Mailbox nurture

In an age of exploding information, communication is vital for corporate health and stability. The church is no exception.

James Astleford, until recently a church pastor, is the director of Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Sri Lanka.

Are you interested in increasing communication among your members? Do you want to ensure that your messages actually get to people? Are you worried that some individuals are "falling between the cracks" and you are not quite sure who they are? The remedy may lie in something as simple as a mail box! If you do not already have one, I suggest you make sure that your church has a mailbox for each member or family.

If you are fortunate enough to have your own church building you can have a mailbox area installed on a convenient wall in the foyer. If you are renting on a Sabbath morning, you will probably want to build something portable that you can wheel into the foyer from the storage area. You can even incorporate a bulletin board so you have somewhere to display your own notices. Make sure that there are enough slots for each member or family and have them at least big enough to accommodate several Adventist Reviews. We have also found that providing slots for Sabbath school members and regular interests gives them a sense of belonging to the church family.

You will be amazed at how many uses you will find for the mailbox.

1. Always put your church bulletins in the mailboxes. The members get into the habit of getting their bulletins from their mailboxes, and some extra are available with an usher for visitors. This ensures that all members, including those who rush around organizing Sabbath school and other activities, get a copy of the bulletin. The bulletin then becomes a sort of newsletter, because all of the information you communicate through it gets to the member. If members are away for a week or so, when they return they find the previous bulletins and catch up on activities, information, and announcements. You and your bulletin secretary might get inspired to make more innovative use of the bulletin with departmental reports, treasury information, birthday/anniversary greetings, and so on.

2. Often a church officer, such as the Sabbath school superintendent, will find something of value for various members and place such material in the mailbox. That's easier than trying to hunt down the particular person on a busy Sabbath morning. And how many members miss getting their Sabbath school quarterly because they happened to be away on the Sabbath they were given out? So put out all quarterlies in the mailboxes; then you don't have to worry about everyone get ting a copy. Does your church give Primary Treasures, Guides, and other magazines to the youth? The mailbox is an excellent place for distribution.

3. Members can be encouraged to send birthday or anniversary cards and thank-you notes to each other. Often lost and found articles can be more quickly restored by putting them, or a note about them, in the mailbox.

4. In North America tithe and offering receipts are prized for income tax purposes. To ensure their safe delivery the church treasurer can put them in the mailboxes.

5. Frequently various items come from the conference such as sunset calendars, newsletters, and promotional materials. You also get them from other church entities. All too often someone dumps them on a table and they don't get to the members. Make a practice of putting such materials directly in the mailboxes!

Once you start using mailboxes, you will find even more uses! At least once a month someone should check all the boxes. Inevitably you will find some slots over flowing! That must prompt some questions: Is the person ill, on holiday, or even disgruntled? If you know the matter is not serious, just post the contents of the mail box to them. You will not begrudge the cost of a few stamps to assure the member that he or she is still part of the family. However, you may want to make a pastoral call on the individual. Delivery of the mailbox contents is the "reason" for calling, and you can determine if the person needs some special ministry. I have found that more "missing" members get rescued by this means before anything too serious develops than by any other.

We are living in an information age. But busy lifestyles contribute to the oft-repeated cry that no one tells us anything. Mailbox nurture is a simple means to address the need.

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James Astleford, until recently a church pastor, is the director of Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Sri Lanka.

January 1992

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