I know how to increase attendance at our meetings," declared the chairman of the local ministerial association. "Just notify everyone a day or two beforehand. Now, who's willing to do that?"
Several awkward moments followed as the pastors exchanged glances. Then the reluctant alibis tumbled out. Those with larger churches insisted that their workload was already full, while pastors of smaller churches suggested that a larger church's secretary could do the job. Finally the Catholic priest offered to ask his secretary to help us.
I discovered I was not alone in my distaste for extra office work. The demands are already too great to waste with unnecessary assignments. But there is one office project I no longer consider a luxury in my sprawling two-church district: the church newsletter. The benefits of this monthly outreach to my members and guests have been surprising and gratifying.
Missing members return
Malcolm Gordon, president of the Southern Union Conference (southeastern U.S.), remarked at a ministers' meeting: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." A monthly newsletter to missing members regularly reminds them that their church cares about them. Several formerly inactive families in my cur rent district testify that our newsletter, The Adventizer, enticed them to involve themselves in church life again.
I used to bulk-mail our newsletters. Then I realized that here in the United States the savings are not significant if at least half the members on a mailing list of 200 or less are active, since they can pick up their newsletter at church services. Postage not spent on active members enables a first-class mailing to the inactive. This makes the newsletter seem more personal to them. Better yet, some cost-conscious members save postage altogether by delivering prelabeled newsletters right to the homes of missing members. A knock on the door from a caring member may be more important than the newsletter. If the newsletters are mailed first-class, personal notes and the weekly bulletin can be included, which isn't legally possible in the U.S. with bulk mail. Any such personalization with the newsletter provides one more opportunity for "high touch" in a "high tech" world.
Thinking about inactive members and costs reminds me about a finance committee meeting at one of my churches. We were seeking ways to trim the budget, and I suggested that the newsletter wasn't absolutely essential. We could save nearly $40 a month by eliminating it. No, the others protested. They pointed out that several previously inactive families had become contributors over the past two years through receiving the newsletter. So The Adventizer doesn't cost---it pays!
As a side benefit, using the phrase "Address Correction Requested" on all correspondence virtually eliminates the need to drop any members as "missing."
Active members also benefitted
Most small churches are not accustomed to having a regular newsletter. It becomes a catalyst for district unity and fosters a healthy sense of pride. Members get excited about church activities and even invite friends. Many save every newsletter, posting the calendar each month on refrigerator doors. Appreciation for the newsletter, I suppose, is greater in small multichurch districts than in large congregations where church mailings are routine.
Prospective members like it
Perhaps the strongest motivation I have for producing a newsletter is its influence upon guests from the community. While pastoring in Florida I had a Friend and Mother's Day Sabbath. We had more visitors than members many attending for the first time. Our welcoming committee gleaned names, addresses, and phone numbers, then asked: "Would you be interested in receiving our newsletter? It will keep you informed about future activities of possible interest to you." One visitor noticed an ad in his newsletter for our Revelation Seminar coming up. He came and was baptized.
Visitors at worship services are "A" interests needing lots of nurture to make them comfortable with the church family. The newsletter is a valuable tool in this process.
Who should do it?
Most pastors I know say they would like a newsletter but don't have time to produce it. Delegating the task might seem a good idea, but in multichurch districts, who but the pastor really knows all the news in each church? So I write our newsletter. Volunteers maintain mailing lists and organize printing, folding, stapling, labeling, distributing, etc.
My time spent each month on the newsletter isn't more than six to eight hours. I consider it a worthy investment toward an effective ministry.