Church Bulletins Are Awful

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This is part two of a three-part series on church bulletins from Church Juice. For the latest and to join the conversation, click here.

I’m painting with a broad stroke here, but here’s my statement: Every pastor in North America hates church bulletins. They are in the same category as taxes—a necessary evil. No ones likes them, but everybody keeps on doing them. Let me encourage you, you do not need to keep giving your life to this weekly burden. Here are three reasons why you should stop printing church bulletins.

A Drain on Resources

The weekly bulletin is a drain on resources and time. I know church secretaries who spend a full workday each week preparing the bulletin. Formatting, filling, printing, folding—all this to put a pamphlet into people’s hands each week, most of which will be thrown away. There also is the financial cost. To outsource the bulletin for a professional full color print could make a church’s annual printing costs enter into the tens of thousands of dollars. In a land of lack, this is an area that should be examined for necessity.

Bulletins are Ineffective

Christian resource giant, Lifeway, has recently begun monitoring the sporadic attendance of church members. A generation ago, members came every week as a matter of priority. In today’s world, committed members may come once or twice a month. This new paradigm means that this printed bulletin isn’t getting into people’s hands. With the rise of social media, we now have a much more pervasive and cost-effective way to get important information to our people. Even when everyone comes, there isn’t a Sunday when ushers aren’t picking up discarded bulletins. On top of that, why does every staff member try to get their event mentioned from the pulpit? Their reason: “No one reads the bulletin.” So why put so much work into something that brings such little return on investment? Instead, place the information on social media and on the church's website.

A Real Obstacle

Church bulletins can quickly become a real obstacle for church mission. One reason pastors secretly loathe the bulletin is because there is so much “country club” christianity surrounding it; ministry heads get offended because their event wasn’t highlighted, or people want their pet cause to add yet another insert. There is a glut of information, and much of it is not tied to the actual work of making disciples in the church’s community. A church does not exist to entertain its members. The church has a mission. That mission is to be outside the walls and reaching those who have yet to experience the love of Christ.  The bulletin is for those inside the walls. It should not have such a place of honor among our people.

So, how much time are you spending each week creating and printing the bulletin?  How effective is your labor? And how much headache does this cause? As you consider these questions, note that bulletins are not a must for a church family. This is not a matter of mission or theological importance. Make it smaller. Put a monthly handout out on a table for those who want one, as opposed to putting them in every hand. Send out a weekly email that highlights the major church-wide gospel initiatives. Point people to the church’s website or Facebook Page. There are other ways. There are better ways.

Has your church removed its bulletin? How do you communicate well without it?

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I respectfully disagree with some of the points made in this article. Our weekly bulletins are sent to our congregants via email (if requested) and we also have hard copies available on Sunday mornings. Pre-service announcements are infrequent and short!

Sunday bulletins are a great way to keep the congregation informed.

I don't foresee us ever being 'paperless'.

When I visit another congregation I like to scan the bulletin to see what is going on.  Yes, many bulletins get discarded,  How many members actually look at the church's web site or other electronic method of distributing information?  Would members appreciate getting an email or a phone call for each item otherwise printed in the bulletin? Today there are numerous methods to distribute and share information. Unfortunately there is not one method which seems to be the best.  Electronic methods requires a phone, tablet or computer. Should churches encourage members to use these tools 24/7 in order to connect to all the organizations and people who are important to them?  Should people look at all web sites to see whether there is something they are interested in?  Compared to the work in publishing paper every week, what is the work required to make a web site attractive and up to date?  Or drafting an effective email? Or making all the work necessary to check who accessed the web site to be sure the information is getting out to members?   - August Guillaume