Baptist papers can help churches save time & money in mailouts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)--Despite rising costs of postage, paper and personnel, churches can save money and time by taking advantage of the church newsletter service offered by many state Baptist newspapers.

"We contend that any church sending a weekly mailout will save enough money to pay for all of the subscriptions to the state paper -- plus whatever service charges there may be for the local church edition," stated Bob Terry, executive secretary of the Association of State Baptist Papers.

Several state Baptist newspapers offer the service, which allows a church to publish its own "camera-ready" newsletter in place of one of the newspaper's pages -- often the front or back.

"Most people are already familiar with daily newspapers doing various editions for subscribers in certain geographical areas," observed Terry, who is editor of The Alabama Baptist. "We're doing a special edition of the state Baptist newspaper, and we're doing it for your church."

The circulation of the local church editions depends on the size of the church's mailing list -- sometimes as few as 30 or as many as several hundred.

William H. Perkins Jr., editor of the Mississippi Baptist Record, said churches will receive maximum publicity for less money from a local church edition.

"It's almost a 'slam-dunk' that a local church can get their information into every household that attends their church," Perkins said. "It will cost less money than if a church mails a newsletter on its own."

Perkins said his newspaper has developed a worksheet to help Mississippi Baptist churches assess cost savings.

"We hand them out to churches who are interested in these special pages and ask them to sit down with the person in the church who does their bulletin," Perkins said. "The worksheet has two columns where you can compare side-by-side costs. It's almost always less expensive to go with a local church edition."

Paul Hunter, pastor of 2,100-member Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, Hueytown, Ala., called the local church edition "an answer to prayer."

Printing and mailing costs had increased so much that the frequency of the church newsletter was reduced from weekly to twice-monthly.

Not satisfied with the scaled-back publicity, Hunter turned for advice to The Alabama Baptist, where he discovered he could send a weekly local church edition -- and still save money. Hunter has led the Alabama congregation 12 years.

Baptist families can benefit spiritually from the partnership between a local church and the state Baptist newspaper, Perkins stated.

"It's a good combination to have the local church news on the front or back page and news about Southern Baptists on the other pages," Perkins said. "Any reader of a state Baptist newspaper gains a better understanding of how to pray for what Baptists are doing statewide and worldwide."

Wayne Crumpton, pastor of 2,500-member First Baptist Church, Alabaster, Ala., said he believes his members are better informed about Southern Baptist missions and ministries around the world after moving the church’s newsletter to the state paper last year.

"Our church people are more aware now," said Crumpton, who has led the church 19 years and now is in the midst of a building program of $7-plus million and starting a new mission on a 22-acre site several miles away. "Our people need to know what's going on, and reading the paper helps them do that."

The local church edition may create a "time savings" for church personnel, Terry said.

"Every church staff I know of has tasks it cannot get done because they're so busy just keeping the office functioning -- getting the necessary tasks done from week to week, such as the weekly mailout," Terry said.

In most cases, the preparation of a "camera-ready" page to be printed in a local church edition takes only about one-third the time of an ordinary church mailing, Terry estimated.

"Often we can give back to the secretarial staff two-thirds of the time they're now spending on mailing," Terry said. "That time then becomes available for other projects."

An additional and perhaps unexpected benefit is the increased readership of the church newsletter.

"Readership studies indicate there is a higher readership of local church material when it is published in a local church edition of a state Baptist newspaper," Terry said. "For one thing, you don't have two competing pieces from the church to read -- the state paper and the local church mailout. You only have one item."

Another factor that may increase readership is that a local church edition frequently looks more professional and has a longer "shelf life," Terry suggested.

"It is kept around longer and read more," he said. "It may be kept on the coffee table for several days, but studies show most church mailouts are not."

Terry predicts as production, printing and postage costs continue to increase, the popularity of the local church edition will rise.

"Baptists have to be very stewardship-minded," Terry said. "We have to ask ourselves the value of having a separately-mailed communications piece from every part of Baptist life -- the Southern Baptist Convention, the state convention, the association and the local church.

"The state Baptist paper can combine all four areas with associational, statewide, national and local church news in one publication."

Johnie Sentell, associate editor of The Alabama Baptist, contributed to this article.

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