Last week when I mentioned the blessing of having a chunk of uninterrupted time in which to work on our church ladies’ booklet, someone asked in the comments what kinds of things I include in it. As I started answering and my answer became longer than I intended, I thought maybe I’d expand it into a blog post. I’m always a little wary of doing things like this – I know Scripture says we’re not to make a “show” of what we do for the Lord. But I enjoy seeing and reading about other people’s ministries, and I don’t ever suspect them of having wrong motives in sharing it. So I mean this in the same vein.
The booklets in each of those places has been slightly different. The one at my mother-in-law’s church dealt mainly with group news and activities, with a few inspirational poems or paragraphs here and there. These days with e-mail notifications that can get to everyone so easily and explain details fully and in a timely manner, there is less need of “group news” in a booklet or newsletter that only comes out once a month. But sometimes it’s good for that kind of thing. They also included recipes, tips, birthdays, anniversaries, and even a “classified” section for selling or seeking items. I’ve been hesitant to include birthdays and anniversaries in our current booklet for fear of hurting someone’s feelings by accidentally leaving them out. But if you have a way to keep on top of that, especially with new people coming in, that could work well.
I’ve written here before of how missionary biographies have blessed me. One former church whose ladies’ group had officers had a lending library for the ladies’ group, and the librarian used to tell about one or two of the books each month. So I incorporated that idea into the ladies’ booklets I have done, and each month have either a brief biographical overview of a missionary’s life or an excerpt or scene from their lives. I call that section “Those Who Have Gone Before.” I used some of those for the 31 Days of Missionary Stories and 31 Days of Inspirational Biography here on the blog.
In one of our ladies meetings at our church in SC, we had an open discussion about spending time in God’s Word. The fact that we all had various struggles with doing so – either making the time, or avoiding distractions, or getting into a rut, or engaging with the text vs. just running our eyes over the page, etc. – led me to start a column in the booklet called “Women of the Word.” Sometimes it’s encouragement in one of those areas, sometimes it’s a devotional or a result of my own Bible study, sometimes it’s an excerpt from a book or blog post along those lines. I’ve kept this and the “Those Who Have Gone Before” column in the booklet for our church here in TN as well.
After a few years of doing this in SC, I began to think we could use some encouragement along Titus 2 lines about our roles, responsibilities, and character as Christian women, so I started a column called “Christian Womanhood.” Some of the columns there dealt with marriage, motherhood, homemaking, etc. I haven’t kept that as a regular column in the TN booklet, but I do include some articles along those lines as I have space and feel led.
A big section of the SC booklets were correspondence. Our group sent out care packages for many years to missionaries (before it got too expensive to be feasible) and college students from our church, and we put the thank you notes we received from them in the booklet so that all the ladies could see them. The ladies group here doesn’t send out packages, so we don’t have that correspondence.
In SC I was asked/strongly urged to include a “helpful hints” section. I tried to get the ladies to contribute to this, but with little response (I think we all felt like we needed tips more than we felt we had any to share), so after I exhausted my own small repertoire, I had to go searching for that kind of thing in other newsletters, books, etc. Nowadays with Pinterest and Google, that kind of thing is so easily accessible that I only rarely include anything along those lines in the current booklet I do.
Usually on the first page I include a poem or quote about the season, the month, or an upcoming holiday…though I don’t usually have this much clip art. 🙂
When I started doing the TN booklet, we had a “question of the month” that I would ask in one booklet, and then ladies e-mailed me their answers throughout the month, and I compiled them in the next month’s booklet and then asked a new question. Some of the questions used were, “What’s your favorite household tip?”, “What characteristic did you most appreciate about your mother?” (in connection with Mother’s Day), favorite Christmas ornament, fall tradition, something bad in your life that God used for good, openings you’ve found helpful in witnessing, etc. I really enjoyed getting to know the other ladies better in this way, but after a while, the response petered out, so I discontinued it.
At the request of our pastor’s wife here, we included a section where we “interviewed” one or two ladies a month. I sent out a questionnaire asking about were they grew up, how they came to TN, how they came to know the Lord, where they went to school and what they studied, how they met their husband (if married), their children’s names and ages (if they have any), and then some fun questions, like their ideal vacation or day off, favorite restaurant meal, etc. This was originally designed to introduce new ladies to the group, but after a while we decided to include all the ladies, because of course the new ladies don’t know these things about the rest of us – and we don’t even know them about each other. This has been one of my favorite sections of the booklet.
I also started out trying to include a similar questionnaire about the wives of missionaries we support, but only a half dozen or so responded. I am assuming they were just too busy, understandably, or perhaps they were wary of sharing information with someone they didn’t know, though I tried to reference our church and pastor’s name. One year I emailed them about how Christmas was celebrated in their area, and we got quite a bit of response to that. That was fun to put together. I try to periodically put something in as a reminder to pray for them.
And lastly, I include a page of humorous items. Because what’s life without humor. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine,” after all (Proverbs 17:22).
I “fill in” the empty spaces with poems or quotes. I have been collecting poems, quotes, jokes, anecdotes, etc., on all these subjects, ever since I started the first booklet, so I’ve got tons of files now. One of my biggest challenges is trying to keep track of what I have used before so I don’t repeat myself
Since I did the booklet for ten years in SC and have had a blog for almost ten years, naturally I draw on a lot of that material for the booklet I do now in TN. But I do edit, update, or revise it as needed. And sometimes I do write something totally new for this booklet – which usually eventually shows up in the blog. 🙂 Sometimes I end up compiling things I have read in books rather than writing anything of my own. I do try to pray before starting each month for the Lord’s guidance and direction in what to include and how to say it.
I use Microsoft Publisher to do these because the screen is laid out like the finished book will be. I do it in what they call the 1/2-letter size, meaning one sheet of computer paper, in landscape or sideways position, is 4 pages in the booklet, so your number of pages will be in multiples of 4. The finished booklet is 8 1/2″ by 5 1/2″. That seemed best to me so it could be easily tucked in one’s Bible, though I have seen other newsletters on 8 1/2 by 11″ sheets stapled at the left corner. I also like that with Publisher I can put a text box or photo box wherever I want them and move them around at will without having to figure out how to “wrap” the text around it. Before I started using Publisher, I used Microsoft Works (way back when!), but I had to print out each section and literally cut and paste the paper sections where each should go and then copy and paste the text on the computer so it all worked out right. Very tedious. Thankfully my oldest son had a copy of Publisher from the church because he did the youth group’s web site at the time, so I could also use it for the booklet. Years later either he or my husband bought me my very own updated copy of Publisher. You could probably also do this in a PDF file – I’ve just figured out how to convert my Publisher file to a PDF but otherwise I have no experience with PDFs. The ladies’ booklet at my m-i-l’s church was 8 pages; the one at my SC church could run from 12-20 depending on what all I included. The one I do now I keep to 12 pages.
I used to do the cover of the booklet with decorative computer paper from one of the office stores until the numbers we were printing exceeded the number of papers in the package. Then I started using frames, borders, and clip art included in Publisher. Then I expanded by finding free clip art online. I had a few CDs of clip art but some were hard to use.
Lately, though, I’ve switched to a full page picture – I think it looks a bit more contemporary. I usually search online for free wallpaper pertaining to the season or holiday of the upcoming month – wallpaper because it’s a bigger photo, and stretching a small photo to try to fit the page doesn’t always work. I always have to crop the bigger photo to fit, but that works out better than stretching a smaller one.
So….I think that is probably much more than you ever wanted to know about our ladies’ booklets. 🙂 I very much enjoy doing it. Sometimes I wonder how in the word l I ever got the privilege to do so or why anyone would read anything I have to say. 🙂 The couple of years in between leaving SC and getting settled here in TN when I wasn’t writing or compiling one, it was nice in a way not to have to think about it, but I sorely missed it as well, and I was very glad to be asked to do it again.
If you are interested in starting something like this for the ladies at your church, I think the first step would be to talk with the coordinator of your ladies’ group, if your church has one, and your pastor, about what you’d like to include, the format you’d like, etc. At our former church, there was a printer which would fold and staple the booklets, but we had to be selective in how much color we used. At our current church, a printer is used and there is no restriction about color (I’ve asked several times, especially when switching to a full page color cover), but we have to fold and staple them manually. You’ll have to work out the logistics of whether your church can print these. I have no idea about how much it would cost to take them to Office Max or Kinko’s or some place like that, but if your church doesn’t have a printer or copier that can print something like this, and you have money in your budget to take them somewhere to print, that might be an option.
To sum up the types of things you could possibly include:
Biographies of Christians “gone before”
Birthdays and anniversaries
“Interviews” or “Getting to know you” section
Depending on how big you want the booklet to be, you probably can’t use all of these, and you may change along the way as you see what works, what people have interest in, etc.
There used to be a site online that had missionary biographies that could be printed out as bulletin inserts that I used sometimes for the missionary biography section, but the url I have for those does not work any more. I found the text of a couple of them at christianity.com, like this one on Ida Scudder and this one on Anne Bradstreet (not a missionary, but a believer of note).
One word of caution: just because something is online doesn’t mean it’s free to copy. If it doesn’t specifically say you can use it, it’s best to ask. I’ve never had anyone tell me no when I have asked if I could use something online for a church ladies’ newsletter. And of course always attribute anything like that to its source.
We’ve always made these books available and about all the ladies of the church, not just whatever group meets together. But your ladies’ group will probably be reflected in your booklet. For instance, the ladies’ group of our former church was much more focused on our missionaries than the group in our current church (not that the church neglects our missionaries – our news of and ministry to them is just handled in a different way), so that emphasis showed up in the booklet. Of the ladies’ groups in the various churches I have been a part of, some are very seriously “all business,” some are more casual and social, so that will be reflected in your booklet as well. You might have various people contribute to various sections: I think the lady who took over this booklet from our former church after I left does that. Personally I find it easier to compile it myself – the times I’ve had others doing parts of it, there was some tension with getting things back in time, etc. I’m not opposed to making it a group effort rather than a personal one, but so far it has just worked out the way it has. We do have some group contribution through the questionnaires and used to through the “question of the month” section. I would be wary of making it an “open mic” kind of set-up, because you have people at various stages of Christian maturity in any group, and it might cause hurt feelings or worse to have to tell someone why you can’t use what they contributed or why you have to correct it.
I’d love to know if your church ladies’ group does any kind of newsletter, what you include, what programs you use, etc.
Sharing With Literacy Musing Mondays.