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Church Bulletins are Awful

Church Bulletins are Awful

Posted August 7, 2018 by Ernesto Alaniz

I’m painting with a broad stroke here, but here’s my statement: Every pastor in North America hates church bulletins. They are in the same category as taxes—a necessary evil. No ones likes them, but everybody keeps on doing them. Let me encourage you, you do not need to keep giving your life to this weekly burden. Here are three reasons why you should stop printing church bulletins.
 

A Drain on Resources

The weekly bulletin is a drain on resources and time. I know church secretaries who spend a full workday each week preparing the bulletin. Formatting, filling, printing, folding—all this to put a pamphlet into people’s hands each week, most of which will be thrown away. There also is the financial cost. To outsource the bulletin for a professional full color print could make a church’s annual printing costs enter into the tens of thousands of dollars. In a land of lack, this is an area that should be examined for necessity.
 

Bulletins are Ineffective

Christian resource giant, Lifeway, has recently begun monitoring the sporadic attendance of church members. A generation ago, members came every week as a matter of priority. In today’s world, committed members may come once or twice a month. This new paradigm means that this printed bulletin isn’t getting into people’s hands. With the rise of social media, we now have a much more pervasive and cost-effective way to get important information to our people. Even when everyone comes, there isn’t a Sunday when ushers aren’t picking up discarded bulletins. On top of that, why does every staff member try to get their event mentioned from the pulpit? Their reason: “No one reads the bulletin.” So why put so much work into something that brings such little return on investment? Instead, place the information on social media and on the church's website.
 

A Real Obstacle

Church bulletins can quickly become a real obstacle for church mission. One reason pastors secretly loathe the bulletin is because there is so much “country club” christianity surrounding it; ministry heads get offended because their event wasn’t highlighted, or people want their pet cause to add yet another insert. There is a glut of information, and much of it is not tied to the actual work of making disciples in the church’s community. A church does not exist to entertain its members. The church has a mission. That mission is to be outside the walls and reaching those who have yet to experience the love of Christ.  The bulletin is for those inside the walls. It should not have such a place of honor among our people.

 

So, how much time are you spending each week creating and printing the bulletin?  How effective is your labor? And how much headache does this cause? As you consider these questions, note that bulletins are not a must for a church family. This is not a matter of mission or theological importance. Make it smaller. Put a monthly handout out on a table for those who want one, as opposed to putting them in every hand. Send out a weekly email that highlights the major churchwide gospel initiatives. Point people to the church’s website or Facebook Page. There are other ways. There are better ways.

 

Has your church removed its bulletin? How do you communicate well without it?

 

Filed under: Branding, Communications, Newsletters/Magazines, Worship Folders

About the Author

Ernesto Alaniz

Ernesto Alaniz is a pastor, church planter, and serial entrepreneur. He loves technology, and is committed to wielding this tool well. Poor church communication makes him sad, and he is glad to help promote good practices among the brethren. Ernesto is married to his sweet girl Angie, and together they have two children.

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Comments (10)

  • Mari Walker
    7:48 AM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    I like the idea, but the bulletin is primarily our worship guide and contains the songs, responsive readings and Scripture. In order to do away with that we’d need to have another way to worship, and I don’t see my church shifting to screen-based liturgy, as much as I’d like to. We don’t have screens anyway. (I’m just a volunteer comms person.)

  • Susie Boone
    8:04 AM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    I totally disagree. Print is not dead. The reason no one reads the bulletin is because there is nothing to read. Share the Gospel in the bulletin. There is nothing better than the Word of God. You can literally provide the Word of God in print for people to take. Change the content and message in the bulletin to focus on Christ.

  • Bob Huisman
    10:02 AM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    Many of your friends on the autism spectrum might tell you that it is very helpful for them to have a guide for the worship service that lets them know what to anticipate, how far along we are, and how much longer they need to be in their seat.

  • Barb Nagelkerk
    10:31 AM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    Congregations are not a one-size-fits-all sort of body. Printed materials are vital for some, visual media is vital for some, spoken announcement are vital at times. The key is to offer your messages and information in a variety of formats to most efficiently and effectively reach all your members. Our bulletin is our worship liturgy, our weekly newsletter promotes events and schedules, our monthly newsletter contains reports and updates on ministries we support. We use Facebook and email to connect and promote through out the week as well as using the screen and verbal announcements on Sunday mornings (at times). It takes time and resources to do these things, but to support and encourage a diverse body of members is important and worth it.  Know your audience and reach them where they are at.

  • Melody
    2:29 PM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    We love our church bulletin. It does not drain our budget. It lists the order of the service and the songs we’ll be singing and the page number. We always leave room open for a special message and singing of course. Our bulletin lists prayer requests, upcoming events, areas of want and need, a special verse of the week, and so much more. There is usually a space for sermon notes.Most of us use social media, but printed material should not be done away with entirely.

  • Marty Newkirk
    3:26 PM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    I think the biggest issue in the recent articles is the confusion about the term bulletin. Some churches use the term for their order of worship, which includes hymnody, lessons, prayers, for use during the actual worship service. Others use the term for a document with announcements, upcoming events, articles, and the like (as I believe the author is using the term). Finally, there are those who use a combination of both in one document. I worked at a church that used 2 documents and there were times it was a challenge to either fill the announcements or get them all to fit. As one commenter shared you need to know your audience.

  • Pastor Brian Campbell
    5:36 PM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    Eliminating a bulletin means you don’t provide information to your non-tech people. Churches have a significant number of people who are not online, for lack of interest, time or ability.

  • Teresa Jenkins
    8:05 PM
    Tue, Aug 7, 2018

    I would LOVE to kill our print bulletin, but I’d be alienating a portion of our audience who are active volunteers and significant donors (they learn about giving opportunities in the bulletin). Instead of looking at the print bulletin as something I “have to do” each week, I see it as a useful content source from which all other communications filter down.

  • Colin Cameron
    7:31 AM
    Wed, Aug 8, 2018

    I still see some value in a printed bulletin, however I really struggle with how to present one in an engaging fashion. Print materials are necessary for our members who are non-techie (please don’t assume that is an age-only demarcation—there are non-techie people in all age brackets.) However many (most) (almost all) of our bulletins are recycled at the church after worship is done. I wonder about the carbon footprint of printing the bulletins each week for only one or two of them to be taken home. A quick calculation for my small parish shows that thousands of pages are printed for use for one hour a week. This just doesn’t make sense to me.

  • Becky
    10:29 AM
    Thu, Aug 9, 2018

    Our bulletin is mainly our order of service and is a half sheet front and back - the order of service is on one side and a weekly calendar, our staff names a few announcements and how to reach us (our web address and social media info) on the other side. I feel it’s important to have SOMETHING to give people on Sundays, especially visitors. I have visited other churches and have felt very uncomfortable not knowing what was going on next and who was who.

    We also do a bi-weekly newsletter which is posted on our website and social media, and mailed to some. We have a large elderly/homebound population in our church and the printed newsletter helps them feel like they are still part of our church.

    I create the publications - the bulletin takes maybe an hour or so, while I spend the better part of a day every other week creating the newsletter and an hour or so the next day printing and preparing for mailing the ones I send out. I think the time I spend on print publications is well worth it.

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