Put your parish bulletin on your RCIA team

—We’re probably all going to see a lot of seekers in our churches over the next several weeks. First of all, we’re moving into the holiday season, and more people tend to think about faith and spirituality at this time of year. Some of them wind up in church—your church—hoping to find an answer to an inner longing.

Another reason we’re going to see more seekers is the worsening economy. People are worried and are perhaps losing hope. Those who don’t have the light of Christ in their hearts will likely wind up in church to see if they can find hope there.

The bulletin as an RCIA marketing tool

So we should all be asking ourselves, what will these seekers find when they get come to church? One task that almost every usher excels at is putting a parish bulletin in every person’s hand. As catechumenate leaders, we should all be concerned about what’s in that bulletin.

Chris Weber, director of Catholic Education Ministries Center of Central Maryland, has written an excellent post on how to make parish bulletins more compelling. He thinks of the bulletin as a marketing tool.

Think about what it means to advertise for something. What do advertisers do? Instead of simply listing the features of something, they share all of the benefits that the consumer can get by using the product.

Click here to see what else he has to say about upgrading your parish bulletin (pdf file).

Also, check out a book I wrote several years ago, It’s In The Bulletin: The Editor’s Essential Guide to Effective Communication.

And click on the comments link below to share your thoughts about using the parish bulletin or other tools to welcome seekers over these next few weeks.

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  1. Of course the bulletin is a marketing tool. The problem is resistance to the secular (filthy lucre) connotations of the word, “marketing.” Actually, that’s only one of a slew of challenges church communicators face.

    I should be granted an indulgence for every time I’ve had to explain to a pastor-priest that people do read the bulletin, they just don’t remember what’s in it because the writing is dreadful and the design is confusing!

  2. Hi Meredith. You are so right about the poor writing and design in so many parish bulletins. A woman I know who works for a bulletin company told me Catholics read the bulletin more than they read the diocesan newspaper or secular newspapers. It would be great if we could put a little more effort into making them worth reading.

  3. Interesting…I agree with Meridith on the resistance to the use of “marketing tool.” In fact, I resist it, too, although I in no way resist the principles that lead to good, effective communication. I’d rather think of the bulletin as one of the most beautiful, enticing, compelling invitations ever sent out (to a wedding, birthday party graduation party, or whatever.) What makes me excited both to have received in and to respond to it? When did an invitation make me feel truly invited, welcome, even needed at the gathering? What about that invitation made me choose that party or gathering over anything else I could have done that day? What can we learn from some of our best invitations that we can incorporate into the parish’s best invitation to the best gathering of all? Design? Clear message? Communication that “we really want and need your presence?” Focus on the guest or occasion of honor? Brevity and essential information? Creativity? Sense of celebration? What else? And what about bulletins for people who do not read the language(s) in print?

  4. What a great outline of principles Miriam! I recently discovered Mark Batterson’s Web site, Evotional.com. He has a comment on marketing that I resonate with:

    The greatest message deserves the greatest marketing. I know that marketing is a dirty word in some church circles, but does it get anybody else riled up that Madison Avenue is far better at pedaling its worthless wares than the church is at preaching the good news? I have a problem with that. We need sanctified competitive streaks. (Click here for the full post.)

    If the word “marketing” is going to turn off the …uh, market, let’s find a better one. Storytelling? Messaging? Evangelization? But whatever we call it, I think we need to get the word out effectively and compellingly.

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