by Rev. Lisa Ahlness, Assistant to the Bishop, Stewardship
True confessions time: I love church newsletters. (Do you read yours?) As I write, it is the beginning of the month, when many of the newsletters of the congregations of the WND Synod flood our post office box or our email.
Now, I get a lot of both mail and email, and it would be easy to dump or delete these – but I would never do that, because – have I mentioned? – I love church newsletters! We ALWAYS read them, and it is exciting, and refreshing, and inspiring. Let me give you a glimpse of some recent ones so you can see why:
October is celebrated as Pastor Appreciation Month, and congregations dream up all sorts of nifty ways to thank and honor their pastoral leaders. One newsletter that arrived in the email opened with the entire first page being a giant thank you note to the pastor, thanking him for all kinds of ways he leads them and his family for sharing him as they all learn and grow in faith. It closed with something none of us had ever seen, a list of things for which they ask his forgiveness. That love note to their pastor was one of the most terrific and encouraging things I’ve ever seen in a newsletter.
There are lots of “thank yous” in newsletters, and that is right and salutary! Our churches couldn’t function without the time and talents that so many share. It’s what God’s Work, Our Hands is all about – not a special occasion, but the way we live and serve.
Communication is the other thing newsletters are all about! Often there are council minutes and treasurer’s reports, so we can keep up with the business of the church. There are blips to catch your attention about upcoming events, which Bible studies are meeting when and where, Sunday School updates, and reports on recent happenings. And there is so much more! Again, just for examples:
- One pastor spends time learning the stories of both parishioners and folks new to the area who visit, and then shares (with their permission, of course) these stories with the wider reading audience. He is an insightful writer, and it is a powerful and intimate way of getting to know one’s neighbors.
- One congregation has begun a twice a year opportunity to “Ask the Council” questions as they gather after worship. Actually talking with one another turns out to be a terrific way to communicate as well!
- One congregation, like others, is sponsoring a course of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. This one took the time and opportunity to spell out the topics and benefits of the 9 sessions. I was ready to sign up right away!
- Some wrote of their young people’s experience at the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Detroit. Their reflections and faith stories were inspiring!
- God’s Work, Our Hands projects and pictures galore! The creativity and willingness to dig in was evident everywhere!
- Some pastors take the opportunity to teach in their pastor’s letters or other articles. Why do we do confirmation? What is tithing, anyway? Why do we do communion this way? “What does this mean for us”, in other words – just like Martin Luther himself used to do!
- One congregation put in a letter from a member who is now serving as a TEEM leader (an alternative route to ordination) in another parish. He tells them of learning-full moments along the way and asks challenging questions, too. It’s an interesting glimpse into life in another parish.
There is so much more! Compassion and caring in prayer concerns and benefits for folks, rummage sales and chili contests, pancake dinners and food pantry drives and retreats at the Bible camp –all kinds of things going on. It all puts a smile on my face and makes me want to jump up and check my calendar and see what I could be a part of, as soon as possible!
I appreciate the work you all do to bring others your newsletters. Keep up the good work! And if WND Synod is not on your mailing or emailing list, please add us! PO Box 370, Bismarck, ND 58502 or email@example.com. We love to know what’s going on with you.
For you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. Phil 1:5