@gabeturner

Why Missionaries Should Write Regular Emails (once a month doesn’t count!)

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I just got an email from some missionary friends. I love getting updates from them and hearing what’s going on.

But I wish it were more often.

I have LOTS of missionary friends that I love to hear from, but the thing is… Many of them don’t write emails hardly AT ALL.

Missionaries (and people in ministry in general) have been sending out monthly updates for eons. But, times are changing (heck, they changed a long time ago) and I would like to suggest that it’s more effective to write more frequently.

WHY, you ask?

People don’t always open the emails you send

Even though your supporters and friends love you dearly, they don’t always have time to open and read your emails. They may flag or file them but, chances are, they aren’t going to get back to them (if “they” are at all like me). We all get gajillions of emails every day, it’s just tough to keep up with them.

That’s why emailing more frequently is so important.

If someone doesn’t open your email, that’s okay, they’ll catch your next one. And when they do have the chance to open one of your emails, it just might make them want to read your previous notes as well… or check out your website… or whatever.

Won’t people get annoyed with me?

Eh, I don’t think so. Don’t worry about that. Just don’t send annoying stuff.

Focus on providing value and being a blessing to your friends.

You can always invite their feedback (in a reply to your email). You could even put together a little survey with Survey Monkey if you want to get real specific.

You can also give people the option of opting in to the frequent list or the not so frequent list.

What do I write about?

This should NOT be a problem. If you are in ministry, I am sure that you have tons of things to talk about. But, if you need some things to jog your brain, I’ll give you a few ideas…

Devotional Thoughts: Anyone who is spending quality time with God is learning new things, being reminded of things they needed reminding of, receiving revelation, you get the picture. Share with us what God is teaching you!

Life Stories: We all have little things that happen in our daily lives that are worth mentioning. Whether it’s funny, interesting, heartwarming, inspiring or something completely random we all like to be in the loop on the people we care about. Many of the people you’ll be sending these emails to are scattered across the globe and genuinely love to hear what’s going on in your life. Not just the ministry stuff.

Ministry Stuff: Obviously, this is one of the main reasons these people are on your email list. I’m sure you have way more to share than can fit into your normal once-a-month email. Why cram it all into one email? Spread out the stories and updates across the whole month.

Why not take an entire email to talk about….

-The foreign student you’ve been helping with English.

-The weekly prison ministry you work with.

-The students in the discipleship school that just started.

-The teaching you just gave at a church.

-A praise report from an outreach

Resources: If you find something useful, send it out to your email list. This could be a blog post, a new website, a new book, YouTube video, etc. I know that when someone I love recommends me something of true value, I’m blessed. That could come in the form of a two sentence email.

How long should these “regular” emails be?

There’s really no rule here but… I think a good length is around 200 – 400 words per email. People are busy, just get in and get out. For the most part, people don’t have time to scroll and scroll and scroll (even if they’d like to).

It’s not a crime to write an 800 word email from time to time, though. Just do some experimenting – you know the people on your list. At least, you will get to know them as you start mailing them frequently.

How frequently should I email?

My recommendation is to start with once a week and go from there. I think 2-3 per week is a good amount to shoot for, though.

There are different ways of doing it. I know of one person who sends a lengthy email on Sunday (a day that people typically have more time to read on) and that’s it. I know of another guy (Ben Settle, although not in ministry, he’s an email marketing pro and you could learn a lot from joining his email list) who emails every weekday.

What’s the point?

The point is not so that you can squeeze as much money out of your email list as you can. The point is relationship, right?

And if your friends catch the vision for what you’re doing along the course of your relating with them, fantastic.

The problem is that if these people only hear from you when you’re raising funds for an outreach there’s not much relationship happening there. Yeah, they love you and they understand how it works but… email is such a simple way to cultivate relationship with your supporters (and potential supporters).

I scratch my head and wonder why so few people take advantage of it.

The beauty is that it’s such a casual format. It’s so conversational and you can be yourself. Please please please make your emails sound like YOU – not some corporate-sounding press release. Let your personality shine through.

I’m on several people’s ministry email lists and I’ve yet to see this method done the way I’m envisioning it. I’ve seen many marketing people do it wonderfully, though. I open these people’s emails because I LOVE reading what they have to say. I’ve never met them, but they constantly send me value and make me smile.

You have it so much easier. Your email list is filled with people you’ve met in real life.

They know, like and trust you.

Many of them are family members and people you’ve grown up with. People you’ve been in the trenches with.

They LOVE hearing from you.

Give them what they want.

 

What’s your experience with email as it relates to your ministry relationships? Do you have any good (or bad) examples of people who mail frequently? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

 

P.S. If I’m a friend of yours and I’m not on your ministry / missions update email list, please add me!

 

To get regular tips / thoughts on how to get your message / ministry out there and cultivate relationships online join my list below…


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2 Comments

  1. Great stuff Gabe! I like it and I’ll use it. You’re right, it is all about relationships and how to communicate in a personal way that is just you, not slick ads.
    I think one thing you might address at some point is the need to be disciplined and intentional – it is easy to get so busy with “doing ministry” that we can neglect involving our partners in a meaningful way.
    Thanks – very helpful!
    I would welcome any feedback on what I am writing on our website, if you have time.
    Mike

  2. Thanks for the comments, Mike :). I had some fun poking around your site the other day. I’ll send you some thoughts soon…

    Yes, when you’re focused on “doing ministry” it is easy to neglect writing emails / newsletters – I’ve been there myself. I think it can be worked into our busy lives, though.

    Think about this: You probably have conversations with people daily, email people daily, etc. As you’re doing those sorts of things, be thinking: “Would this be something I could write a quick email about?” It’s super-easy when you’re already sitting down to write an email reply to someone. You can just turn it into a mass note to your whole list. That’s exactly what happened when I got YOUR email yesterday. I started writing you and then thought, “Why should only Mike benefit from me taking the time to write this?” So, I wrote a blog post on it. It got a bit more involved than I what I would’ve written in an email but…

    When you start to do it more regularly, I believe you’ll start to see a whole other ministry developing. You have an audience sitting in your email account. People that God wants to bless through you. I think that once you get the rhythm going with these things it will start to fuel itself as far as “making time for it” goes.

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