The Future Church - A Church Communications Podcast
Church Media + Communications
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E032 - Do Bulletins Still Have A Place?

James: Today on the show we're talking about the church bulletin Joanna. I have some fond memories about the church bulletin I remember as a kid always grabbing the church bulletin and it was like a three page fold out thing that some volunteer had spent time folding. You know a hundred of these and I remember sitting there as a kid maybe like 10 or 11 and I would read it through like five times because I wasn't paying attention in church. I was just waiting to be let out for kids and all I was doing was reading for if there is any upcoming gym nights or things coming up and literally I would just read through it and I'd read through all the news of the day because I went to a more traditional church and we're talking 20 years ago. So I just remember always having it and always being a thing to kind of keep me entertained in church. So we're gonna talk about what's the current state of the church bulletin and how they've changed, how they've evolved, and maybe some new ideas on how to keep them fresh and looking good.

Joanna: James just as you said here in the office we're sort of reminiscing in nostalgia about being a kid in church, we're all church kids here. And while most of us are anyways and we remember like getting a pencil out of the pews and drawing or doing X's and O's or just trying to pass the time in church with these bulletins. And obviously for us we grew up in that transition from analog to digital world. And so what is the place for the bulletin, the infamous bulletin today. There are some churches that have philosophically removed it completely. So when we're talking about a bulletin if that's not the word you use. Maybe you call it a program or the weekly news update or a printed piece that people would receive on the way in. In some churches particularly liturgical churches you would have the readings for the day. If you're an Episcopal and Anglican church you would have maybe the readings that you would go back and forth with the priest about not just the news and announcements but actually the order of service and how to follow along would be right in that printed piece. And so today there are churches whose don't have a bulletin at all. And then there are churches who they're bulletin is like like literally 12 pages because it's the entire order of service and everything that's going to be said and its all written out. So where do we find ourselves. I'm so curious. Do you ever look at it? It won't offend me. James do you ever do you read it? Do you know that it exists?

James: You're smiling with nervous anticipation I see. I do actually read it. One, I like it because it's it's always well-designed it looks good it's not just straight information there's usually some imagery that matches the sermon series so I do like that. I usually give it a brief look through and every now and then I do see something that I didn't know about that's coming up whether it's a worship night or sometimes we have these team nights for the creative people within the church. And I didn't know about those because it's it's projecting out here to talk a little bit about this but it's four weeks from now. And so I didn't know that it was upcoming and it's something I usually will just quickly pop in my calendar to remind myself. So I do use it. I don't check on it always and I usually only get it that first week that it comes out. But I do always hold it in my hand give it a quick read through and I do find use in it.

Joanna: Yeah I think particularly when we're serving multiple generations all in one church community maybe people listening serve specific. Like they're the young adults person or kids or whatever but most of us were serving an entire church from babies to seniors. And so with what we're doing in communication we want to ultimately do what's going to serve the most people but also we need to keep considering what are the needs of different generations. So I think of my mom who's in her 70s and she every month puts that bulletin clips it up on her fridge and she uses it as a reference all month long about the activities of the church and she's someone I'm glad to have a mom from a different generation a different time than me because it gives me a reference in our church in our very large church of like what the pulse is and different needs in different generation.

James: That's very interesting that you just said that I actually wasn't thinking about that as we're getting ready to do this episode and that we're at a very interesting time where we still have so many generational differences in that people like your mom's age are before the Internet age before the phone age. Now your mom is a pretty hip mom. There are lots of churches throughout Canada and U.S. and the world where there are generations of people who remember when you know TV first started coming. Like who were born and raised in the 40s and 50s and they're still in our churches and that is a huge gap in technology. And so if we're only we can't always just be targeting the younger we can't be like oh it's on a phone it's on Instagram therefore everyone will get it. Well our goal is not to only serve the young we are there to serve everyone.

Joanna: And that's where when I talk about in the last episode I talked about digital first but that doesn't mean digital only. We we are serving many people and there may come a time in the next 20 years where this would change. I do think there still is a place for print but maybe the bulletin specifically will go away more and more from all of our churches. But my conviction is as we continue to serve multigenerational church as well we want to think about that and not just mean not just you know seniors there's there's all kinds of things that can be helpful in a bulletin. Just in short our strategy with the bulletin is once a month. To get really practical with you we do a bulletin for the entire month's outlook. So every week you would get the same one for the whole month of April, May, and June. Some people maybe want to make their bulletin something that if it feels feasible to you you can look ahead even for the quarter or the whole season then you're saving money and time and having to reprint things constantly. Some people they're just not able yet to work that far ahead. But I think if you set a goal of something even like saying we're not going to do it weekly we're going to do it for the whole month. It not only helps people in your community look ahead and prepare their own things that far but you can do something of a higher quality and nice looking design and still have that print that some people really do still want and find value in but not be finding yourself trudging in it every single week creating a new bulletin.

James: What we're talking about here is a bit of time saving so how much time would you say you spend on an average bulletin? I mean you're not the one doing the designing but you're also spending time gathering information and making sure the most important relevant stuff is on there. So I want to figure out how much time a month this is saving you by moving to the monthly method. If you're spending five hours a week working on your bulletin that means 20 hours a month so how much you will theoretically be saving 15 hours of time. So how much time do you spend?

Joanna: Oh gosh if I added it all up I think I'd get depressed. It's you know you're spending time trying to find and confirm all the information and then like with the ministry. Is this still true and correct as it is in our calendar?

James: So give me a ballpark. Give me a ballpark an hour's what you spend each month right now working on the monthly model.

Joanna: Well I want to include from sourcing the information to design edits and then distribution meaning like getting it out to all of our sites and printers and I would say ...oh maybe it's a five hour a month project.

James: So five hour a month project. Which I mean, our churches bulletin is actually very high quality it looks great. It's printed it has the quality of a magazine and it's laid out beautifully. But now if we take that and if we said okay we're doing it monthly theoretically you're spending 20 hours a month making the bulletin which is a lot of times and now you've just saved yourself 15 hours a month.

Joanna: When a lot of the information would repeat week.

James: Absolutely. So basically what I'm saying is now you've given yourself more than two days worth of time back to be working on other things because I think the role of communications people is growing you have more things there's more social media channels there's more ways to communicate and so you need to start being more efficient with your time because you cannot invest five hours a week just into the bulletin and then do all the other tasks.

Joanna: Yeah I think too if you're if you're looking for an argument to make changes in how you do a bulletin if you add up the cost of printing and the amount of hours you spend on it if you're able to do that for your church and present that to your boss they might be really compelled to help you make a change that you need to make to move to a less frequent frequently updated print piece.

James: So what do you guys think? Are we way off or are we right? How much time are you spending on your bulletins? We want to hear from you. Let us know where you're at and whether or not you think we're kind of speaking to something you maybe you want to kind of adjust in the future.