I really enjoy writing newsletters for my partners while I am overseas. This opportunity is always fun to put together to share with my friends, but it has made me wonder what the ten best ways would be to write a missionary newsletter that stands out.
What is a missionary newsletter? A missionary newsletter is an update letter that missionaries send to friends, family members, and partners while overseas or doing ministry locally. This newsletter is usually sent monthly and used to update those following the missionary, about things going on in the missionary’s life, ministry, culture and more.
I have picked out 10 of the top things that I either take note of, or stay away from when writing a newsletter that stands out. These things can look different for everyone, but I hope you can find them helpful as you write newsletters that make your partners excited to know more about what is going on in your life!
1. Keep Track As Things Happen
Life can get very busy when you are living overseas and doing ministry. When you are planning to write a newsletter update it is important to keep track of things that have happened since the last update you sent to your partners.
If you journal often, this would be a great place to go back to remember what you did, saw, learned. This is always a great place to jump start your brain to remember what all you can share in your newsletter.
Some people do not tend to journal throughout the months, and that is totally fine. I find that if I do not journal, I take more pictures throughout the day. You may find that looking through pictures will jog your memory. If not, you can always ask your teammates or write about your favorite memory of the week. Your options are endless for what you can share, living overseas is full of adventures that are exciting to tell.
I have found that the best way to keep up with what goes on monthly, for me, is to take pictures. Just one picture a day usually helps me to remember everything I did that month, in order to share with others. If I do not take pictures, or it is unacceptable to take pictures in certain locations, I will take a note of something exciting that I did.
You can be creative with how you keep track of your ministry and life as the days blend together. I have, at times, taken a leaf or flower and pressed it into a specific notebook and wrote what the significant event was, and the date. This is a great way that I have been able to keep track if I wasn’t able to take pictures.
2. Testimonies and Stories
Testimonies and stories are very important to share with your partners in your newsletter updates. It is important to include these things because your partners are looking for what is going on in your life and ministry.
Testimonies can be fun, or serious. If they lean to the more serious side of things I would just caution you to protect the identity of those you are writing about. Be aware of your attitude toward the testimony, you may carry frustrations or anger towards a situation. If that is true, I would challenge you to keep that one to yourself and pick a more exciting testimony. I often would share small testimonies of the girls I was working with in ministry, and how they are becoming more confident or growing in their walk with Christ. Testimonies do not have to always be serious.
Stories are always a great thing to share, especially about your cultural or language mistakes. It is a funny way to share with your partners how you are learning and growing.
When you are writing your newsletters, share some good and bad. It is okay to share some of the hardships that you face, but do not dwell solely on this area. There is a significant amount to be thankful for, always, share this!
3. Personal and Ministry
Those who are partnering with you care about what you are doing, what is impacting your life. When writing your newsletter it will be important to add something the Lord is teaching, growing, or instilling in you. This can be a nice touch for those supporting you, whether believer or non-believer.
When talking about your personal life it would be a good idea to include anything you are learning, new friends you may be making, or friendships that you are investing in that you previously have shared about. If you are with your family include how your kids are doing, what they are involved in. Think about what you might share when on the phone with a friend updating about your life, write simple things like this in your newsletters.
Ministry is a big part of your life, it is your job, especially when you are overseas. It is most likely the reason people and churches are partnering with you. It is important to share in your newsletters what your ministry is, and what you are doing there. Obviously this should be done with caution depending on where you are living, and who you are working among.
4. Culture and Language
If you are living overseas you will always have a different language and culture. Write about this in your newsletters. Those who are supporting you in your home country will not know about your host culture or language, most likely.
When you talk about your culture or language it is going to intrigue those reading your newsletters. I have found that sharing about even little things that are different, like stop lights or food, really interest people. These small things are significant to making your newsletter stand out!
Like I previously stated, funny language and culture stories are always a fun thing to add to any newsletter. This shows your partners how you are learning and chances are they will remember that story when they think of you. Anything small but simple that you can add to your newsletter that will leave your partners excited or happy for you in your culture is great to add. You want your partners to want to keep reading and definitely don’t want them bored!
Formatting well is crucial to a missionary newsletter that will stand out. Just writing will never been something that people read, it is just not catching to the eye. More people in this generation are more drawn to things that have pictures on them. Even more so it is important to include stories with your pictures.
When formatting a newsletter, I have found it easier to use a program that helps with this process. Trying to format a newsletter on Microsoft Word is really not the place to go. When I format my newsletters I use the website Canva.
Each month I found it fun to mix up the format a little bit, but kept my prayer requests in the same place, at the bottom, for those who would choose to only read that section.
It is important to pick a format that is pleasing to the eye. This is important because if it is too busy, or too many colors, people may not know where to start looking. If you can, format your newsletter to funnel to the bottom where you include your important news, prayer and praise reports, and big thank you!
The format you choose, if you are going to use Canva, should already have pictures within the format. This is very helpful because you can just upload your own pictures and drag the directly into the same spot in the format.
We have all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and it is really true. Pictures bring up memories and show others the beauty that you get to enjoy everyday. Pictures can show the darkness that you feel, or the hard things you face daily.
It is always a helpful tool to incorporate in your newsletters. It is helpful because it draws people in, it puts a mental image into their minds when they think and pray for you and where you are.
In every newsletter you should include one to four pictures. These pictures should go along with the stories you share, or add to the text. I find that I en up sharing in my newsletters about people I spent time with or a fun location I went to. Including a picture of these things is a great way to tie everything in.
The only thing to be careful with in adding pictures of people, places, or the activities you are a part of is triangulation. This is something that closed governments or people trying to get your information or location, use to find you or those you work with. It is important to be careful in what you are posting or sending via email or social media. I have previously worked in a place where I could not share anyone’s face online for their own protection, you must be aware of these things wherever you are.
Do not be the classic missionary who grabs random people to take a picture to make it look like you are doing something. Actually do ministry and take pictures when you can, the photos should not be your priority. Adding photos of landscape or food is always a great place to start!
A newsletter should be brief and simple, bite sized. This means that it isn’t your whole life story every month. It is just a short, simple time to connect with those who are partnering with you.
You can send a newsletter monthly or quarterly. If you choose to send a newsletter monthly I would suggest you take time to read the Type of Newsletter section to find out the options you have to keep your partners invested in what you are sharing.
When I would send monthly newsletters I would try to send them on the same date of every month, or the same day. For example, every last Friday of the month, I would send a quick newsletter to my partners. This can be something that your friends look forward to every last Friday of the month, or whatever day or date you make it to be. It does not have to be at the end of every month, it can be at any time, it just helps if you make it consistent monthly.
As for a quarterly newsletter, this would be sent every four months. This should be an overview of what you have done in those four months and should be about 2 pages, including photos.
Annually you should also send a thank you letter to your partners, but this is not considered a newsletter.
8. Type of Newsletter
If you are to send a monthly newsletter there are three ways you can do this.
The first type is that of a normal E-communication newsletter. This can be formatted online using Canva, like I previously shared about. This newsletter should be short and simple, as always. You can include something about your family, ministry, what you are learning, prayer requests and more. These topics are always good to hit on in your monthly newsletter. I like to always include a short and funny fact about my location or culture.
The second type of newsletter is a video. This should be a short 2-minute video updating your partners and friends of how you are doing, share a story, or testimony, include safe clips of what you are doing or seeing daily. This can be done using Vimeo, just make sure your permission settings are correct.
The third and final type of newsletter is the quarterly newsletter. This should be a bit longer of a newsletter that is often better to be sent via mail. If you send via mail there are a few places online that you can set up to mail for you. Your quarterly newsletter should be a two-paged, double sided newsletter. It is best to include pictures and a highlight from family or team, ministry, a testimony and always thank your partners.
No matter which type of newsletter you choose to send it is important to always include good and bad. Do not dwell on the bad, but it is okay to be vulnerable a little bit to share with your partners the reality of your life.
Each type of newsletter brings a different form of communication to update your partners. Most choose to write a normal newsletter and email or Mail Chimp each month to their partners, but there is a very slim chance of every partner reading that newsletter. A great way to have a missionary newsletter that stands out is to send a different form of newsletter each time, like a rotation of each type!
9. Ask For Prayer
Always ask for prayer! This is a way that you can bring your partners into what you are doing, they are not only partnering with you financially, but prayerfully. Prayer is always better than financial support anyway.
When you ask for prayer in your newsletters I would say include it in your test in a short sentence at the end of a story or testimony. For example, “Please pray with me for the salvation of this person.” Then at the bottom of your newsletter each month, have a section for prayer requests and praise reports!
Having both a request and praise section in your newsletter makes what the Lord is doing and what you hope He will do stand out! It is also a great way to walk your partners through the prayerful process of watching your friends and ministry go from death to life throughout the months.
Always share the victories that the Lord brings you in your life and ministry. This is important, but if you don’t have any one month, that is okay! Ask for prayer every time, many partners will look for this section of your newsletters.
10. Thank Your Partners
You want your newsletter to stand out and the best way to do that is to show your gratitude to your partners. They love you and want to see what is going on in your life! But they are also finding the time to read and keep up with you, as well as some who financially partner with you.
Always thank them, bring them into what you are doing. Truthfully they are partnering with your ministry. Their funds and prayers move mountains in your life and ministry. You may not see it all of the time, but trust me, it is a huge blessing to have people outside of your field culture praying for you.
Every month, I would write a small thank you piece on the side column of my newsletter. Thanking them for partnering with the relationships that I was making, for praying that my language would get me into deeper, Gospel baring relationship with local people.
Thank your partners, and update them well! Writing a newsletter that stands out will keep them well informed, and praying for you often.