June 28, 2016

Summer Sprucing

Keeping mailing list current is an important task for churches.Editor’s note: Years ago, I worked for the Girl Scouts. Each summer one day was dedicated to cleaning the old mansion that housed our offices. Mornings were spent clearing common and storage areas, afternoons, individual offices. For today’s summer rerun, we’re sharing Richelle Thompson’s July 14, 2014 post about a different type of cleaning…

Spring cleaning is a pipe dream for most congregations. It’s too busy, with Easter and end-of-the-year celebrations.

Summers tend to be a little slower and thus a better time for “spring cleaning.” Here’s one place that almost always needs the dust knocked off: the mailing lists. All too often, the mailing lists are a one-way destination; once you’re on the list, you never get off. You may still be receiving the newsletter from the church you visited with a high school chum four decades ago. Like official church rosters, mailing lists are more helpful when they’re (mostly) accurate.

Most congregations have a variety of mailing lists: leadership, acolytes, commission members. There are also the list of people who receive the annual stewardship appeal and those who receive the newsletter and parish Christmas card.

It makes sense to cull through the lists on an annual basis. This isn’t about saving stamps, although you might save a few shekels. It’s really about making sure the messages reach the intended audiences. People move, change positions, switch churches. They divorce. And die.

I’ve received more than one call from a grieving widow, asking to please take her spouse’s name off the mailing list. It’s too painful to receive mail for her beloved deceased.

Determine which mailings use which list. That is, the biggest list should probably receive the church newsletter. There’s usually no harm, no foul in sharing the ministry and announcements with a broad audience. Stewardship information should be shared widely too, but probably not to the exact same list. There may be people who give year after year who haven’t graced the pews for a decade. There may be others who donated for a specific reason (a memorial, for instance) who probably wouldn’t appreciate an annual ask. 

Slicing and dicing mailing lists isn’t an exact science. And when in doubt, keep the person on the list. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness for sending an unwanted letter than to apologize for leaving someone out. 

Once you’ve shaken the dust from the snail mail lists, relax for a bit. And then it’s on to clearing the cobwebs from the email lists. And if you're really on a roll, I have a basements of boxes!

Happy summer sprucing. 

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