By Lisa Komp
Opening the mailbox and discovering a surprise can make you feel as joyful as a kid on Christmas morning. Mail ministry embraces the emotional power of gifting by mail to help people feel valued, cared for and connected, and ultimately leads them closer to the Lord.
An age-old practice, as valuable as ever
For hundreds of years, a card or letter sent by mail has been an intimate way of letting a person know you care. To someone feeling isolated or struggling with the social, economic and emotional toll of the pandemic, a devotional booklet from church can serve as a sort of spiritual lifeline that can be seen and touched. It can help someone feel connected to our church community and guide them closer to the Lord through reflection and prayer.
Almost as important as the physical correspondence is the sentiment behind it. The act of sending a spiritual greeting or devotional expresses, “Your church family is thinking of you. You are a valued part of our community. You are special and worthwhile to us and to God.”
Ministry by mail delivers a tangible spiritual resource along with intangible emotional benefits—feelings of support, encouragement and inclusion. Like the spiritual gifts Jesus gave through his ministry to the poor and forgotten, widows and children, lepers and Samaritans, our mail ministry gifts remind the receiver of their membership in the one body in Christ.
Share a tangible gift of hope
The idea of mail ministry is nothing new, but its value has come into sharp focus this past year. As churches respond to the unprecedented challenges of physical and social isolation due to COVID-19, many are rediscovering the remarkable practicality of mail ministry.
With a simple note or prayer card, pastors can share Christ’s love with the most vulnerable and isolated members of their community, effectively placing a memento of that love, like a tangible gift of hope, into the hands of those who aren’t making it into our pews or parking lots.
For elderly or homebound individuals, for whom isolation is not merely a temporary issue, mail ministry can be an ongoing spiritual life preserver. A devotional booklet can provide daily purpose, something new to read and think about each morning.
Imagine the emotional benefits a homebound parishioner derives from looking forward to—and then receiving—the Advent or Lenten devotional your church reliably sends year after year. Of course, these blessings are secondary to the Greatest Gift of our Savior and the all-important relationship with him you are nurturing through the spiritual content you send.
It’s more affordable than you think
You can put a 48-page devotional booklet into the hands of a homebound parishioner for just under two dollars each, including shipping costs. The envelope will even be printed with your return address, so the recipient knows it’s a gift from you! Longtime ecumenical publisher Creative Communications for the Parish added drop ship service to its trusted lineup of church resources last summer to help churches minister amid the pandemic. You need only provide your mailing list (for one-time use only), and Creative does all the work for you.
Nudge them to unplug
Consider the value and accessibility of a held-in-hand message on paper versus an email message or link to online resources. In contrast to the continuous bombardment of digital messages that pass across our phones and computer screens each day, there’s a quiet comfort to a paper devotional. It appeals to the senses and allows us an opportunity to sit quietly with the material, away from the artificial light and constant pings of our screens. This calms our brain and body, clearing the way for mindful focus on reflection and prayer.
Personalize your message to make a lasting impression
For older adults, mail ministry speaks through a cherished medium. Share the comfort and promises of God with elderly, sick or homebound parishioners by sending a booklet of reflections on Psalm 23. Uplift and encourage parents with a surprise gift of poems, prayers and Scripture readings for mothers or fathers.
Make an especially personal connection with a greeting card that shines God’s love on a parishioner celebrating a birthday, the parents of a newly baptized baby or a couple married in your church on their first anniversary. Sometimes, a simple “thinking of you” makes the biggest impression of all. Signed with a handwritten note from the pastor, a greeting card can become a treasured keepsake.
Don’t overlook youth ministry. For children and teens, whose interactions take place overwhelmingly via electronic messaging, a devotional booklet in hand can stand out as strongly as the message of Christ stands in radical juxtaposition to messages of popular culture.
Prayer cards, bookmarks and litanies can easily and inexpensively be sent by mail and are likely to get tucked into a Bible or book, where they will be kept and read repeatedly. Holidays and special occasions offer year-round opportunities to reach out.
Which members of your flock are feeling most isolated right now? Begin there. Deliver some Good News to people desperately needing to hear it.
Lisa Komp lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and is currently writing and editing for Creative Communications as editorial assistant, www.creativecommunications.com. She has served the church resource marketplace for over 15 years in publishing and public relations roles.