There’s a good chance you have a love/hate relationship with your church bulletin and my guess is you lean more towards the dislike side. Why? The bulletin is often a dumping ground for information. All sorts of stuff ends up there without too much thought into why it’s there or how it’s presented.
Like any communications tool, the bulletin is something that needs to have a strategy to be effective. Here are some thoughts for improving that Sunday morning staple.
- Highlight fewer items. If you really want people to absorb important information, you can’t give them content overload. Think of what’s the most important information for the current season of your church and give those items communications priority. Some churches do a literal “top five” each week. Others just organize content so it’s easy to see what’s most important. Figure out what works for you and do it. Even if your bulletin is the main way you communicate with your congregation, find a way to prioritize certain announcements before getting into the lower priority items.
- No paragraphs of text. People won’t sift through pages of non-stop words. Part of your job as a communicator is to make the message as simple as possible. If someone sends you an announcement through email that’s paragraphs long, you don’t have to publish it word for word. Yes, that’s easier, but is it effective? Additionally, is there content you can just cut to reduce the clutter? Do the names of next week’s ushers really need to go in the bulletin? Is that something everyone needs to know? Couldn’t you contact them individually?
- Content organization. How you layout the bulletin makes a difference. By putting information in certain spots, it will get more attention than if it was placed somewhere else. The front page probably gets read more than the last. Something with graphical elements will catch someone’s eye more than text alone. Part of creating priority is determining where it will go and how it will be presented to get the most attention.
- White space. A great ideal of simple design is to leave room for your content to breathe. Every square inch of paper doesn’t have to be covered. Spacing your content makes it easier to consume. It’s simpler for someone to scan. They can easily know where one thing stops and another starts.
- Images and graphics. These items can enhance your storytelling. Does your VBS have a logo? Do you have pictures from last year’s Easter event? Even something like a line or box can make a difference. But here’s an important point: don’t force it. Bad 1990s clipart is a distraction not an enhancement. Too many images create a cluttered mess. Always err on the side of clean and simple.
- Let it go. Sometimes we hold on to things longer than we should. Is your bulletin one of those items? Is it really effective anymore? I went to a church where the bulletin had a big sermon graphic on the front. The inside had a couple announcements. And the last two pages were for sermon notes. Did that really serve a purpose? Wouldn’t folks be fine without it?
In many churches, the bulletin is one of those untouchable items. We have to keep doing it because that’s the way it’s always been done. My challenge to you is to really examine it to decide how effective it is at communicating. In most of your churches, the bulletin isn’t going away any time soon. That’s okay. But if you’re putting effort into it, make sure it’s fruitful. Find a way to present information so it sticks and isn’t something that gets tucked away up behind the pew hymnal.