You and your congregation rely on your weekly bulletin to stay up to date. Or do they? Are you sure it still should be considered your primary media channel? In today's ever-changing digital era, your church can't afford to invest in communication resources that may not be working as well as they once did.
âHere are three questions to help you test the value of your weekly bulletin. At the end of the question section, I'll offer an alternative approach.
1. How much of your bulletin content changes from week to week?
Is it 20%? Maybe less? I doubt that a newspaper would last too long if 80% of its content were the same as the week before. Frequency and redundancy are not the same.
When I think of frequency, I think of the same information in a variety of places. Redundancy, on the other hand, is the same content featured week after week. I think people may tend to scan past content they read in previous weeks.
On occasion, you may have to update or modify existing bulletin entries. But if you think about it, we're asking the reader to re-read redundant content to catch the changes. They are more apt to miss subtle adjustments when scanning. While frequency and repetition have value in marketing, this may be an area worth exploring.
I'd recommend developing a multi-channel approach using what we call "public square" communication. With this approach, you identify several channels your church uses to inform your congregation. Everyone doesn't rely on the same channel, but with frequency and repetition throughout the channels, you will connect with most of your audience.
2. When it comes to informing, how much is too much?
I think churches typically consider their bulletin to be the go-to place for all the details about every event that's coming up. But I'm not sure that's the most effective way to present it. Depending on how active your church is with programs, it could get to information overload. Since most of this content is also online, maybe a more streamlined approach is better suited for the bulletin.
I'd review the number of entries and whether or not the details are someplace else. If the details are online, and a majority of your congregation accesses the internet, consider reducing content by directing them to specific event pages online.
3. Does your church consider print or digital media as your primary means of communication?
This question can be one of the most contentious in churches! How do you know? If you stop using print, you may miss a segment of your audience (generally considered the older among your congregation). Older folks may feel slighted. They might respond negatively ("they're just catering to the youth of our church and forgetting we're here!").
For this reason, many multigenerational churches are slower to move toward more technological forms of communication. I remember making the decision, with much deliberation, to switch our sermon recordings from cassettes and VHS tapes to CDs and DVDs! We were WAY behind the times, even back then. And the grumblings came, just as we predicted.
But I would encourage you and your leaders to find an answer to this important question. First, I'd suggest that you familiarize yourself with thefive segments of technology adoption. These differences in all of us might offer some clarity as to why things are the way they are in your community.
According to statista.com, 88% of those age 50-64 and 73%, a vast majority, of those age 65 years and older are internet users.
The online user base is only increasing, even among the top age brackets. According to statista.com, 88% of those aged 50-64 and 73%, a vast majority, of those age 65 years and older are internet users. Sprout Social alleges that 68% of those aged 50-64 and 46% of those 65 and up are on Facebook.
These stats aren't addressing the print-or-digital question directly. But it does undoubtedly challenge the notion that older folks aren't internet users.
I've been coaching a church in a local community to improve their communication processes. Their church is near a popular retirement community, and the age demographic of their congregation reflects this. As we discussed changes, we kept this dynamic in mind. As part of the discovery phase, we sent out an online survey. While we received half the survey responses on paper, half were from the one we posted online.
Here's what's interesting: the majority of paper survey responses were from students (who needed to take the survey together in their classes because they most likely wouldn't take a church survey of any kind online). Of the online respondents, the vast majority were 55 and up.
Review your online stats, particularly when it comes to online use among your older demographic, to inform your understanding of internet use among this group in your church.
These questions led me to rethink not just our weekly bulletin, switching it to a monthly printing. It was an adjustment, but it didn't take long for people to adapt. But we didn't stop there. If you'd like to learn more about our communication approach, feel free to download our free ebook, "5 Steps to Improving Your Communication Process." You can also post your question on our Facebook page.
Don Wambolt has over 25 years' experience in leading church communications. More