7 Ways to Kill Your Bulletin

7 Ways to Kill Your Bulletin

April 15, 2015 by

Print is Dying

Print is dead,” I heard myself yelling during the latest Certification Lab. Half the participants were delighted while the other half looked perplexed or fearful. I decided to clarify.

Everywhere, we turn we see people turn to online sources while rejecting printed materials. Newspapers are fading, magazine ad sales faltering and Borders Bookstore is only a memory. Meanwhile news blogs, ebooks and websites are flourishing.

It makes sense. Print costs more, requires a setup lag time and distribution is limited by postage or personal contact.

OK, print isn’t dead. It’s just breathing heavily on a death bed.

What This Means for the Church

People trust bulletins. The problem? Most aren’t reading them.

The world is changing and the church clings to its print materials.

Why? It’s easier to not change. We have processes in place to ensure accurate bulletins are published each week. People trust them. The problem? Most aren’t reading them.

What should a church do? I’d not suggest eliminating all print church communications just yet.

In the meantime, here are seven key approaches while we wait for the bulletin’s death gurgle:

1. Don’t Ignore the Inevitable

I hear churches continually making excuses:

  • “But we have seniors.”
  • “People seem to love our bulletins.”
  • “Our people don’t go to our website.”

Realize you can save money and offer a better communication solution with an online digital hub. There’s no time like the present to prepare and move towards it.

2.Improve Your Website

People need to find what they’re looking for when they want it. Your website needs simple organization so people can find what they’re needing.

Ensure your website search bar works flawlessly. Make sure your website is always accurate and current.

Print isn’t dead. It’s just breathing heavily on a deathbed.

3. Promote Your Website Rather Than Your Bulletin

Edit bulletin information down to the minimum and drive people toward the website to get more details.

Ask leadership to talk about the benefits of the website. Get them to say things like, “I was on our website and discovered everything I needed to know” or “I don’t have to remember everything that’s going on, I just have to refer to our website.”

Have video announcements and email communications pointed to your website. It’ll take time, but build trust in your website.

4. Create a Weekly Email

Send an email blast (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.) to your congregation. This is a simple, short reminder of the things happening in your church that appeal to most of the congregation.

Create links at the bottom that’ll direct people to specific areas of the website (i.e. men’s events, women’s events, student calendar, etc.)

5. The Bulletin Diet

Since you’ll be editing your bulletin content you can reduce the size of the printed piece to a smaller, streamlined version. Shrink it down to half-sized or even smaller.

6. Make the Bulletin Optional

Stop the ushers from pushing the bulletin. Have them “available” on a table by the door. Encourage the ushers to become greeters.

7. Listen

A small vocal audience will complain. Hear them. Find out what they’re missing in your new online structure.

Let them know you’re going to help solve the problems while reinforcing the benefits of the website and email strategy or email blast.

Build People’s Trust

People rely on communications tools they trust.

Keep in mind that people rely on communication tools they trust. If people continually want to return to the printed bulletin, it’s often a trust issue.

Make sure the meticulous process that creates your trusted bulletin is implemented for your website: organization and design, constant updating, editing and proofing. There truly is a benefit for an online solution. Believe it!


Photo by Evelyn Flint/Texture Time.
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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9 Responses to “7 Ways to Kill Your Bulletin”

  • Steve Fogg
    April 15, 2015

    Some great points here Mark! Although I disagree that it is on it’s death-bed.

    Here is a post I’ve written in response.


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  • James Lavoy
    April 16, 2015

    What are we talking about when we say “bulletin”? Do we mean the order of worship, or the announcements?

    It would be silly NOT to e-blast / google calendar church events and programs (even the oldest members of my congregation check their email regularly). It saves money, and is more easily digestible by most. On the same token, not have the order of worship and hymns available, with some guidance for visitors, is disruptive in and of itself.

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    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      April 16, 2015

      Good question, James. It all depends on the purpose, doesn’t it? Just so happens we’ll have more on this next week. Stay tuned!

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  • EvangelismCoach
    April 19, 2015

    We have visited a church where the bulletin has become only
    1). An order of worship
    2). Announcements of congregational life.

    But in this same church, all the call/response liturgy, plus all words to the hymns, songs, and corporate prayer responses are all on the big screen. There is no need to print out the prayers and hymn reference numbers in a bulletin at this church, but they do it anyway.

    The announcements of congregational life are full of insider only language, and offer nothing much to the first time visitor about where to get more information on any of it.

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  • Clark
    April 22, 2015

    Our bulletin is mostly order of service but there is of course of insider language being used because most of the bulletins will be in the hands of church members. One of my next projects is to create a printed handout for “first time guests.” It would be easy enough to organize a half-size sheet on details visitors need – service times, contact details and a pastor’s welcome – without printing all of that in bulletin week after week.

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  • Crystal Knight
    April 29, 2015

    I revamped our bulletin and saved our church $17,000 a year in printing cost. YES that’s $17,000. It now only costs us .20 per bulletin and it gets a lot of mileage. I live in the Washington Metro Area which is infamous for paper trails. I am certain that one day we will move to a mobile bulletin but for now we have too many people who would scream bloody murder if we get rid of it. We have gotten rid of several of our printed brochures. However, I agree that some people just like the feel of paper in their hands. Our bulletin is slowly moving people to the website, twitter and facebook. We pound social media with information. So don’t kill the bulletin just yet, it still serves a purpose OBIWAN.

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  • Eric Dye
    April 30, 2015

    I’m with Steve. ;)

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  • Jane
    May 2, 2015

    I disagree with the wisdom of premise. Tools are only tools when they are used effectively — by that I mean — with purpose.

    There’s no worse annoyance than teasing someone who is actually reading a newspaper, for instance, and telling them to put down the paper and go to the web site if they really want to read the end of story.

    The best communication in the world addresses folks where they are by figuring out how they acquire information. It’s not all about doing it cheaply. It’s about doing it in a way that works for the audience.

    A church bulletin can do many things in many ways — once its purpose is identified. Sometimes it CAN become like “loaded baked potato” covered with microwaved refrigerator leftovers that obscure the potato beneath. Yechh.

    The digital medium is NOT the message. Alone, the medium is not good or bad. It is either useful in communicating or not. There is no prime directive to eliminate one medium out of preference for the other.

    US Census Bureau reports:
    (for 2013) Household computer ownership and Internet use were most common in homes with relatively young householders, in households with Asian or White householders, in households with high incomes, in metropolitan areas, and in homes where householders reported relatively high levels of educational attainment.

    “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations…
    audience, audience, audience….always better to add, than to subtract…

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  • Phil Banting
    May 5, 2015

    A problem with putting everything online is that some news has to be kept “within these walls”. This might be as mundane as a member moving house and letting people know their new address and phone number. Someone may want to thank members for helping them through a difficult personal situation, but not want the whole world to know about it. Nor would we want to publish updates about negotiations with the owner of a derelict building next door to ours.

    Perhaps this is due to the nature of our church – relatively small and locally based. Our membership includes refugees, Christians from “closed” countries and families with sensitive pastoral needs. There may also be cultural issues: maybe people here in the UK are more concerned about confidentiality than in other countries?

    Our practice is to produce a paper notice sheet each week and put an edited version (stripped of some of the more personal information) on our website in PDF format. We also produce a monthly newsletter which is in print form only, though some of the content gets put online in a different format such as a blog post.

    Perhaps we should think of printed bulletins/newsletters as another “platform” alongside the website and social media: each has its particular purpose and certain types of content is better suited to one or another.

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