With the instant communication that phones, texts, email, and social media platforms have brought, we have almost lost the art of letter writing altogether. That’s an important loss for however much the technology has improved communication speed, nothing has replaced the power of a personal letter to encourage and influence. Of course, letter writing is only one tool in the arsenal of persuasion available to the Christian who understands his obligation to “strengthen the things that remain” (Revelation 3:2). But it is a powerful one that we should not neglect. The following is given in the hopes that it will help you sharpen your letter-writing skills and therefore encourage you to start writing for the cause of life.
1) Write! Personal letters to political officials, business leaders, media, and individuals can have far more influence than most people realize. And you don’t need to have a title or a letterhead to make an impact. You don’t need to be especially eloquent or profound. All the Lord asks of you is to raise your voice for His righteousness and justice. If you’re sincere and doing such service for the right motivations, your letter writing will undoubtedly find God’s blessing on your efforts.
2) Focus on only one or two ideas in your letter; otherwise, you decrease the force of your presentation. It is best to state your purpose at the beginning and then, if desired, expand it a bit further in the rest of the letter. Yes, you may have several items on your mind but it’s most effective to concentrate on one alone. Other topics can be addressed in subsequent letters.
3) Be personal. Be yourself. For while it’s very important to have your facts straight and to show a knowledge of your subject, don’t be fooled into thinking that you must be a professional with huge piles of data at your fingertips. Your honest voice as a citizen, a consumer, and an interested party counts much more than you might guess.
4) Generally speaking, your letter should be no more than 300 words or so as the briefest letters are most often the ones that are read. Try to keep your letter on a single page. Do not sacrifice clarity for the sake of brevity, but remember that long letters are more likely to be set aside than ones that quickly communicate their point.
5) Be courteous. Strictly avoid harsh or nasty language and don’t be uselessly provocative. It is true that you will often be dealing with emotional issues, but always be fair, factual, and respectful in tone. A positive-sounding letter is much more likely to influence a person than one that begins, “Hey, you fraud! I know you won’t pay any attention to this but….” No, one can make a clear point of disagreement in a letter without having to be rude. In fact, your argument packs much more of a punch when the letter’s recipient cannot find fault with your manners.
6) Be specific. Don’t assume that the recipient of your letter is as well informed as you are about a specific issue. Ask relevant questions and urge specific actions. “Senator, will you oppose this Bill #17?” or “Mister Jones, will you please stop sponsoring this anti-family program?” or “Reverend, could we please invite Mrs. Smith from the pregnancy aid center to speak to our church?”
7) Take advantage of the team. Many Christian advocacy organizations offer terrific assistance for people just like you who are tired of merely complaining about things and have decided to take effective action. Many pro-life websites, periodicals, and radio programs are rich with information related to issues of faith and family. Many have specific “Action Alert” sections to help you raise your voice in a timely, informed way.
8) As a general rule, we suggest the “once-a-month” limit. Seasoned political activists suggest that you write no more than once a month to any one congressman or senator. This way you can help to avoid being treated as a troublesome “pen pal” and instead create more interest for the specific issues you’re raising in your occasional letters.
9) Where appropriate, you may want to enclose copies of relevant articles or fact sheets. Perhaps your congressman really is unaware of certain information that is relevant to his making up his mind on an issue. For instance, does he need to read an article which counters the mainstream media regarding the links between abortion and breast cancer? Okay. Simply send along some credible information for him to digest. In other cases, an enclosure can also be effective to alert the letter’s recipient that a larger audience is following an issue. Thus, an editorial, magazine column, or a transcript of a radio program might be sent along with your letter, making it a very effective reminder that others agree with you in the issues you’re raising.
10) Don’t forget the special forum presented by the “Letters to the Editor” section in newspapers and magazines. Did you know that the “Letters” section is the second most widely read section of any in the paper? It is well worth your while to send your letters to these important targets also.
11) Letters which concern a specific piece of legislation should include both its number and subject matter to avoid the recipients confusing it with a similar bill.
12) Include your own name and address on both the letter and the envelope.
13) Don’t be afraid to send your letters to elected officials of all kinds. Your mayor or school board member may think that abortion issues, for example, are out of his or her arena, but it is a good thing nevertheless for them to be reminded of the tremendous value of the pro-life cause which is in the hearts of their constituents. Yes, letters to political figures are sometimes only read by staff assistants but some will be passed along. And, even when they’re not, don’t forget that someone is making sure to tally the “For” and “Against” of the issue your letter raises!
14) Proof-read your letter. You want it to be as clear and convincing as possible and free of mistakes in grammar and spelling.
15) Follow up. A call, a note, or even a subsequent letter lets the recipient know that your letter was not just a knee-jerk response. It reminds him or her that you are very serious about the issue. I have sometimes responded to a form letter response by sending a copy of my first letter, pointing out that my specific questions were not addressed or that the points of my argument were ignored. That technique has proven pretty effective. And don’t forget also to be sure to write a thank you letter when public officials and others do the right things! This is positive reinforcement of the most-needed sort.
16) Last, but certainly not least, pray. Pray for wisdom as you write your letter; pray that it is safely delivered; pray that it gets to the person who most needs to read it; and pray for God to move hearts and change minds. Remember Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” and James 5:15, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Thus motivated, informed, and equipped, your letters are going to truly make a difference.