THE NEWSLETTER AS AN EVANGELISM TOOL
By: Larry Lea Odom-Groh
The church newsletter is one of the most valuable (but often unused) tools in the congregation’s inventory. Many churches see the newsletter only as communication within the congregation. People who publish church newsletters should try to see them through the eyes of prospective new members and make sure that these members are included on the mailing list for several weeks or months after they visit the first time. Do not drop them from the list until they have become regular attenders of another church, have moved out of town, or have requested that they not receive a newsletter. Many people continue to think of a congregation as “our church” even though they are not attending it. The newsletter in many instances
helps to sustain that slender emotional linkage until such time as prospective members became receptive to the idea of regular attendance.
From the standpoint of potential members, the more positive mail they receive from the church, the better. Because of this, a weekly newsletter is a must. (This principle also applies to the inactive and the homebound members.)
The decision to read or not to read an item of mail is usually made instantly, when the mail is removed from the postal box. Therefore, make the layout eye-catching. The first thing someone sees on a newsletter is his or her name and address. If that section is attractive, the newsletter is more likely to be read. Throughout the newsletter, use plenty of “white space” and pictures to illustrate the points. If possible, use large, bold headlines. A printed and, if possible, multicolored banner also increases the newsletter’s readability.
Everything we do in the name of Christ needs to be as first class as we can make it. Cutting costs on the newsletter will cut its effectiveness as an evangelism tool. White, twenty-four-pound pages gives the newsletter good readability and a good “feel to the hand.” Both qualities are important for any church public-relations piece.
Whatever you put into the newsletter, the first commandments it “keep it positive.” Negative articles, even funny ones, put off prospective new members. Any bad-news budget concerns need to go to members only by first-class mail. Visitors who think “they only need me for the money” will not be back.
Writing the Article
Keep it simple. People are less likely to read long articles of three or more paragraphs than short ones. Try to write the articles for a person who is reading about this event for the first time (even though it may be the seventh annual whatever.) The reporter’s famous five “Ws” (who, what, where, when and why) are still the best guidelines for an article’s content.
Line drawings that reproduce in sharp images attract attention. Many sources are available; “clip art,” books, magazines, newspapers, a church artist, and other church newsletters provide a bonanza of good material. Be careful of copyright laws when working from published sources, however. While ideas and picture fragments cannot be copyrighted, reproducing the entire picture from a published source is obtained from the copyright holder.
For centuries the Roman Catholic Church has said that evangelism methodology has three parts – pre-evangelism, proclamation, and catechism. Church newsletters fall into the category of pre-evangelism methodology. Reading news about people and events of a congregation every week helps visitors begin to feel like a part of the church family. That first step in evangelism is not unimportant. It can help people move toward the time when they hear and receive into their lives a proclamation about Jesus.
(The above material appeared in the May 1992 issue of New Ideas in Evangelism and Church Vitality.)
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