All posts tagged news

Simple Guidelines For Better Bulletins

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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.

Fall-tastic Announcement Slides

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Are you an early-bird on Sunday mornings? When I first started volunteering in church media at the age of fifteen, my greatest joy of the week was being one of the first ones at church on Sunday mornings. It was a great time to spend with God as I plugged in all of my songs, backgrounds, and scriptures for service before the crowds started rolling in for Sunday School.

Since I’ve spent most of my church career being one of the first ones in the building, I’ve noticed that the time before service begins—Pre-Service—presents a really good opportunity to start communicating to your congregation. As people are finding their seat, catching their breath from getting their kids up and ready, and talking amongst themselves, you can use Announcement Slides to prepare them for service. I’ve used these on Sunday mornings since I first got involved in church media and they have consistently been effective over the years.

Below are a few examples of the kind of slides that we rotate on a loop before service begins each week. We also show them during the offering and on a flat-panel monitor that we have mounted in the lobby. The backgrounds that we have been using this fall season can be purchased together in an Announcement Pack from Centerline and are available as motions or still images. You’ll be able to use them in everything from PowerPoint to ProPresenter.

As you can imagine, slides like this look much better than just a plain logo or a blank screen as people are walking in. Plus, the more that people see information, such as your upcoming events or ways that they can give online, the more likely they are to participate. You will be surprised how many new Facebook “likes” and new Twitter followers that you will pick up as you show these each week! (This is really great because you can then communicate announcements to them throughout the week.) Also, I highly recommend sharing the Scripture reference that your pastor will be preaching from during Pre-Service. This allows people to go ahead and have it ready in their Bibles or apps.

Slides like these require a minimal amount of time to put together and the benefit is huge. Plus, with packs like this, you’re able to purchase one set of backgrounds that will last for an entire season of announcements. Keep in mind that sticking with the general color scheme of these backgrounds will be key to making them look professional. You’ll also want to stick to the same (or at least similar) fonts such as Munchie and Wisdom Script that were used on these.

Does your church use Announcement Slides?

Introducing The iPad Mini

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Have you heard the big news? Apple held a press conference this morning to announce several new products which included an upgraded Mac Mini, an amazing new iMac, new 13″ MacBook Pro, the 4th generation iPad, and a new iPad Mini. There’s no hiding that the iPad has radically changed the computer industry since its release just a few years ago. In fact, they have transformed the “tablet market” that was once only considered the red-headed-stepchild of the computing world and made it common to everyone from children to senior citizens. Because there is virtually no end to the potential of this device, iPads can be seen in offices, classrooms, hospitals, police departments, and even churches. What do you do when you have the best selling product in an industry? You find a way for more people to use it in more ways. When Apple announced that they were releasing the iPad Mini today, I believe they succeeded in that.

I have always been a fan of the 9.7″ screen size of my iPad, but I can definitely understand that it’s a bit too large for some people to carry with them all the time. This new, smaller size (7.9″) seems like it will really be convenient for people to stick in their purse or coat pocket. This should translate into users carrying it with them to more places. Luckily, it has the same screen shape, so that all of the iPad apps will work on it without losing any visibility. While I’m not super thrilled over the modest tech specs of the Mini (basically has the horsepower of an iPad 2), I don’t think that it’s a show stopper. Developers will surely keep those specs in mind when creating their apps.

Probably the most exciting news that came with this new product is the price. The $499 price tag that comes with the regular sized iPad is just too steep for those working on a tight budget. Now that the iPad Mini is available for only $329, a lot more people will have the opportunity to own one of these powerful devices. This is going to be great in our church in cases such as our praise and worship team. The preferred and the easiest way for them to carry their music sheets is with their OnSong app (soon to transition to Planning Center Online). There is also a lot of music/sound gear that works with iPad. For example, we use a PreSonus StudioLive mixer that allows for each of its 10 aux’s (monitor feeds) to be controlled from an iOS device. I think that this screen size and price are going to work great for our band members for this purpose. We also use iPads in my small group each week. It makes things so much easier when we can read ebooks and distribute pdf discussion guides without having to print out the materials. I’m not convinced that the Mini is going to be big enough for me to preach from like I do with my current iPad, but I’m interested in trying it!

What do you think of the new iPad Mini? Do you currently use iPads in your church?

Facebook Profile? Page? Group?

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There is no doubt that social networking is an extremely valuable tool for churches. It offers the ability to reach a multitude of people through a medium that they’re likely already checking at least once a day. (Or in my case, about 97 times a day.) Facebook, being the #1 social network, is the perfect place to start if your ministry is interested in getting involved socially online. In fact, if you are starting fresh without even a website, I would recommend beginning with a Facebook. It meets people on their turf and is much simpler (and cheaper) than a website.

There are a few guidelines that you should stick to so that your ministry will get the most out of this platform. If there is one thing that drives this media-man crazy, it’s seeing a church on Facebook that has been set up as a person (profile). Instead, I would recommend using Facebook Pages for your church as a whole, and using Groups for your small groups, leadership teams, and music teams. Still lost? Here are the basics of each kind of FB presence.

Facebook Profiles:
These are meant to represent a single individual. For example, this is where Pastor John Doe can share pictures of his family or brag that his favorite sports team is undefeated. Organizations of any type are not permitted to maintain a profile and if reported, their account will be terminated immediately.

Facebook Pages:
Pages are designed to enable businesses, organizations, brands, musical groups, or causes to create a public presence on Facebook. Unlike a profile, Facebook Pages are visible to everyone on the internet by default. (No need for friend requests here.) This is where churches—as a whole—belong on Facebook. They are a great place where you can share what’s going on in your ministry through text, photos, videos, and events. You can even grant multiple staff members or volunteers access to post under your organization’s name. Church members and those who want to find out more about your ministry can subscribe to your updates by “liking” your page. Because Facebook is a place of interaction, you’re likely to have subscribers commenting and asking questions right on your posts. This provides an incredible tool for building relationships with both regular attenders and new people. What’s really amazing is the exposure your church gets as your subscribers start reposting your updates for all of their friends to see. A great bonus feature of Pages is the ability to see detailed stats of how many people you’re actually reaching through your posts. Start a Page here.

Facebook Groups:
Groups are the perfect place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests. They allow people to come together around a common cause, issue or activity to organize, express objectives, discuss issues, post photos and share related content. When you create a group, you can decide whether to make it publicly available for anyone to join, require administrator approval for members to join, or keep it private and invitation only. Like with Pages, new posts by a group are included in the News Feeds of its members and they can interact and share with one another from the group. I have found private groups to be perfect for small groups and Sunday School classes. I personally use it as a way to share prayer requests and announcements within our young adult group. (Which is good because it keeps sensitive matters from the public eye.) This can also work great for music teams to share music and set lists, or for leadership teams to discuss ideas throughout the week. Start a Group here.

Ultimately, you’re looking at three great tools for ministry and they’re all free with Facebook. In my opinion, there is simply no better way to connect with people online. It’s all about meeting people where they’re already at and in a way that is understandable to them.

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Church & Social Media Infographic

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Have you seen this infographic on church and social media? I first saw it posted yesterday on Mashable.com as they discussed that “religion isn’t a word often associated with technology—but it should be.”

Buzzplant, a Christian-based digital advertising agency, surveyed churches to see how they’re using social media within their organization. More than 30% of churches surveyed said they update Facebook each day, while close to 15% said they never use the network.

Just under half of those surveyed say social media is the most effective method of communication, while about 25% prefer the more traditional method — knocking on doors.

Buzzplant works closely with churches to teach them how to effectively use social media and has developed smartphone applications to assist missionaries in the field. The agency asked over 250 churches what social networks they used, how often and how effective they think their efforts are. (mashable.com)


What about you? Does your church use social networking to connect with people?

Sources: http://www.mashable.com/2012/07/31/churches-social-media, http://www.buzzplant.com