This person has implied it before–has, in fact, stated it point-blank, but this time it stung in a new way. Part of it was that my tender little pride was a bit trounced, because I invest a lot of myself in our parish bulletin.
It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and I’ve spent the last six years working with our pastor to make it more like a weekly newsletter, complete with a unique full-color cover and six full-color pages.
We don’t spend a dime on it, aside from my time (which averages between three to five hours a week). It’s paid for by the advertising and generosity of our bulletin printing company.
But it’s been haunting me, and I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board with our parish bulletin.
If no one reads it, then maybe it’s not relevant. (I know “no one” isn’t completely accurate — I know for a fact at least one person does read it other than me.) There are enough people in our parish who aren’t online and who want something printed, I think.
But maybe I’m making more out of it than I should. Maybe it can just be a photocopied front-and-back with a calendar. Maybe it doesn’t need original content, or pictures of recent events, or any of the things that I’ve rather prided myself for including.
I’m turning to you on this: what do you want to see in your parish bulletin? What would it need to have in it for you to read it?
Toss it at me…I have a parish staff meeting next week and I’m going to bring this up, but I’m feeling like what I’m doing is no good. I need some fresh blood. (Or maybe, as someone else suggested, it’s time for me to pass it along to someone else.)
image source: Hannahstown Parish
I always read the bulletin from our parish. One thing I’d like to see that we DON’T have is a pastor’s column. It wouldn’t have to be huge, just a short paragraph would suffice. I think that helps people make a better connection with the pastor.
Our other priest writes a full-page reflection on that Sunday’s Gospel for each bulletin. That’s above and beyond, but much appreciated–and I know plenty of people who read that.I would like our bulletin to be better organized. I think stuff is just put in “as it fits” but it’s easy to miss important stuff when you’re quickly scanning through. Organize pages by purpose.I know we don’t have enough parishioners online to eliminate the bulletin, so I wouldn’t want to see that happen.
Thanks, Barb! Appreciate you taking the time to share this!
I don’t live too far away from you, and now I want to visit your parish just to see your bulletin. I looked at it online and I thought it looked great. Of course, I think it is very important to read the bulletin, so I ALWAYS at least skim it. You never know what you might find. I think that the headlines are of number one importance. Maybe something like a table of contents would be good.
Thanks, Jeanne. 🙂
Sigh. I hear the same comments. I have tried organizing like Barb suggested. I have tried color and graphics, etc. People get excited about the “new look” for awhile and then I start hearing the same comments.
Personally, I like educational kinds of articles. For example – the New Roman Missal. I like info on saints. I am not sure if others do or not. I like pictures of events.
Maybe there’s something in the “it’s human nature” here, Colleen. So maybe we bulletin editors should bond together, encourage one another! 🙂
Good idea! Yes, I think it is a “human nature” thing.
I have been at a new parish in a new state for 10 months. I don’t feel any sort of connection in the parish community because I don’t know anyone and no one reaches out to new people. I read the bulletin every week, looking for some way to connect and there is never anything in it for me. I don’t know what the ministries are or if they need new members. I don’t know any of the people at the church…maybe profiles of parishoners? The items in the bulletin seem directed at the folks who are involved and there is nothing for the people who are outside the cliques. Also, this is just a personal peeve about being new and probably not what you needed to know 🙂 BUT..we have 10 children and when we walk into church there is never a place for us to sit. EVERY pew is taken by one person on each end and we need a whole pew but no one ever offers to move, so our family is divided every Sunday so people can have the one spot on the end. We feel unwelcome.
Gretchen, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! We have done parishioner profiles in the past!
Part of what makes the job of “bulletin editor” so challenging is never getting feedback (except HUGELY NEGATIVE or HUGELY POSITIVE). I appreciate hearing your insight and ideas…we’re in a community that’s growing quickly and these are all things I’ll keep in mind! Thanks again!
Gretchen, We’ve been newcomers at our parish for three years. I’m only now beginning to feel some sense of community; but I still kind of feel like an outsider. Mostly I’ve felt the same way you do about there being nothing for those outside the cliques. Every week I bring the bulletin home and wonder if our parish really is dead or if groups just can’t be bothered to list their activities in the bulletin. If it weren’t for the pastor’s warm greeting and knowing our names, we’d have felt like outcasts in our first year especially.
Melanie and Gretchen,
You know, there is a good point made here, but I somehow thought it was just my small-town parish. I hear a lot of complaints about how much TIME we need before things. I have it scrunched as small as I can, with my production schedule figured in (and I have “not working on the bulletin at the last minute or on a Sunday” factored as priorities), so it’s at least ten days out.
It’s a hard road to get people to plan ahead, especially if there has ever been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants culture within a parish. And there’s something to be said for being spontaneous, but it’s hard to include everyone.
You two in particular are giving me some new food for thought for my work as parish bulletin editor. Thanks for taking the time to respond and be so candid!
I have to admit: we have a very small (300 families) parish in a small community. We’re right on the tipping point of where people are starting to not feel as welcome, because our area is growing. I think you bring some concerns to light, coming as you do from bigger areas, that we would do well to focus on in the future months.
I think that parish information is needed in the bulletin for sure. However, I would like to see a bulletin that is more educational as well as entertaining. We don’t need to create our own parish magazine but there are plenty of great writers out there who would love to have their quality articles in parish bulletins. St. Catharine in Bexley, OH has an awesome bulletin with parish information, pastor articles, pieces from George Weigel and other great authors as well as meditations for the weekday readings. I think parish should slowly cut back on paper bulletins and begin to move toward electronic versions.
Mainly, I think there will always be complainers. Some people are never satisfied. But I doubt that that vocal minority really speak for the majority of people in the pews. In other words,your critic is a busybody who should just keep her mouth shut if she can’t say anything nice. I want to give her a piece of my mind. I bet for every one loudmouth like her there are a couple dozen people who read the bulletin and appreciate it, even if perhaps they take it for granted. Let me tell you, they just don’t know how good they’ve got it.
I think it would be a major mistake to stop working hard at it and do like you say a photocopy front and back with calendar.
Melanie, wow. Thanks so much for your support.
I am going to reply to both you and Gretchen in that thread…because wow, do I have some thoughts on that!!!
When I hear the line, “Everybody does…” or “Nobody does…”, I generally look around for some salt to take it with–Lot’s wife seems about the right amount. I’m one of those horrid folk who asks, “May I see your numbers?” What one is usually dealing with is a pre-conceived notion based usually on “This is my opinion and no reasonable person could possibly disagree.”
Try this, next time someone says something like this, smile sweetly and say, “Oh. I’ll have to take that into consideration,” and do nothing. You are, after all, considering their opinion, you’re just waiting for further data. If you hear the same thing independently from five other parishioners (remember, Lot needed ten), or you find bulletins abandoned among the pews, on the front walk, and blowing through the parking lot, yeah, then you might want to rethink things a mite.
Thanks, Walt. We do find them abandoned in the pews, actually, though I like to think that’s because they are being read, just at the wrong time (during Mass). Good points, though. 🙂
Disclaimer: This email was typed on my iPad. That means I either have a baby on my lap, a preschooler “helping,” or just bad spell-check. Now smile. Because the image is likely hilarious. —
“Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” – St. Francis de Sales
I shared your bulletin with the head of Pilot Bulletins, the Archdiocese’s own bulletin company that prints for 60+ parishes so far. He’s been doing this for 10 years and he was very impressed by your bulletin. He’s shared it around the company in fact as an example of what to do so you must be doing something right. What do you use for layout?
Thanks, Dom! They did reply to me and I sent them a sample of our bulletin and cover. In fact, I’ve gotten a great deal of great ideas from the feedback on this post, and I think I’m going to use those suggestions. I’m also looking forward to hearing back from them after they review the files I sent.
I replied from WordPress, but couldn’t see your full comment, Dom.
Just read the full reply here and WOW. I’m touched that he shared that around and liked it so much! And here I was hoping to get some feedback and professional ideas from HIM!
I use Pages on my Mac. In fact, every year we reformat our layout to keep things fresh and I’m just going through the layouts and considering what to do for next year (ah, the joy of being a few weeks ahead of everyone else–I NEVER know what day it REALLY is!).
Our pastor is very forward-thinking. I would be happy to share any strategies and ideas, especially since an expert’s calling our bulletin “wonderful” and our own parishioners are, at varying degrees, shrugging and even being immune to it.
Speaks to human nature, I suppose…on both ends of things (me and them).
I always read the bulletin, but there is rarely anything new or interesting in there. I haven’t looked at yours, so I can’t comment, but I would prefer a layout that placed the repetitive information altogether so those who have been at the parish for a while can skip it, but so that those who are new to the parish can see what is available (ministry meeting times, mass times, nursery hours, requirements for sacraments, etc). Then I would dedicate a page (or more if required) to announcements or changing information. I would LOVE a weekly “homily” or catechism by the pastor especially if it meant his Sunday homily would be shortened to less than 20 minutes. Many people read the bulletin before Mass (yes, some during the homily…maybe if it was shorter than 20 minutes…), so I wouldn’t be upset about bulletins left behind. If it only takes a quick scan to see nothing new, there is no point in taking it home. As someone who is frequently new to a parish, I find the bulletin invaluable for learning what is going on in the parish. As a frequent visitor to other parishes (because of travel), I love to see what other parishes offer to get ideas for my own community. And despite my regular internet usage, I do not generally go to my parish’s website for information. I expect important announcements to be made in the bulletin.
Thanks, Michelle! Great thoughts!
I’ve been watching my own bulletin reading habits since you put this post up and noticed something no one spoke of–the bulletin online. I was looking at the bulletin for a parish to which we’re thinking of moving and realized how often I end up reading even our church’s bulletin online. You may have a heck of a lot more readers than you think; you just aren’t hearing the flipping of the pages.
Good point, Walt! On our new website (comes around Advent-time), I’ll be able to keep track of stats, so that will be something interesting to keep track of. 🙂
I am a part of your parish and I think the bulletin is absolutely necessary! I do wish there was a calendar or list of upcoming dates (i.e. I could never remember when Vegas night was) that I could clip out and post in the side of the fridge. I think you do a great job!
Which reminds me, I have a three-month-old that hasn’t been announced yet! 😉
Hey Connie, thank you so much for your comments.
That’s a great idea…to have a clip-and-keep section. Hmmm. Maybe put something in at the beginning of the month or something…hmm. Thanks for the idea! 🙂