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Using the Church Bulletin to Communicate
By: Melissa Cole

It’s the one thing that almost everyone who attends your church will see and has the opportunity to take home with them. It’s your church bulletin. Whether you see it as a necessary duty or a vital channel of communication, the church bulletin can be an effective brand-building tool and something devoured by newcomers.

If the main reason you produce a church bulletin is because “it’s something you’ve always done,” chances are that your bulletin is in need of an overhaul. If the format of your bulletin hasn’t been updated in awhile and it is something thrown together on Saturday night, you could be crippling the growth of your church.

To newcomers, your bulletin speaks volumes about your church. It is their way to safely explore and learn more about your church. If your bulletin is stale and unorganized, new visitors will assume your church is stale and unorganized. However, if your bulletin is inspiring and emotionally engaging, it can be one of the best marketing tools your church possesses.

Here’s a quick test: if a stranger found your church bulletin lying on the ground and picked it up, would they be interested and want to attend? Would it represent and reinforce the mission of your church?

If not, here are a few steps you can take to develop a bulletin that will be read by your congregation and be intriguing to new visitors at the same time.

1. Have a Plan
What’s the point? That’s right, what is the purpose of your bulletin? Begin by determining why your church needs a bulletin in the first place. Ask yourself these questions:

* What do you want to accomplish with your bulletin?
* What should your congregation get from it?
* What should visitors get from it?
* Will it fulfill a practical purpose by guiding people through the service?
* Will it solely be an informational tool to notify, inform, invite, and welcome?
* Should it be used as a brand-building tool and focus on effectively welcoming and communicating with newcomers?

Having the answers to these questions and having a focus and consistency will be the foundation of an effective church bulletin.

2. The Format and Content
After putting together a plan and focus of your bulletin, what it will contain should be clear. Depending on the purpose of your bulletin, it could contain any of the following:

* Church vision and mission statement
* Event calendar and information
* Message from the senior pastor
* Visitor information card
* Ministry information
* An area set aside for members to take notes during the sermon
* An outline of the sermon
* Church logo and information, such as the phone number, address and Web site

3. The Design
The easier your church bulletin is to read and understand, the more likely it will be read in the first place. You should not try to cram every bit of information in every area of white space available. You are more likely to engage people with a clean layout.

A church brand is built through frequency and repetition. Every message members and visitors receive from your church—whether through e-mail, church signage or especially your bulletin—will either build upon or detract from the brand identity of your church.

Consistency is critical. Here are a few areas where you should maintain consistency:

Try to select type styles and fonts that are easy to read and use them each week.

Make sure you are using a high-quality version of your logo that is not pixilated and distorted. Try to keep the logo in the same location each week.

Whether you are printing custom bulletin shells or purchasing pre-designed bulletins, try to keep a similar style to the design of your bulletins each week.

The weight and paper stock of your bulletins will affect the texture and feel of the bulletin. Avoid frequently changing paper stocks. A good stock to try is a crisp matte white stock that folds easily, such as 50# offset.

Death of the Bulletin?
A debate in many churches is whether to do away with weekly church bulletin. Many consider video presentations and e-mail messages as a sufficient way to communicate with the crowd. For churches with congregations who are digitally connected and check e-mail regularly, this works.

But again, put yourself in the shoes of a new visitor. At your first visit to a new church, you are asked to hand over your your e-mail address and permit this new church to add to the massive amounts of e-mail messages that are already overflowing your inbox. Not likely. Furthermore, for churches where there is a gap between members who are digitally connected and those who aren’t, eliminating the church bulletin could mean eliminating communication with half of your members.

By eliminating the church bulletin, a church is eliminating a vital tool. A church bulletin that is consistent with other messaging distributed by your church will serve to reinforce and strengthen the brand of your church.

Economical Options
If your church is spending hundreds each month on color ink cartridges by printing your bulletins each week, you could be wasting a lot of money. There are several affordable options that will not only save your money, but save you time, as well.

One option is to purchase pre-designed and pre-printed bulletin shells. Your church can subscribe to a bulletin service where you receive bulletins quarterly. Either way, you can then develop your content and then quickly run copies of your bulletin each week. You would be surprised how much your church will save on ink and paper alone.

A second option is to have a custom designed bulletin shell developed and pre-printed. This design could be consistent each week and could include your church logo, information, and mission. Again, you could develop the weekly content of your bulletin and then run copies.

A well-developed church bulletin can serve to inspire, welcome, and engage. It can teach, communicate, and serve as a response mechanism. When the right thought and care is involved, your bulletin will be read regularly and promote the growth of your church.

Melissa Cole is the vice president of sales and marketing for Dexter Press, www.dexterpress.com. Dexter Press is the largest supplier of nondenominational church bulletins in the country.

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