Will these new technologies mean the end of the traditional congregational handout?
The church bulletin is a staple, tried and true, trusted in, and relied on by all. Bored by the announcements? Peruse your well-loved bulletin. Looking for something to fill your calendar with Thursday night? Yep, the bulletin can help you out. Need to know if giving is up or down? Your bulletin (depending on your church) might just have the answer.
Yet, if this is true, why are so many bulletins cast off to the church floor or left on seats, resigned to a destiny consisting of recycling or being thrown out with the half-drunken Styrofoam coffee cups. We create the bulletin with the intent that each and every church member will hold on to them, write copious amounts of spiritually-inspired notes from the sermon, and hang on to them indefinitely, cataloged in a special file folder at home (OK, I digress, that’s probably just me).
What happens when printing costs rise, volunteer help is down, and people look less and less to paper and more to their iPhones?
The bulletin has seen its heyday; its prime just might be past. The time to change, or at least audit the bulletin’s effectiveness, just might be upon us. I know it’s hard. Most of us don’t like change too much. Or we like change in specific areas like what we’re having for dinner, not how we interact with our church each Sunday.
These thoughts were spawned by a recent conversation with my pastor at church. The times, they are a-changing. In my 12-year tenure at my home church, the bulletin style and format has not changed. Not even once. Same size, same font, same tear off response card, same layout for sermon notes.
While sameness isn’t in itself bad, and change in and of itself isn’t good just for the sake of change, we all should take time to refocus, reflect and redesign what meets the needs of the church.
So what are our options for change and growth in the area of the church bulletin? I spent some time researching and thinking about ways to grow, expand and change in this area of church communication:
Option 1: Scale Down Print Bulletin Length
As with any change, executing the change slowly and carefully is the key within most organizations, but especially within churches. If you currently have an eight- or 12-page bulletin, perhaps the first step would be scaling it down in size if you’re moving toward cutting out the print bulletin altogether. This would be a good way to “test the waters” and see how much resistance you might get. While this isn’t a technology option, it should go hand-in-hand with the other three options below in order to ease out of the bulletin-creating cycle.
Back in April, Thom S. Rainer blogged about Five Things Church Members Want in a Church Bulletin. His informal poll helped guide the list, and the comments below the article are worth reading.