The newsletter has been a staple of churches for many years. For many years secretaries and pastors have hunted down persons to submit their articles for the newsletter. Persons cut and pasted clip art and had folding parties before going to the post office. Thankfully, today there is a better alternative to the printed newsletter- it is an electronic or HTML newsletter.
Before you get too antsy because you are not a computer programmer who has mastered HTML please recognize that if you can create a document in Word or your favorite word processor you can create an HTML newsletter. And, unless you are a mega church you can it for free through a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
Here are some reasons to ditch your paper newsletter for an HTML newsletter.
- By switching to an HTML newsletter you can increase the frequency of your communications even sending out a weekly news blast or reminder of a special event. You can do this because once set up an HTML newsletter takes less work than a paper newsletter. Also, it costs less (see below).
- An HTML newsletter allows you to expand the opportunity to convey further information with the click of a hyperlink. Whether someone can click to download the audio of last Sunday’s message or click to be brought to a form to sign up for the new study, the HTML newsletter affords so many more possibilities. Additionally, an HTML newsletter can be posted to a church Facebook page.
- No more clip art! Enough said!!
- You will save money on postage and paper. Even with a bulk rate permit, postage every month can add up. So too, the cost for paper can add up. You have none of that with an HTML newsletter.
- The services like MailChimp and Constant Contact give you the opportunity to see who is opening your HTML newsletter as well as what stories or links they are clicking on. This will give you a measure of your engagement. Are half the people opening and reading, one-third, or eighty percent. You can also see what they are clicking on and see what gets the most pass through traffic and this will help you with future issues.
- An HTML newsletter is more environmentally friendly than the paper newsletter. It does use less paper and there is less gas expended going to and from the post office.
Maybe you are not totally ready to give up your paper newsletter because you have a sizeable portion of your church that doesn’t do email. Well, just print out your HTML newsletter for them.
What is stopping you from making the switch?
The church and Halloween have always enjoyed a somewhat strained relationship. Is Halloween just fun and candy or is it something worse spiritually? Whatever you believe about that you might consider hosting a Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat event as a way to bless your community this Halloween.
Here is basically how it works. The idea is that the children and youth from the church with parental supervision will be collecting canned goods and non-perishable items for the community food pantry or food bank.
- Before the event, organizers must decide what neighborhoods they will collect from.
- Flyers or door hangers need to be printed and distributed before the Trick or Treating to publicize that persons will be coming around to “trick or treat so others can eat.” You might also publicize this in the community newspaper in the announcements or see if a reporter will do a write up before the event. By the way, you will want to hold your event before Halloween night so as not to confuse persons. A week before Halloween is good.
- Recruit volunteer parents and adults to be drivers for the children and youth to go to the target neighborhoods. Note: maintain your church’s child protective and driving policies here. Plan and make assignments for neighborhoods.
- Have children, youth and parents gather at the church or other designated meeting spot before the event. Children should be dressed in their costumes. Give them instructions, encourage them and pray over them.
- Send them out. When they return, have a drop off point where the items are collected and packaged for delivery to the food pantry.
- Hold a Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat Celebration with a harvest theme. Announce the results of your collection (number of pounds collected, number of boxes packed).
- Tell the story of Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat, thank volunteers, deliver food and evaluate what you can do better for next year. Once you do it a number of years then persons in the community will begin to anticipate your arrival.
I was able to be part of a few of these events at a church I served and it went real well. Not only will it bless the community but for a holiday that rivals Christmas in terms of gluttony and over-indulgence it sends the powerful message to kids (and adults) that it is not all about us.
Here is a site with more info on Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat with some creative ideas and some templates for door hangers, etc.
Have you witnessed other creative ways churches have leveraged Halloween to bless the community?
I don’t think you can find in the gospels a place where Jesus says “shamelessly steal from one another.” I once had a District Superintendent though who encouraged the pastors he had supervision over to shamelessly steal from each other. What he meant was that if we saw something that worked in another church that might work in our church then we should take that idea and run with it. He wasn’t talking about copyrighted information and protected ideas but ministry ideas in general circulation.
I appreciate the kingdom mentality of the statement. In fact, I wrote about kingdom mentality and fiefdom mentality here. I always loved when someone shamelessly stole from the churches I served. However, when you shamelessly steal from another church there are some things to keep in mind.
- Remember the context. Your context is different from the context where the idea worked. Every church and every community is different. What works one place may not work at others. Beware of trying to fight with Goliath with Saul’s armor. You won’t know unless you try but if it doesn’t work it may be all about context.
- Principles translate better than methods. If you come across something that works in another church setting and you copy exactly what they are doing then it may or may not work (see above). There is a greater likelihood that while an exact method or specific idea or program might not work, the principle of the idea or program will work in your setting. For example, you may not use the exact same assimilation system (how we welcome and follow up with guests) as another church, but you might shamelessly steal the principle that a church needs to have a good system of assimilation. Likewise, Wednesday night dinners followed by small groups might not work for you but the idea of having opportunities for community building is what will translate.
- Recognize that there was a probably a process to get there. Most times churches do not come up with ideas that are already assembled. It takes work! It takes revision! It takes failing sometimes! No matter how many tool kits are offered it takes grit and determination to make an idea successful
- Don’t forget there is no silver bullet. There is no silver bullet floating out in the twitterverse or buried deep in a blog post. You have to try many things to see what will work for you and your church. Give up the search for the holy grail.
- Lastly and most importantly, never forget the work of God through the Holy Spirit and the role of people in making a church vital. God seems to bless people and their leadership and not ideas and programs. Even the best idea or program without God’s intervention and power is a dry program destined for the graveyard of good intentions.
I think Jesus would be OK for you and I to shamelessly steal from others so that others might know his love. Yes, I think my District Superintendent was right: we can shamelessly steal from one another but it must be done carefully
Are there other things pastors and churches need to be careful of when they “shamelessly steal” to better make disciples of Jesus Christ?
My mother always taught me the importance of saying thank you. As your church develops its volunteer system one of the components of that system will be properly thanking your volunteers. Many volunteers in your church will say “I do not do what I do to receive a thank you.” That is great, but everyone likes to be thanked now and again. Here are at least five ways you can thank volunteers in your church.
- Verbally. Simply affirming a person’s service whether they be greeting or working in the church nursery should be done often and by more than just the pastor. A simple “thanks so much for serving today” goes a long way. Remember too it is good to tie your thank you to a “so that” statement. Thank you for serving in the nursery this morning “so that parents can attend worship and experience God.”
- From the pulpit or stage. Volunteers can be thanked from the pulpit. It is best to thank groups of volunteers in this way as opposed to singling persons out lest you forget someone or set a precedent and then have to individually thank volunteers all the time in this way. You might say “a huge thank you to the youth who helped bag potatoes for the food bank.”
- In a handwritten note. Handwritten notes are a lost art especially in our day of texting and 140 character messages. If a pastor or ministry leader writes a handwritten note saying “I noticed you serving in our hospitality ministry and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your ministry” it will be huge.
- In the newsletter. If you have a written or electronic newsletter consider having a portion of it devoted to thanking volunteers.
- In a formal and significant way. Once or twice a year have a formal lunch or dinner to honor and thank your volunteers. Cater it. Yes, stop being cheap and pay for it. Let no one from the church serve that day except for the staff. Some churches have combined this with an awards ceremony of sorts like the Oscar awards. Be creative.
Anybody in the church knows that volunteers are crucial and the lifeblood of the church and for advancing the mission of the church. Finding ways to thank them for all they do should be a top priority for every church, pastor and ministry team leader.
What are some other ways you have seen volunteers thanked?
Jesus gave us some insight into the fact that people will receive the good news of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ in different ways. In the parable of the sower we learn that sometimes the seed falls on good ground and sometimes on rocky ground and sometimes in between. The same is true for how persons receive the gospel. There are times when persons are more open to giving the church a try and ultimately seeking something spiritual and open to the gospel.
What are some of those times when people are most open to the gospel?
- After the birth of a baby. Once they get enough sleep something snaps in the parenting gene for many parents that they need to return to church.
- In the midst of a crisis. Whether someone has lost a job, is going through a divorce, or is sick or knows someone who is sick they will often seek comfort and understanding by turning to the church.
- When someone is new to town. A person may be open to the gospel here because they are wanting to start anew and start healthy habits. Or, they may have always attended a church and are looking for a local church where they fit and can serve.
- After the loss of a loved one or some other event that brings significant grief. Like those in crisis these persons seem to be seeking comfort.
During these times and other stages of life persons seem to have an openness and the soil is rich for the seed of God’s love made known in Jesus Christ to take root. It seems like your church has an opportunity to share Christ’s love, peace and comfort with such persons, especially those who are open spiritually because of tragedy or grief.
The harder question is how do you reach out to such people? I suppose for people having a baby you can watch the birth announcements but you won’t have their address. You could maybe count on people in your church to let you know who has had a baby that does not currently attend church regularly and the church might bring a gift basket or something similar. But what about people going through grief or tragedy? And let it be said, the primary motive must be love and care in such situations. For those new to town there are a number of new neighbor services where your church can get the names of new neighbors.
Can you think of other times in life when people are most open to the gospel and do you have any ideas on how to identify and reach out to such people?
When technology is done well in a worship setting it can enhance a worshiper’s experience of God. When technology is not done well it can distract. One way to enhance instead of distract is to ensure you have great worship slides Here are six ways for making your worship slides great.
- Make them bright and crisp. Ensure the slides created are appropriate colors with the text color easy to read on the background color. Think about font choice as well. Now is probably not the time to be experimenting with new fonts with scripts. Equipment wise- make sure your projector is throwing off enough lumens that your picture is crisp. Make the investment in a good projector, it will be worth it.
- Make them visible. While churches are sometimes limited by the constraints of church architecture, do your best to make your slides visible. A center screen is best or two side screens. Make the screens large enough. Ensure when everyone stands up to sing the persons in the back can still see the screen.
- Limit the words. Less is more when it comes to the number of words on a screen. When less words are used the font can be bigger. The rule of thumb I have tried to stick by is no more than four lines per slide.
- Limit the busyness. Adding pictures to slides with text can be effective but be certain to not make it too busy. Again, less is more here. Think about how hard it is to read text on a slide when the background is a bustling city scape. If you must use such a background experiment with making it transparent.
- Ensure slides have meaning. Don’t just have slides to have slides but ensure they have a purpose and meaning. Too many slides and people stop paying attention. Do you really need to tell people every part of the service they are experiencing?
- Preparation is key. As the saying goes, “Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.” Whatever presentation software you utilize ensure your slides are in the correct order. Check the timings. Look them over for silly spelling errors. In short, when it comes to these slides give God your best not your rushed.
What might you add to the list above?
Every Friday night around the United States communities are gathering to cheer on their local high school football teams. These Friday nights are great opportunities for pastors and churches to engage and serve their community and school. There are a variety of ways pastors and churches can engage their mission field at high school football games.
- Be present. This is especially true for pastors. Pastors need to be present at some of these games so that your flock and those in the community see you as an active part of the community. This is a great way to meet many in the community that you won’t meet sitting in your office or hosting a trunk or treat.
- Find a way to serve. Contact the Athletic Director of the high school and volunteer to sell tickets or take tickets at the gate. Get a team together to clean up trash from the stands after the game. Sponsor a tailgate where you bring the grills and meat and drinks and chips and serve the students for free. Help the Athletic Boosters sell their wares. Get a team together to work the concession stand. The concession stand is often worked by parents of players or band parents. What a gift to relive them so they can watch their kids.
- Sponsor an ad in the football program to support the school.
- Work with the concession stand to sponsor a free drink night and put your church labels on the cups as a practical way to share God’s love and be sure they announce over the loud speaker that the free drink night is being sponsored by your church.
- Consider offering a 5th quarter Party at your church or better yet at the high school gym or community center where kids can come for positive interactions like playing basketball or hanging out.
By investing and serving the community in this way you will be making Jesus famous.
What are some other ways that a church might serve their community in this context?