Why should you even care about emails?
“They don’t even read these!” I’ve thought AND said that out loud a time or two before or after I have written and sent a mass email to a group of people.
For your context, this might be your group of volunteers, some key ministry leaders, a kids’ ministry parent newsletter, a large staff, or even the entire congregation. It can be discouraging to think that some of the most important information you need to communicate on a large scale may never rest upon the heart of your people – and instead in the “Deleted Items” folder.
However, mass communication is a part of the Church’s present and it’s going to be a part of its future. So, how do we maximize our ability to communicate, cast vision, and give action steps to our audience?
Here are the five S’s to keep in mind when writing a ministry email
It goes without saying, but the longer the email, the more likely it is that your reader will ignore or delete it. As ministry leaders, I think we rarely use empathy in these situations and instead project unrealistic expectations on our audience.
When you get done with your email, look at it objectively and ask yourself, “Does this look like an email I’ve deleted in the past week?”
If it’s a yes or “I’m not sure,” we should be humble enough to shorten it. Oftentimes I find myself becoming long-winded because I feel pressure to publish everything I am internally processing as a leader. I want to be taken seriously; I want to come across like I have good leadership in my role.
At the end of the day, the recipient is just looking for the cookies on the bottom shelf instead of waiting for you to bake and put icing on yours.
Ain’t nobody got time for bad font choices, your lack of paragraph indentions, and your personal allergy to good punctuation!
Grab a colleague to proofread your emails for you. If the edits that need to be made are content driven and need to be narrowed down, send the email to a team member ahead of time for feedback.
Utilizing style tools is another important thing to consider:
- Embolden important pieces of information
- Hyperlink things you want people to click on
- Use different font sizes for headers and paragraphs
- Use bulleted lists (like this one) to note any unrelated items
I rarely send an email that doesn’t start with a celebration of what God is doing in our ministry. Stories hook people who otherwise may just look for information, but they also hook people who might delete in three seconds.
As a student pastor, it’s easy for me to slip into a habit of telling parents what to do, what to sign up for, what to pay attention to, etc. Now, I begin with, “Here’s what God is doing in the lives of our students!”
Every monthly newsletter contains that at the very beginning of the email. It doesn’t need to be long, but it needs to be compelling. A powerful story turns an email into a vision-cast for your people.
Get into a rhythm of when you send out the correspondence. If you’re a campus pastor and are communicating regularly with your congregation, send emails out at the same time every week or month.
If emails are only sent out reactively (“Oh, I need to remind them of this!) or abruptly (“The deadline for this is tomorrow!), then the emails become more frequent but they lack rhythm and routine.
Another helpful tool is to pay attention to the metrics, engagement, or read rate of each email. If you find a certain day of the week or certain time of the day has higher engagement- be sure to leverage that and keep it consistent.
I admit…this one might feel out of left field and won’t be very pragmatic like the last four. However, it is the most important. We need to be sacrificial leaders who serve the people we lead.
Before beginning a new email campaign, I ask myself:
Am I genuinely writing this to serve my people and what God wants for their life…or just to make a point?
If you lack the self-awareness to be sure, bring someone else into the process: a ministry colleague, mentor, pastoral supervisor, etc. The hardest things to sense in an email are tone, heart, and disposition. It needs to be clear that you are here to serve them.
At the end of each email I send to families with students, I always make a point to say that it is an honor to serve as the pastor of these students. I then reiterate if there is anything I can do to SERVE and SUPPORT their family or student, please let me know.
The key reason for this is that one of our core values as a student ministry is: When families win, the Church wins.
Even if certain families don’t sign their student up for a single event, trip, or small group, if they know that I am unquestionably FOR them and I am available to partner with and equip them to be the spiritual leaders in the home, then that’s a win for everybody!
If I’m landing the plane on the runway of “Sign up!” or “Time is almost up!” or “Don’t forget!”, then I run the risk of just getting people to do what I want. Now, sometimes you do need to use mass communication to give a clear action step or challenge your people to take initiative and do something. However, you need to sow plenty of relational equity so that your people know that you desire to serve them. Then, when “the ask” comes, it will probably bear more fruit.
So now what?
I don’t know how long the mass email will be with us, but for now, it remains a primary way to communicate vision, information, and action steps to your people. It can be frustrating to know deep down that the majority may not read it.
It’s humbling. However, as Pastor Craig Groeschel would say, “Remove the phrase ‘Our people won’t…” from your vocabulary and replace it with ‘We haven’t led them to….”
If your email leads to deeper service, humility, and self-awareness, that’s an email worth sending.