Reaching out to your community via email is a well-worn method for connecting with one’s parishioners and church members. There are several methods of creating a mass database of emails and contacting them all at once, but between manually compiling a list and carbon-copying (CC’ing) each one and using a more structured solution, like a mailing list, there really is no choice. Mailing lists are a time-tested solution that continue to be a solid choice for dissemination of information, especially as it changes. It’s much simpler to be able to send an email with a few keystrokes to tell the community that the time or location of an event has changed, and with mobile email, this is often enough to completely reschedule the event. In addition to being a great solution to manage a list of users, mailing lists are also user-friendly for the creator of the list as well.
When setting up a mailing list, it’s a great idea to use a solution with your email provider, rather than a built-in Outlook mailing list, or a third-party solution. In its simplest form, mailing lists simply send out a copy of an email to everyone on the list whenever anyone sends a message to the list email. For example, if email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org both send a separate message to email@example.com, both messages will be delivered to both recipients. This is called a discussion list and is used, appropriately, for discussion. With this type of list, it is a poor idea to make it publicly known. A discussion list posted on a live website will likely get thousands of spam messages a day in very quick order. Discussion lists generally function well when admission to the list is moderated by an administrator.
When a list is being used for a newsletter or some other type of proclamation, it is best to have one or two “moderators” who are allowed to send to the list, whereas everyone else can only read the content. Most mailing list software includes easy functionality for this type of configuration. Newsletter emails are used by many large companies because of the efficiency of spreading the necessary information.
Truepath offers a built-in mailing list software called EZLM. The documentation is provided here: http://hsphere.parallels.com/docs/3.3/user/html/mailing_lists.html. This is a straightforward tool that many use to communicate with their church members. It provides moderation, subscriber management, and even spam filtering. However, for those who want a more full-featured and complex tool, we recommend Google Groups. The Gmail equivalent of mailing lists, Google Groups provides much of the same functionality and is great to use for people who already have a Gmail address, or wish to use Google services.
Sending a single email to multiple users is often enough for many church administrators, but scaling such an operation is not a good solution. We recommend exploring the idea of a church email list as soon as a CC chain includes more than a few addresses. Often a mailing list is much simpler to “set and forget” without having to remember who all needs to be CC’d in on an email. Don’t let the barrier of learning a new process keep you from leveraging a mailing list to save your time and energy!