Keeping your students, the parents and the church up to date about what’s happening in your youth ministry is not an easy task. But it’s an important one. So here’s some solid advice on creating youth ministry newsletters that people will actually read.
Make it specific
Usually, it’s not a good idea to inform everyone with the same newsletter. The students in your youth ministry have different needs than their parents as far as info about events is concerned. That means you’ll have to define a target group: decide for whom you’ll be writing. In my former church, we had one weekly newsletter (in the form of an email) that went to all the youth, quarterly newsletters for our prayer support team and twice a year we made a newsletter for the entire church.
Make it attractive
Not all of us are super-duper handy when it comes to layout. Still, if you want your newsletter to be read, it’ll have to be more than a copied black-and-white letter stuffed with only text. It has to look good, invite people to read it. That means pictures, headlines, short articles, lots of white space (so it doesn’t look too intimidating) and use tables or lists whenever possible.
While I’ve always used fairly simple software to make nice newsletters (I hate to admit it what with being a Mac-fan and all, but MS Publisher was actually quite decent for this…), there are also specialized programs and even specialized companies that offer standardized youth ministry newsletters…at a cost, mind you. Or you could come up with your own very creative idea, like these guys did with their Twitter-style newsletter.
Make it recognizable
The weekly email we sent out to our students had a basic format. That way, students recognized it and knew what to expect. The same thing went for our other newsletters. While it is great to be surprising and innovative every now and then, recognition and an identity for your youth ministry is crucial to get support in your church.
Make it informative
I have seen a youth ministry newsletter once that had a big event announced. Only they forgot to mention the date. Seriously, that’s not gonna work. Use the 5 W’s to check if you’ve mentioned all the facts: what, who, when, where and why. What’s happening, who is invited, when and where does it take place and why should people come. As a bonus: mention the how, how people should register.
In the newsletter for parents, you could also try to include some general relevant info for them, like links to articles about parenting, teens, youth culture, etc. If you don’t want to come up with this stuff yourselves, there are ready bought parents newsletters like this available where you can simply add your own content.
Make it confidential
We had a prayer support group we sent a quarterly youth ministry newsletter to. This newsletter contained specific prayer requests. Even though we never mentioned any names, we asked the people in this group to keep this newsletter confidential. Also, in our newsletter to parents, we never shared things that teens or students might have considered confidential (or embarrassing for that matter, like stupid pictures). Blabbing to their parents is a sure way of losing their trust, so it’s important to maintain confidentiality in youth ministry.
Make it fun
The newsletter for students shouldn’t just be informative, it should also be fun. Try to include some pictures from the last event, share a funny story, run a contest, come up with a running joke or anything else that will make them want to read it. It should be something they look forward to, not something they have to be forced to read.
Make it personal
Don’t let your newsletters be so general and standardized that they could be mistaken for those of any other church. Personal stories attract more attention that any general info you’re trying to get across. So make it personal where ever you can! Include your own pictures, ask students for permission to include their personal stories or experiences. Better yet, ask them to write something about the weekend retreat for the newsletter! They may not stand in line to do this, but I’ve often managed to find a few volunteers willing to do this.
Make it regular
I just want to say one thing here: deliver what you promise and keep your deadline. A monthly newsletter should appear monthly, on time.
Make it affordable
Regular newsletters don’t have to take a big chunk out of your budget. As a matter of fact, ours were practically free. We emailed students their newsletter every week and we asked the parents and prayer supporters for their email addresses as well. Twice a year we made a newsletter for the entire church and those we the only ones we actually printed. Worked like a charm!
What are your experiences with youth ministry newsletters? Any thoughts or advice you’d like to add?