Simple Guidelines For Better Bulletins

TCP-Better_Bulletins

Today’s post is from Benjamin Webb—a great friend of mine who serves as a Communications Pastor in Martinsville, Virginia. I trust that you’ll benefit from his wisdom as I have so many times. 

The “bulletin” is no stranger to today’s church. I’ve had the opportunity to visit numerous churches and have experienced the countless ways in which bulletins have been used. I’ve seen churches big and small use bulletins, but no matter the size of the church, they seem to stick within a common perimeter: bi-fold or tri-fold paper with an inspirational design or picture on the front, content on the inside, and sometimes additional “inserts” for last minute announcements or extra information on special events, etc… you get the picture. I’ve seen some attractive ones and some that are so jam-packed with information and graphics that it’s hard to even know what you’re supposed to be reading. As communicators in our churches, we should take our jobs very seriously. Your bulletin is a key way in which you communicate to your congregation, so it should be well thought-out.

When I arrived at my current church, the bulletin was a tri-fold brochure. The cover was attractive and there was a detachable information card which was pre-printed by professional service. Then, each week, our announcements were input and printed off in-house from a formatted document. It was very professional looking, but the problem was that once someone actually opened it, the amount of content was so overwhelming. I knew as a Communications Pastor, I had to do something to help.

The first question I asked was “how do we want to use the bulletin?” Next, “how are we actually using our bulletin?” These questions can be key to test if you’re accomplishing your goal or simply checking off a box for a sloppy job. For our bulletin, we decided that our goal is simply to inform our congregation of upcoming events and any important announcements. From that point on, I knew we would need some guidelines to keep us true to our goal. Here are a few guidelines that we put into place:

  • We set boundaries of who can submit content and what kind of info could go into the bulletin. “Sister So-n-So” must no longer put an “inspirational word” in the bulletin!
  • The bulletin is to be used for CHURCH announcements only. No more baby shower announcements… no more shout outs for engagements or marriages… no more NON-CHURCH related announcements. Cut the fluff! Go through your bulletin from last Sunday and ask yourself how much of that information was truly necessary.
  • Deadlines! Ministry Leaders MUST submit content no later than Tuesday. No excuses. If you don’t know the details of an event before Tuesdays, then you probably don’t need to announce it to the church on Sunday (Proper planning prevents poor performance). The reason for this guideline is simple. For us, the bulletin needs to be put together by Tuesday so that it can be edited by Wednesday and printed on Thursday. Don’t forget to have someone else check for grammar mistakes!
  • Tell your clip-art images to go back to 1995! They are not welcome here! I know they are cute and pretty, but they can be distracting. In fact, I’m not a huge fan of including many graphics at all. In most cases, it’s difficult to keep all of your images uniform and they end up looking sloppy.
  • Cut out repetitive information week-to-week (unless it’s something that you want your congregation to commit to memory—like your church’s vision). If your facility is large, it also may be a good idea to include a small directory or map, too.

After we applied these guidelines, I quickly realized that our bulletin design was way too big for our amount of content, so I designed a new look that was smaller. We went with a pre-printed, double-sided handout, that’s half the size of a regular sheet of paper (8.5″x5.5″). On the front, there is information and announcements that apply to the entire church. The back is reserved for announcements for specific ministries. After doing this for about a year, we realized that the bulletin still looked bare, so we took a bold step! We moved from a weekly bulletin to a monthly one. Shew… It’s out there now! What we found was that people ACTUALLY like to plan ahead and now seem to prefer a monthly bulletin. Crazy, huh?

Take a look at your current bulletin and ask yourself, “How can I make this better?” Hopefully these guidelines will help you in that process as they have for us.

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Benjamin Webb

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13 Comments on "Simple Guidelines For Better Bulletins"

  1. Dustin Bush says:

    I love this post! It would be great to see a few examples of your bulletin and the information you were including. It would be a treat to see the monthly version as well! Good job.

  2. Josh White says:

    Hey Kendall…how could I get in touch with Benjamin? Would like to ask him about a guest post. Thanks!

  3. Karen Fawver says:

    Does your bulletin include your church service format, or is it more of a newsletter; i.e., does the “bulletin” have a listing of the weeks hymn, sermon title, scripture read, doxology, anthem, etc.

    • Ben Webb says:

      Hello Karen. Our bulletin does not include a service format. To my knowledge, we have never included a format on our bulletin, but if that is something your church does, it could totally fit!

  4. Mark WIles says:

    I would love to know where we can purchase your pre printed handout, our church is looking for a perferated one if you have any suggestion! Thanks!

    • Ben Webb says:

      Hi Mark. We design our bulletins in house. Once the design is finished, we send it to NextDayFlyers. Our printer does not like glossy paper, so I always order it with a matte finish. Also, make sure you know what kind of paper your printer can handle. If you printer can not handle heavy card stock, then you may want to go with a lighter weight paper.

  5. Kelly says:

    Love this!! Have been trying to “thin” out our bulletin since I started over a year ago. Think you could email me some of yours so I can get an idea and then be able to present it to the pastor!

  6. Brian Turner says:

    We did the same thing with our bulletin three years ago and totally redesigned it. We now use a 8.5″ x 11″ bi-fold that we have geared towards providing information to our visitors about the different ministries and information that might need to know. This shell is professionally printed on glossy paper. Each week I provide a pdf for the office to print with the upcoming events streamlined on one side and the other side has a campus map (three buildings) and a detailed map of the Children’s Building showing room numbers/room names. Each week the bulletin shells that remain in the seats are picked up and reused if they have not been creased up from handling. This has allowed us to do a special insert for events (no more than one sheet a week) and helped us to cut costs by being able to reuse the shells.

  7. Joe Faulk says:

    I am actually in process of revamping our church bulletin right now. We are designing the outside and the inside as a “shell” to have printed in bulk then will fill in the inside from week to week in house. This was a great help as the content is what I’ve been brainstorming on how to streamline. This points me in a great direction! Thanks for the help!

  8. Gloria says:

    These are wonderful suggestions! I have been thinking of how to narrow down our bulletin while keeping the content that is necessary. Do you include any information about the staff (i.e pastoral staff)? Can you send me an example of what your bulletin looks like? Thanks so much for the great ideas!

  9. Dawn Saraney says:

    I’m in the process of redoing our church bulletin and these suggestions couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for posting! Is there any way you could email me a copy of your bulletin so I can use it as a template? After reading your bio, I’m confident that your creativity far surpasses this pastor’s wife’s :) Thanks and many blessings to you and your ministry!

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