Prayer letter critique
Are there gaps in what you tell your prayer supporters?
Prayer letters are standard fare for the missionary’s life. As Daniel Rice pointed out in the Winter 2020 issue of Japan Harvest (p. 31), missionaries have written newsletters since the Apostle Paul’s time. Of course, you can choose multiple ways to keep up with people these days, but let’s think about the basic prayer letter.
We know that it is important to stay in touch with supporters we don’t see often, but it can become a burden and it’s easy to slip into bad habits. I think the priority is to find a balance between quality content and frequency. That will be different for every missionary unit as each of our situations and styles are unique. But it’s vital to find a good rhythm: one that works for you and your support base.
Not long ago I came across a well-considered critique of the content of missionary prayer letters.1 The writer observes concerning trends: missionary prayer letters these days mostly contain reports on a missionary’s social activities plus pleas for finances. Even though the critique is ten years old, it raises potential concerns.
The writer (a missionary supporter, not a missionary) suggested other ideas for the content of a prayer letter:
- Share details about specific situations, people groups, or events (not generalities).
- Report answers to prayer.
- Outline ministry plans.
- Relate family and personal needs and problems about which people can pray.
- Explain how financial and ministry challenges are being handled and processed.
He went on to observe that the best prayer letters are thoughtful and not written in a hurry. Good prayer letters are attractive, yet personal; provoke readers to thoughtfulness; and provide interactive opportunities. He also suggested expressing a “Pauline mindset” by showing concern for those in the church/es back home.
One of the concluding sentences in the article hits hard: “Your letters and communication style will largely determine the level of support and care you receive from those who committed themselves to stand with you.”
Is it time to re-evaluate your communication with supporters, whatever forms that takes? Where are the gaps? Can you get some honest feedback from one or more of your supporters to help you improve your communication?
1. Allan G. Hedberg, “Prayer Letters to the Home Team,” Mission Nexus, https://missionexus.org/prayer-letters-to-the-home-team/ (April 1, 2010).