DEVELOPING A CHURCH NEWSLETTER
E. J. MALL
THE CHURCH NEWSLETTER
When the church newsletter arrived at the Johnson home, Dad put a stack of letters aside and looked through it. His daughter Sarah saw the familiar blue paper and asked if she could read it next. Tim came home from school and asked, “When is the basketball team going to practice? It will be in the newsletter.”
One by one, the members of the family read the church newsletter, each saving a particular part of it for personal information. Finally, the church calendar that was included in the newsletter was pinned to the kitchen bulletin board.
Not all church newsletters are received so enthusiastically! Let’s face it, not all church newsletters are even read. What was it about this particular newsletter that made the whole Johnson family so eager to read it?
It was well written, contained interesting and timely articles, and had an eye-catching appearance. It was easy to read because it was not crowded with a lot of graphics; only a few were included to emphasize and call attention to important articles and upcoming meetings.
The newsletter contained articles that were of interest to all members of the family. Sarah found the article she was looking for with details on an overnight camp out. Mr. Johnson scanned articles on the new building program, a note about a generous financial gift from a recently deceased member, the new worship service schedule for the summer months, and the month’s pastoral message. Articles of interest to Sarah’s mother concerned a special meeting of the women’s group and the mission program. She also discovered an article which covered the details of a special dinner for elderly members, which she put aside to share with Grandma Johnson. Tim got all the details he needed for the basketball practice schedule.
The newsletter editor had paid attention to correct spelling and grammar, had used short sentences, was accurate in reporting dates and times; he or she obviously saw to it that the newsletter was “newsy” and written in a positive and enthusiastic way, showing warmth and concern for the readers.
There are quite a few things to consider concerning the appearance, content, and writing of the church newsletter.
The masthead should be simple, uncrowded, and present a distinctive style. The newsletter’s title or name, the date, and church address and phone number are all that is needed in the masthead.
Since the newsletter is sent to prospective members as well as friends of the church, the pastor’s name should appear in a prominent place. If a crew of volunteers works on the newsletter, it is a good idea to list them as the staff.
Use white space rather than a lot of graphics.
White space surrounding
an item catches the
Graphics are used to emphasize an article and attract the reader’s attention. Graphics can be large or small, but never use too many on one page. One very good graphic on a page will draw attention to the accompanying item, and that’s enough for that page.
Attention may be drawn to an article by enclosing the article in a box or circle or by putting a border around it. Again, too many attention-getters will weaken their value and the reader will ignore them.
Article headings should be brief. They should include an active verb and attract the attention or curiosity of the reader. Avoid “labels” as headlines. Instead of “Mission Tour,” a headline such as “Organist Visits Thailand’ would be more interesting.
Variations in headline type may be accomplished with rub-on letters, or hand printing done with a felt-tip marker if the newsletter is to be printed on an offset press. A ballpoint pen may be used to write or draw on a mimeograph stencil.
Eight and one-half by eleven inches is usually the preferred size. A newsletter printed across the page with a 1 1/4 inch margin on all sides is sometimes more attractive and easier to read than one printed in two columns.
Vary the sizes and lengths of articles on each page. To add interest , use different colored paper at certain times of the year: In October use gold or orange; in November, tan. Colored inks also add variety. Remember that the lighter colors of paper are best because the type stands out against a lighter background.
Photos and Cartoons
Many newsletters contain photos of the pastor, staff, and church members. Sometimes a picture of new members is published. This is fine; but of course, you can do this only if you have an offset press or if you send the newsletter out to be printed. If you are doing the newsletter on your own and you wish to include photos, it would be wise to find out how much it would cost to have it printed. Perhaps not as much as you think. Printers are highly competitive and a “deal” might be made. If you can afford to have your newsletter printed, you will find that it is much easier to take your typed material to the printer than it is to reproduce it yourself.
Some newsletters use a lot of cartoons, and that is all right, but be sure that they are appropriate.
A good attention-getting spot is the area below the return address on the cover page of the newsletter. Use this space to note special events.
The back side of this page is another area in which you have opportunity to catch the reader’s attention, so be sure to make good use of it.
Highlight the special events on the first page: a special meeting, church picnic , annual meeting. Try to motivate and involve people.
It is best to put the calendar here. It can be removed and hung on the home bulletin board. Keep the calendar neat. List all activities including regularly scheduled meetings and special events. Repeating the regular activities on the calendar will keep the congregation informed of all the opportunities available. List them all. An empty calendar gives the impression of an inactive congregation.
The content of the church newsletter must appeal to people of all age groups. The newsletter will be read by the members of the congregation as well as by the general public, so it should motivate action that is beneficial to all. Keep in mind that a church newsletter brings news that many may not learn of anywhere else. Every member is not active or involved in activities in the church. Vary the content of the newsletter from month to month, with the exception of statistics.
People will be interested in articles on the following subjects:
Summarize the financial report and give readers highlights of the church’s finances. A list of all expenses each month would soon be ignored because so many disbursements are duplicated each month.
Tell the readers things they should know concerning the financial operation of the church. Note the results of special appeals, fund drives in progress, and how the church stands financially.
Meetings of the Administrative Board
Summarize the minutes of the meetings of the administrative board. Give only the important highlights and note any action that was taken that would affect the congregation.
Men’s, Women’s, and Youth Groups
An article on these various groups is needed when something special or newsworthy is being planned. Appoint reporters from each of these groups and tell them that you want articles from them whenever there are special events to report.
The pastor’s message is a commentary and is best kept on a pastoral level. This page gives the pastor an opportunity to talk to the people of the congregation. It is here that the pastor can tell the people about spiritual matters, about God’s Word, and God’s grace. This message may be the only contact that some of the people have with the pastor so it should be meaningful.
Publicize community activities in the field of the arts. People are so bombarded by TV that it is good for the church to support the arts in the community.
Articles about new families will help the other members get acquainted with them. A running series of profiles on church school teachers or choir members would also be a good feature.
Thank-You to Volunteers
Mention and thank those who donate their time and talents to the church. People enjoy seeing their names in print and they deserve to be recognized. Maybe Mrs. Jones will see your thanks to Mrs. Smith for the work she did in the church and she might say, “Why, I could do that, too!”
Articles on timely subjects of which you feel the congregation should be aware can be summarized. With permission, some articles from other publications often can be reprinted as they originally appeared.
People in the News
Mention those church members who have noteworthy accomplishments to their credit. Encourage members to let you know about these special accomplishments. Someone may have been promoted; another elected president of a local garden club. Let the other members of the church family know about these things. And don’t fail to recognize the youth of the congregation and their accomplishments.
Articles on the following subjects may be included periodically to inform the members and let them know of certain opportunities for service:
* Addresses of those in the service , and away at
* Vacation Bible school
* Sunday church school
* Adult classes
* Sports activities
* Stewardship opportunities
* Conventions, conferences
* The church library
* Scouting programs
* Mission work
* Items taken from past issues of the newsletter
The church newsletter is not “hard news.” Write in a positive and enthusiastic way, showing warmth and concern for your readers. Write so that your readers will be motivated to respond. Be persuasive, but don’t nag. The pastor who consistently complains about the number of people at worship services, or the amount of money in the collection plate, does not get the desired results.
The first paragraph of an article should answer the questions: who? what? when? where? and why? Elaborate on the “why?” Explain fully the mission or project being discussed. Pull the reader into the article in the first paragraph.
Short sentences and paragraphs are more easily read and understood than longer ones. There are some authors who say that no sentence should be longer than seven words! Keep your writing moving with verbs and go easy on the adjectives and adverbs.
Be specific and accurate in your information, Readers want to know names, dates, times, places, dollar amounts.
Use abbreviations of titles only after titles have been written out at least once in the beginning of the article. Write out words ; never use the ampersand character instead of writing “and.” Use abbreviations only when absolutely necessary. Following these suggestions will help you give a professional look to your newsletter.
Set a deadline date by which articles from contributors must be received and stick to it! This is always a very large problem, and you simply do not have the time to chase after people and beg them to get their articles in on time. Set the deadline, stick to it, and eventually the members will see that you mean business and they will respect the deadline.
Preparing the Copy
A “dummy” is a working model of what is to be printed in the newsletter. It is essential that you prepare a dummy first. Whether you do the final typing, or a volunteer does, or it is sent to a printer, you can’t put out a newsletter without preparing a dummy first. If you have an offset press or send the material to a printer, you can paste up a dummy. This will be easy. You paste the typed articles and graphics where you want them to appear and you can also take time to arrange and rearrange. (Use rubber cement because you can lift off and replace articles again and again. )
If you have to put out the newsletter by yourself week after week or month after month, it will certainly get to be a chore. It is best to try very hard to enlist the services of a volunteer who is willing to take over the mechanics of the newsletter so that you can concentrate on the pastor’s message for each issue. We hope that this handbook provides a few ideas that you can pass on to the volunteer who will be your editor-in-chief.