Church bulletins. You gotta love ’em.
Since moving to the US, we’ve been visiting many different churches in our search for a new spiritual home. That was an interesting experience, to say the least, and one that has taught us much about what churches are doing right—and wrong.
One aspect of our church ‘experience’ we noticed, was the vast variety in church bulletins, both in terms of layout and quality as in content. We’ve seen some really great examples of church bulletins and we saw some bad ones. Based on my experiences, here are 6 ways to improve your church bulletin.
1. Define a Clear Goal
Who’s the church bulletin for? This may seem an obvious question, but it’s not. If your primary audience is members and regular attendees, your content can be wildly different—read: more insiders info—than when you want to focus on visitors. For members, listing specific prayer requests is fine for instance, but for visitors, this can come across as somewhat weird, or even raise privacy concerns.
Remember that visitors often take the bulletin home. That makes it a solid opportunity for you to create impact, even after the service. Maybe they won’t read it during the service, but they might afterwards. is the tone, message, content consistent with the overall message you want to convey, the image you want to communicate?
Can you reach both regulars and newcomers? You can, but it helps to make a separate section for the visitors where they can find info that’s interesting to them. The church board meeting clearly isn’t meant for them, but the Christianity 101 class is. Use clear headings to help them find what they’re looking for.
2. Explain, Explain,Explain
This is one we kept seeing: you may know what certain events are, what certain terms mean, or who certain people are, but visitors don’t. They may not even understand the church language you’re using. Don’t forget you suffer from the ‘curse of knowledge‘—everything that’s crystal clear to you, may be one big puzzle to a visitor. So try to read your bulletin with fresh eyes and see what outsiders may see. ‘Annual Mission’s Day’ may be an event everyone at the church is familiar with, but newcomers won’t have a clue what to expect. Describe an event in a few sentences and most importantly: describe who the event is for. In my experience, that was the info most often missing.
3. Spice it Up
If your bulletin looks pretty much the same every Sunday, chances are few people will actually read it. But if you spice it up and deliver fresh content every week, it will attract a lot more attention. Use pictures to show instead of tell (with permission of course)—the kids’ and youth ministry are always good for adorable or funny pics. We visited churches where there was a different puzzle for the kids every week and our 7-year old loved this.
4. Use Lists and Graphics
We live in times where few people have the patience to read long pieces of text anymore. Even in church announcements, people are looking for shortcuts. They want to be able to scan for important info, so help them find it. Use headlines, bullet lists, graphics where possible. The weekly or monthly calendar is a good example, if kept short and sweet, it can be a powerful tool to help visitors remember important dates.
5. Use Stories
I could write about the power of stories till the cows come home, but I won’t. Suffice to say, that stories are a powerful tool in your church bulletin as well. And the options are sheer endless: conversion stories, personal testimonies, stories of the impact of the church’s missionary work, personal stories from missionaries sent out by the church, stories about what happend in the various ministries, stories about how events touched people’s lives…Yup, like I said: the opportunities are vast.
Many bulletins could benefit from more focus from what I’ve seen. And by focus, I mean a clear vision of what does and does not belong in there—again based on your targeted audience. The fact that you have a wonderful older lady who writes nice ‘devotionals’ does not mean you have to include one every single week for instance. What kind of announcements do you include (example of a guideline: it has to be somehow related to the church, so no general Christian announcement of, say, concerts or events), who can contribute, who has final say? Clear rules and a razor sharp focus will greatly improve the quality of the content.