How Churches Can Save the U.S. Post Office

How Churches Can Save the U.S. Post Office

January 3, 2012 by

News about the dying United States Post Service (USPS) has spread far and wide the past many months, as it attempts to eliminate an ever-increasing multi-billion dollar deficit. Last year it lost $8.5 billion and this next year it is projected to lose $14.5 billion. Any texting teen could tell you why the post office is going to be limited in its future growth potential. The most lucrative revenue stream the USPS has going right now is from junk mail and, like its virtual cousin, spam, they will continue to grow, but it won’t be enough to close the budget gap.

There is no shortage of ideas on how to help the USPS. From reducing the number of mail delivery days, to closing post offices and processing centers, to having mail take longer to arrive, Patrick Donahoe, the current postmaster general, has his work cut out for him.

This is a major opportunity for churches. By their own admission, the USPS says the last mile is one of the most expensive parts of mail delivery. From vehicles (gas, maintenance) and personell (salary, health care, taxes, pensions, etc.), much of the cost to deliver mail is in the last leg of the trip for that letter from granny or the Victoria’s Secret catalog (never confuse the two).

Here’s where churches come in.

Imagine an association of churches—or denomination(s)—who would partner together with the USPS to function as a local post office. No other organization in the U.S. has as many locations as churches do. Larger churches could function as processing centers. Any church could serve as the delivery center and mobilize volunteers to deliver mail, and provide a pickup service for the times when packages require special attention. Churches could offer this seven days a week and on holidays, especially Christmas and Easter.

It would be a great way for churches to actually meet their neighbors (something far too many church struggle with, ironically). No proselytizing or manipulating or passing out church flyers at the same time. No throwing away mail that seems inappropriate to deliver. This is about being the church by serving the community, loving church neighbors, and facilitating communication. Talk about great marketing! Imagine the opportunities for conversation that would come about if our churches were face-to-face with the community every day? Don’t believe me? Ask your local postman/postwoman and tell me if they don’t have strong ties to the neighborhood.

Many will attempt to make a case for separation of church and state. There is no other official function happening here aside from administrative, much like churches who already serve as official voting centers during election years.

I do think there could be some sort of revenue share with churches who become an official USPS mail center. Perhaps churches could receive these funds and distribute them how they see fit (salary for the full time mail administrator(s), mileage reimbursement, food for volunteers, facilities, etc.). The USPS would continue to be the “mail police” and hold churches to specific standards, certification, training, etc.

Walmart, Costco, Office Depot and other big box retailers are already positioning themselves much the same way I am suggesting above, sans local delivery. Now is the time for churches to pursue this possibility.

No, I am not joking. Yes, I realize this is a pretty big leap and it would require major thought and leadership.

What if?

Photo by MoneyBlogNewz
Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

13 Responses to “How Churches Can Save the U.S. Post Office”

  • Jonathan Malm
    January 3, 2012

    Interesting idea. I worry that might be pulling the church away from its core competency.

    It’s the same reason companies outsource the things they aren’t the very best at. Those other things can become a distraction from the central focus. They can tangibly and intangibly dilute the vision and forward motion of the church.

    I could see smaller churches that don’t have a laser focus taking this project on. In fact…it could be what they need to keep their church doors open. But…I’m not sure that will actually help the church be viable.

    Love the outside-the-box thinking though! :)

     | Permalink
  • LoieJ
    January 3, 2012

    Apparently this isn’t a new idea, except the church part. Several years ago, my son lived in a neighborhood where the mail was delivered for a one or two block area by a neighbor who got the mail delivered to his home and then he delivered it after he got done with his regular job, so the mail always came around 5:30 pm.

     | Permalink
  • Todd
    January 3, 2012

    It’s sad enough that many people that work for the postal service will loose their jobs in the next year. Now you want to eliminate all of them by having church volunteers do it? Sorry, can’t get on board with this one.

     | Permalink
  • Jonathan Blundell
    January 3, 2012

    Interesting idea! I think it goes back and borrows from the ideas that churches used to be the center’s of community life.
    Even if the church didn’t deliver the mail personally, it would be nice to see churches set up extra space for the post-office to deliver packages and/or regular mail via post-office-boxes, where people could at least pick up their mail somewhere closer than the regular post office that might be a town or two away (without having to pay to rent a PO Box).
    My only fear would be seeing a community hate on a local community of faith if their mail wasn’t able to be delivered for any multitude of reasons.
    But otherwise I think it’s a really interesting idea.

     | Permalink
  • Deof Movestofca
    January 5, 2012

    “I worry that might be pulling the church away from its core competency.”

    Especially since there are plenty of churches out there don’t really need any additional help to do just that- they’re already doing it fine enough on their own.

     | Permalink
    • Dan Smith
      January 7, 2012

      True statement, unfortunately. I’m not against this for the reason Todd is, but it does sound really against what the church is about, or what I hope it’s still about. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not all gimmicks anymore. Anyway, a postal service would definitely bring some local attraction to the church, but I don’t know if it would make it the community center again. Mail is going away, whether Todd wants it to or not, so it’s only a matter of time.

      The church needs to stay away from this one solely for the reason above…the Postal service is going away in time. Not tomorrow for sure, but someday. Because of that, it will look like the church is only getting on board a dying dinosaur.

       | Permalink
  • Travis Paulding
    January 7, 2012

    I’m not sure I see the value in saving the USPS. I understand the jobs at stake, but this model wouldn’t help that. The USPS isn’t dying because they lack a grass roots effort, it is dying because it is offering a service that is becoming obsolete. We don’t need more mail centers and more mail carriers because we don’t send mail as much anymore.

    If the USPS wants to save itself, get better customer service. Most people feel like walking into a post office is punishment. It is anticipated as a slow, boring, stale expereince that no one wants to have. That isn’t great marketing. People still like getting mail and I don’t think package delivery is going anywhere. The problem is we’d rather drop it off at Kinkos, the UPS store or some other storefront that doesn’t have mass murdering named after its employees (going postal).

     | Permalink
    • Kellen Freeman
      January 9, 2012

      I know that our local post office tends to be chatty. I could care less if there wasn’t a line. But everyone I walk in there is a long line and people are just standing at the counter talking about their day. Move along and provide service to the rest of your customers. It’s got to the point I consider going to the UPS store just to mail a letter to my parents.

       | Permalink
  • Tyler Walea
    January 9, 2012

    It seems equally likely that churches would save the USPS simply by the volume of junk mail our offices produce. Ministry mail-outs, revival announcements, youth events, etc…seems like almost every ministry in most churches drops something in the mailbox weekly. For me, the question is: Does the USPS need saving? Obviously the human issue of joblessness concerns us all…but concerning the functional entity that is the USPS, are we growing in technology and methodology beyond the usefulness of the function provided by the Post Office? Is the decline of this service simply a reflection of the natural evolution of communication methods?

     | Permalink
  • Andrew Amos
    January 18, 2012

    As someone from elsewhere (Australia), it doesn’t surprise me the USPS has problems. A Christian organisation sent me a package (unrequested, so junk mail) from the US a couple of weeks ago, which, as far as I can figure, only cost them 33 cents. How can the USPS hope to make ends meet when it is doing that?

     | Permalink
  • James
    January 23, 2012

    USPS may not be a government run institution anymore, but it is regulated and governed by it. The less of Uncle Sam meddling in the church the better.

     | Permalink
  • Miller Henley
    January 24, 2013

    I will go you one better. Follow the lead of other countries and privatize the postal service. Former Postmaster General himself suggests that is the only hope as the current model is a disaster. Largest impediments to privatization are the postal union and congress. Nobody wants to take gravy jobs from their congressional district, even though GAO and postal service both say there are far too many processing centers.

    This report from the CATO Institute in 2011 explains in detail the problems and the solution. Privatization. Interesting read, though it is a little upsetting.

    Churches would be better served and better serve the country by pushing for privatization. It would be much better for the taxpayer. Better service at a lower rate and ultimately create more jobs by alleviating the horrendous waste.

     | Permalink