Church Letter Writing – 4 Benefits
The art of communication has changed dramatically over the past few decades. With the advent of email, many have stopped their church letter writing ministry. Then, with Facebook, blogs, and Instagram, we started posting information to all our friends and family at once, but stopped communicating with each friend or family on an individual, personal level. And Twitter shortened our communication with people to short messages, slogans, and hashtags. As the culture changed how it communicated, so have many churches. Churches used to write all kinds of church letters, be they church invitation letters, donation letters, or even Christmas cards, but fewer and fewer church letters are being sent each year and that’s unfortunate.
We live in an age of the impersonal, but the last thing the church should be is impersonal and non-tangible.
Please don’t misunderstand. The information revolution has done some amazing things for communication. Churches have never been able to communicate with as many people as efficiently as they can today, but in some ways we have also lost some aspects of communication. We live in an age of the impersonal, but the last thing the church should be is impersonal and non-tangible.
The truth, however, is that just because technology has created new forms of communication, doesn’t mean that we have to abandon the old ways of communicating. In fact, using the advantages of the internet and the benefits of traditional letter writing together can allow us to better connect and communicate with church members and the community than we could using either by itself.
Today, most churches have become aware of the benefits of using email, blogs, and social media to communicate. So, in this article, I want to highlight the benefits of good letter writing for churches.
So, here are 4 reasons you shouldn’t abandon that pen and paper (or keyboard) yet.
1. It’s Personal
There is something inherently personal about a letter written from one person to another. So much of the communication we receive today is general. It’s broadcast to a bunch of people and we are just one number in the crowd. The person writing isn’t thinking about you when they write, they are thinking about a group of people, all with different personalities, likes, and dislikes and it becomes obvious in the message. Sure, an email program may pull your name from a database to try to look like it was personally written to you, but it wasn’t and we know it.
A letter, however, is different. It’s written to you. It’s addressed to you. The person writing the letter was thinking about you when they wrote it. It can contain information specific to you and address your struggles and your celebrations.
That said, that means that the church letter can’t just be a templated letter that’s printed out without some modification to make it personal. Otherwise, it’s just as impersonal as a mass email. That’s not to say that parts can’t be standard. A church invitation letter may have the same information about the church or event, but it can also have something personal. If you are inviting a visitor back to your church, include something personal about them that you learned when you met them that past Sunday.
Similarly, a church donation letter may have some standard parts about stewardship and a Bible passage, but also think about how you can personalize it to the situation of the person you are writing. Are finances tight for them? Acknowledge that and encourage a small donation. Has the person always been a regular giver? Thank them for their faithful giving.
A letter has a unique ability to be very personal. Use that to deepen your connection with that person. Let them know that they, personally, matter to you and to the church. In doing so, you are also letting them know that they, personally, matter to God.
Let them know that they, personally, matter to you and to the church. In doing so, you are also letting them know that they, personally, matter to God.
2. It’s Physical
There’s something to be said about something you can touch because it just makes it more real to us. Perhaps you've seen hundreds of pictures of the Grand Canyon, but it's not as real as the day you visit and stand on its edge, hike its paths, and touch the rock.
Even in the church, there are physical things which help to make our faith more real to us. We feel the water of baptism. We taste the bread and wine of communion. In addition to the spiritual nature of these things, the physical-ness of them makes our faith more concrete. Consider the effect of simple things like a handshake or hug as someone enters the church and is greeted. It makes people feel more connected and the fellowship of the church more real. We are physical beings and that physical touch makes a difference.
So much in our lives today is digital. Emails, pictures, notes, and on and on. With VR technology you can even travel around the world and “experience” all kinds of things. As amazing as that is, the fact is that it’s all just 1’s and 0’s. We see it, but we can’t touch it. Even that very term, “Virtual Reality”, tells us that it isn’t real.
A letter, however, is physical. You can touch it and hold it in your hand. You can even smell it. It’s real. That has an effect on people. It creates a deeper connection with them. It can also aid in the memory of the letter and its message. Research, like a 2014 University of Iowa study, has long shown that we remember things better when touch is involved. That’s why hands-on learning is so effective. While a letter isn’t quite to the level of hands-on learning, it does add the sense of touch to the message being sent in the letter which helps the person to better remember it and that makes the letter more effective.
3. It’s Rare and You Stand Out
When was the last time you received a letter from someone. If you are like me, you almost never do. 99.99% of all my mail is junk mail or bills. When I do get a letter, it stands out. Even a templated, “Happy Birthday”, letter from my insurance agent stands out from the 150 people who just typed, “Happy Birthday” on my news feed because Facebook told them it was my birthday.
A physical letter is different and that makes people pay attention to it and remember it better. That effect is even greater when the letter is clearly personal as we discussed earlier. We all get dozens of emails every day and see countless posts on social media, but we don’t get letters. This makes church letters a golden opportunity to standout in the noise of communication that people are bombarded with every day. Add to that a personal, even handwritten, message and you have the makings for something truly unique that can make someone feel very special so church letter writing can be very helpful in making your church unique!
4. It’s a Reminder
Emails get deleted or just move down the list onto the next page. Facebook posts quickly descend into the depths of our feeds never to be seen again. And Twitter is even worse. The general rule of thumb is that, with the exception of controversial or viral tweets, if a person doesn’t see a tweet within 30 minutes of its posting, it will never been seen. That’s why companies who effectively use Twitter will tweet frequently throughout the day.
A letter, however, doesn’t slide down the newsfeed or disappear into the ether of the twittersphere.
A letter, however, doesn’t slide down the newsfeed or disappear into the ether of the twittersphere. It’s a physical thing that remains. Sure, it can be thrown out. Most people’s mail is, but that’s because it’s junk mail. It isn’t from a trusted source and it isn’t personal. But letters that are personal and from someone you know, they tend to stick around. Letters like that get put down on the table and rather than tossed in a trash can, or get saved and passed on to a spouse or roommate to read.
When a letter is kept, it is seen throughout the week. Even if it’s just found again when cleaning off the table, it’s seen again. Each time it’s seen, that’s a reminder of what the letter was about. When a personal, church invitation letter is seen throughout the week, it’s a reminder that someone remembered you and took the time to write you a letter and it’s a reminder that you’ve been invited to church. That makes you feel more connected to the church and more likely that you’ll visit again.
6 Types of Church Letters
Church letter writing has great benefits. The letters are personal, physical, help you standout, and can serve as a repeated reminder. So, what are some ways churches can utilize letters?
This could be inviting visitors back, inviting new contacts, or even inviting people who just moved into your area. A personal invitation can go a long way in getting someone to come to church.
Raising money for projects or even day to day expenses can be difficult. Done with mass emails, it can make people feel like just a number or like the church just wants their money. The personal connection that can be conveyed through a personal, physical letter can make all the difference in how people receive your donation request.
3. Church Newsletters
A lot churches have gone to digital newsletters for cost reasons. Digital newsletters don’t get hung on the refrigerator but physical newsletters do.
People can be very generous with their time, talents, and treasure. A personal letter can be a great way to thank them and help them feel that their contribution is noticed and valued.
With more and more people putting their Christmas Cards on social media, a physical card or letter can really stand out. Be sure to include a personal note.
Most communication people receive, especially from organizations, are done with an agenda (you want them to come to church, you want a donation, you want to inform them about what’s going on, etc.), but a random personal note that has no agenda can have a huge impact on a person.
5 Tips for Writing Church Letters
1. Make it Personal
Don’t just do a physical version of a mass email. Include a personal note. If possible, hand-write at least some of it.
2. Don’t Wait Too Long
If someone has visited your church, send a church invitation letter within a week. Perhaps they just moved to your area, send a letter within a month. When a member does something remarkable for the church, send a thank you letter right away. Allowing too much time to pass can lessen the impact of the letter.
3. Include Contact Information and Service Times
Whether you use letterhead or just include it in the message, be sure to include a way for people to get in touch with you as well as the address and service times of your church.
4. If possible, include a Picture
People are visual. Our eyes are drawn to graphics and especially pictures of people. So, in a church invitation letter, include a picture of the pastor or a group from the church. If you are sending a church donation letter, include a picture of the project. If you are thanking someone for their service in an activity, include a picture from the event.
5. Sign the Letter
Even if nothing else is handwritten, sign your name at the end because it adds a personal touch and shows people you actually spent time on their letter. You church should, by all means, use as much to today’s technology to communicate with its members and the community, whether it’s email, social media, or websites; but make sure to keep letter writing as a part of your communication strategy. It adds a level of personal touch and connection that are hard to duplicate with digital communication and can make a huge difference in the impact you have on people’s lives.