You’ve just had a once in a lifetime experience. You will never be the same, and you want others to know about it. You want them to feel what you felt, to see what you saw, and to be moved just as deeply as you were. But how?
Why a newsletter?
Sharing your stories and experiences is a powerful thing. It helps us to see and to process what God has done, and it shows others what is taking place in cities and countries that they may have never visited. A newsletter is a testimony, and testimonies are effective tools in spreading the Kingdom. (REV. 12:11)
If you have ever had to write a newsletter, you know the struggle of trying to take a life changing experience and write it down on paper. There have been times when I’ve become so overwhelmed by this task that I have felt completely paralyzed. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few things in my times of writing newsletters, and for any of you stuck in that same hard spot, I would like to help you out! Here are three easy tips on creating a good newsletter.
Keep it Simple.
Tell one story, and tell it well. You may want to share an in-depth history of a nation’s culture and religious beliefs, or how a team member accidentally ordered and ate that strange part of an animal. Instead, maybe you really should share about that one person you met whose life was changed when God used you to show them His love. Whatever the story is, tell it with passion and excitement. If you don’t sound excited about what God did, your readers won’t be either.
Don’t fill up your story with unnecessary details that will distract from what the Lord was doing. You may think that a detailed description of your day is important, but others will not. They are not interested in what you ate for breakfast, or how you stubbed your toe for the seventh time that day. They want to know how your trip impacted lives.
Keep it short. How could you possibly condense days, or even weeks, of adventure down to one page? I am often overseas for 4 to 6 weeks at a time, living in places and submerged in cultures that most people I know have never experienced, and likely never will. I want them to feel like they were there with me. How can I make them see how amazing that time was in so few words? The answer: Pictures!
Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!
The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is true! A glance at one photograph can help readers see, feel, and connect with your experience far more than pages of black and white words ever could. As wonderful as your text may be, it will never stir the same emotion in someone as a picture of a face staring back at them, surrounded by glimpses of their world peeking through the edges of a photograph. People read words, but they connect with pictures, and connections make us remember.
Pictures are also pleasing to the eye, which makes people willing to stop what they are doing and take the time to read a newsletter. I once received a newsletter from a missionary I knew personally. It was a 4 page, typed letter without a single picture! Do you know what I did with it? I put it down and walked away, telling myself I would read it later. But guess what happened; I never read it. To this day, I have no idea what happened on that trip because nothing in me wanted to stop and read a 4 page dissertation about it. Pictures capture the eye and break up text so that it doesn’t look overwhelming.
Edit: Don’t Trust Your Eyes.
You’ve now worked long and hard on your letter. You have the perfect story to share, you cut out the unnecessary details, you’ve grabbed and held the attention of your readers with good, clear pictures that provoke emotion and connection. Now you are ready to print, stamp, and send, right?
Never, never, never send out a newsletter until you have had it edited and proof read by other people. Why? Well, you have spent long hours on this project, and because of that, your eye is no longer trustworthy when it comes to mistakes. Time and time again I have proofed my own work and seen no mistakes, only to discover after sending it out that I have missed obvious grammatical issues and spelling errors. How did that happen? Simple. My mind knew what I wanted to say, and therefore skipped over the mistakes. My mind knew I wanted to say “car,” so it did not notice that I actually typed, “cat.” It didn’t register that I used the same descriptive word four times in one paragraph. The more familiar you are with the story, the less likely you are to notice mistakes.
No matter how good or bad you are at the English language, do not trust your own eyes when it comes to editing your newsletter. Ask for help, and not just from your BFF who loves everything you do. Ask people who are good at grammar and spelling, who will tell you if your story doesn’t make any sense or if it sounds “blah.” Wouldn’t you rather have them tell you than to send it out to everyone you know and lose its impact because of simple mistakes? Don’t be afraid of critique. (PRO. 11:14)
Newsletters should never be boring. They are a powerful tool to share God’s power and to bring Him glory!
Kelly Taylor is part of our YWAM Louisville family and is currently staffing the Fall School Of Ministry Development. Kelly reflects God’s heart in her creativity and her passion for deep relationships and helping others find their true value.