Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bulletin Art

Why is it that so many church bulletin covers look like real estate ads?

In this era of reclusive and fading congregations, promoting a congregation’s worship life with such a major emphasis on physical structure may be some of the problem.

In the nineteen-fifties and early sixties many people referred to the overall church structure as a “plant”. New businesses were popping up and older ones were expanding, and churches followed their example. Christian education classrooms were generously added on to worship spaces, while new church buildings sprawled out to provide ample room for all. Some suggested that the churches suffered from an “edifice complex.”

Of course, the flaw in logic of a church building on the bulletin cover is that the bulletin is given to people who are already there, and can see the building, live and in color, inside as well as out. The “art,” no matter how lovely, was aimed at the wrong target.

To say the least, featuring the fa├žade of place of worship on cover of worship order is beside the point. To say more, it’s in the way, distracting, and mildly heretical.

What is on the cover of the bulletin should be minimally a clue to what’s inside. It should be a preview of the major theme of the service, the time or season of the Christian year, the scriptural story in the text for the day, giving the worshippers a sneak peek of what’s in store for them spiriturally.

So, thinking of churches of various sizes, what does one put on the cover of our Sunday worship folder?

The easy answer is to chase down clip art that works for that Sunday, that congregation, and reasonably falls in the category of “art.” “Clip art” is the first logical solution to seek out. There are many excellent opportunities to retrieve religious symbols and art, in color as well as black-and-white, that will serve as a suitably reverent introduction to worship. Even smaller churches have the technical equipment and people with the knowhow to make clip art a wonderful aid to Sunday morning prayer and praise.

The graphic or photo should evidence some thought and effort and have a message that can be captured in the blink of an eye. A good bulletin cover will offer a three-second sermon, capturing a theological concept graphically, luring the viewer into seeking the presence of God.

Poetry and prayers sometimes work on the cover, but they have to be powerful and brief. Not only should they serve as introductions to the worship service, but must function well as take-homes, a snippet of verse or petitionary prayer that is a reminder of the message in the days to follow. Such poetry and prayers are art-forms in their own right, to be sought diligently.

Another approach to getting bulletin art is to recruit artists in your congregation. You don’t have any, you say? Sorry, but I doubt that. My bet is that, even if your faithful group of Jesus’ disciples is small, you have someone or some several people who create artistic works.

Obviously, you want to think about someone who creates graphic art: an architect, engineer or builder who does drawings; a school teacher (they often have artistic skills, or know someone who does); a college student artist; a photographer (professional or amateur); and surely there are others.

And how about the women (or men) who sew and embroider, do needlepoint or stitchery. They work with designs and colors and can work wonders when asked politely.

Moving further along, it’s a great idea to invite the whole congregation to do drawings, black and white or in living color, of Christian symbols that express their faith. (Keep the size about 4”x5” vertical to fit the bulletin space, unless you use larger paper than 8 ½ by 11 folded.) This might require a series of workshops or classes about Christian symbolism to stimulate their creative juices.

Don’t forget to include asking the children. You may get some simplistic looking art work, but then, some grown-ups have become famous with nothing more. Innocence showing through is not bad.

The cover of the worship bulletin is more important than some folks admit. It can reek of boredom, or it can instead provoke interest, entice worshippers to prayer and praise, and educate Christ’s disciples.

What’s on your bulletin cover?

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy selecting the bulletin art from many sources - including our own artists - and using colors of paper that go with the liturgical season. After more than ten years of doing this, I have quite an assortment for lectionary texts.

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