You know regular communication with your supporters is essential to your longevity in the field, but come on!
You’d rather go back to your first day in language school than work on your newsletter.
For most of us, our newsletters are a grind. It’s not easy to get it out on any kind of regular basis. Even more uncommon to feel confident that it’s of passable quality and providing value to your supporters.
Thankfully, I’ve come across a few methods to relieve the ongoing headache that is newsletter writing.
And to help you get started ASAP, I’ve included custom designed MailChimp templates for free!
In a decade of missionary newslettering, I’ve seen a spectrum of hangups. For the most part, they all orbit around production issues; that is, they pop up at the moment you sit down to try to create your newsletter:
- You’re unsure what to write about
- You feel there’s too much to write about
- You’re a slow writer and don’t have the time
So. I get it. Those are real struggles (I’ve experienced all of them). Here’s the good news: it feels so hard to produce a newsletter because you don’t have a method you’re sticking with each time. Most missionary newsletters I read are some hybrid of narrative story, short devotional, bullet point prayer requests, and fundraising appeal–all in one email!
You’re just not going to be able to do any of it very well–at least not consistently.
I suggest choosing a method (one of them below) and sticking to it for at least six months. I think you’ll find having a consistent format relieves a lot of the ongoing burden of newsletter creation.
Most missionary newsletters are attempts at an editorial newsletter. These newsletters take on narrative form storytelling to share ministry work that is being done. The best editorial newsletters are focused on one narrative strand (don’t provide a digest of all the month’s ministry happenings).
An editorial newsletter (like all newsletters) should be sent in a single column template without a lot of extra “noise” around the story (eg, Donation Button, Social Media icons, Prayer Requests, etc).
Just focus on the story and include relevant links or calls-to-action within the body content.
Who should opt for an editorial newsletter?
If you are a talented writer, enjoy the process, and have a knack for story you should stick to editorial. If you have multiple stories in a month, write them all out, but only send one at a time. Save the others for a slower month.
How frequent should an editorial newsletter be sent?
Monthly or even quarterly. Monthly is kind of de facto in missionary newsletters, but if swing big for high quality storytelling, you could do well with just four newsletters a year!
I don’t see very many curated newsletters among missionaries and I’m not sure why–they are a great way to inform supporters on your missional context without needing to write the content yourself. It’s also a great way to grow your list.
A curated newsletter approach takes ongoing work but only a little bit of time. The process basically looks like this:
- You find interesting/inspiring content relevant to your ministry or missional context (websites/videos/books/art)
- Save the link (using something like pocket or evernote)
- Choose five to eight of the best links you found, provide a one sentence annotation (why you think your supporters will find it valuable/insightful) and put it into your newsletter.
It may not be as clear how to tastefully include personal content or updates in this style of newsletter. But I think it can be done very succinctly in an abstract-style introduction to the newsletter (see free template for example).
Who should opt for a curation newsletter?
If you are generally an input person (Strengthsfinder anyone?) and have an established authority/trust in your ability to filter content for the most reliable sources, you would likely do great with a curation method for your newsletter.
How frequent should a curation-style newsletter be sent?
Weekly or monthly. It’s easy to subscribe and unsubscribe to an interesting weekly email, so with weekly you may experience more flux in your list.
Tips & Insights
There is an audience hungry to start or improve as missionaries. Writing as a teacher with clear, concise tips and insights for aspiring missionaries, you are mostly just reflecting on the lessons you’ve learned and sharing with those who may be newer on the journey.
Who should opt for an tips & insights newsletter?
I have seen missionaries use this approach to great effect. Typically, they are at a leadership level on a ministry team or have an existing readership that subscribes to receive exclusive tips and insights.
How frequent should a devotional newsletter be sent?
Weekly or monthly. Not necessarily timely pieces, you could write these in bulk and create an evergreen automation (basically an automated corpus where new subscribers start at email #1) that you’d add to continually.
Devotional emails would likely appeal more to your support base than tips & insights for aspiring missionaries would. It’s a good way to weave in personal updates and prayer requests while providing spiritual input to supporters. Your supporters probably already consider you someone with spiritual insight and would love to learn more about God through you.
The production value (ie, the template and copy editing) doesn’t need to be very high if you are sharing consistently useful and focused nuggets of wisdom.
Who should opt for a devotional newsletter?
If you have a pastoral background or have emphasized the mutuality of your support team relationships, this could be a great fit!
How frequent should a devotional newsletter be sent?
This is a very flexible approach. You could go daily all the way to monthly, just be consistent so subscribers know how to anticipate your messages.
Not needing to be timely pieces, these could be written in bulk and added to continually, drastically reducing the ongoing burden of producing content.