I send out a weekly newsletter to youth and parents that lists the schedule for the coming Sunday’s activities and announces upcoming special events and, regularly, features a pastoral note. I’m wondering if it’s worth it.
Almost every week somebody asks me a question that the newsletter already answered. They didn’t read it. They didn’t even get it. This used to irritate me, like I went to all this trouble to share the information in advance, and people couldn’t do the minimum to make use of it. But I’ve accepted by now that we all are besieged with too much electronic communication to make good use of, especially if we have kids. I get multiple emails from Daughter’s school every week, and her cheer team uses an app called Band that pings me with a constant stream of information and updates. Then there are email reminders about doctor and dentist appointments, all mixed in with whatever is hitting my inbox related to me. It is simply too much for people to be expected to manage.
So I’m wondering if there’s a better way than the weekly email. Much of what’s in the newsletter is static from week to week anyway; we’re always meeting before worship at 9:15 and after at 11:15–does that require a weekly reminder email? The only reason to share that is for people who don’t know it, prospective participants, and directing them to a webpage where those times are listed is easier than asking them to sign up for an email newsletter. Same with the event announcements and sign up links: put them on the website and send people there. Don’t clutter up their inboxes and expect them to take meaningful action.
I feel like the weekly newsletter is an anxious product that we make in order to feel more in control of what’s happening in the church and the world right now. The anxiety is well-placed. Change is afoot. Yet it seems certain that the things keeping people from regularly participating in the things we’re working on go well beyond a well-written-and-visually-attractive weekly email. We are in the position people are always in when we’re seeking enrollment in something we think is important, and that is the choice of other people.
That choice can be harmed by insufficient communication. It can be enabled by reliable communication. But it feels like we’re trying to compel participation with a barrage of information, and that’s both ineffective and unhealthy.
So a website with the stuff that is static from week to week and event signups. Email to send people there. Smiles and warm welcomes when they arrive.