Office Hours: Cutting Back on Bulletin Printing

Office Hours: Cutting Back on Bulletin Printing

December 12, 2012 by

Every week I hold online office hours and answer questions from folks like you. This week we’ve got a question about printing bulletins. Take a look and be sure to join me every Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. CDT for online office hours!

We waste tons of bulletins every single week, but our church leadership won’t get rid of paper bulletins. Any suggestions for how I can convince them this is a major waste of resources?

My Response:

Much like anything, the presenting issue isn’t the root issue. Find out why bulletins are important to the church, or more specifically, the leaders you’re referring to.

Once you know the why behind the bulletin, you can begin to address how you’re going to meet those needs by reducing the volume of the physical bulletin.

For instance, most churches print a bulletin because it’s the way things have always been done. To change that means to change a process. A process that someone is familiar and comfortable with. So if the communications team is in charge of printing the bulletin, you might say to them, “Reducing our print costs will create less work for you. Here’s how…”

Another big objection to decreasing or eliminating the physical bulletin is the fear of isolating certain community members from important information. While it’s true that most people check and use email to stay on top of things, not everyone does. In that case, you want to have a plan for how you will get information to people who don’t need or have access to the Internet.

One example might be printing a monthly newsletter instead of a weekly one. Same information, same content, same announcements, it just happens on a less regular basis. It might not counteract all objections, but it would be a good start for folks who find a printed bulletin useful.

As frustrating as it can be sometimes, you must remember that announcements, bulletins, etc., aren’t actually the issue. The issue is staying connected to the community and knowing what’s happening in and around the church. Once you approach bulletins with that in mind, solutions come much quicker. (And not to mention solutions with a heavy dose of compassion! No one likes to feel left out.)

Great question. Thanks for asking!

Thanks for the great questions everybody! Hopefully this information will help you get from where you are to where you want to go. See you next time in the office!

Post By:

Justin Wise

Justin Wise lives in West Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife and son. He likes coffee, reading, running and blogging.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

8 Responses to “Office Hours: Cutting Back on Bulletin Printing”

  • Jarve
    December 13, 2012

    We recently switched from wasting small weekly bulletins that were mostly left on the floor to a well designed monthly one.

    Now we can add more thought into what goes in, and communicate with articles and pictures rather than bullet point dates. Best of all people now take them home, even hand them to friends as a connection point to our church.

     | Permalink
  • Meredith Gould, PhD
    December 13, 2012

    Amen, I say to you, amen. Once again, Justin, you zoom in on the real issue which is that there’s an underlying driver for why people cling to these things…cling to anything, for that matter. These are often pastoral care concerns, which is another reason why I say church communication is a ministry.

    In these situations I try to take custody of my eye-rolling and invite everyone into a bit of a process to safely discuss their fears. Sometimes the “why” can be handled by one of the fine practical “how” solutions you offer. At other times, something less tangible is required. I speak from the experience of being present to people who have broken down sobbing after all the surface stuff has been cleared away.

    Continued blessings to you, Justin.

     | Permalink
  • Andrew Hansen
    December 13, 2012

    We’re a multi-site church with our next three campuses launching out of state. We had moved to a series bulletin that doubled as an invite card, but with campuses in each state and a lack of designer resources, we’ve decided to move 100% digital for the new year until we can think of a smart paper alternative for those in our congregation looking for a physical update on church happenings.

    We’re also developing a better strategy of using small groups to inform our congregation of special events in an attempt to limit announcements during service to maybe only one per week.

    We’ll see how it all plays out over the coming months! Great response Justin!

     | Permalink
  • Steve Kenow
    December 13, 2012

    Yep – I see the same thing, but also see 2 different problems in the question. One is the stewardship of printing disposable bulletins and the other is the value of what is printed and doesn’t last beyond the worship service.

    One chaplain that was a member of a congregation I attended gave an excellent talk (sermon, actually) about how to use the bulletin throughout the week – as a prayer list and for reflection and devotion (the readings and hymn texts were included). It wasn’t just a set of announcements, even though they were included. It also made it easier for a visitor to follow the order of worship, without having to flip pages in a hymnal an know which path to follow.

    All this is at the root of your response, Justin – what are the compelling reasons for printing a bulletin or worship folder? Congregations need to be ready, willing and able to ask those questions and come up with some good answers.

     | Permalink
  • Chris
    December 15, 2012

    Great post – bulletins can often be the “sacred cows” in our churches! Sometimes it’s not worth dying on that cross though.

     | Permalink
  • Karen Rhodes
    December 21, 2012

    Sometimes eliminating print bulletins and going digital is a way of discouraging actual face-to-face communication. The bulletin also provides a reason for people to be greeted as they enter the church. A bulletin can be used for prayer requests, as a mega church in our city does. Also, for seeker-friendly churches, and as stated above, the order of service allows them to see what’s happening, so they don’t feel as if they’re stumbling in the dark.

    Our church stopped printing words to choruses in the bulletin, but when our overhead projector had problems so that words could not be seen on the screens, only a few people were engaged because most didn’t know all the words.

    And as already stated above, some churches use the bulletin as a newsletter, handed out once a month, to keep persons informed about what’s going on.

    I am a digital person, but not everyone is, and to cater to perhaps just a few like me is not fair or wise. Communication, personal contact, relationships are too important, and a worship bulletin provides for all of the above in a nonthreatening way.
    My two-cents’ worth.

     | Permalink
  • Kevin Spear
    December 21, 2012

    At our church, we have tried going all digital with our messages and news. One of the challenges I have noticed is it is so much easier for our parishioners to ignore a digital message than print. This is especially true in our children’s ministry. Parents are so busy herding their kids, that the last thing they’ll notice is a digital message.We discovered when we went all digital, parents forgot, or never knew an event was coming up.

    While a parishioner may toss a printed bulletin, he or she can also mentally toss a digital message. It’s just more obvious with print when you see the physical evidence on the ground.

    We’ve found the best approach for our parents is to supplement print with digital messages. Each can serve as a reminder. A parent can stick a bulletin on their refrigerator if that is the way they keep track of things. They can also benefit from a text message or Facebook post if that is the way they prefer to be reminded.

     | Permalink

Featured, Promotion

, ,