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Basic Principles for a Better Missionary Newsletter

by Janie Hughes

In this article, we will look at a few tips on how to make your newsletter really shine. In this digital age, it is crucial for your newsletter stand out among the numerous pieces of mail that compete for your readers’ attention. America is known for its outrageous flood of junk mail and although you have something very important to say, sometimes certain tactics need to be used to get your point across. You can communicate your message powerfully through striking photos, concise and interesting content, and attention-grabbing layout and design.

            Photos are the most important aspect of your newsletter because they the speak thousands of words for you. (Which makes your job easier!) If someone does not have the time to read a lengthy newsletter, they will certainly take the time to glance at the photos. Here are a few tips in choosing the best photos:

Every photo should have a caption.

People take the time to read captions so here’s your chance to say something most everyone will read. Avoid redundant, obvious statements about the photo, such as “Dave preaching” or “eating dinner.” Say something important about what is happening, always use verbs, and keep it to one sentence. For example: “After Dave preached on the ‘Power of Prayer,’ the congregation joined together in praying for the nations.” 

Let your photos communicate your point.

Always choose photos that are relevant to the content of your newsletter.

Avoid cliché photos

People see lots of photos of listening crowds and preachers behind pulpits, but if you can provide photos that express emotion, or portray the unique culture of your country of service, the photo will speak volumes.

Make sure your photos have a high enough resolution.

If they are not large enough, when printed they appear very blurry. This detracts from the newsletter quality considerably.

Try to use one big, main photo, and maybe another photo or two.

A common mistake is trying to place too many photos on a page. A general rule in design is to try and keep faces about the size of your thumb because, in order for people to see your photos clearly, they need to be quite large.

Content is the next priority. It is important to remember that our readers are generally very busy people. While some enjoy reading lengthy and detailed messages, newsletters are a medium that is more suited for brief and concise information. Avoid too much information and try to focus on one or two important points. Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing that has happened this month?” Then just write about that. You may want to add one or two more crucial points. In this way, your important information won’t get lost in the mess of less important information. As the old saying goes, “If you try to emphasize everything, nothing is emphasized.”

The more you can use bullet points, bolded headlines, and breakout boxes the better. This way, you can get your message across in just a glace. Use few words with more impact. Make every sentence count. Always avoid using capital letters, because it is SO MUCH HARDER TO READ.

Remember the purpose of your letter, which is primarily to inform and update your supporters about the ministry. Try to avoid “preaching” to your audience.

Thirdly, newsletter layout and design is of utmost important. It should be the final touch of excellence, communicating professionalism. A functional design adds value to your message and to the reader, saying: “I care about the ministry I’m doing and I care about communicating it with you.”

Because design is becoming increasingly important in this day and age, it’s a good idea to print your newsletters in color. Even though the price is significantly higher, it is certainly worth it, especially if you use photos. Photos in black in white are harder to distinguish and are not nearly as effective.

To save money…

As you have noticed, printing has become increasingly expensive, but here is one way to save some money without degrading your newsletter quality: Keep your letter down to one page. It is actually to your advantage to do this because it is concise, not lengthy content that will make an impact. Just remember: Don’t try to cram as much information as possible on that one page, forcing the text size smaller and the photos tinier. White space lets your design breathe. In the newsletter world, less is a lot more.

Finally, keep in mind the importance of the date on your newsletter. Most print companies will take at about one week to print and mail your newsletter. After that, the postal service may take up to two weeks to deliver them (bulk mail takes longer than first class). Therefore, date your newsletter for the month in which your readers will receive the letter, not in which it was written, providing for the time that it takes reach its destination. If, for instance, it is nearing the end of May, indicate that it is a June newsletter rather than May. Otherwise, when the readers receive a May newsletter in June, they will be confused as to why their newsletter is so late.

Janie Hughes is in charge of newsletter printing and distribution for Globe International, a missions agency based in Pensacola, Florida. For more information, visit www.gme.org