Every church has one, sometimes we call them bulletins, sometimes we call them newsletters or programs. And some churches even have some creative name for it that ties it to their brand.
In this article I want to give you a few ideas on how to improve and maybe simplify your weekly bulletin to make the most efficient use of your time as a pastor or church admin while giving those who pick up the bulletin a better experience. And then I’ll provide you with a few templates for you to try out if you’d like!
My grandfather—we called him Papa George—was a business man. He owned many businesses and taught business classes at a local university. And about 5 years ago, when I was starting my freelance design business I asked him “What advice would you have for me starting a business?” He simply replied “provide your customers/clients with value.”
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, why would someone pick up this piece of paper that we call the bulletin? What value does it have for them? Most people just pick it up out of habit or because that’s what they’re supposed to do and yet very few actually look through it—which is not surprising since it’s probably full of a huge amount of information that they don’t need with only a couple little things that actually apply to them. Your bulletin should provide value to those who pick it up, both those who have been at your church forever and those who are there for the first time. And those two audiences need different kinds of information so we’re going to look at both.
- What your church is about.
- What programs you might offer for their family
- What they could do to get involved or connect and learn more.
- An order of service so that can know what to expect in the service.
- Who’s who? It can be helpful to include the names of pastors, leaders, elders, etc. for newcomers.
You thought I was going to say upcoming events didn’t you? I’m not. You can include those in the bulletin, and it can be helpful, but I actually don’t think it’s that effective. And its not necessary if you properly use your website (and point people there for events) and take advantage of other communication tools such as email, social media and SMS text messaging. I’ll explain more about this in a bit.
Here’s what I think you should include:
- Resources for discipleship and growth. Here are few ideas—you probably wouldn’t want to include all of these:
- Articles or Bible study resources
- Sermon notes
- The lesson that their children are getting in Sunday School so they can go over it with them.
- Prayer guide
- Verse memorization or bible reading plan that the church is doing together
- Updates on the ministries within your church (stories of how God is working, not “here’s what events we have coming up…”) and missionaries that your church supports.
- Super important announcements—don’t include everything, just the really important stuff that everyone needs to know.
It doesn’t all need to be in print
I just listed a ton of stuff! If you included that all in a printed bulletin it could be a full-size magazine every week! But here’s the thing… most of that does not need to be printed. Most of it can be on your website. Then in your bulletin, you can point people to your website for specific resources or information! Most of the people who walk into your church already have a smartphone on them and those who don’t can usually access the internet on a computer at home. There are a lot of advantages to this:
- You don’t have to try to cram it all into the right paper size—if a specific announcement or resource needs to be longer, it can be! If you have a week where there’s not much, you won’t end up trying to fill empty space.
- You’ll save money on printing.
- Your bulletin won’t be filled with information that’s useless to most of the readers.
- Online resources can continue to provide value long after your church members would have lost a printed bulletin.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a printed bulletin at all, but, I’d highly recommend you consider creating a bulletin on your website! And I don’t mean just uploading a PDF of your printed bulletin, I mean an actual native online bulletin. Here’s a link to my church’s online bulletin. And if you boil it down it’s really just some simple weekly information with some links to a few resources. So you could easily create a simplified version of this for your church on a weekly basis on almost any website platform!
An additional, or alternative idea would be to send a weekly email maybe Friday or Saturday that acts as a bulletin. Here’s an example of what I’ve done with these in the past and here’s a current example—its a little more simplified since we now have an online bulletin that I can point people to. Again, you can easily create some great email templates like these using MailChimp or Constant Contact. And if you use Planning Center People as your ChMS then you can automatically sync your lists with MailChimp! (I’ll try to do an article on ChMS options sometime soon.)
Note: The idea here would again be to include links to your website, not to actually include all these things in one email… that would be incredibly long!
Keep it simple!
A tendency that I see among churches is to feel like they have to give all the information to everyone, and not just once, but week after week after week. But this just leads to your church ignoring what might apply to them because most of whats in the bulletin doesn’t apply to them. So for the end user, the bulletin doesn’t feel simple, it feels overwhelming.
I’m going to assume that your church has some sort of Church management software (ChMS) like Planning Center People, Church Community Builder or Fellowship One. And if you do, you probably have the ability to target your audiences more finely rather than just blasting everyone with all the information repeatedly! You can send information about men’s events to men only. You can send information about Children’s ministry to parents of those children who have checked-in within the last 6 months. You can send out a link to download the new Bible study to those who are part of a small group—or even specific small groups!
This keeps it simple for the end user, they only get the information they need. And if everything is on your website and that’s always where you are pointing them, they’ll begin to know that they can simply get on the website and find the info they need.
Plus, with most good communications tools you can view analytics to see how effective it is. You can know how many opened your email or how many people clicked on each link.
So this brings me to my conclusion: My advice would be to keep your printed bulletin very simple and almost generic and start taking advantage of digital tools to communicate more efficiently.
Some Free Templates!
So I am providing you with 2 templates here. They are laid out in Adobe InDesign so you’ll need a Creative Cloud subscription to use these. And all the fonts I’ve used are either Google fonts or part of TypeKit which comes with Creative Cloud, but of course you could swap them out for your church’s brand font if you want.
The first one is a simple color bifold that gives you enough room for some announcements, order of service and some useful info for newcomers. Download Now
The second is a simple black and white two-sided half-sheet that gives the most basic information, primarily for newcomers and directs people to the website for more! Download Now!
If you need help customizing or printing these files, feel free to reach out to me!