A few tips for getting church news published

Flo Johnston Faith in Focus

March 6, 2014

This week I’m using valuable space that should be allocated to what Laurinburg churches are doing to write about how to make the most of an opportunity.

Someone asked me on Sunday why I did not include an announcement about Ash Wednesday services at a particular church in this column last Friday.

The simple answer is I did not receive a news item from that particular church with details about its services.

Since I am not a full-time, or even part-time, employee of The Laurinburg Exchange, I work from the news releases and the verbal tips I get from members of faith congregations around the town and county.

When your church has an event, speaker, program, concert or visiting speaker you think would be of interest to the general readership of the newspaper, and you would like me to write about it, send me the information. If you know ahead of time that something significant is planned several weeks down the road, let me know.

Here’s some basic information about how to write a news release. Be sure you answer all the 5Ws:

WHO: Check names and be sure to spell them correctly. Not Mr. Jones, always the full name. Most newspapers do not use courtesy titles like Mr., Ms. or Mrs. Even Dr. is used only if the person is a medical doctor. However, we do use “the Rev.” if the person has been ordained as clergy in a church. This is a title your preacher probably uses.

WHAT: Does the event have a name?

WHEN & WHERE: Self-explanatory.

WHY: Is this a fund-raiser? And if it is, how will the proceeds be used? If a local ministry is to be the recipient of the proceeds, include a paragraph about what the ministry does and how it is reaching people with the Christian message.

If your church is sponsoring an event just for fun and your congregation wants to share it with the rest of us, tell us that too.

Occasionally, you may have an event that is unique, something your church is doing that nobody else has thought of, an original idea. Send it along. These are the most interesting of all.

At lunch last Sunday, a friend told me about a Habitat house her church had just helped build. This would have been a super item for the column because it reflects how a local church is addressing the lack of affordable housing in Laurinburg, a social issue that has become a justice issue. Christians, as was Jesus, are interested in justice.

Send me a news release.

Please don’t feel that you have to “write” the item. What I need from you is factual information with as many details as possible. Don’t worry about getting everything super organized and “sounding good” before you send it. Do worry about sending correct information.

Most news releases, even those from advertising agencies or professional public relations people, have to be re-written according to newspaper style. That’s what I do.

An idea that has worked in some churches is to appoint someone in the congregation to be the “church news person,” an individual who sends out all the congregations’ news releases.

Your church news person should always include his or her name, phone number, name of church and address of church at the top of the release.

If you want to take your news releases to a higher level, include a quote from a church leader or your pastor. Put quotation marks around what that person says and give the title of that person. Like pastor, chairman of the committee, deacon, elder, choir member, organist, minister to children, youth worker, president of the Women of the Church or chief cook and bottle washer.

If you ask from a quote from your pastor, consider yourself forewarned. For some preachers, this is like throwing kerosene in the fireplace. They can write you a sermon in a second, but just be nice and use what you have space for.

One final thought. If you would like to set up a workshop on Getting Out Church News, call me and let’s do it.

A two to three hour block of time is all we need to make church journalists out of anybody who can write a good English sentence. Or is willing to learn.

Many of the ideas we will throw around will be applicable to publishing good church newsletters as well.

You may say your newsletter is just fine as it is, but if it looks and reads like the Congressional Record, you’ve got a problem. Such a newsletter is literally yelling: “Hey, folks, our church is just as dull and boring as this publication.”

There’s a better way.

If your church needs a reference before you dare to turn me loose to talk to your church folks about selling what it offers, I can supply names, addresses and numbers.

Give me a call.

Email Flo Johnston at, call her at 910-361-4135 or write a note to 2200 Elm Ave., Apt. 114, Laurinburg 28352.