The parish bulletin, sent home with parishioners after Mass each week, is a tool that can be put to use for the mission work of the Church, rather than staying within the maintenance mindset model.
Make Your Mission Clear
The bulletin is both the first thing many potential parishioners see as well as something many of your regular parishioners look at regularly. That makes it a good place for reminders about the outward mission of your parish and how it is different from others.
Give It a (Greater) Purpose
Consider how the bulletin can be helpful in supporting your members in the work they do in the world. Offer formation through it. Quote parishioners in sharing how they connect their faith with their daily lives. Make it relevant to their lives.
The bulletin can be used to build community in a variety of ways. Whenever possible, use photos alongside names, as many parishioners only know each other by sight. This is especially important for major life events, such as funerals, weddings, and baptisms (show the whole family).
Be Seeker Sensitive
Those who are considering your parish as their potential new home will read your bulletin to evaluate it, perhaps even before visiting in-person (assuming your bulletin is available online). Read the bulletin through their eyes. Is it friendly? Interesting? Relevant to their daily life? Is it representative of the energy that is in your parish? Does it answer their likely questions?
Reinforce the Preaching
If you have good daily-life focused preaching and you can do so with enough lead time, the bulletin provides an excellent mechanism to send related reflections or tools home with your parishioners.
Use (Good) Prepared Content
There are a number of good options of already prepared content in blurb or full-page format. We have included some recommendations below.
Don't Assume It's Read
Many parish bulletins go un-read, because the bulletin is simply not very interesting to your parishioners, particularly those who are less active. You will have to give them a better reason to read it if you want to change this. But also don't spend too much time focusing on the bulletin, as there are much more important areas to dedicate time and energy.
Try Bulletin Wraps
We have had great success using a "bulletin wrap" format when we are focusing on particular topics within the parish, and many of the handouts on this site are in that format. This format is simply four letter size pages of content, printed on a single 11"x17" page using colored paper (so it will stand out). We wrap it around the standard bulletin to distribute them together.
Is the bulletin something we just do in Catholic parishes? Or something we do with a mission, a sense of purpose, a strategy? It’s not a stretch to say that most parish bulletins are treated as nothing more than routine maintenance for the people who are already involved with the parish.... But here’s the thing—when we allow 90% or more of our bulletin to be routine maintenance for those who are committed Catholic Christians, we’re missing an opportunity to communicate with: the unchurched, the uncatechized, those who are lonely, those who are longing for God but do not know where to turn, and others…. Let the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ permeate and enliven everything we do—even the lowly bulletin.
Colleen Reiss Vermeulen
Practical. Catholic. Evangelization.
I coordinated bulletin inserts with the talks. You can use those wonderful prepackaged ones (like the Franciscan "Updates") or write your own. We discovered a very high readership of these one-page, two-sided fillers. It follows that if you teach every Sunday of every week of every month of every year over a series of years, you have to have an impact on the consciousness of the people. You notice this when the vocabulary changes and the people's language reveals a familiarity with the concepts of being church.
William J. Bausch
The Total Parish Manual
- Stewardship By the Book: Bulletin Bits Based on the Sunday Readings (Sharon Hueckel)
- Two years of bulletin announcements (Diocese of Rochester)