So, you want to write a “Meditation of the Day”, a daily reflection on a Scripture verse or spiritual thought. Very laudable—potentially very useful and beneficial—an excellent idea if you are writing a book. But if you want to send it to your friends and congregation on a daily basis, beware!
Welcome to the world of listserves, spam filters, and things that go thump in the night. As the creator and curator of The Christian Quotation of the Day, I have sent out a daily email to thousands of subscribers for almost 25 years. In that time, I have seen it all—failures to send, delays, mailing list foul-ups, typos, goofs, complaints—you name it. Anyone who has done this will tell you, don’t do it unless you are prepared to devote a significant portion of your time and energy to the task.
That said, the rewards are great.
First, here is what you need:
- constant and reliable access to someone who understands the “geek” stuff, that is, the machinery of mailing list maintenance and all that goes along with it (if that is you, fine);
- content—at least 90 days of material, already fully proofed and formatted (by the way, if creating that much content finds you drained and exhausted, you probably should not try this, but you need to be 13 weeks ahead to start);
- an audience of people willing to sign up for another email, and a way to inform them of your work;
- patience and a lot of time to handle the feedback.
You have to stay ahead of the game. Many systems will permit you to upload several days’ messages for later delivery. Use that capability well, but do not wait until the last minute! Believe me, I know what it is to have the wolf at my door at midnight—you don’t want that!
Content is everything.
It is the reason that your subscribers open your message every day rather than trashing it. If your content is not up to snuff on a given day, work on it until it is. Otherwise, that may be the day they decide to unsubscribe.
No one can proofread their own work, unless they are very practiced at it. It is highly important that your posts be free of typos, misspellings, missing words, broken links, and all the other errors that bedevil the aspiring author. So, find someone reliable to proofread your posts before they go out.
Learn how to help people subscribe to your list, how to change their email address, how to find your email in their spam folder and how to keep it from going there, and any other administrative tasks they need to do. As ministry, this spade work is vitally important. Never add someone’s email address to your list unless they ask you to do so. After all, your subscribers are your virtual flock, and you must treat them so.
Most importantly, you must answer their feedback in a timely manner. Some of it is tiring, such as the list administration problems. Some of it is infuriating, such as the complaints about some doctrinal position or opinion they thought they read, that was not there (or was even expressly contradicted!). We must do it all, for the sake of the Master we serve.
But the best part is the rest. One of the greatest blessings I have received over the years is the hundreds of letters, not merely in thanks for CQOD (though that is blessing enough), but telling me that the message had a special or timely meaning for them, that the Spirit was dealing in a special way through what I sent them on that day. It has been like casting bread upon the water: one never knows where it will lead or what will come back.
By now you will have noticed that these remarks apply equally well to mailing lists that are less frequent than daily. In these days of pandemic, pastors and leaders must have a way of touching the lives of their congregations with encouragement, tools for living, timely counsel, and Biblical teaching. An email list is an essential tool in every pastor’s toolkit these days. But if I have learned one vital thing through the experience of 25 years of operating CQOD, it is this: we are enlisted to battle the powers of darkness and must follow the light we are given, play our part as we are led by the Spirit. But the campaign belongs to Him; I am only there to serve. He is the one who engages.
Robert McAnally Adams is a retired mathematician and curator of The Christian Quotation of the Day. See cqod.com