27 Mar 2013
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.