How to Write Missionary Letters
Practical tips to make your words come ALIVE!
Media Associates International, 9th ed., 2007, 60 pp.,
ISBN 0-9623741-1-3 www.littworld.org
This helpful little guide is aimed toward those who work across cultures a long way from home.
"Your letters to friends and family back home have a profound effect on the cause of world evangelization." A good letter is the catalyst for prayer support and for enlarging the vision of others for what God is doing in the world." (Prologue)
If your letter is unappealing and the first paragraph is dull, it will be put in the drawer to be read leader. Later, when it is pulled out with other such letters, it will be old and subsequently discarded. The subconscious impression is that missionary work is dull and unimpressive. Therefore you must attract and keep the reader's attention. You letter must look interesting and be interesting. (8-9)
"Write letters that are friendly, informative, honest and specific. Paint word pictures…. Give the reader something concrete to pray for in your behalf." Add a personal handwritten note. Write with a particular read in mind. Write to that person. (9-10)
"1. What will interest the reader I have in mind this month?
2. What does he or she need to know to gain a penetrating view of my work?
3. How can I challenge him or her to pray intelligently and consistently for the work over the next few months? " (11)
"The first sentence in your letter is the most important. Strong beginning and memorable endings are two essential principles for good prayer letters." (13)
"Introduce the main idea at once. Pose a question. Begin with a story. Begin wtih a startling statement. Begin with a summary statement. Begin with a reference to a reader. (15-16)
Focus on one idea or incident or one dominant idea and develop it. Maintain unity through the subject or through an incident or through a theme. (17-18)
Use variety among letters. (21) Be dramatic. Develop a keen sense of sight, sense, sound, taste and touch when you write. (23) Avoid sermons. (24) Be clear. Don't use pious phraseology. Aim for simple, uncluttered sentences. (25) Short paragraphs look more interesting and are easier to read. (26)
Assume your letters are the only contact the reader has with missions. Be whole and honest. Keep them in touch with family but don't let family dominate the letters. "Be generous with stories about the people among whom you work." (27)
Be funny. Don't belittle. It is safest to make yourself the butt of your jokes. (28)
"Don't paint glowing portraits of a work that doesn't really glow." (29)
"Don't crowd your letter. Use generous margins, a minimum of 1 inch, on all four sides. One-page letters are much more likely to be read. (31)
Add photographs. Use sharp dramatic shots of someone doing something. (33-34)
People don't read long emails. Make it one screen.
Hide the names and email addresses using the bcc field.
Write to both husband and wife.
Use bullet points sometimes.
Send at regular times, but not daily!
Occasionally give recipients an opportunity to unsubscribe.
Proof read your emails. They may be forwarded.
Compress photos to a reasonable size.
Save copies in a file as documentation of your ministry. (54-55)
Many people value paper over email. Use a balance of both.
Resources for websites and blogs:
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