7 Email Best Practices Every Church Should Follow

7 Email Best Practices Every Church Should Follow

When you send an email on behalf of your church, you aren’t just sending a message. You’re communicating your church’s values, reinforcing your brand, and contributing to someone’s digital experience with your church.

Email is a valuable way for churches to conveniently reach and inform your community. But if you want people to read and care about what you have to say, and you want your emails to provide a positive experience, it’s important to be aware of what works—and what doesn’t.

Here are seven best practices every church should use when using emails to engage with their community.

1. Create a welcome series for new people

When someone joins your email list, the first thing they hear from you shouldn’t be an update about the mission trip or a mass invitation to your marriage conference. Those things are great, and you should tell people about them. But new people should always receive a separate series of emails before they start getting the stuff you send out to everyone.

A good welcome series thanks someone for checking out your church and helps them get more familiar with who you are, what you care about, and what you have to offer. It should also lead to what you’ve decided is the most appropriate next step for a new person to take, whether that’s an invitation to coffee with a pastor, an event for new people, or simply a note about your next service.

A strong email series can help catch newcomers’ attention and engage them in the life of your church. Plus, emails are low cost, low risk—all you need is great content and a plan. There’s tons more your church can do to make great use of content in emails and beyond. To discover how your church can utilize great communications techniques. Click here to download the free Content marketing For Churches ebook today.

2. Segment your lists

Segmenting an email list means creating separate groups for different categories of people. Or in other words, it’s using what you know about people to create more relevant messages.

For example, say you have an important update for your parents, but you don’t want to send that update to everyone on your church’s email list. Some churches would simply choose not to send an email, and to find another way to get the word out to parents. But having a “kid’s ministry” segment helps you ensure that only the relevant people receive your email.

The key to creating segments, of course, is that you have to actually know things about the people on your email list. You need data. Thankfully, most church management tools can help you collect this information, and chances are you’re already gathering some data with your connection cards. Use the information you have to create segments, so you can send more relevant communication.

3. Set clear expectations

Nobody likes to be bombarded with emails. And it can be uncomfortable to give someone your email address if you aren’t sure how it’s going to be used.

Before someone signs up for your email list, you can address their reservations by telling them what you’ll email them about and ideally, how often you’ll send emails. Your first email should also reiterate what people can expect to receive and how frequently they’ll see you in their inbox.

Telling people they’ll hear from you “once a week” or “a couple times a month” makes your email cadence more predictable, which in turn makes people more comfortable. You might also consider giving people more control over what type of emails they’ll receive, which essentially lets them segment themselves for you.

4. Personalize every email

People want to be connected to their church. And your ministry thrives on relationships. That’s why every email you send should come from a real person–even if it’s an automated mass email. Use a real staff person’s name. Include personal details when they’re relevant. And if it makes sense, use your recipient’s name in the email. Most modern email clients should make it easy for you to do that in mass emails.

Perhaps most importantly, make sure that the email replies go to this person—and gets answered.

5. Add value more than you ask for things

It’s totally appropriate for an email to ask your congregation to register for an event, give money to a cause, or serve. But if you want your email list to provide the best experience for your church members, you should ask people to make commitments far less often than you give them something.

You want people to feel like they benefit from being on your list, whether they’re looking for a deeper connection with your church, a stronger relationship with Jesus, or something else.

Your email list is a great place to share stories about what’s going on in your church, how your ministry is affecting people, devotionals, material that relates to your sermons, and other things people can enjoy without feeling obligated to do something. And the reality is, as you share more content that adds value, people will respond more positively to your requests.

6. Track your email’s performance

No matter what you do, some people will open your email and others won’t. Some of them will take the action you want, but most probably won’t. But there are all kinds of things you can do to make your emails more effective, and it ultimately comes down to knowing what your audience responds best to.

And if you aren’t tracking the open rates and click through rates on your emails, there’s no way to know what’s working and what’s not.

7. Keep your emails simple

Your emails don’t need to have all kinds of images and graphics to be effective. And if you don’t have a designer (or your designer doesn’t have time), that doesn’t have to prevent you from consistently sending something to your list or creating quality emails. In fact, done poorly, images can actually detract from your email more than they add.

Your congregation is going to open your emails from a range of devices (some mobile, some not), and they’ll use different email clients to read them. Every image you put in your email increases the risk that something won’t look the way it’s supposed to on every device and every email client.

Besides, text-only emails can feel more personal, because you don’t create branded images for the emails you send to your friends, family, and colleagues.

So why not just keep it simple?

Email with excellence

Every email you send represents your church. And taking the time to do it right means more people read them, act on them, and ultimately care what you have to say. Discover how other forward-thinking churches are leading with excellent emails. Download the free ebook, Content Marketing For Churches, today.

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson has been a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for nearly a decade. He writes in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.