As the publisher of Catholic Church bulletins the question that I am most often asked by pastors is. Where do you see the Sunday bulletin going in the future?
My first reaction is don’t you mean to ask. What do you see in the future for parish communication?
The Internet. Having an up-to-date website is fast becoming the most effective way to reach all your parishioners. No question about it. Total access 24 hours, 7 days a week. If a person is looking for information, church information, they will Google it or look for it on your website.
That doesn’t mean that your Sunday bulletin is obsolete. What it does mean is the bulletin is fast becoming the brochure to your website. The bulletin is a short, quick informative blast of information.
Bulletin editors are becoming savvy. They can spend more time writing bold headlines, editing redundant copy and adding visuals that engage readers. In part because bulletin services offer custom services that save editors time. No longer do editors have to manipulate copy and photos to fit on a page. Time is a commodity. They can write and send. Although not all bulletin services offer custom bulletins. Some regional bulletin services do.
Still most parish ministries think the Sunday bulletin is the most effect means of parish communication. Truth is that the Sunday bulletin and pulpit announcements may only reach one third of all the families in a parish on any given weekend. So how can ministries effectively reach their congregations? Repeat the bulletin article, insert a flyer or another pulpit announcement and use the Internet.
One of my favorite Monsignors would reply to such requests with “ you can start Mass late but you must finish on time.”
Accommodating every parish ministry request for pulpit announcements can add more than a few minutes to the pulpit announcements and most pastors tend to refrain from a multitude of announcements before and after Mass. The alternatives are clearly the bulletin and parish website.
The bulletin announcement or bulletin insert is the next obvious choice. Most submissions can turn into a short novelette rather than the announcement of a coming week activity. Often writers are not educated in copy writing and submit long and repetitive entries leaving the bulletin editor hours of unwanted revision, often subjecting themselves to a writer’s scorn for editorial privilege. The bulletin should have a singular purpose of highlighting all the activities pertaining to the following week. A short synopsis of succinct copy, art and strong, attention grabbing headlines will better serve any parish activity. Any more explanation of a ministry other than basic information (who, what, where and how) can and should be re-directed to the parish website.
As we entered into the age of information (the creation of the web 22 years old this past February 16) the opportunity to provide vast amounts of information about the many ministries is essential for a thriving parish community. Web-editors are becoming as important as the bulletin editor (most are one and the same). Parish administrators are becoming more aware of the advantage of having an up-to-date comprehensive website. Not only can ministries write pages of information they can send a viewer to links providing more insight to a subject. Most recently mobile devices have entered the picture.
Our way of communicating has changed the bulletin from a sole source of information to a point of reference for the website. Integrating and keeping continuity between the bulletin and the website is the new challenge. Pastors and parish administrators wanting to know more about custom bulletin service and website service should visit www.bartlebypress.com under menu item website services.
About the Author: Thomas Miner is the president of Bartleby Press, a Texas based bulletin publishing service