Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Missionary Newsletters: Top 10 Pet Peeves--Carol Brinneman

Many missionaries cut their creative writing teeth on newsletters. A friend of mine, who helps people improve their letters, had no trouble coming up with this pithy pet-peeves list. Yes, she wrote in a slightly snarky, spirited mood, but consider her advice and take a fresh look at your own letters. Are you boring your readers? Or delighting them with crisp, compelling accounts of what God is doing in your ministry and life?

1. Excuses
My first pet peeve: newsletters that say, “We’re sorry we haven’t written in a while because we’ve been so busy.” Everybody is busy; that excuse is worthless. You just know that any newsletter that starts that way is going to be boring!

2. Generic newsletters
Newsletters that could apply to just about any other colleague or couple. If you can delete your name, and the letter still works for someone else, it is boring!

3. Vague job descriptions
Newsletters that don’t tell exactly what you do. Someone should be able to pick up your newsletter for the first time and understand clearly what your ministry is about. Vague newsletters are boring!

4. Lists
People who use their newsletters to prove they have been busy. You don’t have to write long lists about every little thing you’ve done in the past three months. Just pick one or two and elaborate. Supporters will assume that one good story is representative of your overall ministry. Lists are boring!

5. Long, drawn-out stories
A good story should fill about half to one page, and add a great photo or two. Don’t spend half a page explaining about the story you are going to tell; just tell it! Long, detailed stories can be boring!

6. Weather forecasts
“Spring is in the air. The leaves are beautiful this time of year.” Don’t tell people what they already know. Instead, write a detailed description of rainy season and how it affects your life, how the heat makes you melt, how dark winter days can depress you, or how you wonder over a Saharan sandstorm. But plain ol’ weather reports are boring!

7. Vacation highlights
Don’t tell people you need financial support and then in the same newsletter say that you took the kids to Disney World during your support-raising trip. If you can afford Disney, your support isn’t all that bad. Either skip it, or be sure to mention that someone paid your way as a special gift. Your vacation highlights are boring!

8. Exploits of grown children
Newsletters that devote half the text (or more) to exploits of grown children or grandchildren who have nothing at all to do with your ministry. Many of your supporters and friends may not care that “Fred” was recently appointed a marketing VP. That’s potentially boring!

9. Bad, blurry photos
Photos that are blurry or taken from too far away. If you look like a blob on the page, it’s a bad photo! Don’t you know you can crop, enlarge, or enhance photos to make them great? Also, black and white photos (unless superb) seem more and more outdated for missionary newsletters. Use color photos. Black and white is boring! Bad, blurry photos are boring!

10. Cheap paper
Spend a couple bucks more to buy a 24 lb., bright white; your pictures and words won’t bleed through to the other side. Flimsy newsletters are boring!

Let’s delight our supporters with high-quality newsletters. Let’s work at stamping out boredom!


jackandellasmum said...

Snarky, indeed! It's a good list, but I have to take issue with #7. If we're going to be dragging our kids all over the world, here and back again, into strangers homes and sitting in on (boring for them) church services, the least we can do is give them one day (or more) of pure fun and excitement. If that's Disney World, good for you! Does it have to go in your newsletter? Maybe not. But it isn't indicative of your support level, nor does it make you a bad missionary. Skip the newsletter and put pics and the story on your blog. Your supporters will (or should) appreciate that you're taking time out to give our kids some normal childhood fun amidst the drama their little lives usually entail.

Carol said...

Thanks for your feedback. My friend, who wrote the list, and I don't expect everyone to agree, but they are points worth considering.

Wendy said...

One thing that annoys me is missionaries who cannot be honest. Who don't tell their struggles and failures. Who always present themselves as poor and needy, yet only tell their success stories.

LassWord said...

I wish I could find a copy of "Bored Readers Don't Pray Much" -- a wonderful book I read before going overseas. What I remember from it: each prayer letter should have ONE good story, ONE good photo and ONE main prayer request. I say AMEN to that and to these pet peeves.

Jamie Jo said...

Amazon has your Bored Readers book. I just added that to my wish list. If you can remember the author's three main points years after the fact, it must have been well-written.

As years go by, we pick up new readers who never knew our older children. Mentioning them in prayer letters would be way off topic. I can, however, slip photos of them into my personal blog for those who are interested.


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