Church Bulletin Do’s and Don’ts: A Visitor’s Perspective

Church Bulletin Do’s and Don’ts: A Visitor’s Perspective

March 16, 2016 by

It’s great to see the discussions on bulletins here on Church Marketing Sucks. But most of these articles are written by the creators of bulletins, not necessarily the users.

As a born-and-bred Lutheran with six years of attending an evangelical-free church and three-and-a-half years at a Bible college, I’ve seen my fair share of bulletins. As a parishioner, you can’t expect everything to be perfect.

But since a bulletin is the front door to a church, you expect that the bulletin will be helpful, especially on your first visit. While there are pros and cons to getting rid of the bulletin altogether, plenty of people prefer to keep the weekly print bulletin.

Here are some most common do’s and don’ts for church bulletins:

The Cover

This is the first thing your visitors and regulars will see after the (hopefully) smiling face of an usher. What should draw their eye first?

DO: Give a Preview

Include a hint of what the sermon is about. You can give the name of the sermon or perhaps an eye-catching graphic that’s the symbol of the sermon series.

Bonus: The cover is also a great place for the mission statementSome churches put it on the back, which is also fine.

But it’s better to not make first-time visitors hunt for it. It also keeps your mission in the forefront of your members’ minds.

DON’T: Overwhelm With Color and Graphics

This should be a designer no-duh, but I’m sometimes surprised at how crammed a cover can look. Less is more.

Remember that most of the bulletins will be thrown out after the service—save your finest graphics for something with a longer life span.

The Inside

Here we get to the meat and potatoes. How do you sort out which announcements are important and which are not? How much information should you give?

DO: Leave Room for Sermon Notes

It’s great when pastors include bullet points to follow along with their sermon—really.

But using 18-point font that takes up over half the page? Your handwriting may be delicate and small, but most of ours aren’t.

DO: Include Instructions

For you liturgical churches, bear in mind that not everyone has your service memorized.

Give some direction, such as distinguishing when to sit and when to stand or explaining how the offering works. Be mindful of those who are unable to stand easily, and make it clear what sort of alternatives are available.

For example, if someone cannot easily walk to the front of the church for communion, what are other ways they can partake in the meal?

This is a great place to explain some of the details of your service, like whether or not you offer gluten-free wafers for communion and where the bathrooms are located.

For larger details, like how your church’s child care operates, make a note for where to go for that information, rather than trying to explain all of it in the bulletin.

DO: Give Next Steps

In your bulletin, let your visitors know what their best next steps would be.

So, your visitors thought your church may be a good fit for them? Great! But now what? How can a newcomer get plugged into your church?

Most churches have a welcome center where they can hand out gifts and information packets. Some have the welcome packets in each pew. Other churches’ pastors simply introduce themselves as soon as they see a stranger.

In your bulletin, let your visitors know what their best next steps would be. (Depending on how much room you have available, this may belong on the back cover of the bulletin.)

DO: Keep Announcements Focused

Try to put events in the bulletin that pertain only to the greater part of the congregation.

Although it’s tempting to put every new event and announcement into the bulletin, consider how you can keep things focused.

How many people in the congregation need to know about it? If the event coming up is for only toddlers, maybe you should send this announcement to the email list of Sunday School parents instead?

Try to put events in the bulletin that pertain only to the greater part of the congregation. Remind your audience that all of this information (and much more!) is on the church website.

Instead of focusing on specific announcements, it might work better to point to ministries and answer some of the big questions visitors have:

  • When and where is childcare available?
  • What do you have for youth?
  • Are there regular Sunday School sessions for adults?

Whatever you end up doing for announcements, remember to emphasize inspiration over information and consider using a template.

DON’T: Overstuff

Remember, the power of bulletin inserts comes from their rarity, not their regularity.

This one is tricky. While you don’t want to make your bulletins explode all over your visitors, there is a lot of helpful information that new people and members both need.

Ministries will clamor to be noticed and push to have an insert instead of just an announcement. But stuff that bulletin with caution. Remember, the power of bulletin inserts comes from their rarity, not their regularity.

The Back Cover

Your last chance to make an impression on a visitor. What’s the best way to use this space?

DO: Put the Essentials

This is the spot to re-emphasize your street address, your website URL, and any other places your church may be accessible (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, an app, etc.). Don’t forget to include your service times!

DO: Put a Face to the Church

Most churches can’t put every staff member’s name in the bulletin, but if you can at least fit in your primary players’ names and roles that can help guide visitors in the right direction if they have specific questions.

Bonus: Some churches I’ve visited have multiple pastors who rotate preaching each week. I appreciate it when the bulletin includes their name, role and pictures. (This typically works only in megachurches though.)

DO: Give a Preview (Again)

I love it when churches include next week’s sermon title in the bulletin. If you’re a church that has multiple music groups performing on a rotating basis, consider mentioning which groups will be in service next week.

Bonus: For contemporary churches that put the worship lyrics on a screen, consider saving a spot here for citing the title and artist of each song.

Obviously, it’s great to put these on the screen after each song, but this way, parishioners don’t have to dive for a pen and paper after a song they liked.

DON’T: Overcrowd

This is the part of the bulletin people are least likely to look at. Make it easy to skim by using your white space efficiently. That means not overloading with photos or graphics — the bare minimum is often best.

Think About…

Whether or Not to Use Color

Before you use color in your bulletins, consider the cost—both financially and reputation-wise. On the one hand, color makes the bulletin more eye-catching and attractive to visitors.

However, your printing costs will skyrocket. If you’re a church that’s also trying to appear more environmentally friendly, colored ink is a sure way to lower your reputation.

What Size Your Bulletin Should Be

This can be tricky to adjust depending on who prints your bulletins. But here’s my two cents: If you’re like me, you tuck your bulletin into your Bible on your way out—so I don’t like folding the sermon notes three times to make them fit.

While a bigger size means better graphic/photo resolution, weigh if that cost is worth how many people will throw the bulletin away after one week.

Whether or Not to Include Photos

This can be tricky because photos can both help a person visualize him/herself at your church. Or the photos can scream “YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE US!” Whom are you trying to recruit?

While it’s nice to see some of the faces of the congregation, it can also turn into a vanity fair about who is and is not popular in the church. (As a girl who went to the high school youth group, you always knew that the “holiest” kids were going to wind up on the bulletin cover that week.)

What are some of your bulletin do’s and don’ts?


The power of bulletin inserts comes from their rarity, not their regularity.

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Post By:

Celine Murray

Celine is recent graduate who is still getting used to sitting for eight hours at a time. She blogs regularly at Latchkey Writing & Editing.
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3 Responses to “Church Bulletin Do’s and Don’ts: A Visitor’s Perspective”

  • Anne
    March 17, 2016

    Good info! I have to say we do most of these for our church except the “insert rarely.” We have inserts galore and by the request of the congregation. They are made for them to hand to their neighbor, kind of like invites for events happening. Other thing that we alway include, a calendar. I get so many member that tell me they put it on their fridge. (Old school, I know. We have a mobile app also but our church just loves the paper in their hands.)

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  • Rick
    March 18, 2016

    I always wondered if we looked cheap just using black ink And not color so good to read that it’s a good idea to use black ink. We do try our best to design just with black ink by adjusting the opacity on images and for borders using gradient fill. We also print on pastel color paper like pastel yellow ,purples, blues,and so one it gives a little pop the lack ink . Thanks for posting .

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  • Cheyenne
    December 6, 2016

    I just found your website today, and I must say that I am impressed, and blessed! Thank you for the wonderful information. Regarding the article about do’s and don’ts, one of my pet peeves is seeing a plethora of typing mistakes. I read my church’s bulletin over about 10 times before sending it to print, and I usually try to get someone else to read it. A lot of misspellings looks sloppy and gives an impression that the church is not serious about ministry.

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