Ways To Improve Your Church Bulletin

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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.

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The primary criteria we used for the church bulletin (or Worship Guide) as I prefer to call it, was, "can a visitor read it and completely understand it?" Today churches have several means of communicating information to it's members and all communications need to be carefully prepared because it reflects and impacts the church image. Any church that uses any of it's communication as "a dumping ground for information" is probably having other problems also.

That's a great strategy and a good filter.  Thanks for sharing.  

As an employee of a Christian Reformed Church I certainly resent your comment that information in bulletins is presented "without too much thought into why it's there or how it's presented". I doubt there is a bulletin secretary in the CRC who does his/her work with that attitude. You owe all of them an apology!

Meredith, I assume you are speaking to the writer, Jerod, however you are incorrect. Many churches have a bulletin clerk who only types the announcements which are given to her/him. How often haven't you read an announcement something like this: "If you would like to included in the new small groups being set up, see Bill or Connie in the basement after the morning service." Only old time church members understand what to do and it is offensive to a first time visitor who automatically feels excluded. In too many church bulletins spelling and grammatical and punctuation mistakes are common...a poor reflection on the church. The point of this discussion is to encourage improvement.

How can you possibly think that it is OK to begin a discussion by vilifying someone else’ work? That would be like someone saying: “The blog topics on this CRC website are shallow, poorly conceived and impossible to navigate so let’s talk about how to create a good blog.” Where’s the grace in that?

Meredith...it is certainly not my intention to put down anyones work.  My goal is to help people think more intentionally about communications.  How to strategically share information in the bulletin is one of the top issues I regularly talk with church leaders about because they're asking for help.

When ideas are brought up on how to improve the work we do in churches, it shouldn't be looked at as a personal attack. Saying a bulletin can be improved doesn't imply that the person currently putting it together is bad.  We all have room to grow and should be able to have reasonable conversations about how to be better share our message.  

Jerod, my goal here is then, to help you with the way you communicate. I have absolutely no issue with the suggestion that bulletins can and need to be improved. However, the way you worded your introduction to the topic made it personal. When you say, “not much thought goes into . . .” you are describing what you assume to be the attitude of the people who do that work. That’s personal. If I said, “Jarod, obviously you did not put much thought into the wording of your blog.” that would be a personal description of your attitude, i.e. a personal affront, an insult.  If I said, “Jared, your blog is a good idea but some of the words could be taken as a personal affront.” that would NOT be a description of your attitude, it would NOT be about you personally and so, NOT an insult. It would be a graceful way to begin talking about something that could be improved. Does that make it more clear for you?

Meredith, I understand your point.  We just have a difference in opinion about what constitutes accusatory language.  

Thanks for sharing your concerns. I hear what you're saying. Hopefully we can move on and focus on tips for making bulletins the best they can be.  

 

I am always looking for a way to change up the bulletin so as to comminucate interest in ministries and list areas of where and how people can plug in. I'm the secretary at ACRC and see that times are changing. I look for new ways to be "user friendly". We try to keep in mind of how  a visitor might view the bulletin in that the info is for ALL.  We want to be about The Great Commission.  I use Cadet, GEMS, and JOY Club logo's when space permits. VBS logo's are always eye-catching. Graphics are great - when space permits. I've contacted sister churches and friends and asked them to send their bulletins on to me. It's exciting to see what other churches offer, how their bulletin is laid out, what ministries they have, how they promote their causes with what kind of fundraiser. I appreciate your tips; I try to highlight dates & times. I try to limit words. I put blurbs in date order. I try to keep font a readable size - not small and cramped. We're discussing a LARGE PRINT bulletin for Disability Awareness. Front screen announcements seem "busy" and "loud" to me. We have so many distractions nowadays, I think when you seat yourself, it's a time to gather yourself, calm yourself and prepare yourself for worship.  Lastly, I want to thank our congregation and all others in your church for the grace they have for the secretary when they find a typo! Even though I proofed it - along with another..the moment I sit in the pew, I open the bulletin and a typo is glaring at me!  I do not get offended if someone brings the type to my attention. Thanks to my Lord, Romans 3:23, He knows I'm human. Instead, I mark the change, drop my bulletin on my desk for reference and give the person "a Smartie candy". :) If I already caught the typo? No candy. But a good laugh is had by all. Hey, all, send me a copy of your church bulletin! I'd love to read it!  ACRC, 530 North Dale Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801

 

Can I submit my bulletin for editing comments?  That would be a great resource to us as Secretaries!

Hi Ellen-

I'd be more than happy to take a look at your bulletin.  You can email it to me: jclark [at] crcna [dot] org.  

Jerod