About the overstuffed Holiday Newsletter.

Is it December again? If the fact that it looks like a evergreen tree, an inflatable Santa, and a 14-foot fake snowflake got involved in a massive bloody fight involving LED lights on your neighbor’s lawn weren’t enough, there’s one sure thing that cues you into the fact that it’s the “hap-happiest season of all.”

Missionaries will send you an overstuffed Christmas newsletter.

Normally I restrict the use of “overstuffed” to furniture and/or me on said furniture right after a Thanksgiving meal, but there’s no more accurate term for what happens this time of year in your mailbox.

We mean well, we really do. But there’s lots of shiny stuff to try and fit into that letter. We’ve got pictures from the winter outreach, stories from fall break, upcoming winter conferences, at least 4 prayer requests, and we haven’t sent a letter in 3 months, so we’ve got to cover all of the stuff that happened since the summer.

Oh, and we also had a baby. It’s a boy.

I’m not sure exactly what happens to the time between August 15th and November 27th, but if your name is Ben Meredith, it’s statistically improbable that you sent out any correspondence regarding ministry events even once between those dates in 8 years of ministry. There was that one time in ’05, but you were all giddy from diamond ring shopping.

So, in an effort to make up for lost time, we tend to cram all of the semester into one, rambling, poorly punctuated 13 page newsletter and then wonder why nobody reads it.

“You didn’t hear about Jimmy accepting Christ? It was on page 7, paragraph 5, line 10 in our holiday newsletter, right below the photo of Ben’s small group ultimate frisbee tournament!”

How do we avoid overstuffing, fellow missionaries? Simple: follow this guide.

Pinky-finger Margins.
There’s a real temptation in this newsletter to completely eliminate margins, pushing your word-processing software to it’s natural limits. But that would be overstuffing. A simple rule of thumb is to use your pinky finger to gauge all margin widths. This gives a decided upper hand (I am killing these hand-y plays-on-word) to people with small appendages. It also should be noted that you are free to use any dependent child’s pinky finger for this exercise, giving parents a hands down advantage greater than the child tax credit.

One Piece of Paper.
This is as simple as it sounds. You are only allowed to use one sheet of paper for this newsletter. You’ll be tempted to pull a “first century” and put the letter on a scroll, which is technically one sheet of paper, but let’s cap it off at a legal size sheet (8.5×14… inches.). And while you might try and do something like Dwight Schrute recently did on an episode of The Office when he made half-ply toilet paper, let’s be reasonable (for reference–any time you try and pull the same stunt as Dwight Schrute, you are automatically being unreasonable). One unaltered piece of legal sized paper. Feel free to print on both sides.

Keep the Pictures Reasonably Sized.
The only other real temptation (excluding font-related issues, which we will get to next) with this letter will be to crop and resize pictures to make room for more great stories. Use the crop/resize tool with caution. I’d give you a percentage of the page size, but then you’d get all legalistic about it like you did with the pinky thing. Just remember that if there’s a picture where you can’t distinguish between the Bible study girls and the palm trees they are standing in front of, it’s not doing anybody any good.

Fonts are for Reading.
I know, you’ve been looking forward to including a (your ministry) branded magnifying glass for people to use when they read your letter, but allow me to burst that particular bubble. You need to give people with vision good enough to pass a driver’s test a fighting change at reading your newsletter without any outside assistance. This also directly relates to the font spacing, as well. If letters from one line are touching letters from the adjacent lines, you’ve got a fever that even a “more cowbell” prescription won’t cure.

There now, we’ve addressed a few of the issues related to your Christmas newsletter. But I’m sure I missed some guidelines. Chime in in the comments.

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