Monday Musings: Newsletters No One Reads

Our church, like many churches, has a monthly newsletter.  There’s a calendar of events that is widely used by the congregation, as well as articles from the United Methodist Women, fun pages for the kids, blurbs about upcoming happenings in the life of the church, and a cover page article from yours truly. 

The written word is powerful.  From the advent of written language to the Gutenberg press to Google and beyond, the written word has been a tremendous force in preserving and passing information and ideas through generations.  Our ability to transmit and broadcast the written word has never been greater.  We can blog and make our thoughts available to anyone with internet access.  We can write and self-publish books.  Our churches, they still like newsletters. 

How many newsletters do you receive in a month?  What purpose does the newsletter serve?  Do you actually read it? 

Be honest.  How many of those newsletters do you actually read, cover-to-cover? 

Probably about as many as I do.  I sometimes skim the Lion’s Club newsletter.  I browse the Interpreter and the Conference newsletter (The Current) to see if there’s anything in there I really want to read.  I get newsletters from a couple of churches where I used to be a member, probably because they need to send out so many copies in order to get the bulk postage rate. I undoubtedly receive several newsletters I can’t even remember right now. 

Even though I don’t read all of them, the newsletter does give me a sense of belonging.  Just receiving it serves as a reminder that I belong to the group – I’m part of the family.  It’s as if sending me a newsletter is the organization’s way of saying, “we remembered you because you’re important to us.” 

And yet, there’s a cranky, skeptical part of me that has difficulty with spending so much time, effort, and energy on a publication that no one really reads.  It’s tempting to use the same cover article over and over.  I’ve been known to say to myself, “maybe I’ll write three articles and put them on a three month rotation for a whole year, and see if anyone notices.”  If I were to print the “Summer’s here, school’s out, but the church is just starting to heat up!” article in November’s newsletter, would anyone say anything?  

In September, I buried this item in our newsletter.  It wasn’t my best work, but it was just an experiment to see who would respond:

Volunteers are needed to help us clean out the Media Room.  We are installing a complicated new security system that will aid in the early detection of alien invasions, and the space now known as the Media Room will be where we store the servers, monitors, and other equipment.  The confirmation room will be used to store non-conventional weapons.  These items are available at the Home Center.  Agatha [name redacted] has the list of items we need to stockpile, but you must ask her secretly.  Furthermore, if you actually read this bit of nonsense, please let us know in the office but don’t tell anyone else about it—let them find it for themselves.

 

Nothing.  One lady, the one named in the article, noticed and she howled with laughter.  So for October I added this little gem: 

Donations Needed
It has come to our attention that the baby grand piano in the sanctuary has aged a bit and has become an adolescent grand piano. Chances are good that upon reaching adolescence the piano may begin to act in rebellious ways such as sneaking out at night, skipping church, refusing to do its chores, and backtalking adults. It may even begin playing songs the musicians don’t like. Its music is likely to be loud and obnoxious.
The didjeridoo is a traditional Australian musical instrument usually made from a large eucalyptus branch that has been hollowed out by termites. A mouthpiece made from beeswax is attached to one end. Agatha [name redacted] at the Home Center has a pattern for a didjeridoo made from PVC pipe and Gulf Wax. We are currently looking for volunteers to purchase the PVC and the wax, as well as artists to decorate the didjeridoos, and musicians willing to play them. We in the office believe that nine or ten worship services with exclusively didjeridoo music will teach the rebellious adolescent grand piano a lesson and whip it into shape.

 So far, I have received two notices that it has been read.  

But here’s the interesting thing:  I’ve decided that these humor articles are a fun exercise in creative writing.  What started as a social experiment to see if anyone is paying attention to the newsletter has become a fun personal challenge to write for the sheer joy of writing.  

Goofiness is my business, and business is booming! 

 

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Author: pastorwillie

Husband to a beautiful wife, father to four awesome children, Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, pastor of a great church in rural southern Illinois, guitarist, songwriter, ukulelist, blogger.

2 thoughts on “Monday Musings: Newsletters No One Reads”

  1. I did the same kinda thing in a bulletin my 2nd year out of seminary, even offered a cash reward to all who read it and said they did. I think one person commented, laughed and refused the money. That’s it.

    Some have recently encountered some USPS issues that are leading to a review of the Newsletter and its purpose.

    Interesting times we live in for sure.

  2. I remember, back in the day, that Christianity Today used to insert one spoof classified advert each month. To show it was spoof, it was inserted under the name Lawing. I recall one, which roughly went, “Miss Philbertson, we are happy to review your severance pay and pension if you could explain your filing system to us. Deacon Lawing.”

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