By Rob Hudson
2020 was a hard year for us all. It was an especially hard year for writing newsletters and knowing what to say when we got texts from our partners asking, “Hey, how are you guys holding up?” Our family of 4 (kids at 4 and 2) had just moved to Orlando as part of our organizations relocation, COVID hit a month later, my job as a recruitment coordinator was super stressful as about 30% of our staff had left due to the relocation, I was dealing with diagnosed anxiety and depression for the first time, and my wife and I were in counseling together . So what does one say?
I’ve written a lot of newsletters over the years and my thinking has really shifted as it comes to what the purpose of a newsletter is. Are you writing a newsletter that is trying to connect with your partners, or trying to justify why they are supporting you? For many years I thought it was the latter. I would share organizational highs, borrow stories from friends’ newsletters (with permission!), but over time it really became a drudgery and I would dread writing a newsletter because it felt so disingenuous.
As I reflect on my thought process and my beliefs about myself, I realize that I held this deep underlying belief: Ministry results are what make me worth supporting. I think most of us view our ministry like a small business start up and our newsletters like meetings with our investors or shareholders. We think our partners have this view that if we have a bad quarter then they’ll say, “Well, it doesn’t look like this is a good investment, time to pull the funding.”
I challenge you to ask yourself, “What makes me a good investment?” I can promise you, on my own I’m not a good investment. Sometimes I sleep in, sometimes I yell at my kids, sometimes I’m ticked off at my job. Yet, the Lord called me. He put me in ministry and He is why I stay. He isn’t surprised at any of my failings. He is a worthwhile investment.
The past year, my favorite passage has been Psalm 103:13-15, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”
This seems depressing at first, yet I find it so freeing. God knows we are human, our partners know we are human, but do you? Do you expect every month to bring incredible ministry victories, health within the heart, soul and body of your family? Of course not!
Ministry is hard. Ministry “wins” are usually the result of long obedience rather than a spontaneous conversation. Your core partners are with you and for you. The core of your ministry team cares about you. Your newsletters are their opportunity to keep in touch with their friends and fellow laborers, not their investment portfolio.
Embrace your humanity and that your ministry is like the flowers of the field, it blooms in some seasons and not others, but it must continually be rooted in the source of Christ.
Once my posture shifted to seeing my newsletters as a chance to connect with friends and true partners I began to feel freedom to also be in process with them. We are all in process and learning how to walk with Jesus and our families better. So why not share about that process? It gives your team a window into your soul and helps them pray with you. I love receiving the emails and texts of encouragement from our team after we share an update.
Lets get practical. Just this month we got back from a 3 month sabbatical. I stepped away from my “ministry” completely for 3 months. Was I embarrassed for my partners to know? No! I told them and asked them specifically how they could be praying for us in our need for rest and reconnection as a family. The response was overwhelming with encouragement and excitement for this gift we were being given.
I also recognize that there are times when it isn’t appropriate to share everything with your partners. Here are some filters I use to help me decide whether to share something or not:
- Is this an “in house issue”? Will I be divulging something about my organization that is supposed to remain or be dealt with “in house” and isn’t to be shared outside? I have a friend who shared in a newsletter how she was mistreated by senior leaders in her organization. While I appreciate her desire to be open, this also undermined her partners trust in the organization she serves with.
- Do I have permission to share what I am planning to share from whoever could be identified or is being talked about? This includes your kids, spouse, or those you are ministering to.
- Am I sharing in a spirit of vulnerability or am I just venting? Your supporters are (most likely) not your counselors. Pour your frustrations out to the Lord and counselors/mentors, not your partners.
- When sharing about a transition you are in (for example: processing what role you are going to do in your ministry) make sure your process comes with an affirmation of your calling. You don’t want your partners wondering if you are really invested in your ministry.
- Share about your process AND be sure to tell your partners when you land! Once the Lord answers a prayer or something you have written about, share that as well!
Remember, you are a normal human that experiences ups and downs just like your partners. Let their partnership with you be more than just financial. I hope the shift of your perspective in regards to newsletters will become a place for you to connect more deeply with your partners, bring you greater freedom and bring a greater relational investment between you and your team!