3 Ways to Build a Better Bulletin

Where does your faith community put its energy?

Prayer, action, worship, relationship building, teaching, service, and more – that’s what we want to say. But it’s worth asking where and how your ministry hours, paid and unpaid, get spent. Every week, faith communities spend several hours and a lot of paper and printing costs on the preparation of the Sunday bulletin. As a worshipping people, bringing accessibility to Sunday liturgies is a high priority: many Episcopalians see a full-text, full-music printed bulletin as a way to welcome newcomers and bring more participation into worship. But it takes real time to prepare those bulletins, and real resources of paper, printing, and staff/volunteer expertise. Here are three ways that faith communities in Minnesota are trying to build a better bulletin so that energy can be allotted where the world needs it most, and so that worship and resources can be used to their fullest extent for God’s mission.

1: A seasonal bulletin ‘shell’ that gets re-used with additional handouts for readings and music each Sunday.

“At Church of the Messiah on Prairie Island, there is no support staff,” says the Rev. Ramona Scarpace, who does long-term supply work there. “I do one complete service bulletin for each liturgical season – Advent through Ordinary Time – and make enough copies for Sunday service. People use the bulletin for the service and return it, then reuse it throughout the season.   The readings are available on single sheets for each week.  Hymns are notated on the hymn board.  We use the hymnals or make copies of songs that aren’t in the hymnal (also may be reused).  We do single service guides only for Christmas, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost, special services, etc. This model uses minimal time to prepare the bulletin, doesn’t require very much paper, allows some flexibility in the service as needed and allows people who are not familiar with the BCP to easily follow the service.” Pre-printed lectionary readings are available on a subscription service from Church Publishing.  Click here to see a bulletin from Church of the Messiah.

2: A shorter bulletin that focuses on congregational responses.

Even well-resourced faith communities have sought ways to simplify their service bulletins in order to keep the staff hours devoted to editing and printing to a minimum. At St. John the Evangelist in St. Paul, “we felt we were being poor stewards of our time to continue with so many hours and pages of paper going to bulletins,” said the rector, the Rev. Jered Weber-Johnson. “Simultaneously the conversation about hospitality and evangelism always stymied our attempts to do something else. We now have a very concise tri-fold bulletin. It includes spoken parts by the congregation. Our production happens a few hours a week by a volunteer. There is a liturgy team that briefly edits and plans the liturgy for each week. We purchased pew bibles so that parishioners could “read” the texts on their own instead of printing the lessons each week – saving space and time. Our total work/hours given to bulletin prep has shrunk considerably and the product – while not always the most elegant, is useful, welcoming, and we continue to have plenty of new members and visitors happy with our liturgy.” Here’s an example of a bulletin from St. John the Evangelist.

3. A full-text bulletin that includes educational text boxes explaining why we’re doing what we’re doing.

At St. Matthew’s in St. Paul, the 5:30pm Sunday service includes explanatory blurbs. “I added the explanatory blurbs a couple of years ago when it hit me that not only did we want to let visitors from other faith traditions and no faith tradition know what we were doing in the service, why, and where it came from, but also that many of our own faith community members were not knowledgeable about the different parts of the service, as well as the meaning and theology behind them,” said the Rev. Blair Pogue, rector of St. Matthew’s. “Additionally, we had a number of people struggling with the Nicene Creed. While written in the 4th century, I believe the Nicene Creed is important because it affirms the two great mysteries of the Christian faith: that ultimate reality (God) is a community of love (the Trinity) and that God joins us in our life and suffering (the Incarnation of Jesus). It’s also important to recognize that the Nicene Creed, just like the Lord’s Prayer, connects us with Christians around the world and across the ages. In an age of narcissism, individualism, and tribalism, when so many people consider themselves to be the ultimate source of authority, it is important to be reminded that we are part of something so much larger than ourselves — God and God’s beautiful and mysterious creation.” See an example from St. Matthew’s here!


Does your faith community have a practice of bulletin preparation that you see as a missional use of your resources? Share it by sending to Susan Daughtry, Missioner for Formation.