Some Thoughts about Church Bulletins

Norman E. Fultz
Dyersburg, Tennessee

Like most other preaching brethren, each week I receive a large number of bulletins from churches throughout several states. Some of these I requested, others I just happened to be receiving. They serve a useful purpose to one who is interested in knowing something about how the Lord's work is progressing in various sectors, and many of the articles are very stimulating and helpful. Some of the articles prove to be of inestimable value when I, having myself edited a bulletin for many years, need a "selected" article. And I am not adverse to using the articles of others, especially when they say so well something that I want to say, though I do prefer to use articles which bear the author's names. Since these little publications come in all sizes, colors, and forms, I have tried to do some evaluating which it is hoped will be helpful.

When I sit down to go through a large pile of bulletins, and they do sometimes arrive in piles, many of them I glance at hurriedly and lay aside for more careful reading at a later time; many of them I glance at and file away in "No. 13." Some of them I read closely, some of them scarcely, some of them not at all. Now what makes the difference? Several things enter into it, and since these reactions might also be true of the readership, for which the bulletin is primarily intended, let me offer these thoughts.

One of the overriding determinants in the readability of a bulletin is its overall neatness- neatness of layout and neatness of mechanical production. And since the preacher's (generally) time and the Lord's money are both expended in the publishing of a bulletin, we should aim at having a readable paper in order to accomplish that for which it is intended.

While it is the discretion of the editor, which determines layout, I venture a few personal observations. Many of the bulletins received have very fine material, but in some instances, even though the mechanical part of the bulletin may otherwise be very good, there is a serious overcrowding of the material. There is very simply an effort to include more in the little paper than it ought to have to bear. This results in a lack of "white space" in the margins, between paragraphs or between different articles, but a fair degree of that "white space" aids readability. In trying to crowd in too much material, one may defeat his own purpose by "turning off" the readers. Better to have less material read than much material unread.

The type style and size are also important considerations affecting the readability of a paper. A few of the bulletins I receive are beautifully printed in fine quality, but the print is so small (even with 20-20 vision unaided) it is laborious to read. This may be prompted by the desire again to get more material in less space. Severely reduced type is difficult enough to read, but there are some who insist on the lines running the page width rather than using columns. That makes it even more tedious to read. To be sure, a little more effort is required to print in columns, but it is effort well expended. Not that all bulletins printed with single columns are like that ... one lies before me now which is easily readable having been printed in normal size type with a space between each of the short paragraphs, resulting in neatness.

The mechanical production of a bulletin can seriously affect readership. This is not to say that one certain type of production must be used; but whatever is used, it should be good quality for ease of reading. Many mimeograph machines do a beautiful job and are well used by some churches. In recent years, more and more churches are making use of offset 'reproduction. These are capable of doing a really fine job, but using offset does not assure neatness. Others have bulletins commercially printed and usually have good workmanship.

Publishing a bulletin is to a great extent a thankless time-consuming task for most. But bulletins have done, and can still do, much good as teaching mediums and as a medium for advertising the church and its services and work. Objectivity in evaluating one's publication may be difficult, but it results in a more effective method of communication. So, look it over. Is it easily readable?

March 29, 1973