Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Do People Only Read Our Email Updates If They Think We're Having Marriage Problems?

61.7%

That's the percentage of people on our mailing list who opened our email prayer update this month.

In January, we started using MailChimp for our email newsletters.  One of the benefits is that we can compare the overall "open rates" of our newsletters over time.

Though this is interesting information for us, it was actually kind of discouraging at first.  An average of 60% of our 500 newsletter recipients (who all signed up voluntarily) open our emails.  And that's how many open it....we don't know the actual percentage of how many actually read it.  I'm guessing that's a lot lower.

This information has helped us to write better letters.  How short can we make it and still say what we need to say?  That's our goal.  We figure we have approximately 30 seconds of reading time to get our point across before people move onto the next email.

It's also made us better at our subject lines.  We've learned that if the subject line is interesting, people are more likely to open it.  The newsletter with our highest open rate had a subject line of "Marriage Problems."  We rejoiced when 76.6% of recipients opened that one.

Then we got kind of depressed when we realized that probably most of those people opened it because they thought we were having marriage problems (when actually we wrote about the class we taught on marriage and family).  Great.  Should we be more depressed that 76.6% of people wanted to read about our marriage problems, or that 23.4% of people on our mailing list didn't care?

Now, before you go thinking that I'm putting a big guilt trip out there, hang with me.  If you are on our email list, please don't read our letters out of guilt.  Or open them just to get our numbers up.

But I have been thinking about this.

Sometimes I wonder why we should even expect people to be interested enough in our ministry to read about it every month.  Should we have that expectation?  I do believe that the western church has idolized overseas missions and missionaries.  How are we any better than the animator in Hollywood who is living out the gospel in his own mission field?  Why is what we are doing more important than the family who is church planting in San Francisco?

We aren't any better.  It's not more important.  And yet you are not expected to read newsletters from those people every month.  They don't get prayed for in front of the whole congregation, and their pictures are not on your refrigerator.

I am often uncomfortable with this.  I don't like getting so much attention for what we do, when really we are simply living out our calling and passion for the glory of God--which is what millions of Americans are doing in their cities and neighborhoods.  There really shouldn't be a whole lot of difference--and I think it would actually be pretty cool if the Church started treating ordinary laborers the same way it treats overseas laborers.

So.

Is there a purpose in reading missionary newsletters?  In inviting missionaries to speak at your small group?  In following and supporting their ministries?

...you will be my witnesses....to the ends of the earth...

...go and make disciples of all nations....

...with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...

God cares about the nations.  He cares about the gospel going out into all people groups.  So we should care too.  And that's pretty much all there is to it.

We shouldn't care because missionaries are more important, or more spiritual, or because their ministry is more fruitful or significant than anyone else who is laboring for the kingdom of God.  We should care because God cares about the nations.

However, I totally understand the dilemma of too much information in this generation.  We are bombarded on a daily basis, an hourly basis, with information about everything and every place.  We receive dozens of emails, Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagrams, every day...every hour!  There is no possible way we can absorb all of that information.

So this is my advice:  Choose one.

Choose one country.  Or one people group.  Or one missionary.  Or one overseas ministry.  And pay attention to it.  Read about it.  Pray for it.  Financially support it.  Get passionate about it.  Get your kids excited about it.  Advocate for it at your church.

Maybe over time, you can add more to your list.  But don't get so overwhelmed by all of the information out there, and all of the missionary updates that fill up your inbox, that you just ignore them all.  Because you'll be missing out on something important, and God wants to include you.

Listen, I really don't expect all 500 people on our mailing list to read all of our updates.  I am really okay with that.  But I hope that if people aren't reading them, it's because they are so interested in a missionary somewhere else.

And one more thing--those people who are really into our ministry?  (You know who you are!) The ones who read every letter, tell us they are praying, send in a check every month, rejoice when we rejoice and cry when we cry?  Those people have a part in this ministry.  Someday, on That Day, when all is revealed, they will stand side by side with us and have a part in our joy.

Find a country, or a missionary, or a ministry, where that will be true of you too.

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