Are Missionary Newsletters a Thing of the Past?


I've always been a reader. When I was a little girl, I loved to go to the library and check out as many books as they would allow. The kindly librarian often let me take out a few above the limit because she knew how quickly I would go through them. Even now, I tend to collect books from conferences or co-workers or friends.

I also used to love newspapers. I say used to because it seems like everything is online these days. When I was in college I worked part time taking classified ads. This was before Craigslist, obviously. When I walked into the Kalamazoo Gazette the smell of newsprint was invigorating.

So, it should come as no surprise that I love reading missionary newsletters. When I came across a box of them in the basement in the denominational building from the 80s and 90s, I knew they had to be rescued. (You might remember Abby Genzink writing about that seemingly onerous task of scanning old missionary newsletters.) Newsletters are most easily accessed online, unless they are from missionaries in security sensitive countries. I love that the CRCNA website has a whole section that pulls together blogs from around the CRC.

I do wonder sometimes if anyone else reads newsletters. As an organization, World Renew is challenged with keeping up with all the social media outlets. Twitter, Facebook, now Periscope. There are lots of ways that missionaries can connect with churches beyond the traditional printed newsletter. With email so commonplace, are newsletters still important? I would love it if you could comment on the following questions:

  • As a church member, what makes a missionary newsletter something you'll remember?
  • What types of information do you want to see?
  • How often do you want to see it?
  • What advice do you have for missionaries wondering what to write about?
  • Which of your missionaries write newsletters especially well?

Join the conversation in the comments below.

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Good questions, Wendy. Like you, I also enjoy reading. Updates from missionaries were always exciting to find in the church mailbox. I appreciate images (the more the better!) and stories of daily life. I also like to hear of specific needs and ways to get involved. 

As far as format, I think it makes sense to send the newsletters digitally. That being said, there are still so many things that I enjoy reading hard copy (magazines and the newspaper) so maybe the newsletter is worth keeping around :) 

Community Builder

We get newsletters from all our missionaries by email. You can sign up to receive them yourself. They do get photocopied and put in members mail slots. It works well saving a lot of time and money for the missionaries. Dispersing the newsletters among our members is an easy way to support the missionaries.

I like newsletters that tell about the things that the missionary is doing as well as a bit about daily life. I like learning about the countries they are serving in. Pictures are nice too. Mostly I want to hear how the missionaries and the family is doing, things to praise God for and things to continue to pray about. 

I think I need to be more invested by communicating with them more. Email is so easy and a note now and them would probably be very welcome. 

I love reading missionary newsletters, but I'm also very involved on a missions team, so that might explain my high level of interest. Photos and stories that give cultural context are the most interesting.  Stories of people's lives being changed by the gospel are essential, but harder to come by.  

I print them out to be picked up by church members, but the paper copies are rarely taken home.  Most are recycled. I take excerpts,and photos from them and put them in our church newsletter as updates. That may catch the most readers.

I haven't put the newsletters on our church website, but it may be worth a try. Only some of them would want their writing available for the rest of the world to read.  To me (older generation) that brings with it a serious lack of privacy.

Hi Wendy, As someone just returning to overseas missions and who is working on a prayer letter this morning, I am very interested in responses to your article.  I am planning to send most prayer letters via email and have a Facebook group as well.  To me, the biggest question is whether churches are actually distributing the letters to congregations.

The writer should make plain if she means any type of Newsletter (printed or digital) or just the printed newsletter when she types Newsletter. Obviously the answers will be different.

What to start with? As for me a key to a good missionary newsletter is it to be written by a person who truly cares about the issue he/she is addresses to you with and if it is personalized. People do not want to see bare information but thoughts, feelings, and experience (like in this source). I would like also to add that despite paper letters recalls warm feelings I still prefer emails: in this case you won't harm nature as no trees will be cut to make paper. Here is only one tiny nuance: be careful them not to be recognized by a system like spam.

Community Builder

We do a regular blog, so a lot of people read most of our blog posts.  But a good number of our supporters don't have the time or interest (we understand and aren't bothered by that!) to read every post.  So many of them just read the quarterly newsletters, and some supporters make a point to tell us that they don't read the blog but read the quarterly prayer letters.  Because of this we use our blog for the more detailed posts, and the prayer letter usually doesn't have anything new that is not in the blog, but it will be a sort of summary of everything we've been doing and need prayer for.