In this age of “e” everything, it often feels really progressive to scrap the weekly paper church bulletins and replace them with something digital and ‘modern.’ In fact, in our experience, most churches we work with are traditional, contemporary, or both, adapting some of the modern digital tools and strategies at a slow pace.
Force-fitting modernism can do more bad than good. In most cases, a hybrid approach is desired—deliberate but slower. Here’s our suggested approach for finding the best church bulletin format for your ministry.
Did you ask your congregation how they feel?
In my church, for example, we took a survey. Our membership ranges from young parents with kids to more senior members. Guess what? The overwhelming majority preferred the physical bulletins, although some said both. By this time, we were doing both digital bulletins uploaded to our website in a PDF format and physical ones.
Why do we use church bulletins anyway?
- (most) The order of the service (what is happening and when)
- (most) Weekly memos and announcements (sometimes there are inserts with special events)
- (most) Contact info for the core leadership, the church, and website, and phone info
- (some) Connect cards (“next step”) for first-time guests or prayer request tear-offs
- (fewer) Location of the kid’s corner
|The order of the service (what is happening and when)||Connect cards (“next step”) for first-time guests or prayer request tear-offs||Location of the kids corner|
|Weekly memos and announcements (sometimes there are inserts with special events)|
|Contact info for the core leadership, the church, and website, and phone info|
How should today’s church bulletin look?
Many people will automatically answer, “The same, just an ‘e’-version.”; basically, uploading the soft copy of the bulletin as a PDF to a service such as issuu.com or directly to your website.
We say, “Not necessarily.”
Here’s why: Keeping your church bulletin in the same format when shared digitally will not be as impactful, and you would essentially miss the opportunity to take your communication to the next level.
What are the best ways for ‘modernizing’ the way you share information?
Some may say an app. If you already have an app and it’s working for you then yes, include a mobile-friendly version of your bulletin in your app. However, we just want to add our ‘No’ to developing an app for which one of your main intentions is adding your church bulletin.
With the evolution of mobile-friendly websites, mobile apps are not as effective as you might think to warrant the cost, especially if the app doesn’t have good utility and is constantly updated. In this case, your church members will not download it. Second, even if they do, your contacts may get to the point at which they need to free up space on their phones, so your app gets deleted. Third, forget about your guests. They likely would not download your app at all on the first or even 10th visit. So, not good in any way.
The ideas below are not an ‘or’ but an ‘and’ strategy because optimum results come when churches mix and match what works best for them.
Pro Tip: Before you decide on the fate of your church bulletin, ASK your congregation.
Keep the weekly, paper church bulletin
For many, there’s something nice, something familiar, perhaps even comforting about having a physical piece of paper in their hands.
Most churches normally take an 8.5 x 11 and fold it in half.
To save resources and give your bulletin new life, you can cut it down to one page—either single or double-sided—and if needed, focus on the most important information.
As we know, most people don’t always read the entire bulletin. Sometimes less is more.
However, picking your battles is critical.
Trying to revamp the bulletin might create more resistance and might not be the quick win you need in a church organization. So, whether you keep the same bulletin or change it, for many churches, having a bulletin is still going to be important for guest comfort, engagement, next steps, and to ensure familiarity for your seasoned members.
If you are considering changing or getting rid of your bulletin, do a survey. A cool alternative to doing a survey is to not print your bulletins for a week or a month and hear feedback from those who may notice.
Put a copy of the weekly church bulletin online
If you have a church website, you can create a section of “Church Newsletters”. This section would have copies of your paper church bulletins in the form of PDF files—the current bulletin as well as archives of previous bulletins.
If you do not have a church website (Hint: you really should), you can use a hosting platform.
- One option is MailChimp. MailChimp’s newsletter/bulletin templates help you make professional documents quickly and easily. MailChimp also offers an archive facility for your previous bulletins.
- Another option is magazine-style, digital publishing platforms such as issuu.com. Often, the free versions include ads, but they are a good way to get started and experiment without a big budget commitment.
No matter which you choose, you will now have the URL of your e-Bulletin to include in a text message.
Send your weekly church bulletin as a text message
You can send a very short text message, including the URL of your online church bulletin.
Another option is to send a text message version of your bulletin. Our church’s phone users really like having our church bulletin at their fingertips (literally). Our text bulletin always opens with a motivational message. Next is usually the order of the service, what’s happening during the weekend, and what’s coming up. We include links to our website—announcements are a good example. As a general strategy, we don’t put everything into texts, emails, or social media.
Adding text to your communication strategy works really well for small churches. In general, texting is the best value (especially regarding your church members) because they have the text right there. They can see “this is happening; this is not happening; OK.”
Pro Tip: Put links to your website in your text messages to drive people back to this central church hub. It helps train people to see your website as ‘the place to go’.
Master Level— Combine everything we just said and also separate the bulletin into sections
Besides displaying the usual order of the service as posters in strategic areas of your church, you can treat each component of the bulletin separately, displaying the information in a non-bulletin way.
- Announcements: Put on your website as one, scrolling webpage, with the newest items at the top.
- Connecting with the pastor: Have a page on your website for the pastor’s “weekly message”. Text the URL to your members. With platforms such as PastorsLine, these texts can be set up to go out to your contact list(s) automatically—a communicative timesaver, right?
- Contact info: Another webpage, including a “Get in Touch” completion form that people can fill out and click to send.
- Next steps (especially for first-time guests): Use a platform such as PastorsLine to create Digital Connect Texts (not to be confused with digital connect cards). This ‘no links’ option allows you to create a personalized, automated message series that is triggered by a keyword. For example, when your guests’ text ‘Welcome’ to your PastorsLine mobile number, they will begin an automated conversation designed to capture their first and last names, emails, and birthdays. You can also include URLs (to your website, church bulletin, etc.) and next step options (small group, prayer, volunteer, etc.).
Time for your church to see how PastorsLine can be part of your weekly, church bulletin ‘and’ strategy?