Rethinking Your Parish Bulletin

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“When your church newsletter first was distributed, everyone read it. It had a few relevant, anticipated, useful pieces of information that more than made up for the time it took to read.

Over time, though, this newsletter, like all church newsletters, became filled with trivia. A column by the church librarian on the history of the steeple. Lists of which hymns were scheduled for next week. All sorts of information was included because it was easy, it was cheap, and at least some constituency within the church thought it was a good idea.

Over time, the newsletter gets longer. And less useful. Less relevant. Until one day it falls off each person’s radar. Not enough time in your day, too much clutter, maybe later.” - Seth Godin (Permission Marketing)

Does that quote strike a chord?

With anything you want to communicate, you have to make a choice: comprehensive or concise? And you can’t have it both ways. The former has more information, but the latter is more to the point. Most parish bulletins have gradually become the former ... which is decidedly less bulletin-like.

In an effort to have a little info for everyone, it’s ended up a lot of info for no one. They’ve become so cumbersome that few read them anymore. And if few read them, then they kind of lose their point.

97% of your parishioners are interested in about 10% of the info in your bulletin. But most of them don’t get that 10%. Why? Because the 10% they’d find interesting is buried in the other 90% that’s been included for the other 3% of parishioners. It makes no sense. Let those 3% check the website, make a quick phone call to a volunteer or use other means to get the additional info they need. Make your bulletin more concise and to the point. You will greatly increase the chances that most of your parishioners will get the most important information.

If anything, at least organize your bulletin with this in mind. Put the most important information on the front page, marked as such. And put everything else in the back somewhere.

Better yet, why not rethink the bulletin’s cover altogether? How many parish bulletins have the exact same redundant information on the front cover every single week? Yet, this is the one part that most parishioners are most likely to read before rolling it up and tossing it in the backseat. What a waste. Instead, think: magazine cover. Get their attention with something on the cover. Give them some fun, attention grabbing headlines each week that get across the basic announcements and that points them to page 3 for more info.

Additionally, make them anticipate the bulletin. Maybe start a short, intriguing story during the announcements after Mass, but don’t reveal the ending. Instead, include the exciting conclusion in the bulletin. Just give them something they will seek out. Something they look forward to reading each week.

Get creative. Make it fun. Motivate them to pick up the bulletin and read it. And most of all, make it easy for most people to get the most important information.