Three Tips for Better Church Bulletins [Blog]

Guest Post by Theresa Schultz- Executive Secretary, BYM-ReachKeep-Sinclair Baptist
The creator of the church bulletin is a valuable communicator.
The creator of the church bulletin is a valuable communicator.

My pastor is kinda weird. He sends me to other churches.  It’s not for my spiritual edification, although he is very interested in my spiritual health. It’s to snoop. We like to know what makes other churches tick. What makes them successful (or not). Now that my kids are all of the adult variety, it means I’m on the road a bit more. I can’t go into a church anymore without starting to evaluate.

There are many places on the web where you can get great Bible content. I’m glad. I am not the person to do that. I am learning, through observation, research and practice that there are some ways to “do church” that make it more likely for first time guests to return. That’s my department.

Recently, I taught a seminar called “The Administrative Support of a ReachKeep Church” for the 2014 ReachKeep Conference. This year I wanted to expand a bit on the subject of the church bulletin, so I did a bunch of research, a bit of snooping at other churches, and I even solicited some bulletins from unsuspecting friends in other ministries. One of the my friends even sent me a link to a whole bunch of bulletins from a bunch of the mega churches across the country. I’ve been a church secretary for a while now, in a few different ministries over the years, and the way I look at our church bulletin is much different than the way I looked at it 20 years ago. Let me tell you why. It may change how you look at your bulletin, too. 

First, we design our bulletin first and foremost for our FIRST TIME GUEST. It’s the first piece of literature they usually interact with in our church–probably yours as well.

We don’t want it filled with a bunch of information that isn’t relevant to guests. We made a strategic decision to not include announcements in our bulletins that only involve a few people in a closed group (for example, the deacons or the nursery workers). We have discovered that other avenues of communication work better for groups like this anyway. Our most used is Facebook groups, but texting or phone calls might work well, too.
We are careful to explain things in easy to identify terms. We refrain from using abbreviations for scripture passages. It may take a little more space to write out the passage, but it clears up a lot of confusion. We also send people to places for information, instead of people. They may not know who Terri is, but they can identify the person at the information desk.
We are incredibly careful not to talk about worker shortages in children’s programs or the nursery in the bulletin. When a guest reads about a shortage, they don’t see “service opportunity”, they see “danger”.

Second, we use our bulletin to cast vision and passion for our ministry. It’s important that those of us that are there week after week are encouraged by the bulletin, but in a way that means something to the first time guest as well.
We include “Thank You”s and lots of other encouragements. Guests are interested in seeing what is being accomplished in your church.
A highlight of what is being taught in our children’s environments is always appreciated by parents, whether they are first time guests, or long time members. 
Expectations of what is to happen, or what’s “okay” are very helpful to guests. “Our service lasts about 65 minutes.” — “Children will not be allowed to leave the children’s program area unless accompanied by a parent.” — “Coffee is okay in the auditorium.”
Volunteer highlights show the value we place on our volunteers. We hope we are creating a place where it is fun to be a part of a team that works together!
Writing out or explaining our mission statement or a portion of our key philosophies is also very beneficial.
We drive people to our web page and our Facebook pages from our bulletin.  We have even had QR codes made, that we insert in the bulletin on occasion, that people can scan with their smartphones that will send them to those sites as well.
A letter, on occasion, from the Pastor or someone on staff is often a great way to really add value to an important announcement, or to drive home a point of the sermon.

Third, we have started putting our sermon outline on the outside cover of the bulletin. We have done away with the pretty picture and verse. Want to know why?
We think putting the sermon notes on the outside sends a message that it’s the “meat” of our service.
Nobody misses the notes if they are on the outside!
Included in our sermon notes, there is always lots of white space. We don’t assume that the Holy Spirit is just going to use what we have planned for the blanks to speak to their heart. It may not even be part of the sermon. It might be the phone number someone gives them before or after the service. Just remember to leave some space for them to jot down what was important that day.

In closing, you may want to check the following things in your bulletin, as well.  None of these are really new ideas, just good reminders for us all.

Is the print easy to read? Stick to one or two nice clear fonts for your bulletin, and don’t use a lot of colored text. It’s hard for people to read. We keep most of our font at about 10-12 point. You can shrink sections, but don’t make it all less than ten, or you will have less people reading your bulletin.
If possible, use a little color.  You don’t need a ton of color to make a big difference.
Avoid too much light print on dark background. That causes eye fatigue.
Do I need to remind you to check spelling and grammar?  
Include accurate contact information for the church, with an after hours option of some type. 

Terri Schultz is the Executive Secretary at Baptist Youth Mission and Sinclair Baptist Church

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Mike Holmes

  • Carole Bohren Vawter

    Hey, would you post a pdf of your latest bulletin? THANKS for the tips!

    • Sure thing. Will do. Thanks for the all the shares and referrals to others. It really helps get the word out about how to create flourishing churches.

  • Yes, Those pre-printed bulletins are efficient but not as effective as they could be.

  • Will smith

    Just a thought, if you put a pre outlined sermon on there, what do you do if the Holy Spirit changes the sermon, or what if there isn’t any singing at all? Wouldn’t that be confusing?

    • Will

      I’m sorry that should read preaching, not singing.

  • bendodge

    Thanks for posting this! Many good ideas here.

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