Why Bulletins Suck and You Should Burn Them All

Why Bulletins Suck and You Should Burn Them All

May 24, 2017 by

OK, so I got your attention. It was either that headline or “Print is Dead. Have a Funeral.” Perhaps both scream of hyperbole. Yes, a bit of exaggeration but I believe the church needs the wake up call.

Should a church do away with their printed bulletins? In my experience, working with churches across the country, I’ve heard a lot of reasons to use them. Is an older congregation or liturgy just an excuse? What about “we’ve always done them and people seem to want them”?

There seems to be a lot of resistance. Imagine if we had to drop our bulletins (because our congregations demanded it). What then? Are we saying we’d force them to use them? Let’s be clear, this isn’t a spiritual or biblical issue. It’s either a good idea or a poor one.

The truth: the world is rejecting printed communications (look at the failing newspaper and magazine industries). And many church communicators and pastors are shoving print communication into our member’s hands and requiring them to use them.

Let’s add balance to this issue: No church should quickly get rid of their bulletin without considering the outcomes.

Here are three issues that may stop you from igniting the stack of paper communications (or help you do it!):

1. Liturgical Services Require Something

In conferences I’ve always provided this one reason for keeping a bulletin. But I’m not so sure now. I think we need to take a sobering look at gently moving away from the crazy expense of print materials and into digital heaven.

Liturgy is a pre-determined form of worship that doesn’t “require” printed materials. This beautiful ritual of following along and participating in the worship only requires the participants to know what to say and when. Perhaps think about ways to enhance the worship experience through digital projection; it can be done.

2. Digital Projection Doesn’t Feel Right in Our Church

Many resist digital projection because of the “idea” of it. I would soften eliminating bulletins by introducing projection while keeping the printed materials. Most will discover it’s easier to follow projected words and the worship is actually enhanced by getting people to look up.

Remember that a printed order of service (liturgy) and a printed bulletin are different things. If you must, only distribute a brief handout and stop the printed announcements all together. Liturgy shouldn’t be an excuse for an entire bulletin.

Technology firms have also developed worshipful, environmental projection systems that complement a church instead of standing out like a sore thumb. Many don’t even require screens. These firms can tackle your expectations and deliver something that will save your congregation thousands of dollars in the long run.

3. Visitors Need Something to Take Home

This is valid too. Most visitors feel better with something in their hand. They also need a reminder to check out your website for events and opportunities once they get home. Again, this can be something separate from a printed brochure. Perhaps a postcard with a perforated contact card will do. Most people (in and out of the church) want to find information online (when and where they want it). That’s on a website.

Bigger Issues

If you look around your church and realize you don’t have a tech-savvy crowd (people who are going to resist digital projection and going to a website for announcements), sadly, you have greater issues than a bulletin. It’s the evidence that the “age” of your congregation is greater than the “age” of your community. You need to reconnect with your community. In my church communication book, Be Known for Something, I deal with this issue. If we don’t, our churches will age out (die) and the community will find another way (or no way) to deal with their spiritual needs. Our communities are growing while our churches are shrinking.

Digital communication can be done properly. Make sure your website is organized properly so that your events and opportunities are easily found—especially on a small mobile screen. If you don’t have this you must keep your printed bulletin because you don’t have a digital replacement.

But don’t let that be an excuse either. Let’s deliver effective communication like the rest of the world is adopting. Your church will feel current, professional, and welcoming to a world that thinks the church does things archaically. Let’s prove them wrong.


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Post By:

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is an author, speaker, and strategic communication catalyst with the Florida Baptist Convention. He’s also the author of Be Known For Something. Mark is also the executive director of our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication.
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2 Responses to “Why Bulletins Suck and You Should Burn Them All”

  • Lance
    May 30, 2017

    Agreed! There are so many better solutions that physically printing (and wasting paper) bulletins. Custom church apps like Go Church App (only $50/month, which I’m sure is cheaper than many churches spend on printing, plus there is a whole host of other features) allow you to add a PDF for church goers to opt out of the physical bulletin and just use one inside their app. Here is the site: gochurchapp.com

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  • Jim Disbrow
    June 24, 2017

    The last place I would expect to see this argument is on a marketing website. I see a lot of opinion here, but no data to back it up. Communicators and Marketers base decisions on researching how effective a medium is.

    The argument that newspapers and magazines are losing market share to digital media isn’t relevant data. If you open either of them you will see advertisements. Now that is relevant! In sales they claim a consumer needs to see something 10 times before they make a decision on whether to purchase something. That same concept is relevant to the church. More people will respond to programs like a VBS if they see it marketed more often.

    Finally, this is not an either/or issue. There is no reason a church cannot use both digital and print materials. Modern churches are basing decisions like this on trends and following the new “in” thing. That’s not marketing.

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