want-in-bulletin

When you walk in most church worship services, you are typically handed some printed material. It goes by different names, but the most common and the longest standing name is “bulletin.”

There was a time that you could expect consistency in bulletins among many churches. Such is not the case today. There are differences of opinion and a variety of ideas about what should be in the church bulletin.

Rather than speculate, we conducted an informal survey among church members. We asked one simple and open-ended question: “What do you want in a church bulletin?” The respondents could give as many answers as they liked. There was much agreement on the first four items. Beyond the top four was considerably fragmented opinions.

Here are the top five responses. I list them in order of frequency of response.

  1. Quality. This one issue was a near unanimous response. Church members see the bulletin as a reflection on their church. They are embarrassed when the bulletin has incorrect facts or grammatical errors. They don’t want something in their bulletin to become the next “bulletin blooper.” They want the bulletin to reflect quality, not a gathering place for a collection of ancient clip art.
  2. Sermon notes/outline. Church members want a place to take notes on the sermon, even if the same material is on the projection screen. They want notes they can take home and study. They especially appreciate any helps, such as an outline or references.
  3. Order of service. Frankly, I heard some complaining about this matter. Apparently a number of churches once put the order of their worship services in the bulletin; but they don’t now. Church members miss that in the bulletin and they want it back.
  4. Attendance/stewardship statistics. I thought numbers were being deemphasized in churches. Well, maybe they are, but church members want them back. They want to see the giving patterns and attendance patterns each week.
  5. Announcements. There is a big gap between numbers four and five. If not for its brevity, I could have made this blog about the top four things church members want in a church bulletin. While church members do want some announcements in the church bulletin, they do not want it cluttered with announcements. They prefer for announcements to be on a screen before the services or on the church’s website.

Are you surprised by these top five? What would you add to the list?

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Comments

  1. Jim says

    This amazes me on 2 areas. Order of service…Almost all I have ever encountered with putting that in a bulletin is grief if we do not do everything that is listed in the order it is listed. In many cases it doesn’t allow for flexibility in the eyes of melancholics. I am also surprised at wanting attendance…people usually know if numbers are low or there is a large crowd in attendance, on the other hand if a visitor comes in and sees numbers dropping week after week while they are deciding to become a part or not it would deter them from involvement in a sinking ship. Just my experiences.

    • Robin says

      Most visitors look at bulletins to see what kind of church they are attending. Does the church have things going on? Is there activities I can get involved in or anything that sounds interesting. Us this a relevant church, or are they dying out. Activities are in my age bracket, or just older people, or are there children’s activities? I’m not sure I would care about church attendance, just what is going on. Is this a happening place where Gods work is bring carried out, teaching and spreading the gospel? But I agree that the bulletin should look good and represent well what the church is doing. Paper handouts are good because the visitor can take this with them. Overhead announcements tend to get forgotten, but look great up front from a marketing standpoint. It also depends on the size of your church with which would work best for the congregation.

    • Jeff says

      As a music minister, I wish we wouldn’t have to insert of the order of service. I believe it limits flexibility and spontaniety. Since we put every song on the overhead, it’s a mystery to me why people insist on the bulletin order of service. I’ve never heard a valid argument for it’s insertion.

      • says

        Control…people want to know how long things are going to take and what to expect.
        Intentional times to shake them of that is good, other times pastoral sensitivity suggests that we may include it to help them relax and engage Jesus Christ.

      • Randy Underwood says

        I understand your desire as a music minister for flexibility in the order of service, however, as a member of the congregation it becomes frustrating when the music minister goes one way and the operator of the multi-media providing the words goes another or can’t follow at all. If you and your multi-media team are together it seems quite easy to include the designer of your weekly bulletin. Thanks for hearing my thoughts.

  2. says

    Number three surprised me. I didn’t think anyone cared except those who had a responsibility that morning.

    Number fiver surprised me at first but then it occurred to me that when someone says, “That’s been in the bulletin for a few weeks!” People act like it never occurred to them to look there. I guess its another example of things changing in such a way that the church has to change too simply to accommodate.

    Excellent list, thanks for this.

    Michael

  3. Zach says

    We stopped printing bulletins a few years ago and do not miss them. The people that complain they aren’t aware of what is going on complained they weren’t aware when we had bulletins. We have ministry handouts- Pre-School, Children, Teens, Discipleship, etc. on various tables in the foyer and an email newsletter via Constant Contact.
    Are bulletins even that important or is it something tangible that “church people” can take with them? I grew up and served as a student pastor in churches that had an order of service printed and never understood why it was deemed so important. As pastor of a SBC church, the Holy Spirit has been moving in an incredible way and do not want to stifle Him in anyway by following a schedule. We have the songs and sermon planned out but there are some elements that happen unplanned each week. If we printed an order of service, I can imagine the complaints that would come- “You didn’t follow the order that was printed. How are we supposed to keep up?” or “If you don’t follow the order of service we have, how can we follow you?”

    • says

      Yeah, can’t see how following a schedule is going to ‘stifle’ the Holy Spirit. Just pray that God guide you, then plan, then do what God guided you to do. Or does God change his mind? No, don’t think He does. I think He knew what He wanted you to do before you were born. And that is do all to His glory. Now if you schedule something and realise later it wasn’t to God’s glory, then by all means, change it.

    • Larry B says

      Responding to the question, “Are bulletins valuable?”, I say yes, particularly on Bulletin Night at Chick-Fil-A

    • Olive says

      I used to think like you Zach and still agree on a number of your points. However, something was pointed out to me a few weeks ago that made me think of bulletins in a different light. Bulletins are NOT for your church members, but for the visitors. When a stranger comes, having a bulletin in hand gives them something to look at while they wait for the service to begin. It can tell them a lot about the place they are visiting and help them decide if they want to return. I know we all want our regulars to be friendly and approach new people, that ushers and greeters will automatically recognize a “new face”, but it doesn’t always happen. And if the stranger is shy then they can “hide behind the bulletin” in the awkward minutes before service. What if we look at the bulletin as an welcoming tool rather than “in house” communication device? How would it be different?

      • Keith Wissman says

        Thank you! A bulletin can be an important part of “guest services” and to encourage a sense that this is a “safe place”.

  4. kent says

    I understand why people want to see the order. It gives them so idea about what is going to happen and when. One of the core believe that I have is that no one wants to feel stupid in worship.

  5. Matt says

    Two thoughts:

    From a church leadership perspective, I see the other side. It may be what they want, but is it what they need? For instance, including attendance/offering stats can create negative opinions if attendance/giving numbers are low. More than once I’ve been in a church where these numbers are listed in detail and because they were “poor” thought to myself, “This is a sinking ship.”

    I would be interested in the sermon notes question whether or not people benefit from filling in blanks in an outline or not.

    • says

      For us sharing the statistics for attendance and giving is important simply because we want people to know whats going on. Its not the staff’s church its God’s church and if the numbers are not great people need to know so they can be apart of the solution. I think Hybles is the one who said that “facts are our friends.” You could always share the numbers at the same time you celebrate a ministry victory, ie. “we 5 kids who were saved at church camp.”

      Currently at my church, our teaching team uses an insert in the program to fill in blanks during the message. As a member of the teaching team I am aware that every time I step on sage I am fighting for the attention of people in the congregation. We find that “fill in the blank” outlines helps us. However… for the OCD people… if you don’t provide an answer for every blank, their world is out of sorts until they fill in all of those blanks!

    • says

      Numbers are not important to most.
      Sermon notes: YES!!!!!!!! I know lots of people in our church fill in the blanks and keep them for months or a year. I do so myself. Helps me remember and pray about what was shared. Or, I pass them on or use them as an opening for discipleship/discussion.

  6. says

    I must be an oddball. I love getting the church bulletin every week. I love that it lists the order of service, otherwise I feel adrift at sea. Of course there is room to deviate as the Holy Spirit leads. The order of service is merely a guide. I don’t need room for sermon notes, though, as a separate notebook that I provide works just fine. Knowing the attendance numbers and offering amounts is nice but not necessary. Major announcements that affect the whole congregation should be included, as many people don’t have time to visit the various ministry tables or they forget about doing so (and some, especially the elderly, don’t have computers for checking the church website).

    I may be a grammar snob, but number one (even if it wasn’t number one) is definitely important to me. A grammatically-correct, clean, crisp bulletin is appealing (though we must be ready to forgive mistakes, since no one is perfect).

    Interesting post, Mr. Rainer.

  7. says

    Very interesting. I’m surprised “order of service” made the list. I know it was an informal survey, but I’m curious what types of churches the respondents attend. Order of service makes sense in a more traditional or liturgical church, but less so in a more contemporary service.

    Here’s a link to our church’s “bulletin” if you’re interested in a peek: http://engedichurch.com/resources/events/ There’s no order of service, but it does include a QR code for online notetaking, slides and Bible references (analogue tools available in the aisles, as you can see); stewardship statistics but no attendance stats; and tons of announcements.

    • Jake says

      Josh,
      I love the handout. Do you make it a tearoom on the visitor part? Is it front back no fold?
      I may use a design like this.

      • says

        Jake—
        Yes, the top portion is a perforated tear-off for the visitor/contact info, which is why there’s so much white space on the top front, where it says “The Handout.” Front and back, no fold. It’s not a standard size, either, but I’m not sure the exact dimensions (smaller than 8.5×11).

  8. Stephen Newell says

    Announcements is the one that surprises me. We switched to announcements on screen a couple years ago but found that to a person no one paid any attention to it. Then we would get complaints of not knowing what was going on, even though announcements were still readily available on our bulletin. Maybe it’s just the nature of our church but our members seemed to be more connected when we have announcements not only on the bulletin but during worship.

  9. Hugh Patterson says

    A few surprise here – I guess after serving as a Minister of Music for the past 33 years in many capacities (part-time, full-time, interims) I have experienced every church size dynamic. The common thread has always been the “order of service” being printed. I will admit in the past 5-7 years that “order” has diminished with the influence of contemporary worship being more “laid back, go with the flow” style of worship than a formalized order, as found in “traditional” worship. However, I personally believe we miss the boat in this regard. Let me explain.

    It has always been my belief (though not always shared by the other staff members I have worked with) that the “Bullein/Order of Worship” has a greater purpose than just the “task list” for the morning. We as ministers have become lazy (in general, not all) with regards to our worship planning and it manifests itself in the way in which we present the service to our congregants. We have allowed ourselves to be more relaxed in our approach to the music we present and its desire to be “popular”, “hip”, “current on the radio, Pandora, Spotify” whatever. We have also become much more “specialist” centered instead of “congregational” centered. Basically, if the congregation does not regularly listen to the contemporary Christian radio station (if your city even has one), then they will have no foundation or base from which to have experienced the music prior to the 3 minute presentation within a worship service. With no printed music or other guide, save the words printed on the screen, there is no way for a congregant to participate in the act of worship. Even a trained musician is totally lost in such a service with no musical point of reference. Therefore, if the bulletin is nothing more than just “Worship Set”, “Scripture and Prayer”, “Talk” (which is the new term for Message or Sermon), then we leave our congregation no option than to be spectators instead of participants.

    I belief the bulletin should be a tool for and of worship. It is more than just the detailed guide for the “hour of worship”, but a tool in which they can take home and revisit the service throughout the week, read the texts of the music (whether hymns or contemporary), read the scripture passages, review their sermon notes, etc. This allows a more thorough response to worship and a life experience instead of just a task list for Sunday morning (or whatever time the worship service happens).

    Intentionality is the driving force. Everything we choose to print in the bulletin should be done with great intentionality; the detailed “order of worship”, any statistical information, listing of worship leadership for the day and the church staff contact information, etc. We should never just “fill up the space” with whatever we can think of or is coming up. But this requires specific preparation and thought AND then education of the congregation to know and understand why the bulletin is crafted in such a way and what the expectation is for them to reap the greatest benefit.

    Again, I believe we miss the boat in the preparation of our deliverables to our congregants, and with the availability of social media, we should take every opportunity to give them as much information “in hand” as we can to guide their worship, both in church and in private. We must remember, contemporary does not be lazy or uninformed and by presenting just an outline (that basically never changes) or nothing at all, we miss the opportunity to teach our congregants how to live worship, not just attend worship once a week. Here’s an idea, with the availability of software like Constant Contact or even Worship Planning Software (worshipplanning.com or planningcenteronline.com) we could email the order of service to the congregation on Thursday or Friday, asking them to begin praying about what they will experience and who they might invite to engage this service!! WOW, that’s an idea, takes mass media marketing to a new level!!

    Just my thoughts, what think ye??

    • Ed Mitchell says

      Hugh, I think you’re spot on! The “good enough” attitude runs through too many of our churches – mine included. How many times have I been tempted to “wing it” because I didn’t think folks would know any better? Yet I’m much more at peace and more open to receive from worship myself when all the “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” crossed. Thanks for the challenging reminder.

  10. Cole Howe says

    I like good looking, full-color bulletins. We print all of the above in them and have for years. Why? The bulletin is an official document of the church (containing name, events/activities, contact information, etc.), a legal document (activities listed should reflect events listed on the church calendar – i.e. youth activities, etc.), and a historical document. It’s interesting to look back over the years (since these are always kept) to see what has happened – attendance wise, events, etc. Can it become too bulky? No doubt. Do people really read it? If good information is put in it. We usually insert quotes, some funny sayings, etc. As the pastor, if I need to change the order of service, I do. Simple as that, and our folks are always show much grace when that takes place.

  11. says

    I find these responses amusing and interesting. They reflect the many different types of personalities in every group or congregation.. The “Detail” people (the High “C”s on a DiSC personality profile) like lists, all the detailed information so they know what to expect next, etc. The “People” people (the High “I”s on the DiSC profile) like to know who is doing what so they can be part of it. The High S personalities do not care one way or the other about a Bulletin as long as we all get along, while the dominant High D personalities want order and structure and want to know who is in charge of this operation (and where they fit in).

  12. says

    2 and 5 surprised me. 2 because it hadn’t even occurred to me – it’s an interesting idea, but wouldn’t fit in with my usual pattern of writing my sermon on Saturday afternoon! 5 because in my inner city congregation made up of older West African/Afro-Caribbean members a large proportion (1) do not have regular internet access and (2) aren’t in church early enough to read the notices before the beginning of worship. And I doubt 10% would have an idea what a QR code is.

  13. Allen James says

    Even though announcements are on the screen, many people arrive last minute (or even after the service has started) so they don’t see them. Printing important information in the bulletin is the best way to ensure everyone sees it.

  14. Kim Wright says

    I enjoy reading our fully colored, professionally done bulletin each week. We have even put in a separate sheet to take church attendance, so we know who was there, and if there are new visitors, and you can also list prayer requests on it. Our bulletins are packed full of useful information for the entire church family to use, and even those first timers as well. It lists the order of worship, but doesn’t list the number of people from last week, I don’t think that is relevant. If the numbers are higher than the last week, our Pastor will mention it in his Monday Reflections email he sends out those that are signed up to receive it. The bulletin has a very important tool in the church, so lets not talk about taking it away….as in some posts I have heard. It helps families find out whats going on in the church. .

  15. says

    Number 1 is extremely important with any written communication whether it is a Sunday morning bulletin or webpage information. I am surprised that people want a outline to follow along. I know of only one person in my small congregation who takes notes. My wife has always said I should provide a outline, so I will put one together to pass out on Sunday morning. I surmise, when they get home they place them someplace to never review again. I have never been one to make announcements, I seem to always forget something, we don’t have overhead projection.

    I do a bulletin but mail it every Thursday or Friday. It contains everything the church member needs to know and I also post it on our webpage under “bulletin.” Within that mailing I include a personal note, offering envelope(special offerings when applicable) so that everyone is reminded of their obligation to tithe and give an offering. When there is a mission emphasis, etc. they are personally informed.

    I would appreciate it if some of you would review our webpage and the bulletin. We get lots of hits but very little response from people in attendance. I need some clues as to how to improve. Maybe someday Dr. Rainer will make a survey on webpages effectiveness and productivity.

    • Paul Muehlberger says

      Hi Les, the website opened very quickly, very important. Was easy to find information; I was wanting to see the bulletin and the link was easy to see. Buletin was good, am assuming the list of names at the top left were in need of prayer?

      • Les Fogleman says

        Thanks Paul for the feedback and interest. I appreciate that very much. Yes, the list was a prayer list, instead of printing prayer list I have the little girl on her knees praying, now I am wondering if I need to put “prayer list” there.

  16. Bill Perkins says

    We took the Order of Worhsip out of ours a couple of years. I was surprised how many people commented. The big issue that they the like to know what’s next. It was mostly the older generation that like things done the same way every week. When you change things up it really upsets the apple cart.

  17. Preston says

    All of these make sense. Since our order of service can change from week to week, that is not included in ours.
    As always, consider the culture/demographic you are ministering to. If you are reaching out to young unchurched people, you may want to replace the term bulletin with flyer. The younger demo will also use the QR code tied to YouVersion to gain immediate access to sermon notes, passages, and quotes using their smart phone.
    Space with an outline will allow those with different learning styles to interact/engage with the speaker. I know people that doodle, writing down key points; and others that take copious notes.

  18. says

    I would be interested if you ask if people would be upset if their bulletin went away all together? What if it were just sermon notes?

  19. Jason DeVries says

    If I’ve read correctly, this is what church members want. Do we know what visitors, or people who don’t usually go to church want us to give them? It’d be interesting to see if they’re similar or different.

    Jason

      • Hugh Patterson says

        Dr Rainer

        Is it possible in our efforts to reach the “unchurched” that we lose the “churched”?? Should one demographic suffer for the benefit of the other? How do we balance this, such as in worship music, communication tools, etc?? This is the greatest challenge to ministers in all size congregations!!

        Thoughts….

  20. Scott Gamel says

    Seems to me there’s a disconnect between what people say they want in a bulletin, and what is actually effective.

    • says

      In my experience there is always a disconnect between what people want and what people need. I think that’s he reason Jesus started His most famous sermon “Happy are those who…”?

  21. says

    None of these surprise me, but I can see how #3 and #4 would be especially wanted by church members who want to have a sense of control of the church. If a church member gets bent out of shape if the printed order of service is not followed, or if a church member wants to use the attendance and giving numbers as a weapon against the pastor or staff, there are bigger issues that need to be addressed.

  22. Ginger says

    Before I respond, please know that I am not a minister, the wife of a minister, the child of a minister, the church secretary, on staff at church nor have I ever been any one of those. I am speaking as a “lay person”, one who attends services on a very regular basis and is actively involved in the congregation and has been all of her life. I am guilty of wanting all of these things and more and what I have to say, I am saying to myself as much as I am saying it to anyone else.

    Not one statement surprises me and I I would say that I want at least 4 of the 5 on any given Sunday. However, I think what I am struggling with in this post is that it continues perpetuate the cycle of consumerism I/we have developed in our modern day westernized churches (it may happen in other cultures as well but I can only speak for the area I have been). There is a part of me that wants the ministers, leaders, church staff or whoever to have a response of something like this (obviously in much nicer way would be good):

    “1) Quality – Okay, to help us maintain a high quality bulletin we will need 2 volunteers each week to spend an hour double checking all the grammar, punctuation, spelling and factual information in here for us. This will need to be done between 3 pm and 5 pm on Thursday. And remember for each bulletin we print it cost money so makes sure your giving continues to cover our expenses so we can print a high quality bulletin.

    2) Sermon Notes/outlines – To help us with this, our preacher needs to have some hours available early during the week to really sit down and prepare his sermon without answering phone calls, counseling sessions, whining sessions about last week’s sermon/service/color of the carpet/poor quality bulletin, reading and answering emails on your time schedule or being expected to drop his life at moment’s notice to attend to yours. He also may need your permission to ignore said phone calls/emails to focus on his sermon without feeling guilty. Given he will still be available for the horrible circumstances you find yourself in, but unless it is a tragedy please consider if the call is necessary.

    3) Order of service – To help us with this, please acknowledge that the Spirit doesn’t always work on our time schedule. Our worship minister, actually does plan these services out to the best of his ability so he too will need some time to be left alone at the beginning of the week to pick the songs and Scriptures (which probably should correlate with the sermon in some way) and to find the people who will serve so the calls about last weeks service/song selection/people who served need to be put on hold until the end of the week. Also please know that since the Spirit doesn’t work with our time schedule, if our worship minister feels led to stray from the plan or if someone is sick and there has to be a substitute, complaints can be directed to the Boss (read God) rather than to the worship minister/senior minister/elders/ person in the pew next to you/neighbor.

    4) Attendance/stewardship – Please remember when those numbers change – either positively or negatively – it should not generate gossip, anger, excuses, or complaints. If, when you look at the numbers you can find a way to bring to glory to God, then you can talk about it. Otherwise, keep your opinion to yourself. Unless of course you have a life giving way to fix the problem then please, by all means come see us and be part of the solution.

    5) Announcements – Read them. If you don’t read them, don’t complain about not knowing anything going on. If you have something that needs to go in the bulletin, we need it by 12 pm on Wednesday because we have to proof it and edit it (which will take the rest of Wednesday afternoon) work on the layout on Thursday (which will take a few hours to work it all in) and then we print and fold on Friday (again this takes quite a few hours as well) . And of course, we still have to do all this while answering the phone, responding to emails, and helping those who might come to the church for help. And a note about getting announcements into the bulletin, please make sure we have all the pertinent information when you first submit it: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Having this information initially without having to call and leave messages or send numerous emails to get this information will ensure that your announcement (and thus the bulletin in general) will be of good quality. Also, related to number #2 and #3 in this matter, these men//women must also meet a similar deadlines so keep that in mind when you pick up the phone to call them or open up that email or stop by the office for a small chat at the beginning of the week.

    And finally, we ask that if you don’t want to keep your bulletin for any reason, which we are fine with, please drop them in the recycle bin so that we can defray a small bit of the cost.”

    Again, I am guilty on all fronts: being a consumer at worship service and thinking it is about my likes/wants/desires; complaining about and mocking wrong information, misspelled names, poor quality of work; expecting the ministers to be available at my every beck and call; complaining about the attendance changes (positive AND negative); disparaging over the contribution without changing my own giving; not reading the bulletin; not getting my requests in on time; leaving my bulletin on the pew/chair after services. But again, this is exactly what was going through my mind as I read it and felt it was good to share.

    • Olive says

      As a pastor’s wife and worship leader of 30+ years I stand and applaud. You have eloquently put in writing my thoughts over the years of the incongruity and sometime laughable inconsistencies that spring up in church life. Best rant, ever.

  23. Amy Patton says

    Interesting Dr. Rainer. Our church, Springbrook Community is very intentional about changing the ” scoreboard” from attendance and offering envelope checkboxes to life change; so we don’t advertise numbers. Any church member can log on to our CCB account and see where giving stands if they desire. Our bulletin serves to inform and point ” outsiders” to the information they need most. Of course our church really isn’t like any other sbc church I’ve been in. I do wonder how demographics affect things. We are in the Cchicago area.

  24. David F Bays says

    I would put in it a slogan of what your church is like, for instance, I have this slogan in our Bulletin,
    ‘ THE CHURCH WHERE YOUR HEART CAN FEEL THE DIFFERENCE.”

  25. Gilbert Kerrigan says

    I would be curious to know the demographics that participated in the survey. Can you share a general overview of the demographics of those who participated?

    • Thom Rainer says

      The survey was informal, not scientific, as the blog indicated. There was equal gender representation, variety in church size, geographical diversity, and proportionate age representation. Still, the survey did not meet the exacting standards necessary for credible margins of error.

  26. Kyle says

    I wonder if this is not simply a list of things that used to be in the bulletin and aren’t anymore. A more formal survey would probably give more scientific results.

  27. Anny says

    As a church secretary, I can understand these, and I found this to be really helpful. It can be difficult sometimes though as working for a smaller church surrounded by larger churches with larger budgets. Sometimes the expectation that our media and bulletins look the same as the larger churches is quite hard to meet especially inside our budget. I want to strive for excellence, but sometimes I even have to use “ancient clip art” because that is what is available to me.

    • says

      Hey Anny! I’ve been where you are… Do you guys use a pre-printed shell for your bulletins? Do you have a color copier? How many do you print weekly? I only ask because I have learned to do a lot with very little… graphic design is a hobby of mine, and I would love to help you any way I can…

      • Anny says

        We do use a pre-printed shell(8 1/2 x 14). We have a color copier, but do not print the bulletins in color because of charging for the color copies. We print 150 bulletins a week. 200 to 220 for special Sundays (Easter/ Christmas). I would always appreciate help and pointers to do things better! Thanks!

      • Diane says

        Cary is that offer open to me too? I love some pointers, for a small church bulletin, low budget. Always looking for creative ways to improve this tool. God bless!

  28. jonathon says

    As a visitor to a church I like seeing:
    * Announcements;
    * Order of service, including hymn numbers and Bible passages read;
    * Complete contact information for the church;
    * If communion is being celebrated, a note about the church’s poicies about communion. Having experienced everything from fenced tables, to “even athiests should partake” within the last year, I really appreciate reading in the bulletin that as a visitor I am expected/not expected to participate in communion.

    I don’t like:
    * Sermon outlines, especially “fill in the blanks”;

  29. says

    This may have been mentioned in the above comments, but I think the reason people want the order of service is because they want to know how long the whole thing is going to last. We don’t have that worry as a church that meets in a movie theater and must limit our service to 60 minutes. We promise to have them out by 11am. And in my welcome I will often say something like, “We’re going to sing 4 songs, and then I’ve got a message for you, at the close of the message we will receive the offering…”

  30. says

    We still print handouts that include announcements, a prayer log, financials, a section for taking notes (no fill-in the blanks), and church contact info. We stopped having an order of service years ago. My observation, after many years in the same church, is that people still don’t read it or they choose to ignore what we as pastors and leaders think is of great importance, like church meetings or special events.
    I hear people say regularly, “I would have come but I didn’t know anything about it!” Really? We print it, email it, announce it (if it involves the whole church), use an announcement pre-service loop, Facebook it, Tweet it, talk about it, and still…
    We try to communicate in every way possible.
    …sorry for the rant, but in this age of information, if it was up to me I’d never print another bulletin.

  31. says

    I personally am saddened by what people want in a bulletin. After being a member of a church (for 20+ years) that put all of the above 5 topics in its bulletin, I am glad to now be a member of a church that puts out a monthly bulletin, that is distributed/made available each Sunday and it is only to inform the people of ministry opportunities, upcoming events and the pastor’s new preaching/teaching series. If I want to know how much is given to the “main” budget then I better get in good with the minister of finance and be willing to ask questions. If I want quality then that means, for me, less clutter. Sermon notes and outlines are summed up in the way I take notes. (Sadly, most church goers don’t bring their Bibles to church let alone writing utensils.) Attendance can be easily seen by the filled seats and the order of service is almost always the same, no need to have it outlined. When it is changed, you can be sure that the Holy Spirit has ordained it. In my opinion, the only people that need to know the order of service are the people doing the leading — who at any time can make changes as the Spirit leads. If I were to add anything to a weekly bulletin, it would definitely be scripture…more scripture and words of encouragement, insight and help.

  32. says

    We have taken a slightly different approach with the bulletin and use it more as an entry piece that serves as a “holder” for the inserts we provide. The inserts contain individual sheets for 1) notes 2) announcements 3) connect card.

    One of the highest values we place on The Weekly (our chosen name for the bulletin) is to provide our guests with a very simple entry into Red Door. We want them to have a snapshot of the basics. As such the content is directed to people who are new to the church. The content that changes each week is provided on the single color sheets that are inserted into the bulletin.

    I would love to know everyone’s thoughts. What do you think are the results of viewing the bulletin more as a first step entry rather than an information dispenser?

    Here is what it looks like…
    Cover: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?99hargq7ae0dkx2
    Inside: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?ebk3t8ca4llovyy

    • Becky says

      I really like this idea. I think it looks sharp. Do your inserts have the same print quality or are they done as half sheets in word, etc? If so, do people find that incongruous? We’ve entertained the idea of have a static our shell professionally printed, but wondered about stuffing it with regular old half sheets of sermon outlines, weekly schedules, etc would seem tacky.

  33. says

    My church prints the bulletin with sermon notes insert, but also puts them online. So, each week before church, I copy and paste the sermon outline into my Olive Tree app notes. Then, I fill it in during the sermon and the notes will always be there when I look at that passage in the Bible app. I also joke with the pastor that if he ever tries to recycle sermons, I’ll know.

  34. Doug says

    It matters IF you have your bulletin for your members. We design ours for our guests. Member can find the info they need online.

  35. says

    I once had one of our youth tell me he appreciated not only the order of service, but the printed outline. His reason? “So we can tell about how much longer the service was going to be.”

  36. Kathleen Phillips says

    We used to print the order of service and have not down it in a few years. I don’t miss it at all.
    1) Our pastors and worship leaders always know the order of service, everything flows and they have a real gift with leading you through without needing “helps”.
    2) I discovered that my worship is not distracted by holding the bulletin or opening the bulletin to see what the next step is. As long as the worship leaders are leading and organized, it does not really matter to me what is happening next and then you find worship is free flowing. I think once the service starts, it is time to put the bulletin down unless you are writing notes in the note section from the sermon.
    3) It also does away with complaining if something doesn’t go exactly in line with what is printed.

  37. Linda says

    1) When God says something to you it is valuable and worth writing down. A bulletin gives room for that. Do people mentally remember through the week what God said to them on Sunday?
    2) Good, visible, spiritual material at home is important. One never knows who might see even a bulletin and what part of it may fill a need or tweak one’s thoughts.

  38. says

    I am not surprised that people want an order of service. Especially new people who already feel lost with lots that is going on. I’ve heard so many church leaders say that having the order of service decreases spontaneity, but if you attend their services for a couple weeks you’ll see they have a pretty well determined pattern. It seems to me that ALL churches have an order of worship… its just that some print it and some don’t!
    As for putting in the stats… worship and giving… when I don’t see them in a bulletin I assume its because they are bad and the church prefers to hide them rather than reveal them! Churches with good statistics print them! I think church members need to be aware of the stats of their church. How can we say “this is your church and we’re all in this together” when we appear to be hiding the facts?

  39. says

    Maybe a classified section would be helpful, or a section in the back explaining what the religious things are in the bulletin, something like you see at a Mexican or Chinese restaurant.

  40. Shannon says

    I would add a heartfelt welcome (explaining who you are), a brief mission statement (what you believe & want to achieve), and easily accessible contact information for those in need of prayer or salvation.

    • willie Lawrence says

      The sick and shut-in, and praise report is vaiuable information in the church bulletin. My concern is who is responsible in moving the sick and shut-in off the list when they are well, better or giving a praise report for answered prayers. The sick list should be meanful and not just keep names on the list forever.

  41. says

    I think theres good stuff here. Here are the two I’m definitely not ok with putting in our bulletin each week.

    3. Order of Worship: I don’t like this for a couple of reasons. I grew up in a church and have been in a bunch of churches where they print the order of service in the bulletin and here is mostly what happens: The service begins with a welcome, during the welcome half the people aren’t listening because they are looking in the bulletin for what song is first and flipping through the hymnal to find it. Then you stand and sing the first song. As soon as that song is nearing the end, you have people disconnecting again to look in their bulletin for whats coming up next. Rinse and repeat and you have a service where people are disconnecting from whats going on every few minutes. Its terribly disruptive. And secondly, we print bulletins on Friday. This wouldn’t happen very frequently at all but if the Pastor calls me friday night and says; is there anyway we could do this song before the message? The answer will most times be yes. So then we have an element that won’t be in the bulletin, which affects the quality of it.

    4. Numbers. This is just a terrible idea. Not only from the perspective of visitors who may think wow this church isn’t going anywhere. But on so many other levels. If people can track the giving, they’ll more than likely give as a reflection of that, good or bad. I want people in our church to be consistent in their giving regardless of where the budget is at. It also gives people the wrong impression of what we’re about. I’m not saying don’t make the information available to them. It just doesn’t belong in the bulletin.

    We are redesigning our bulletin to be more focused on the unchurched. We figure people who are visiting don’t care much about super inside information. They what to see what we’re about, what it means to be a Christian, how to join the church, what is baptism (we’re baptist), etc. So that is what we are going to gear the bulletin toward. Sure there’ll be announcements but everything will have a definitely purpose.

  42. Lisa says

    I’ve worked as a secretary at different churches for over 8 years now, and I’ve heard many comments about bulletins. All the churches I work at, the members like a quality bulletin on 8 1/2″ X 14″ paper (free from errors and a nice picture on the cover that relates to the service) , an order of worship, attendance & weekly giving information (this helps give them goals to set), and church happenings for the week along with other announcements – such as prayer requests, directory updates, addresses of where to send cards for members at physical therapy rehab, whose on the schedule for greeters, etc.. They really enjoy their bulletin and often take it home with them so they can have it as a reference for the weekly activities on it, or for the prayer list so they know who to call or visit. The members find the bulletin helpful. Sometimes the bulletins get hand delivered to shut ins, and it’s really appreciated when they can’t get out. What is also helpful is to have all the words of the songs listed on the overhead during the service. As far as the sermon, they do enjoy reading a copy of it or seeing it online.

  43. Jeremy Cole says

    I was kind of surprised as well. We took the order of service out some time back.

    One comment though really got me thinking. They said their bulletin is for their guests. Most first time guests come to church for the first time a little scared, intimidated, and have their guard up somewhat. Especially if they are a non Christian. Maybe instead of an order of service we could give them an what to expect area. “We will be here about an hour. We will start of with some annoucements followed by Singing (For a non Christian it’s just singing) or Worship, and then our pastor xyz will finish his series on xyz. We are glad you are here.”

    I think that should be done live as well, not just in the bulletin by the way.

    Good thoughts

  44. Hannah says

    Why wouldn’t people want announcements in the bulletin? Isn’t that what the bulletin is for? I do our church bulletin and we focus on putting mainly announcements in there so that visitors who might want to become a part of the church can take the bulletin home, and reference to it for the upcoming events. We like changing up our bulletin quite a bit so it’s fresh and new. Our members really seem to like that.

  45. Loran says

    I didn’t have time to read all of the replies, but as a graphic designer, there’s some things that I see that need to be or not be in a bulletin. As a church member my list is slightly different. I will say this much though, most people can’t see the forest for the trees, but there are others who can’t see the trees for the leaves.

    It happens that way when one person has been “lord” or “queen” of the bulletin for far too long! They can’t see what is wrong with it. They can’t see what should and shouldn’t be there, from an aesthetic point of view, or from an evangelistic point of view. But besides the keeper of the bulletin, you have to go through the worship committee, the communications committee, the church board, and probably a lot more committees before it’s over. Not to mention the politics involved.

    I’m thankful that we serve ONE God, because if it were up to a committee, we’d still be separating the water from the dry land. And I also think a picture is worth a thousand words. Mock together a few alternatives and present them to the first hurdle. Then, be patient, and take their critique. Even designers don’t have all the answers. Just be ready to back up all of your decisions with logical explanations that can be explained in layman’s terms.

  46. says

    I asked my wife why order of service was important to people and first thing out of her mouth was, “So people know what time service will be over.” That was my first thought too. Same with a sermon outline, the more spiritual people will say they like one because they want to follow along with the preacher, but I think most people like outlines so they know when the sermon will be over.

  47. Ken McCue says

    I am particularly interesting in knowing about and/or viewing good examples of item number 2 “Sermon notes/outline”. Is this something that is done in a lot of places of worship? I must confess that I have not seen examples of this personally but I do expect that it is done. Is it similar to handouts done in the teaching profession? I remember many examples of this from my college days but I do not recall any examples of bulletins as described here. Thanks!

  48. John Sears says

    Thanks for your posts and your research. You provide valuable information to churches. In regard to this article, three surprises me the most. It seems to me that most members have been in church so long that they KNOW the order of service. It probably hasn’t changed in several decades. I think they just want a visual checklist to mark off so they can see that the worship time is getting closer to done. (I’m guilty of doing this at band concerts). We just recently REMOVED the order of service because we thought it was a waste of space. (We will see how this turns out.)

  49. Bryan Chalker says

    Thom – do you have a breakdown of those outside of the top five? Curious as to how the ages relate to some of the feedback, also.

  50. Victoria says

    I just had a conversation about the limited bulletins we have in my church. Apparently the leaders think it is a waste of money and ink.

    Here is why I want one:

    1. I can’t see the screen – sometimes the lyrics go too far down to see. Sometimes everyone in front of me is tall or children are standing on the pew to see the lyrics.
    2. Sometimes the lyrics are not shown in time or at all – I don’t know the words and cannot take part.
    3. I like to see the order of service. I like to prepare because sometimes it changes. When is the congregational prayer? What is the scripture we will be reading?
    4. If I am visiting a church I like to have something to follow and something to take home with information that I have added.
    5. When I taught ESL we could look at the lyrics ahead of time to be ready to worship. I also sometimes read the lyrics ahead of time so I know what I am proclaiming before God.

    The idea that the order will change and therefore is not reflected in the bulletin makes it clear to me that I am expected to watch rather than participate. I don’t care if an item gets moved – I do care that the leaders want to control the experience by ensuring I have no advance notice to prepare myself for the various elements of worship and how I will participate.
    5.

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