For the pastor busy with study, counseling, administrative duties, hospital calling, and program planning, the U.S. Postal Service can serve as an able assistant. I have found letters work well in building rapport with the people of the church I serve. The kind of letter I mean is one the pastor writes in his own words, personalizing it to the receiver, not a mimeographed letter. (We make some exceptions to this, which I will mention later.)

Occasionally handwritten notes are fine, but most handwriting is not as legible as it should be. It is best to stick with the typewriter. The letters should be brief and to the point. The paper should be good rag bond and the letterhead printing simple and distinct. Resist the temptation to load your letterhead with pictures, numerous Scripture quotations, symbols, and the like.

I keep a carbon copy of each letter in a permanent file. It serves as a reminder of what has been said, and is interesting to review in the years to come. I have found the following types of letters to be effective:

Visitors’ letters. Every visitor should receive a letter from the pastor letting him know his visit has been appreciated. We use two types. First, to those from out of town visiting only once we send a simple preprinted card that I sign:

We are most happy that you attended worship with us last Sunday. It is our wish that the service may have been such an inspiration that you will want to attend again when visiting our city.

All other visitors receive a typewritten letter that usually reads as follows:

We would like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation for your presence in the service Sunday morning. We trust you found the service inspiring and meaningful, and that you will want to attend again.
It is our prayer that God will richly bless you throughout this week.
If I may be of personal service do not hesitate to call me.

With this letter we enclose a sheet entitled “When to Call Your Pastor” and a brochure listing our schedule of services and other information.

Letters to the sick, shut-in, and hospitalized. If a person’s name has been mentioned publicly for prayer in the Sunday services, we send the following letter:

Just a word to let you know that your name was mentioned for prayer during the service Sunday morning. I am praying for your recovery. May God bless you throughout this week.

If someone is sick or shut-in for an extended time, I write a special letter mentioning the problem and reminding the person of God’s promises. I write out a couple of these scriptural promises in the body of the letter.

Thank-you letters. Churches usually have some people who are especially generous in donating time, labor, or money. A personal thank-you letter is likely to be much appreciated.

Letters of encouragement. Times of sadness and discouragement—the loss of a loved one, a financial crisis, a problem with children—should call forth a letter of encouragement from the pastor. It may provide just the lift needed to overcome a difficult hurdle. Such a letter should be directed to the problem and built around Scripture. Most of all, it should express the pastor’s concern.

Letters of appreciation. In our church you don’t necessarily have to do anything or have a particular need to get a letter. I often write and let someone know I have remembered him or her in prayer, or was just thinking about him and wanted to tell him so. It takes very little effort to write a couple of these letters a week. You will be gratified at the response.

Community letters. We write several letters each week to people in the community, primarily in two categories. To new babies we send a letter expressing joy at the news of their “safe arrival in our world” and the hope that they will grow up in the fellowship of the church. And we write to newcomers to welcome them to our community and to invite them to worship with us.

Pastoral letter-writing pays good dividends on the relatively little time it requires, both in building rapport and in encouraging persons in difficult times.—C. D. HANSEN, pastor, First Church of the Nazarene, Lowell, Indiana.

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