Tiny church administration: No newsletter, no web site

How did the church newsletter become an essential feature of church communications? If you look to nineteenth century Universalist newspapers, you know they handed many functions of the church newsletter, including inspiring thoughts, service notices, denominational affairs and family crises.

There’s a story about the proliferation of local church newsletters, I’m sure, but I suspect somewhere along the way a combination of improved self-printing options (like spirit duplicators) made the accoutrement of larger churches (who used job printers) available to the smaller and poorer ones. And the pull to keep up with the Joneses is strong.

But if it seems a newsletter (and by extension, web site) are necessary to the good working of the church, then how is it to be done? Some churches surely don’t have them, and I suspect even more struggle with them as a dysfunctional artifact of better days.

I’m not thinking about content, style or workflow right now, but authority and administration.

Church have newsletters, middle and most general judicatories (for Unitarian Universalists, the districts and Association) and organizations have them; also, as I mentioned there was once a thriving business in independent newspapers (of these, in our fellowship, I believe the Universalist Herald is the sole print survivor.) With a couple of exceptions, the independent newspapers were edited by ministers.

Which made me think: there isn’t anything essentially congregational about the newsletter. Rather, like the church school (also once independent; vestiges of that survive in odd places) it got folded in and now seems inalienable.

When I was in my first, tiny pastorate we had no newsletter. That was fine for the members — they all knew what was going on; most were related anyway — but terrible for making the church available for outsiders. So I created a semi-official newsletter, subtitled “news and comment from the desk of Scott Wells”, showing that I was responsible for it. (It might have helped that the church was for decades essentially the home of the Universalist Herald.)

I wrote it, edited it and made my own copies. I paid for it (hardly much of a cost) and distributed it. In coming days, I’ll show how that can be done with a minimum of effort. Just a thought.

Comments welcome, from persons of any church or none.

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