Does the Sunday Bulletin Have a Future?

by Thomas Miner on October 14, 2014

in parish

Bulletins 2014-10-06 13As the publisher of Catholic Church bulletins the question that I am most often asked by pastors is…Where do you see the Sunday bulletin going in the future?

My first reaction is don’t you mean to ask. What do you see in the future for parish communication?

My answer is the Internet. Having an up-to-date website is fast becoming the most effective way to reach all your parishioners. No question about it. Total access 24 hours, 7 days a week. If a person is looking for information, church information, they will Google it or look for it on your website.

That doesn’t mean that your Sunday bulletin is obsolete. What it does mean is the bulletin is fast becoming the brochure to your website. The bulletin is a short, quick informative blast of information.

Bulletin editors are becoming savvy. They can spend more time writing bold headlines, editing redundant copy and adding visuals that engage readers. In part because bulletin services offer layout service that save editors time. No longer do editors have to manipulate copy and photos to fit on a page. Time is a commodity. They can write and send.

Still most parish ministries think the Sunday bulletin is the most effect means of parish communication. Truth is that the Sunday bulletin and pulpit announcements may only reach one third of all the families in a parish on any given weekend. So how can ministries effectively reach their congregations? Repeat the bulletin article, insert a flyer or another pulpit announcement and USE the Internet.

Accommodating every parish ministry request for pulpit announcements can add more than a few minutes to the pulpit announcements and most pastors tend to refrain from a multitude of announcements before or after Mass. The alternatives are clearly the bulletin and parish website.

The bulletin announcement or bulletin insert is the next obvious choice. Most submissions can turn into a short novelette rather than the announcement of a coming week activity. Often writers are not educated in copy writing and submit long and repetitive entries leaving the bulletin editor hours of unwanted revision.

The bulletin should have a singular purpose of highlighting all the activities pertaining to the coming week. A short synopsis of succinct copy, art and strong, attention grabbing headlines will better serve any parish activity. Any more explanation of a ministry other than basic information (who, what, where and how) can and should be re-directed to the parish website.

Our way of communicating has changed the bulletin from a sole source of information to a point of reference for the website. Integrating and keeping continuity between the bulletin and the website is the new challenge.

About the Author: Thomas Miner is the President of Bartleby Press, Austin. TX. Bartleby Press provides bulletin publishing, church website service and more.

Note from Sr. Susan: Thank you to Thomas Miner for this guest blog which first appeared on bartlebypress.com blog and was later published by the Catholic Press Association in the April 2014 issue of The Catholic Journalist. Thomas thought it would be of interest to the readers of Catholic Web Solutions.

Your comments are welcome below.

If you have a topic that you would like to write about related to the Internet and ministry (parish, diocesan, religious community or organization), please contact me

 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Koob October 14, 2014 at 11:17 am

Thank you for these ideas. It will help me in writing bulletin blurbs for my parish. I will also forward this page to two bulletin editors I know.

For me, the bulletin is still vital. I recruited seven volunteers from my bulletin announcements this past summer. They ALL went from my announcement to my website before or after calling me. I have a new catechists page on my website that gives link to all of the start-up requirements the diocese requires of catechists. They are all somewhat or quite web savvy. This made the application process easier.

I read all of your blog entries,

Frank Koob
Wheeling, IL

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Thanks for your comments, Frank. It sounds like you are using both the bulletin and the web effectively for your ministry.

Joe Luedtke October 14, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I would agree with Thomas, the key question is indeed, what is the future of parish communications? Already today it needs to be a mix of print and online. Beyond the pulpit, the bulletin has been the staple of church communication for half a century, but now it takes a mix of print with the bulletins and online starting with your website, then email, then social media to communicate your message.

At Liturgical Publications (www.4lpi.com) we’ve been working pretty hard to add websites, e-giving, email, and e-newsletters to our communication mix. The next generation of parishioners are growing up online. We need to be solidly in both the print and online world.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 15, 2014 at 6:22 am

Thanks, Joe. To add to your comments, it is important to remember that our communications must be more than internal. We have an obligation to take the good news beyond the walls of our churches and bulletins do not do this. Our web communications must speak to all of our audiences not just to those in Church.

Joe Luedtke October 15, 2014 at 7:37 am

Susan,

I agree completely. In our churches, we often promote a church website as a critically important marketing piece to get their message out. I always push our websites users to have a “new to church” or “interested in joining” section on their website prominently featured on the home page for this very reason.

Interestingly though, while LPi’s focus is the Catholic church and we print church bulletins for over 4000 Catholic Churches who only typically target bulletins to just mass attending parishioners, we also print some publications for other denominations. Other denominations typically mail a monthly newsletter to all their member’s homes as opposed to handing them out in mass. What about a monthly or quarterly stewardship focused newsletter mailed out (print or via email) to all their parishioners?

We also print monthly newsletters for a few hundred Senior Centers around the country. Many of those Senior Centers routinely ask for up to twice as many newsletters as their members need because they drop them off in Libraries, Restaurants, and Grocery Stores for free distribution. They feel their newsletters are indeed an important marketing piece.

I wonder if there’s a similar opportunity here for our churches?

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