7 Steps to Better Newsletters

newspaper-307829_640Newsletters are a great way to keep people in the loop about what’s going on with your ministry or church. If people are supporting you with their finances, their prayers, or their time, a good newsletter can be encouraging, and if necessary, challenging.

It’s an opportunity to remind people why they support you, how they can support you, and why you still need their continued support.

Communicating poorly can place your newsletter in the trash (virtual or physical) instead of the hands of the people who should read it.

Here are seven steps you can take to produce consistently better newsletters:

1. Have a purpose

There are a lot of reasons why you could be writing a newsletter. Are you just providing a regular update about the state of affairs? Did something big or unexpected happen that you need to tell everyone about? Are you asking for more support?

Before you even start writing your newsletter, you should know the bottom line. What do you want people to walk away with?

If your goal isn’t clear to you from the beginning, it might not be clear to your audience in the end. (click to tweet).

You don’t have to communicate your goal in the first paragraph, but you should always be aware of where you’re eventually going.

For some people, it helps to write your final paragraph or last sentence first, so you can make sure that everything else fits with your final message.

Or, you might create an outline with three or four main points that build into your call to action or overall goal.

If something you want to say doesn’t connect to your goal somehow, think about what purpose it serves in your newsletter. You might not need to cut it, but maybe it needs to take the backseat.

The purpose of your newsletter depends on who you are writing to.

2. Know your audience

If you’re writing a newsletter to your supporters, it’s going to look very different than a letter to your staff, or a more general audience (like your church).

Supporters

Your supporters don’t necessarily need or want to know everything that’s happening with your ministry team or staff.

If someone really wants to know about all of that, your ministry’s newsletter still isn’t the appropriate place to share about everyone’s personal lives (a coffee shop meeting, phone call, or a more personal letter would be better.)

A newsletter is for providing the biggest updates since your last major communication.

A good newsletter will show your supporters, at a glance, what God has done through their support and why their continued support matters.

Show them how prayers have been answered. How lives have been affected by the work you’re doing. What was the latest major project your team did together? Share a story about someone who was positively impacted by your ministry.

People aren’t numbers—you know that, and so do your supporters. But numbers are still tangible facts for supporters to connect with.

The number of people who attend a conference or a camp isn’t what matters most to your ministry or church. But providing numbers (even rough estimates) is a great way for people to understand how many people are being exposed to the work you’re doing.

How many bowls of chili did the street ministry go through last week?

How many kids accepted Jesus?

How many active small groups are there?

These numbers aren’t why you do what you do—but like the story, they provide a tangible way for people to see that you are, in fact, doing something.

Sharing numbers like these with your supporters is also a way for them to help hold you accountable. They’re your supporters, not your adversaries.

If things aren’t going well (people aren’t coming, we’re not serving as much as we used to, people aren’t responding to our message), admitting that to the people who support you invites them to pray alongside you, and perhaps to examine if there is a reason why things aren’t going as well as you’d all hoped. It takes humility to heal.

This could also be an appropriate place to share about new volunteers or staff. Your supporters don’t always have the opportunity to meet everyone involved in your ministry, but as supporters, growth is something they are invested in.

To learn how to talk about your ministry, get the Church Communications Handbook by Wanda Vassallo.
To learn how to talk about your ministry, get the Church Communications Handbook.

Staff

A newsletter to your staff is going to look very different. They’re on your side of the curtain. They were at the street ministry. The youth camp. The meeting for small group leaders.

Encourage your staff about how their roles are helping people. You may still want to share a story with your staff, but try to highlight different people and different roles every time. Showing off the same people or ministry roles can make other people feel unappreciated.

Share about goals. Are they being reached? Are you creating new ones? Your answers to these questions could determine whether your team should feel encouraged or challenged by your newsletter. A good newsletter to your staff should be a healthy mix of both.

3. Be concise

If you have a purpose and you know your audience, stay within that framework. Extra information isn’t useless, but it could get in the way of what you really want to say to people.

Using big words may make you feel more intelligent or confident, but if there is a simpler way to say what you want to say, choose simple.

Simple is clear. You aren’t trying to win an argument, you’re trying to clearly communicate what’s going on. The more complex language you use, the harder it is to follow along.

4. Keep it “newsy”

People read a newsletter to learn about something they’re interested in. “What’s going on with the ministry?”

From the beginning, your readers should know exactly what they’re getting into. How far do they have to read before they know this is an update from your ministry?

Depending on your ministry, there could be lots of reasons why you would be sending someone a letter. You don’t need a headline or title, but adding one that clearly identifies your letter as a ministry update certainly can’t hurt. If you create your newsletter in a Faithlife Group, you can even add a banner image to your headline.

A newspaper gives you the who, what, where, when, why, and how of each story, and any background information is 1. vital and 2. brief. This makes it easy to glance through an article and pick out the key information.

If someone can’t glance through your newsletter and find the key information, they might not read it at all. Again, if you have a purpose and know your audience, you should be able to identify the key information.

Your newsletter probably isn’t the place to explain the philosophy or theology behind your ministry (unless, maybe, it’s the very first newsletter your ministry has produced). If you can reduce that theology or philosophy to one sentence or less, that can always work its way into your closing thoughts or signature.

5. Make it digestible

Small fonts are hard to read. A wall of text is hard to read. If none of the text physically stands out, then you’re asking your reader to work for key information.

Choosing a slightly larger font can make your letter easier to read at a glance. Breaking up the text into smaller paragraphs works similarly.

It’s easy to get carried away with using bold text or italics. Just remember, less is more. The less bold you use, the more noticeable it is when you use it. Conversely, if everything is bold, nothing is bold.

Bold text is a great way to highlight key information.

Part of making your newsletter digestible and concise is keeping it under one page. If your newsletter is more than one page, and all of your information is important, it may be time to start sending them more frequently.

It’s a lot easier to ask for five minutes of someone’s attention than it is to ask for twice that.

6. Use media (pictures, video, etc.)

Using media is a great way to break up your newsletter and make it less intimidating to your reader. It’s also another way you can show off what your ministry has been up to.

If your newsletter is telling a story about a particular interaction, include a photo of the people involved. Or the place that you do ministry. Or your team. In a newsletter, you should show and tell.

Creating a newsletter in your Faithlife Group lets you incorporate all kinds of media to break of the text and create professional looking newsletters. You can add prayer requests directly from your group’s prayer lists, upcoming events from your calender, even Faithlife’s beautiful Verse of the Day images—the perfect way to use any space at the bottom of your letter.

7. Send them regularly

Imagine if you didn’t know when you were going to get the newspaper. Or when the news was going to be on TV. It just happened sporadically, when someone decided it was time.

Consistency creates a sense of trust and reliability. If you send your newsletter every Friday, or at the beginning or end of every month, every three months, etc., it lets your readers get comfortable with the pattern. They don’t have to wonder if they missed something, or if the ministry fell apart because it’s been a while since they heard from you.

Patterns create comfort. And you want your supporters and your team to be comfortable.

Newsletters made easy

Faithlife Groups has an incredible newsletter feature. It’s a free tool that lets you decide how you want your newsletter to look: classic, elegant, minimal, or modern.

You can add a banner image to clearly communicate where the newsletter is from and make it official.

You can highlight specific members of your ministry team with a link to their profile, so you can introduce new members or highlight someone awesome each time.

You can include news from your feed, notes from your Bibles, prayer requests, events, and more.

Create a Faithlife Group for free today, and see just how easy it is to write a professional-looking newsletter.

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Do you have any tips for writing newsletters? Or have you seen a bad one recently? Share with us in the comments!

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