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Parish Bulletins Revisited
Some years ago the Parish Development Ministry noted the uneven quality of written parish communications --particularly many parish bulletins. In response these two article were written. One is about bulletin formatting and another about content. The articles are still useful.
 
Recently a retired priest, after studying bulletins from more than a few parishes, also noted opportunities to improve the state of parish communication. His thoughts have been structured into article form below.
 
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The Sunday Bulletin: An Opportunity for Real Outreach

A bishop, much loved by me, once told me "Father__ , do something about your Bulletins. They're boring!"

Thus motivated I tried to make improvements, and, frankly I was not always successful. One or two things though seem to have worked through the years of parish life. Personal reflection combined with a balance of consistency AND variability (freshness) brought positive reactions.

Today I receive six and sometimes seven bulletins from different parishes each week. Most of the time I read them all -- yet to be honest I do a lot of skimming. Mostly they are ‘same old, same old.’ Of course, for congregational use, the weekly propers need to be set out consistently and properly. And, the ‘masthead’ -- with the name of the Church, the rector, other clergy, and often the choir director -- is a constant. Much else though, for the reader's’ sake, could be written and presented so as to gain interest and possibly be remembered longer -- and therefore be more useful.

A Few Specifics
Insights – Not Cut and Paste

Almost all the bulletins I read include at least one of the Lives of the Saints lifted from a website. -easily accessible and, if directed to such sites, parishioners might learn more about the larger Church because there’s always more there on the site (oca.org).

Why not use the Life, read and write something of insights that you the compiler of the local Bulletin, gained from doing so. Invite comments from readers to be printed later. Involvement and opinion spawns interest and readership.

Parameters for Eucharist

Every bulletin I read sets up parameters as to who might receive Holy Communion. That’s a good thing. And helpful.

Why not occasionally go a little deeper with explanations as to why? Such an exercise might prove edifying to regular communicants too. Update the text occasionally.

People Make News

We pray for those in need of prayer. We offer names of those resting in repose on significant occasions. Listings for anniversaries, birthdays, baptisms and suchlike happenings are all good.

Can we find ways to encourage reading and maybe thereby the nature of prayers offered for them might prove better. Enliven the list with a story. Milestones such as anniversaries might be highlighted with quotes. 

Broaden Topics

In many bulletins I notice that the listings are subdivided. "For those hospitalized." "For those in the military." "For . . . "

Can we also find ways to offer updates on church school, reviews of monthly council meetings, comments from visitors? Would these items bring interest, and help the reader become more involved? Would it increase the possibility of insights gained? Could it make leaders more aware of their responsibilities and leadership.

Above All: Personal Reflection

In attempting to enliven the bulletin I used everything from the views outside my family room window to frustrations I faced as a public school teacher. Such personal observations were connected to life in my parish. 

I remember once moaning about going to Church on a weekday evening. I was tired, had papers to grade, meetings before services, and on and on. Such a state arose often.

I would then share how almost always the service uplifted and made my day. Other people, also working and tired, reflected and increasingly joined, came and went home uplifted.

Careful to be theologically correct, I tried though to use what I thought was vernacular language in sharing my findings. Through this distinctly personal approach the sense of community was reinforced. 

A Magazine? Well Almost

I am pretty sure I’m (almost) suggesting a weekly Church magazine. Yes, I’m suggesting that it be entertaining as well as informative. 

To have that work ‘publishing’ could be a shared undertaking: clergy and laity and, various members of the congregation when they ‘make’ news. When finished it could/should be handed out, emailed out and offered to anyone outside the parish who might be interested in receiving it.

Small parishes in particular might use such a medium to be in contact with former parishioners, visitors, and post it on the parish website as some now do.
 
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Your Challenge from this Article
Can you identify and implement at least one thing about communication in your parish that can be improved?
 
Again, consider these take-aways from the article.
  • Consistency AND variability
  • Tell Stories
  • Personal reflection
  • Vernacular
  • Avoiding boiler plate
  • Clergy laity collaboration
  • Make it readable and interesting. Not merely informational.
  • Broaden distribution. Build connections.