Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why First Church needed a weekly electronic newsletter.

York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren employs many kinds of publicity. There are pulpit announcements, weekly bulletins, monthly newsletters, pamphlets, posters, a website, periodic e-mails, word of mouth, semi-annual reports, and others. What seemed to be lacking was an organized approach to rapidly communicate current news to the congregation.

The thought came, why doesn't the church electronically communicate more often, perhaps daily or weekly, to its members? How would church members feel if they were more knowledgeable about what is happening in the congregation, and if they received news relatively quickly? Why not have someone, a "reporter" for the congregation, collect information from the various groups in the church, condense it into something to be shared with the entire congregation, and serve as editor for the newsletter? Why not use the same technology that many of us use outside of church, namely e-mail? And for those who do not regularly use computers, why not print out the weekly news for pick up on Sunday mornings?

This approach of a weekly electronic newsletter is now being used by our church. Our church recognizes that a more informed congregation is more responsive and committed. Here's how we have carried it out:

The reporter is neither the preacher, nor the board chair, nor some other person in church governance. The reporter is someone to whom the pastors, church leaders, and individual members can come to with their tidbits of information, knowing that it will be released not more than seven days later. The reporter need not be a professional, just someone who wants to keep lines of communication open in the congregation. Retired people with word processing skills are good candidates. The key is that the reporter and the church leaders have a good working relationship so that information can flow quickly and easily.

We picked a Friday e-mail date for several reasons. First, most of our meetings are held early in the week, so information can be collected in time to make a Friday release date and be timely. Second, the newsletter can serve as a reminder for church on the following Sunday--it helps jog our memories to prepare for worship and study, just two days away.

How do we gather e-mail addresses? Over the past few years, our church has developed a list of all members and friends who have e-mail. As a help to the pastors, the reporter maintains a master list of the e-mail addresses.

What technique do we use to send the newsletter? For ease in mailing, the e-mail address list is split into three equally-sized groups. E-mails are then sent in three batches.

How does the reporter make contact with the various church groups and committees? Now that the newsletter is maturing, a few church leaders take initiative to contact the reporter. In most instances, however, the reporter contacts them, and stays aware of meeting schedules. The leaders of groups provide information either over the phone or by e-mail. These busy people are happy that someone is communicating on their behalf.

How much time does it takes each week? Maybe three to five hours.

--Larry Gibble is a member of York (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren and serves as reporter and editor of York First's electronic newsletter.

Source: 12/05/2007 Newsline

No comments: