Eight Trends about Church Bulletins

It is amazing to look at the total resources of time and money expended on church bulletins. Because bulletins seem to be such a trivial issue, we often fail to consider their impact or lack of impact. In reality, the impact is greater than we might imagine. Not only do we expend significant resources on bulletins, both guests and members tend to have pretty strong feelings about them.

Our team has been observing some major trends regarding bulletins. Here is what we found thus far.

  1. Most churches today still use church bulletins. They are important, if not necessary, according to most church leaders today. Churches under 100 in attendance are more likely not to use bulletins.
  2. Church bulletins go by many different names today. Smaller churches tend to still call them bulletins. For churches 200 attendance and higher, there is great variety in the names: worship folder, worship guide, information guide, and many more.
  3. There is an obvious level of frustration among some leaders and members about the contents of church bulletins. The most common frustration is about what content is included and excluded. The second most common frustration is content that is old and dated.
  4. There are three common usages of church bulletins. The three most common usages are: order of worship; church metrics or statistics; and sermon notes.
  5. Most churches use greeters to hand out bulletins. These persons are also called ushers in some churches. The distribution of the bulletin is considered an act of hospitality or greeting in many churches.
  6. Most guests expect to be handed something when they walk in the worship center. So church leaders should realize that the bulletin is an opportunity to connect with those guests.
  7. The digital revolution and the green movement have not significantly impacted the use of bulletins. Most churches still provide paper bulletins.
  8. Another frustration among some church members is a sloppy bulletin, particularly one that has grammatical errors. An entire genre of funny things written in church bulletins has been an offshoot of these error-prone publications.

Certainly in the context of important facets of corporate worship, church bulletins likely will not rise to the top. But because they are so pervasive, and because they do impact so many people, they should not be ignored either.

What has been your experience with church bulletins? What would you like to see changed? I look forward to hearing from you.

Posted on November 19, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • I am so glad to read that most people still love their church bulletins. I understand those churches which cannot afford to print bulletins. It can be costly, but more than that, time consuming. Myself, I can learn so much by reading a church bulletin. Of course, I can make some incorrect assumptions by looking at a bulletin, but more often than not, I hope I’m making correction judgments by interpreting the tone of the bulletin articles.

    As my passion is helping small and mid-sized churches, I’ve taken the devos I’ve written for years and mailed to pastors across the US and turned them into free church bulletin articles for any churches who can use them. I’ve just started working hard on my website, adding more bulletin articles, Christian poetry, Christian quotes, etc.

    If anyone would be interested in free content for their church bulletins, they can use anything at B. Thomas Bulletin Articles for free… http://beethomas.com/category/free-bulletin-articles/

    Thank you again for a great list of trends and I loved all the comments!

  • I just found this site and thanks. I serve as worship secretary and website manager. We have a new pastor and now we put the announcements, with prayer list on a separate sheet of paper. We’ve found people will take the announcements home and throw the rest into the recycle bin. I’m going to ask the pastor about sending me, via email, a sermon synopsis or sermon notes to include. I think that’s a great idea.

  • One thing I have noticed is that some bulletins are very unhelpful to guests/visitors. The bulletin assumes that the reader is already a member. Instead, there should be a visible section for those who are new. The section would contain quick answers on how to join, serve, etc.

  • Personally, I have a very strong aversion to placing the stats in the bulletin. Especially the budget. What does that tell a guest? Church is behind in the budget? Therefore something must be wrong with the church. There are other ways to share the stats.

  • I’ve recently moved to a new area and have visited a lot of churches. As this is a very small community the majority of the churches have fewer than 100 in attendance (most had around 50 in attendance). Out of approximately seven churches I have visited only 2 had bulletins. In those churches that did not hand out bulletins I felt a little lost. It is nice to have something to inform you as to the order of service. It is also nice to have something that shows a little something about the church (stats and activites). But mostly it is nice to have something to look at or read when waiting for the service to begin (especially when no one is making an effort to greet you).

  • Our church couldn’t find a volunteer to do up the church newsletter at one point, and it was suggested that newslettery items be included in the weekly bulletin. This was a perfect solution for a smaller church that still wanted to have a bulletin to hand out, as normally that bulletin changed little from week to week. But including items that would have gone in the newsletter in the past (birthdays, upcoming events, a brief word from the pastor, etc), spunked up the Sunday bulletin, and saved the work, paper, etc of a monthly newsletter. Of course a balance had to be maintained, to retain the same folded 1 sheet of paper, and the 3 page articles people might have submitted to a newsletter were no longer possible (which was not necessarily a bad thing). As a guest, we’ve found bulletins to be a good glimpse of the church, in the activities mentioned, the overall appearance of the bulletin, and even the language used (easy going casual, using words like “stuff” for example, or more formal wording). One church also always included on the back their 7 points of belief, which told us right on that page whether we could fit in doctrinally–very helpful.

  • Wes Willie says on

    I pastor a small church in North Texas, and we did away with weekly bulletins about a year ago. Instead of making announcements via bulletin, we have started printing posters every 3 months with up coming events and hanging the posters in well traveled areas in the church as well as a welcome/announcement time during worship. Our praise team has been able to move more freely with the Spirits leading now that they aren’t tied to a printed order of service that all the members see, and we have saved time/money. One of the biggest down sides to not having the bulletin, is not having a visitors insert. We plan on getting some generic follow up cards soon. Pros and cons, I believe that every church is unique on this topic. I don’t think a church without projected word capability would be able to lose the bulletin. -Fight the Good Fight of Faith

    • Daughter of the King says on

      Very good information, Wes, about spontaneously changing direction from what is printed in the bulletin. Even though we have a bulletin, on occasion our pastor, moved by the Holy Spirit, will stand up and say, “I know the bulletin says something different, but I feel moved to speak about this today.” And so it goes. People are fine with this.

  • Just over a year ago year our church in Toronto was considering the expense and waste generated by the weekly bulletin. It had the typical information: order of service, announcements, song lyrics, etc.
    At that time we did away with the weekly bulletin and switched to a monthly publication/magazine. The monthly publication has lowered our consumption of paper and toner as well as lowered our printing cost. Another advantage to the monthly publication is the ability to provide articles for reflection and resources that can help people grow in the area of loving God. We have been able to incorporate spotlights on members in our congregation that as a way to get to know longtime members and even newcomers. Our church library also has a section where a theme for the month is highlighted with books available for loan.
    One thing a monthly publication means is that information for the coming month needs to be prepared the month in advance. We still utilize powerpoint and verbal announcements for things that may be spontaneous throughout the month. Additionally a small number of song sheets and order of service are provided for those in need of them.
    If anyone wants to view what one of these may look like check out http://www.springgardenchurch.ca/delve/

  • Like much of church marketing, many churches miss a great opportunity with their bulletin. For most the biggest thing on their bulletin is their logo or picture. By the time someone gets the bulletin I am sure they know where they are. The bulletin could be used to praise and thank God through His Word or a story in a paragraph of how He saved, healed, restored, called or provided. All the announcements wording could be seasoned with grace like “Thank God we have the opportunity to help others this Saturday at noon in Central Park – will you join us? – Call XXX-XXX-XXXX” or “Be more like Christ – Womens Bible Study – [email protected]” My main point is use the bulletin to point people to Christ and make it an intentional part of how you communicate God’s love and relationship for making disciples and changing lives. “Whose kingdom is your church bulletin promoting?” is another way of saying it.

  • We have switched from a brochure type bulletin to a one-page front and back with three columns–sort of a newsletter look.

    Our bulletin is primarily used to help visitors know what to expect in a service (we’re informal and contemporary) and to help people remember important dates, events, fundraisers, ministry activities (such as when we’re cooking and serving the community meal) etc.

    I’m the co-pastor of a very small church and I do the bulletin. I post copies of it on the church’s facebook page and also on the church’s blog. It’s colorful, fun and informative. Our congregation relies on it quite a bit.

    Great post! Thanks for remembering the behind-the-scenes logistics on this blog. Someone’s got to do it!

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