Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bulletin Bullets

Here are a few “bullet points” about church bulletins, those pieces of paper that some welcoming soul thrusts into our hands when we walk through the sanctuary doors. The bulletins can have considerable influence on how we worship and deserve scrutiny.

=What’s on the cover? Often when I arrive for worship I see on the front page of the bulletin a picture of the church I just walked into, usually the exact same view I actually saw. That’s in the category of what a friend of mine calls “Repetitive Redundancy.” Save the picture for a brochure distributed to potential visitors. On the church bulletin it tends to look like a real estate ad.

So what do you put on the cover? Is there a nice window in the church with some Christian symbolism? Try that, with a brief blurb in the bulletin about what it means. Or capture some of the good graphics available. Better yet, put your congregational artists to work, including children. Be creative. Have fun. Celebrate the faith. The cover should always be a joyful welcome for the worshipper.

=How about announcements? They should be short and to the point, as complete as possible. Printed out, they give the worshipper an overview of what’s happening throughout the congregation.

That’s the easy part. Now, what about verbal announcements during the worship? In a word, “Don’t.” Announcements, if you must have them, work best at the very beginning as part of the gathering of the people of God. Sharing some information about the life of the community of faith is helpful at that point. Making announcements of any kind anywhere else in the service interrupts the flow and has the feel of a commercial break. If the information is in print, there’s really no need to repeat it all word for word. The verbal announcement needs only to highlight what’s already there, or make a correction. Keep it short.

=Prayer lists are often included in bulletins. Not only do folks know for whom to pray, but they have a list to take home as a reminder for their continued prayer and compassionate action.

The caveat here, of course, is to take care to preserve the privacy of those on the list. Medical details are not necessary to prompt prayer. People should probably not be put on the list without their permission.

=The major part of bulletins is given to the order of worship. The journey of faith through the service is made clear if there are headings marking off the major segments: Gathering; Service of the Word; Service of the Sacrament (Baptism and/or Lord’s Supper); and Sending. The individual pieces fall into place accordingly.

Without some such headings, the order of worship takes on the character of an agenda, a list of items to be accomplished, checked off one at a time. Worship has a movement, a flow, taking us from one place to another: from renewing our relationship with God; to hearing anew God’s Word for us; to feasting on the refreshment of God’s Word given to us; to going forth to be Christ’s disciples with vigor and zeal.

An interesting experiment is to omit the individual items from the order of worship. Put in the headings, and under each just the parts the congregation needs: unison prayers, sung responses, responsive readings, etc. It makes everyone (pastor too) think about the course the service is taking without a detailed roadmap.

What does your bulletin look like? What other bullet points could you make about your bulletin?

1 comment:

  1. Some other points about bulletins that might prove useful:
    • Keep it all on one page -- back and front if necessary. Many worshipers are overwhelmed by a full text. Usually less is better, printing only what the worshipers must have to participate.
    • Use the folded paper for a "wrap" around the single-page bulletin. Print a thematic picture on the front and use the inside to print announcements. Using a different color of paper for the "wrap" enables worshipers immediately to see the difference between the "must-have road map of the service" and announcements.
    • Pay attention to detail -- spacing, indentations, type styles, etc. The bulletin should appear as a weekly piece of art, instead of a hastily-typed list.
    • Using an electronic or projected bulletin? Be sure to provide a printed one also, along with hymnals or printed music, for worshipers who prefer paper and print -- or who may want to see the notes to the music, as well as the words.
    • If using an electronic or projected bulletin, don't put too much in each "slide." Better to have larger print and many slides than smaller print that those in the back or with impaired vision cannot read.
    • Use graphics, but use them sparingly. On a one-page, two-sided bulletin, a graphic at top and bottom is enough. More looks cluttered and detracts.
    • Occasionally vary the bulletin size -- to emphasize a special occasion. A particularly handsome format is a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper folded length-wise instead of the usual way -- producing four tall, slim pages. Or a rare occasion such as a 100th anniversary might be marked by an 11 x 17 folded to produce four 8 1/2 x 11 pages.
    • Or use color print to emphasize a special occasion. Most copier contracts include 1200 or so color copies per month. Save them up and use them for special days/events.
    • Or use bond paper to give a bulletin a "quality" feel and appearance.
    • Somewhere in every bulletin or accompanying announcement sheet *must* appear the name and address of the church -- along with phone #, web address, e-mail address, and the name(s) of the minister(s), as well as other church staff.


Thanks for joining in the conversation!