SPOTLIGHT: It’s More Than Just a Newsletter

7/8/2015

See How the Dudley Church Connects to Church and Community through PJ’s Place eMail Communication

“It’s more than just a newsletter.”

That’s what Pastor John White of The First Congregational Church of Dudley said about PJ’s Place, his weekly communication that contains sermon highlights, weekly reflections, prayers, joys and concerns, events, board and committee reports, birthday celebrations, photos, videos, and more. Originally started as a way to give updates about a local boy that sustained injuries in a serious accident, the email morphed into something bigger than just a communication tool. White believes it’s now more than a blog and it’s more than a newsletter; it’s a real instrument to keep people connected to the church.

“It has been an amazing tool for us,” said White of PJ’s Place, which is sent electronically (and available in print on Sunday mornings and delivered to shut-ins) to over 550 people per week, which is double the membership of the church.  “This communication has become a place that gives readers a real sense of connection to the church and to the community.”  [See blog article Engage at All Levels.]

The email/blog/newsletter is a major undertaking for the pastor, taking at least 4-5 hours per week to put together. Besides reporting on church-related information, White gives personal reflections, as well as incorporates town-related information he discovers while talking with leaders in town government, schools, police, fire, the Tri-Town Ecumenical Clergy Association and other members of the local community. White says the communication is constantly in production because as soon as one issue of PJ’s Place is finished, he is working on the next one.  But he believes it is well worth it.

PJ’s Place has become an essential tool for pastoral care,” he said.  “It could take all year or more for me to visit all the members and friends, but with this communication I visit everyone where they live, each and every week.”  And readers are grateful.  Many people click back to White through the communication with comments or requests.  “Those replies are like people coming up to me, shaking my hand, and thanking me for my sermon or asking me to pray for a concern,” he said.  “It’s a wonderful tool for opening up a conversation.”

One 89-year old shut-in told White that she didn’t know what she would do without PJ’s Place.  She doesn’t know many of the people at the church anymore, but still feels connected to her church home when she looks at the photos of the baptisms and the church suppers.

First Congregational Church of DudleyThe readership of PJ’s Place has grown organically.  It’s important to note that White follows all email spam rules and only adds people to his email list who request to receive the publication.  He does, however, bring up the communication during the time of welcome before every Sunday morning worship service, in conversations with those requesting to hold a wedding or baptize their child, in his welcoming letter on the church website, and with town leaders and others during his visits.  It’s not just an email to the membership; it’s a way to connect to the whole community. “The local police chief, superintendent of schools, local teachers, funeral directors, other pastors, etc., are all regular subscribers and readers,” he said.  “PJ’s Place keeps the conversation going around challenging issues, beyond Sunday morning.”

Massachusetts Conference Board Member Melissa Puliafico, who recently visited the church as part of a Board listening project, said: “First Congregational of Dudley is the definition of a vital local church seeking to make God’s love and justice real. PJ’s Place clearly keeps the congregation engaged throughout the week and is a great vehicle for including newcomers.  In fact, one newcomer reported they were on the mailing list for the 4-5 weeks prior to their visit so they felt more comfortable knowing a bit about the church life before they stepped into the sanctuary.”

The name of the communication was thoughtfully chosen.  PJ’s Place is not just a casual reference to Pastor John.  “Place is an important word for me,” White said.  “People yearn for a place.  Yes, it’s an email, but my hope is that when someone gets that email, they get a sense of place and grounding.  It’s not a physical place in the general sense of the word, but it’s a place for readers to feel connected... to the church, to the community, to God.

“Jesus was always on the road, looking to be invited into people’s homes,” said White.  “PJ’s Place invites readers to welcome Jesus into their home, and in part through their engaging with this email.”

If you wish to receive Pastor John's weekly e-mail, known as "PJ’s Place," please contact Pastor John at jwhite3646@charter.net with a request to be put on the mailing list.  He can also be reached at his private church office line at 508-949-0466.
 


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