By David A. Padfield
It is with “fear and trembling” I approach the subject of church bulletins. A few years ago many congregations stopped their bulletis due to increasing postage costs. Some have even suggested that the “day” of church bulletins is over. I believe the printed page is an excellent way to preach the gospel in our day.
Publishing a quality paper requires the skill of a journalist, graphic designer and a journeyman printer. In most congregations these jobs are all given to the local preacher. Since there are many men better qualified to discuss the principles of writing, I will confine this article to the physical make-up of a bulletin, and a few suggestions to help us “adorn” the gospel.
I would like to start with this disclaimer: my bulletin is not perfect! The suggestions made here are simply that, suggestions; they are not hard and fast rules.
Define Your Purpose
There are several good reasons to publish a bulletin, among them are:
(1) Edification. Christians will be built up by a constant exposure to good reading material. Often non-Christians will read copies of bulletins while visiting in the home of Christians.
(2) Evangelism. Non-Christians will profit from articles on the first principles of the gospel. This type of paper is usually mailed to the friends and relatives of Christians, and to individuals living near the meeting house. We have had a few visitors as a direct result of a bulletin.
(3) News & Notes. Larger congregations often mail a weekly newsletter to all members to let them know who is sick, upcoming classes and assignments for the month. Though some will disagree, I fail to see why these newsletters should be mailed to brethren all over the country.
Several years ago brother Gene Taylor and I started a file called “Bulletin Classics.” Maybe a better title would be “How Not To Print A Church Bulletin.” This file contains a wide selection of bulletin blunders. I realize there are times when preachers get rushed and mistakes creep into the paper, but most of these “classics” are the result of carelessness.
Every month I receive bulletins where the inside pages are either blank or printed upside down. A blank page is usually the fault of the printing press; upside down papers are the fault of the printer.
Have you ever received a bulletin that looked more like a ransom note? One “editor” used 13 different type styles on one page (I didn’t know rub off letters came in such a wide variety). Another brother apparently suffered from writer’s block for several months, for miniature pieces of clip art used to fill entire pages.
Before anyone can profit from a bulletin, it has to be read. While some will read a bulletin regardless of how it is printed, most will not. To enhance the chances of our bulletins being read, let me offer a few suggestions.
(1) One Type style. The appearance of a small bulletin will be greatly enhanced if you stick to one type style throughout the paper. My personal preference is for the Times Roman font; it is easy to read, and comes in a variety of styles such as bold, outline and italic. If you are going to borrow an article from another paper, it would be best to retype the entire article to match your own format and maintain symmetry.
(2) Clip art. A few pieces of quality artwork can do wonders for any publication. I’m not talking about taping down a piece of line art from the days of the mimeograph. Using appropriate clip art will help draw attention to the article; it is not a substitute for teaching. There are several good sources of clip art, and I would be happy to send you a list of suppliers. Unfortunately, good clip art is not cheap due to the widespread “stealing” practiced by some.
(3) Paper Stock. Though not a necessity, colored paper is much more eye appealing than plain white stock. Light blue or green are usually good choices.
(4) Quality Control. All of the effort put into publishing a bulletin will be of no avail unless you inspect the finished product. Careless folding and upside down mailing labels certainly detract from a bulletin.
There are several good bulletins which I enjoy reading. One of my favorite is edited by Dick Blackford in Owensboro, Kentucky. Some congregations publish newsletters which are passed out at Sunday services. Greg Gwin in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Gene Taylor in Tallahassee, Florida, print two of the best I have seen. I’m sure these two men would be happy to mail you a sample copy.
I hope this article is not perceived as being overly critical. Let’s all strive to put our best foot forward while teaching in print. If you publish a bulletin, I would appreciate being placed on your mailing list.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 24, p. 745
December 15, 1988