By Jeanette Littleton
The body of Christ is about community and connection. A church can offer e-mail newsletters as one way to facilitate that bonding. Whether designed for a Sunday school class or small group or for the entire church, an e-mail newsletter can be an easy way to communicate with people.
Content connects people
What kind of content in an e-mail newsletter — or e-letter — can help connect members? Some ideas include:
• Interviews with individual members.
• Calendar — offer all events at a glimpse.
• Provide a reminder of events immediately ahead, making sure all details are spelled out (time, place, who's invited, purpose, how much).
• A recap of recent events for those who missed them, including a photo or two.
• A word from the pastor.
• Encouraging quotes, Scripture and anecdotes (make sure you cite sources).
• Book and music reviews.
• Basic points of the pastor's sermon.
Use your e-letter as a tool to point members to the church Web site. For instance, maybe you can have brief notes of the pastor's sermon in the newsletter and link to a download. Or tell about a recent event in the newsletter and link to the Web site for photos.
Web writing basics
• Know the purpose. Why are you doing this newsletter and does this edition meet your goal?
• Keep information short and to the point. Question-and-answer interviews work well. Keep paragraphs short.
• Be personable, instead of formal. Write somewhat like you talk – only a bit shorter.
• Remember that people are bombarded by other materials in their inboxes. Know what will appeal to them in the e-letter and highlight that. Let readers know what's in it for them.
Learn technical procedures
The e-letter can be as simple as a note jotted in an e-mail document with people's names listed in the "To" or "BCC" fields. (Some people don't like their e-mail addresses shared, so make sure it's okay before you put someone's address for all to see.)
Or you can purchase software to help you make it look good in an HTML format. Some word processing programs will already have this capability.
When setting up your format, including graphic elements, remember that some e-mail servers will not support all the items you send. As an alternative, consider providing the e-letter as a PDF attachment. These transfer without taking up a lot of space and usually can be downloaded fairly easily by most e-mail programs (even dial-up). Again, many word processing programs and printers have the capability to save files in PDF format.
Another possibility is using e-mail newsletter services. Some benefits these services offer may include:
• Software for managing and mailing.
• Templates into which information can be pasted.
• Mail management so that people can add themselves to the e-list from a Web site.
• Ability to automatically adapt the newsletter for the appropriate format.
• Tracking services so you can see which newsletters are accessed most.
• Web site links.
• Automatic address updates.
Before choosing a service, look at samples they offer and contact some of their clients for references. Or check out an e-letter you receive that you like and find out the service that organization or person uses.
Not only can e-letters cut down the cost of printing newsletters, they also assist churches in helping members connect.
(Check the technology special section in the Sept. 21, 2006 print edition for more tips.)