I was doing an internet search trying to figure out the history of the church bulletin but unfortunately I couldn’t come up with anything. The bulletin has been around for a long time. I am not sure how long they have been around but it is a long time. I can remember going to the church on a Saturday afternoon as a child with my father and printing the church bulletin off of the old Gestetner machine. Today instead of all that ink we laser jet them into existence every single week. And we do all of this at quite the expense.
I wonder if it is time to rethink the communication value of the bulletin.
This past July we decided to try not having a bulletin. We did a random survey in August to evaluate whether or not people missed it at all. It turns out, not surpisingly, that people did miss it. 58% of those surveyed indicated that they always read the Sunday bulletin (I was on vacation and thus did not bring the average down). 34% said that they usually read the Sunday bulletin (as I said I was on vacation and thus did not bring the average down). Only 3% of those surveyed said that they rarely read the Sunday bulletin. During the month of July 70% of those surveyed said that they were able to find the information they needed about the church from other sources. 18% agreed that they felt disconnected without a Sunday bulletin whereas 53% disagreed in various forms saying that they did not feel disconnected. When it was all said and done 24% agreed or strongly agreed that the Sunday bulletin not necessary whereas 55% disagreed and said that the Sunday bulletin is necessary.
Not surprisingly those under that age of 40 are not as tied to the bulletin as those over the age of 40 but the gap isn’t as significant as you might expect. I think that people like what they are used to. 40% of those under the age of 40 agree or strongly agree that the Sunday bulletin is not necessary whereas only 20% over the age of 40 agree or strongly agree. 20% of those under the age of 40 agree or strongly agree that the felt disconnected without a Sunday bulletin whereas 32% of those over the age of 40 agree or strongly agree.
For me the issue is two-fold. First, I wonder about the stewardship of our resources dedicated to creating a Sunday bulletin. It isn’t cheap financially and it takes a significant chunk of time each week to develop a print bulletin for Sunday mornings. Second, the main issue is communication. We use a variety of communication tools and I certainly understand that not everyone has on-line capabilities. We need a blend of verbal, print, and electronic to communicate to our church family. Even with the use of all of these tools we still miss people. The bulletin, while not as old as verbal, has been around a while and its effectiveness is beginning to wane.
What are you trying at your church to improve your communication?
I did find one great article on line by a church that has modified there bulletin process.