Your church bulletin is a marketing tool for your services and an informative resource for church members. When done well, a bulletin can share valuable information that gets people engaged in what your church is offering and encourages members and visitors alike to strengthen their faith. For decades, the printed church bulletin has been a mainstay for program directors and leaders, but now it’s time to move to digital.
Online bulletins can reach more people and reach them faster. They allow members to sign up for events and ask questions ahead of time. More parishes are transitioning to this mode of communication and seeing good results.
There’s a right way to go digital with your program content. Follow this guide to moving church bulletins online so you can connect with parishioners.
Just so you know
Move all of your church’s records — including your church bulletin — online with Jotform’s free church management forms.
Evaluate what your members need
If you want your transition to an online bulletin to be successful, then you need to give church members content they find useful.
Erin Feldman of The Austin Stone Community Church created a downloadable 15-point guide for moving church bulletins online, which is available when you provide your email. She recommends meeting with different church teams to see what content they would like included in the online format.
“The pastor might want to include a written message or video that greets visitors to the page,” she writes. “The kids’ director could desire to share the upcoming month of activities or Sunday school lessons.”
You might conduct a survey to see what the majority of people want. This saves you time developing sections that your congregation won’t read.
Even once your church bulletin is up, you can still make adjustments based on user behavior.
“Online, people can interact with the content that you give them,” writes Daniel D. Maurer at RCL Worship Resources. “What’s more, you can evaluate whether people are reading or clicking on specific content to ascertain whether your ministry strategy is effective or not.”
You may decide to make adjustments to your church bulletin after it’s online and you see what parishioners find most valuable.
Don’t let tech bias guide your decisions
One reason churches avoid setting up digital church bulletins is because they don’t want their older members to be left out or feel isolated. However, the idea that seniors aren’t able to access your content online is more of an outdated stereotype than you realize.
“Social media and other new information technologies are not exclusively the domain of teenagers and young adults,” writes Aaron Earls, online editor at LifeWay Christian Resources. He cites research that shows 67 percent of seniors are regular internet users, more than 40 percent own smartphones, and 34 percent use social media.
Still, if you’re worried about your older members using the web, consider holding internet classes to get them up to speed or starting with a hybrid print and digital bulletin for the first few months to give them time to transition.
Take a simplified approach to your design
Your bulletin doesn’t need to be complex. Look for clean layouts where people can easily differentiate the various sections and get the information they need.
“So many bulletins are overcrowded,” writes graphic designer and theology student Angelo Jesus Canta. “Not only is there too much information on any given page, but unnecessary elements make the bulletin harder to read.”
Canta says you don’t need to include a piece of related clip art for people to notice an upcoming event. If you want people to read your online bulletin, make it easy to scan. Opting for a simple design can also help if you’re worried about your senior members navigating the digital tool.
Use your online bulletin to invite new members
Remember, your bulletin doesn’t just help existing congregants get news about events and classes; it also tells potential new members what your church is about.
Ahmad Moore, cofounder of the tithing platform Luke 6:30, encourages churches to include an invitation to attend a meet-and-greet in their online bulletin. Let people know that not only are they welcome to attend a service but also that they will be received eagerly by your community. This small gesture can encourage new people — who may be on the fence about whether to attend the next service — to come.
Your online presence serves as the first impression that many people have when they encounter your church, writes Brady Shearer at Pro Church Tools. Within a few seconds, they will decide whether they want to learn more about it or go somewhere else. Your bulletin can be the reason someone sets foot in your church next Sunday.
Make your church bulletin work for you
One of the main benefits of hosting church bulletins online is the ease of volunteer management. With online subscription forms, members can volunteer for various positions — like being greeters with the welcoming committee — or voice their interest in attending classes or events.
You can customize these forms to better understand what these volunteers will do or what they hope to get out of a course. This means you can use the same format for a potluck signup as for a series on marriages. The online option reduces clutter and makes it easy to organize volunteers and church members.
If you want to go digital with your announcements, look at how other congregations have transitioned their content. When you look at those online church bulletins, what do you like? What do some churches do well that you want to emulate?
By knowing what’s out there and taking into consideration the needs of your congregation, you can develop a digital church bulletin that people are eager to use.
Great post, Clyde. I'm the Founder and Designer of Happy Bulletin, and this article touched on much of what started HB in the first place. Leveraging online church bulletins and not necessarily only "replacing print" is a good approach for churches. It doesn't have to be all or nothing...let them supplement each other. We don't expect our online bulletins to cover all the needs of the churches who sign up. We expect many to continue printing them, just a reduced rate to save on funds and resources. Good article addressing the right approach to them :).