Rector's Ramblings June 25, 2014
Bulletins are the stuff of church staff nightmares. They are important documents, to be sure, but they present a host of challenges in terms of creation, editing, printing, etc. This is true of all parishes, no matter the type, size, and comprehensiveness of their bulletins. I have never heard of a parish administrator or clergy person who says that bulletins are the most enjoyable part of their ministry or their week, and yet, because of their importance we produce them week in and week out.
At Christ Church our bulletins are a constant work in progress. Overall, the bulletins in their current form are well received and appreciated, although there are some folks who are not yet used to them or simply don’t like them. One thing I’ve heard several times is a lament about the lack of using the prayer book. Here’s my thought on that – if you want to use the prayer book, use it. We have some folks who do just that, week in and week out. Some worry that the bulletins mean that folks don’t ever get the prayer book in their hands. I would suggest that the prayer book is a daily book, and that the ability to use it on Sunday’s aside, I hope we are all striving to use it in our daily lives. Have no fear, we’re going to continue to teach the prayer book and its use as we have done several times a year. Let’s be honest – holding the prayer book for Sunday worship alone is not really the way to learning the prayer book anyway, and never has been. We have to pick up and use it in our daily lives – again, as some of our parishioners do already. I’ll write more about use the prayer book at some point in the future.
So why do we produce full text bulletins? We do it for several reasons: first, as a way to make our sometimes confusing liturgical form a bit more easy to follow, particularly for newcomers and those who do not have a liturgical church background. Second, the bulletins are easier to handle for folks with arthritic hands that tire easily and cannot manage the size and heft of the prayer book over the course of an hour. Third, the print is actually a little larger than in the prayer book, making it easier to read. Fourth, we include elements from time to time that are not found in the Book of Common Prayer, like our prayers of the people (the forms in the BCP were not intended for regular use in congregations according to the folks who put the services together! Each parish was ideally going to come up with their own prayers that addressed local concerns.), our recent prayer for the youth missioner, and other seasonal additions.
We include up to a month’s services in one bulletin when we can as a paper and cost saving device. We list each week’s hymns separately, and direct people to the insert for the collect and the readings for each Sunday (something that has been a constant for years whether using a prayer book or a full-text bulletin). The cost involved with producing our bulletins has not really changed much in recent years because of this multiple Sunday use. Whereas we used to print partial services and outlines each week, the re-use of the bulletins has actually kept the total costs relatively flat. Whether we like it or not, bulletins are a costly part of worship in almost every church that still uses bulletins. My guess is that we have no desire to switch to a large screen and projector, eliminating a need for bulletins altogether, so they’re here to stay for now.
Bulletins are also a vital link in our communications process. The insert that we produce each week has timely updates on church functions and opportunities, and the intent is folks will take them home when they leave to review them at their leisure – especially if they aren’t receiving and/or reading the weekly emails. There is another rambling at some point to address how well we pay attention to what’s going on.
Overall, the feedback we receive on our bulletins is positive – the vast majority of it, in fact, from Sunday mornings to funerals. We know that it has the desired effect with visitors because they tell us how much they appreciate the bulletins. For those of you who want to use the prayer book, please, pick it up and use it. Beginning next month we’ll list a simple outline in the front of the bulletin so that you can readily be reminded of the BCP page numbers, while the hymns will continue to be listed on the hymn boards. If you like the bulletins but want to try something different, perhaps you could try the prayer book via the outline.
As in most things, our focus with bulletins is outward, as we seek to broaden the reach of the Church and grow the Body of Christ. We who are insiders may not always get what we want, because it’s not about what we want at the end of the day. Fortunately in this regard, it’s a both-and, not an either-or proposition. Prayer book folks still have the ability to use the prayer book, and bulletin folks still have the bulletin.
We, your staff, can use your prayers for things like bulletin preparations, and the copier regularly needs prayers for healing! We like to know when we make mistakes and have typos, but please be gentle in your sharing of such mistakes and omissions. All of our efforts are to aid our worship and praise of God, and in that regard, I think we’re successful.
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.