By Jonathan Howe
In the comments section of last week’s post on dying practices in church communications, an astute reader mentioned bulletin inserts.
While I wouldn’t classify this as a dying practice, there are some concerns with bulletin inserts. However, since every church bulletin/worship guide/handout is different, sometimes there are benefits to bulletin inserts. And sometimes there are problems with the inserts.
Let me start with the merits of having one or two specific bulletin inserts:
- They can help draw attention to special events or giving opportunities. This past week in my denomination was Global Hunger Sunday. Special offerings were collected in churches across the country. One way this was accomplished was through special envelopes which were inserted into bulletins. These special envelopes drew attention to the emphasis and undoubtedly led to greater giving.
- Pages for sermon notes are more portable when inserted. Some churches print the notes on the back page of the bulletin. Others offer a blank page for note taking. Some churches offer nothing at all. But the most common practice is to have a half-page insert in the bulletin with the sermon notes on it. Attendees can then file the note pages away for later reference.
- Loose connection cards are more likely to be filled out. If you want guests to fill out connection cards, make them simple, freestanding cards that can be inserted into bulletins. The less work guests have to go through to fill out and turn in these cards, the more likely they are to do so.
And now, the down side of having multiple bulletin inserts:
- They can create clutter. When there are multiple inserts, there are multiple opportunities for more trash to be left on seats. If you have multiple services, you likely have to sweep the sanctuary to clean up the leftover inserts after every service.
- They are often wasted. Like announcements, if the inserts don’t apply to the majority of the church, they will likely be ignored. All the work, time, and expense that go into a bulletin insert need to have a payoff. If the insert gets ignored, you’ve wasted valuable time, energy, and money.
- They lessen the importance of special announcements. If you never have a bulletin insert and all of the sudden there is one, it stands out. People take notice and understand that insert is important. If there are four or five inserts every week, nothing stands out. An added insert becomes just another piece of paper and the impact is lost.
Your church ultimately has to decide which is best for you, but I would suggest limiting inserts to as few as possible.
Does your church have multiple bulletin inserts? Do you have too many? Could you do away with some?
The higher the number of bulletin inserts, the less I pay attention. I would always encourage pastors and administrative staff to limit the number of bulletin inserts to 1-2. This is less taxing on the brain and the insert contents are more likely to stay with the congregants rather than them mindlessly shuffling through them like a deck of cards.
I should print out this post and put it as an insert in our bulletin.
We have a stand alone information card for guests to fill out that is in the seat back pocket. Then we have a 5 1/2 X 7 1/2 “connect card” that is updated weekly and passed out at the doors on Sunday mornings. The card has announcements on one side and general church info and a large section for taking notes on the other side. We have tried it every which way, from inserts, to an all-in-one connect card with perforated tear off piece for info. This is what we have landed on for a while now and seems to work well.
That seems to be a common place for both envelopes and connection cards. However, it also creates a slight barrier for guests only because they don’t already have the card in hand.
Exasperated, a lady from my church once commented, “When I open the bulletin each week, it’s like a jack in the box with all these papers!” Yeah, her point was well taken.
And that’s the point I’m making here.
I have been considering a service that allows a guest to text “welcome” to a phone number. It then sends texts and emails. I was wondering if anyone…
1. has tried this and what has been their experience?
2. would that replace the guest card trying to get information?
Good questions. What service are you using?
I am not currently using one. But viewed the webinar for textinchurch.com.
My former secretary had inserts in the bulletin on her computer under a file “fallouts” because that’s what they did most often. They fallout on the floor. I try to limit them to no more than one half page sheet per Sunday. Since most of our United Methodists don’t bring their bibles, usually part of that insert is the scriptures for the weekly sermon.
We watched bulletin inserts move from a nice novelty to much ignored trash. Still get the best response if the lead pastor pushes something. Other than that, projected announcements and video clips during offering save both paper and time.
I am a graphic designer, as well as a pastor. The article seemingly cast at least a grey shadow on inserts. Such a practice is very individual to churches and should be used intentionally and creatively. My church has used sermon note inserts for a long time, very effectively, with very little waste. The success depended on factors outside the insert itself – like the way preaching was planned and presented. We also used a tear-off guest and prayer slip with great great visitor and member compliance. Again, the success was not based upon the piece of paper alone. We made a fun part of the service about tearing off the flap together. It became part of our church culture and was very fruitful. We designed our bulletin, inserts, and flap very carefully – and planned their mention and use from the pulpit. The problem I’ve found with churches, is that they often feel that just printing something should work. A printed element must be part of a larger initiative for it to be effective. Otherwise, it is merely ink and paper – money spent without any end recipient understanding of the contents’ significance. To work, there must be a planned “sales” approach for the bulletin and any inserts.
Kevin, I appreciated your comment as we are in the process of updating our weekly bulletins and adding in the perforated connection card. Do you mind sharing what your final design was and what information you collected and also how you made filling it out part of your church “culture?” I am interested to make this change and get it right, as best we can, the first time around.