October 26, 2016

One Bulletin, Multiple Services

This post is about efficiency, for sure, and it’s about a pretty small, seemingly insignificant part of congregational life, but I’m also a believer that paying attention to the little things – and with an eye toward greater efficiency – is a great way to pastor the whole community.

Here’s the problem we were facing: every week, our parish administrator, together with me and our music director, created drafts of the Sunday bulletin and got them to our inboxes by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest. There was one bulletin for 8 o’clock, another for 10:30am. Both had announcements and information, the same calendar and same scriptures, of course. One had music, the other did not. When all the edits came in, bulletins were printed, folded, stapled, and set out for the various worship services.

Sounds like life in most every parish church, I’m sure.

But at the end of the weekend we’d toss lots of bulletins in the recycling bin. Even though I specifically invite folks to take their bulletin home – “It’s a weekly newsletter” I say most every weekend – at least half of those who worship at either service toss the bulletin on the entryway table on their way out. The sheer waste of paper, printed for one exclusive use at one hour on Sunday morning, coupled with the amount of time and energy that went into the creation, editing, and production of those documents encouraged me to come up with a different way.

Now, we have one bulletin for all of Sunday morning. Because most things are the same in both services, it’s printed together. And where things are different, we show two columns, side by side, with a large, bold-faced, red “8am” printed as header on one side, and “10:30am” on the other. At our church, both 8am and 10:30am are Holy Eucharist, Rite II, but the early service does not have singing. There is piano playing at 8am, and our music director plays the same prelude, offertory, communion, and postlude pieces at both services. If some 8 o’clockers are inspired to start singing – and a few are – they can now see what hymn or song it is. We had to expand from legal sized paper, portrait layout, to 11” x 17” larger ‘newsletter’ sized paper, giving the columns more space next to each other. It doesn’t have to be side-by-side; I’ve worshipped at congregations who print the 8 o’clock service on the first few pages of the bulletin, then the later service following.

One helpful byproduct of this shift is that we’re using less paper and ink. We print fewer bulletins, in total. We anticipate that a certain number of 8 o’clockers will leave their bulletins behind and we simply re-use them at 10:30am.

Another bonus is that it takes significantly less time and energy in creation, editing, and production. It’s less of a drain on our office resources, and that’s a net gain in what our congregation can do. We intentionally devised this new format during the summer, when things were somewhat slower and we could spend more time working out the kinks of learning a new template.

Also, and this was completely unexpected, most worshippers really enjoy the new bulletin because it draws more closely those bonds of affection between those who worship at our two services. 8 o’clockers can see what those people who worship at the later service are singing, and 10:30ers see the acolyte or lector names of those who helped earlier. Anyone at the ‘other service’ can share their prayerful joys in a baptism, for instance, even if they’re not present at that particular worship service. Also, people who prefer to worship at one service, or another, are now able to ask questions about why we do things at either hour: why don’t we sing at 8am? why do we sing at 10:30am? We always printed the same calendar and announcements, anyway, so those connections were always there, just in two separate documents.

Like I said, this post is about a pretty small part of congregational life, but a bulletin is no insignificant document. We hand it to newcomers and frequent worshippers, all the same; we use it to broadcast our hopes, sense of mission, vision and goals. We tell our story in those pages, and we also show that we’re trying to cultivate unique worship opportunities for diverse gatherings of people. A bulletin tells the story of how we are trying to build a mission for Christ in this particular place. Paying attention to the ‘little things’, then, and with an eye toward greater efficiency truly is a great way to pastor the whole community.

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