

Question: How does your church create its newsletter? What are some tips you might add to this list? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.