June 15, 2017

Church Bulletins

The church bulletin is arguably one of the most important documents in our congregations. Given our bibles, hymnals and Book of Common Prayer (BCP) that may sound a bit heretical. However the amount of resources that goes into producing it does give our church bulletins very high priority. The original purpose of the bulletin was to provide the order of service including references to the BCP, hymns and readings of the day. We have evolved much beyond the basics.

Bulletin content is the largest issue for us to wrestle with. Bulletins may contain some of all of the following: fundraising and social activities, meetings of church and community organizations, lists of illnesses, birthdays, anniversaries and deaths, special donations, community, diocesan and national announcements, stewardship messages as well as information on a particular saint day, others have information on voting, job posts and apartment rental. So our bulletins, have become newspapers, newsletters and journals all rolled into one. Whew!

There is also the issue of the printing of the bulletin, if done internally it requires investment in a reliable printer with a maintenance agreement and the purchasing of paper and ink continuously. If sourced out, we need to find a professional printer who has to charge a fair market price, even with discounts. We further need to have the staff internally to collect, manage and set timelines for the content all to be sure that the bulletin magically appears on Sunday morning.

So what are the alternatives, we should consider that many churches especially non-denominational are moving away from producing multi-page bulletins. They are instead using overhead projectors and screens or a one page outline of the service with announcements. Additionally people today are consuming information electronically by email, website and social media. Another consideration is the environment, most bulletins are discarded and not recycled. Are we being good stewards? And finally there is the cost.

While the above alternatives may not be possibilities near term, there ought to be some purposeful conversations on how to wean ourselves from the multi-page bulletins, while positive in many areas is less sustainable long term. Consider, there were no bulletins in the early church!