Thriving in Cross-Cultural Ministry – Writing Newsletters

By David Harakal

Installment 13: Writing Newsletters

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Reminder: Your fellowship, sending organization, or team may not align with my advice. Trust your leaders as you respectfully share what you learn.

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Newsletters are an important touch point with your support network. They need to be short, regular, and content rich. Your supporters want to know about your life, especially if you live in a culture that differs from your supporters, how you are doing personally, and how their investment in you is being stewarded.

A paraphrase of Pascal’s quote is, “If I had more time, it would have been shorter.” You goal should be a newsletter that can be read in just a few minutes but shares all you need to share. Your supporters do not need to know everything you have done.


A pain-free way to write a newsletter requires some initial time investment.

  1. Create a framework
  2. Decide where to make notes between updates (e.g., Google doc or your phone)
  3. Create a place to store photos as you take them.


  • Make your newsletter/update: short, regular, and content rich. Respect your readers’ busy lives.
  • Prepare in advance
    • Take notes. Use your phone or an on-line document to make notes when you think of things to include in a newsletter
    • Send photos to a folder as soon as you take them. Name them starting with (e.g., 24.07 for July 2024) to filter quickly. Keep photos to a few hundred thousand bytes.
  • Use active voice:
    • Change: “It has been communicated that . . .” to : “I was told . . .”, “I read that . . .”
    • Change “The decision was made to . . .” to: “I decided to . . .”, “My leaders decided. . .”, “My organization changed its policy to . . .”
  • Avoid spiritual-sounding, indirect phrases:
    • Change “I am desirous to . . .” to “I want . . .”, “I am eager to . . .”, “Please pray that I can . . .”
    • Rather than “God showed up and . . .,” (implying he was not there before?), use simply “God healed,” “the Holy Spirit spoke,” et cetera.
  • Consider a grammar checking tool (e.g., Grammarly).
  • Check your update, let it sit, review it, let someone else check it, then send it. You are not vying for a Pulitzer Prize so do not agonize over your writing. Write it, check it, review it, and send it. Your reader will forgive you a few errors, especially in exchange for brevity and active voice.
  • Ensure readability and picture sizing for phone and computer
  • Communicate any upcoming changes. Do not surprise supporters.
  • Show, don’t tell. E.g., Replace” “I’m really busy”, “this past month I’ve done . . .).
  • Be careful not to create the impression that you are on an extended vacation, nor that you are in desperate poverty.
  • Share a photo or two of daily life!
  • Write like you are talking to someone|, not trying to impress your teacher.
  • Do not surprise your supporters. If you are struggling or considering a change, invite their prayers.
  • Remember to obscure faces, be careful with backgrounds, and do not share names.
  • Share info about national or cultural events (e.g., royal wedding) in pictures.


  • Title – You need a theme with a catchy title to capture your reader’s attention.
  • Body of your newsletter – brief but well written.
    • Your opening needs to reflect give more information about your title?
    • Share updates with bullet points. Be concise and make it easier for your reader to consume.
  • Pictures – “A picture is worth a thousand words.” (Arthur Brisbane) Let your pictures tell your stories with just a short caption.
  • Include “day-in-the-life” scenes.
  • Keep these small to avoid rejection by e-mail networks.
  • Videos less than a minute are great via a download site.
  • Conclusion / call to action – probably expressed in prayers.
    • Start with the prayers that have been answered. People want to know how God is working.
    • Share prayer requests, new or continuing, but only a few.
    • Ask your readers to share their prayer requests with you. Pray as soon as you read any requests and respond.
  • Need financial support? Include in prayer points if not urgent. If your need is urgent, consider following up with a separate request.


If you are not a natural writer, newsletters can be intimidating or painful. Pray for discernment regarding what and how to share. Your readers want to know that you are okay, have some insights into your world, and have an idea what is happening in the work you went to do. Most poor writers say too much. Brevity will overcome a multitude of writing snafus.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

– James 1:5

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

– Stephen King

For further reading: Enjoying Newsletters: How to Write Christian Communication

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This article is part of a series. For prior articles, resources, and the author’s biography, visit

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Reliant or any other entity with which he is affiliated.

This article is submitted by Reliant. Reliant is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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