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Is the Church Bulletin a Sacred Cow?

Is the Church Bulletin a Sacred Cow?

Posted August 2, 2018 by Bryan Haley

I’ve seen it all when it comes to church bulletins. I have been in churches that have a 25-page book as their weekly bulletin. I’ve seen others that are a half sheet. Still others print theirs less regularly to look like a slick, well-designed magazine. The church we’re a part of now doesn’t even have a bulletin (and that drives my wife crazy).

I’ll often start talking to a church about all the different ways they communicate. We talk through the different methods they use, and what works well for each area of communication. Then we get to the bulletin. Most churches utilize a bulletin—but mostly because it’s what they’ve always done. I often get asked what should be in the bulletin, how they can design it better so people will actually read it, or how they can get rid of the bulletin altogether without upsetting the congregation.

I think it’s important for us to take a step back. Before we start talking about how to design the bulletin better, what should be in it, how often to print it, or how to get people to read it more, let’s ask a couple questions about the very foundation of the bulletin.
 

What is the role of the church bulletin?

How is your church bulletin playing a role in your overall communication strategy? Think through what this looks like, or what you would like it to look like. Talk through its purpose and role with your team and figure out the specific role the church bulletin takes in your church’s ministry.
 

Is the bulletin helping you communicate more effectively?

Creating, editing, and printing the bulletin each week can be time-consuming. How does your church bulletin help you communicate more effectively? It may be time to think through what you’re communicating and how the bulletin supports that strategy. If it’s just adding more noise, then maybe it’s time to rethink the role of the bulletin.

 

It’s time we stop doing things in the church simply because that’s what we’ve always done. Let’s start trying to use our resources as effectively as possible. You have a lot going on, and you don’t need to be wasting more time. So take some time and figure out if the bulletin plays a quality role in your church’s communication plan and if the bulletin helps you communicate effectively. If you think your church bulletin is valuable, then you can decide how to design it better and lay it out so that people will read more of it.
 

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

About the Author

Bryan Haley

Bryan joined the ReFrame Media team in 2017 with a passion to help churches reach people with the gospel using effective church communications. As producer for Church Juice, Bryan helps congregations energize their church communications by overseeing the Church Juice blog, publishing in-depth ebook resources, and developing training on topics like marketing, branding, social media, internal communications, and website development.

Bryan brings years of communication and outreach experience gained both in full-time church ministry and the field of church website design. Bryan and his wife, Denae, enjoy Michigan summers, Detroit sports, and family time.

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Comments (4)

  • Rick
    10:33 AM
    Thu, Aug 2, 2018

    I think the church bulletin is necessary to remind folks of what’s going on that week. And especially helpful for visitors… it gives them a touchpoint about the church & events with zero effort on their part (no need to go online and sift through pages to get the info).

  • Mimi
    11:05 AM
    Thu, Aug 2, 2018

    In a time when we want to be more aware of the carbon footprint we leave and be more environmentally conscious, our staff team played around with several different ways of effectively communicating to visitors and congregants before settling on something that seems to work really well.

    Weekly, we only print and hand out the actual sermon notes (on half sheets). However, as we are a group that works far ahead, we are able to print a quarterly newsletter which contains summary info about the upcoming events during that season. We print around 30 of them, and leave them out for visitors and non-computer people to pick up. With a congregation of around 250 each week, we have only needed to print 30 of these newsletters each quarter.

    We have discovered that 99% of the people who visit our church do their research beforehand via our website. That is where we do most of our communications - via our website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Having said that, when a major event comes up, we print off quarter-sheet postcards to be handed out.

    Our experience has been that the traditional church bulletin content doesn’t change much except for the sermon notes. 75% of the content remains the same until an event is passed, then it switches out and another one switches in. People don’t read a weekly bulletin unless it changes enough to make it worth their while; paradoxically, if it changes too much, people don’t read the bulletin because there’s too much to read and most of it will be irrelevant to them.

    Lots to think about and consider. However, there’s no ideal situation that works for every church. I think you have to consider the demographic of your congregation and the information you are trying to convey. Don’t be afraid to change things up every couple of years in order to keep things fresh and the congregation engaged.

  • Colin Cameron
    10:59 AM
    Mon, Aug 6, 2018

    I struggle with church bulletins. Most of them look unprofessional in my experience.

    As has already been pointed out, most of them don’t change from week to week, however the congregation does in my church. “Regular” attendance used to be weekly, now it is monthly.

    While printing a bulletin is what we’ve always done, that isn’t a great reason in my mind to continue with it. Having the same thing week after week catches the people who only come monthly, and can cause those who do come weekly to lose interest. To me there’s no simple solution.

    At the church I’m at now, we project almost the entire service. A worship outline is only really needed if the projection fails, and even then I think that we’re small enough that we could just announce what page people need to turn to if we return to the books for one Sunday.

    The listing of events in the congregation is helpful—only if people take that listing home—and most don’t in the church I serve. We recycle most of the announcement sheets on Monday morning. So why are we printing them?

    Added to all this is our aging congregation who just wants a bulletin because they’ve always had one. While it seems a large effort for minimal return, why would we move away from something that someone feels comforting.

    I would prefer to move to something digital, but not many members would use it at the moment, which makes the investment hard to justify.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of the conversation about this.

  • cheryl rettig
    2:59 PM
    Mon, Aug 13, 2018

    More and more lately I am looking at the things we use at our church from the perspective of a visitor. As the admin asst I do get the feeling that it isn’t read….by our members. It’s important to remember that the bulletin is a tool used for visitors to see the order of the service and to also see the programs or events that are happening in the church.

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