If there’s one thing church communicators love to hate, it’s the church bulletin. Some have tried to kill it, but the rest of us just make do. We decided to talk to some church communicators and see how the bulletin is working (or not) for them.
Today we talk with Jodi Tonarelli, the director of weekend experience for the Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, Wis. They killed their bulletin a few years ago and do not miss it.
What do you love most about not having a bulletin?
The obvious answer is cost savings. We diverted printing dollars to areas we feel are more useful, to be better stewards of what God provides. In addition, it saves team bandwidth as we save time creating and printing them. (We used to print these in house, which was a nightmare and time sucker.) We’ve seen response rates increase. I think it’s because we are used to having businesses send content directly to us these days. Guests don’t want to remember our website, they want us to get them the details directly and make it easy for them to just click a link to complete the process for the events or information they care about.
And because I lead our guest services teams as well, I need to point out that this rocked the world of our ushers. They were used to simply handing people something as they walked into our auditoriums, and that was pretty much it. I joke that now (after lots of vision casting and training) we have an awesome team of ushers who love to “ush!” It has made a huge difference in how the team interacts with guests and the satisfaction they feel in how God is using them. This was a huge win that wasn’t anticipated prior to the change.
How do people get the typical information that’s in a bulletin?
We think in layers for all of our communication. For this content in particular, we send a weekly ‘Happenings’ email to our entire database. We also have the same content (updated weekly) on our Happenings webpage. We also post the content on social, but to avoid feeling like social is only an announcement factory, we’re now experimenting with posting graphics/details for each ‘happening’ that is included in the email, in our Instagram and Facebook stories on the same day the email goes out. So far that has been getting good traction.
What do you give to guests?
Nothing… unless they want it. We had bags with printed materials and mugs that we have given out in the past, but we started to ask if that was something that was a real gift for them or just a way for our teams to identify who was new and give them special treatment. Ideally, we want all guests treated well, and this didn’t feel right for us anymore. Now we have the same printed materials available at our Welcome Desk and in our Next Steps area, but they remain hidden until a guest asks a question. We don’t overwhelm them with everything, but rather provide the content for their specific question. We’re trying to move in the direction of a concierge mentality, providing them with someone who listens first and caters a response to what each guest needs in the moment.
How did you kill your bulletin?
I’d like to say one week we just didn’t hit “print,” but it wasn’t that easy. We began by asking what you did earlier. If we aren’t going to give this to people anymore, how else could we get them this information? We looked at different email and web designs and tried different branding looks before landing on one with a great Milwaukee feel. We also wanted a name we thought our people would see as more modern than a ‘bulletin’ and that led us to ‘Happenings.’ The thought being, if someone asks, “What’s happening around The Ridge?,” this email or webpage would answer that question.
Eventually we got to the point where we had to rip the band-aid off. We coordinated with guest services to make sure ushers knew it was coming. Training for those teams quickly followed. During the first weeks of the transition we had small signs out on usher kiosks explaining where and how people could get the information. We prepped teams with a response if they were questioned about it, or had pushback from someone who was averse to email or websites or just technology in general.
Guess how many complaints we got? Zero. To this date that holds true. Zero complaints.
What challenges did you have and how did you overcome them?
The only significant issue we have faced since the beginning is trying to ensure as few emails as possible get bounced to spam instead of someone’s inbox. That is constantly a struggle and how you work around it depends on who you use for a mass email provider. Most have tech or customer support folks to help you through it.
We also have been intentional about spicing up our subject lines for these emails. Our communications manager has killed this for us. She takes pride in those one liners that just nail it. And it’s fun to watch the open rates for those weeks! We didn’t pay as much attention to this idea in the beginning because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Now, it’s become a fun challenge.
Need more help with bulletins?
- Free tips: Grab 40 Church Bulletin Tips to get a host of help for your bulletin.
- Kill it: Learn more about how to kill your bulletin.
- Pro resources: Our Courageous Storytellers membership site spent a whole month focused on bulletins, including examples, templates, how to go digital, expert advice, and more. Join Courageous Storytellers today to get access.
Kevin D. Hendricks wrote this originally at Church Marketing Sucks .