Producing a church bulletin or newsletter demands hours of time, input from multiple sources, creativity in presentation and perseverance in a weekly task seldom acknowledged or appreciated.
In a survey done in November, a number of church bulletin editors responded to these questions. Representative answers are included below.
Is your job easier today or harder? Why?
Editors were almost unanimous in the greater ease of producing a church bulletin.
Weylan Deaver, preacher with the Northwest church in Ft, Worth, Tex., and editor of “The Northwest Contact,” answered, “Computers and the Internet make it much easier. Word processing is far superior to an electric typewriter. The Internet makes possible the searching for and finding of material not in my library and which would otherwise not make it into my sermons. Also, it keeps me from having to type out every Scripture included in my outline.”
Carolyn Elliott, secretary of the Cold Harbor Road congregation and editor of “The Courier,” added a twist: “Easier, because technology allows us to do things more quickly and accurately, but harder, because it also allows us to do more.”
Phil Sanders, pulpit minister with the Concord Road congregation in Brentwood, Tenn., and editor of “Chronicles,” thought the job harder, “because many people are more discerning.”
Where do you get your articles, that is, those not written by the preacher or someone locally? What do your non-local resources include?
Overwhelmingly, most editors choose articles and material from other church bulletins; others use articles on the Internet. A few use electronic magazines (e-zines).
What types of articles or resources do you look for? What are your needs: articles, graphics, humor, news, fillers etc.?
Kevin Cauley, preacher with the Berryville, Ark., congregation and editor of the “Berryville Bible Beacon,” sent his list: “First, for articles that are doctrinally sound. Second, for articles that are edifying. Third, for articles that effectively deal with a particular issue.”
Debra A. Vanderpool Reitz edits the “Pleasant Point of View” for the Point Pleasant church in Hebron, Ken. She looks for “articles which would prompt readers to study the Word, question their growth, support them in times of anguish, and encourage interactions with one another.”
Most editors mentioned a mix of items included in their bulletins. Tim Hester, preacher with the Center Star church in Killen, Ala., and editor of “Center Star Banner,” said he looks for “articles mainly, but a little of it all. One of the hardest things is when I have a half- to one-inch column to fill and can’t find anything to fit into it. We also publish a Youth Bulletin every Sunday and it is very difficult to find material aimed at the youth of the congregation written by members of the Lord’s church.”
How often do you publish articles not written by someone in the congregation?
Responses varied greatly, reflecting local conditions, from “once every other month” to between 50% to 90% of the time, according to the editors’ estimates.
Is your church bulletin published online or sent by email?
Some editors publish their bulletin on the congregational website in various formats (html, pdf, Word document), while others send it by email. Most are available in some electronic form. Very few are not produced at all online or by email.
What computer program is used to produce your bulletin?
Most editors use some type of Microsoft product, either Word or Publisher. A few use other tools like the free package OpenOffice.
What is your toughest challenge as a bulletin editor?
“Getting everything correct, timely, complete and relevant,” wrote Phil Sanders. Perry Taylor, preacher for the Cloverdale church in Florence, Ala., and editor of “The Word of Life,” thought that “getting all the announcements in” was his toughest task. Weylan Deaver said his challenge was “writing articles.”
How important, in your opinion, is the bulletin to the life and work of the congregation?
Perry Taylor believes that “it gives them information to help them serve well together, so it’s quite important.”
Tim Hester wrote that “many think of the bulletin as just something extra for the members, though the bulletin is one of the first things that most visitors will see and pick up when they come into your building. It is also one of the few things which they will carry with them when they leave your building. I have seen congregations who hide their bulletins when it comes time for a wedding or a funeral. During my years in the funeral business I saw many people walk into a church building and pick up a bulletin and read it while sitting in the pew waiting. Many take it with them then.”
Communicating Who We Are
Church bulletins aren’t collectors items. They soon become bird-cage liners, like the city newspaper. But the usual mix of Biblical articles, congregational news and announcements and prayer requests provide both an important channel of communication and a statement of identity as God’s people.
As such, Sunday’s church bulletin deserves to be read with care and the editor praised for a thankless job done consistently.