I am always on the look out for new ideas for any church communications and when it comes to the humble church bulletin I’m very interested.
In my opinion, the humble church bulletin or as some call it, news-sheet is a much maligned communications piece. Yet it has remained central to the life of many churches around the world from many different denominations.
I know that in my experience no one communication piece can solve all your communication problems. And it is the same with the church bulletin. It will never be a magic bullet to helping people find what they are looking for. No matter how brilliant it is.
Here are some strategies I have used for our purposely low tech church bulletin:
1. Be Focused
Less is more. We are a large church, yet we manage to fit all of our announcements on four A5 pages (Here is an example of our bulletin). That includes significant space focussed on newcomers. We are very strategically focused on what we announce, and more so what we don’t announce. We measure ourselves against key result areas, if we add a lot of noise in announcing everything else how can we expect our congregations to take a next step where we would like them to be?
I really like this emphasis chart that Dawn Nicole Baldwin created which shows the different levels of appropriate emphasis for different ministries.
2. Are you visitor friendly?
If someone is sitting in your service for the first time, will they get all the helpful information they need to know. Do you use language that only insiders can understand? Test your bulletin on someone who has never visited your church to see if they understand it. What key bite-sized pieces of information would be helpful for a visitor for you?
3. What ever you do, scream community!
Repeat after me. You are not a corporation you are a church. Churches have drifted into becoming too professional and lost the essence of who they are, a community. How does the visitor see your community and connect into your community?
4. Provide ‘Easy On-Ramps’
Do you make it simple or complicated for someone to respond to an announcement in the bulletin? What do they need to know and where or who do they respond to. Keep it short.
5. Tell them the why as well as the how
Depending on the structure of your bulletin you have an excellent opportunity for your senior leader to share their vision. We have a 200 word space allocated to what we consider being the headline story, which helps us keep the main things the main things.
6. Provide easy to find contact points for questions
In a large community you need a simple central point of names and contact details to help people take their next step.
7. Repeat, repeat and repeat again.
Your average church community isn’t actually at church every week. You need to repeat your announcements at least three times. I have even gone on a heavier frequency for our top announcements and still people have said they didn’t know about it.
8. Point online
If you aren’t already doing an email version of your bulletin I highly recommend you do one. Your digital insiders will move to the online version if they have an easy sign up point. You still need your printed bulletin though. But you can minimise the amount of detail in the printed bulletin by pointing to your online calendar.
9. Print still matters
I tweeted this at our last #cmschat, video killed the radio star, but nothing will kill the humble printed church bulletin.
Why? The print version of your bulletin is essential because it is like mobile is for visitors to your website on the move. Your regular community has probably moved to using your app, but it takes time for new members of your community to adopt new things.
Got any questions or queries about how to use the church bulletin effectively? Drop a comment below. I’d love to help!