“For more information, please check the bulletin…” How many times have you heard that instruction at church? More important, how many people never hear it, or are tone-deaf to it? Church Communication should move from impersonal to personal
Many churches still rely on traditional bulletins and emails to communicate to their congregation. In the past, this was an effective messaging system. But here are a few reasons for rethinking that church communication approach today…
First, relying on a bulletin as a church communication tool focuses only on the people in your pews. Many of our parishioners are loosely connected—email blasts and bulletin articles are not going to grab their attention. Your community is broader. When we use bulletins as our primary form of communication many people will not see the information at all, and often the ones who do will assume you’re talking to somebody else.
Second, many people receive hundreds of emails a day. Even those who are not as digitally connected get dozens of them. It’s so easy to just click delete as you try to clear your notifications. An email can feel like an intrusion—another request for your attention or your money or your time. In general, we don’t communicate with our friends via email; we do that with a phone call, a text, group chats, or even a direct message through social media.
Third, relying on these old methods, though they may have worked previously, shows how reluctant we are to invest in building relationships with people. We put all the information in the bulletin, in an email blast, and on the church marquee—then we moan, “Why aren’t people responding?” or “Why aren’t people registering for this event?” We’re putting the onus on them.
The Problem With Impersonal Church Communication
A leadership coach started a project a couple of years ago that interested me. He began to reflect daily on the psalms. He wrote what he called “Ancient Riffs”—a little riff off a verse from Psalms on a daily basis. He’d text these reflections to anyone interested. He started at the beginning and went through the whole book, verse by verse.
I loved getting this verse on my phone in the morning. I would stop what I was doing for a moment and reflect on God’s Word for me in this text. It was a pause for reconnecting to God in my everyday life. I spent this moment with God, just the two of us. Two years in, I still enjoyed this pause. The author moved from Psalms to Proverbs and I was reading these books of the Bible anew. I knew this went to scores of people, if not hundreds, but I experienced it personally. This was for me.
Recently, this leadership coach switched his project to an automated email. He now has tools that can make the text beautiful. He can add images, change the font, add a button so participants can share the email, but it’s no longer the pause in my day. It’s no longer personal. It doesn’t come to me as a text—it comes with dozens of other emails, most asking me to purchase something or to read this news article or to subscribe to something or get more connected through a better platform. I’m already at my computer working. I’m in a different frame of mind and it doesn’t give me pause the way it did before. The message might still be the same. But it no longer feels personal.
Moving to Personal Church Communication
Ask yourself who might experience your invitation as personal if it wasn’t an email—if it wasn’t in the bulletin for them to read after your reminder in church. There are so many people who need to hear the messages your church is trying to communicate. Who need that pause in their day or in their life? I think of the young mom who doesn’t always make it to church on Sunday, especially if she has to wrangle the kids there alone. She has so much on her plate already. Maybe she feels isolated or unsupported. She could benefit from that Mom’s Ministry you have, but she’s not going to read about it in the bulletin and probably not on the church marquee. She needs your personal invitation. Or she needs the invite from other moms you are already in relationship with. It has to be meant just for her.
I also think of the empty-nest couple who used to be engaged in ministry, who used to be involved in so many things because their kids were involved. Or the young adult who is looking for meaning and purpose, but might also be doing some reconstructing. He could easily walk away if we don’t connect, or if we only rely on old messaging systems to speak to him. Think of the person you are trying to reach. Think about who they are. Ask yourself what they need (not what you need). Pray specifically for the person. Each person.
A Hunger for Authenticity
I saw a survey report this week that revealed the top three relational “magnets” among Millennials and Gen Z:
- Big conversations
- Personal Identity
Are you having big conversations? Are you talking with them, or at them? Are you being authentic? Vulnerable? Sharing your own story? Are you asking questions? Listening, really listening? Do you see who they are past the surface? Or are you expecting them to fit inside your mold? Do they feel known by you? Seen by you?
I’m not saying you have to ditch the bulletin or the newsletter email blast altogether (though you might want to). You may have some people who rely on that method of communication. But if that’s your primary form of communication, you’re missing out on building relationships. Make it personal. Get to know people. Empower the people you have to be the messengers. Text someone that you’re thinking of them. It might be the pause they need. The reminder they need that they are loved, that this message is for them. God’s message is for them.
Questions to Consider
- How do you communicate with the people in your congregation?
- What’s your most effective outreach?
Share your stories with us. We’d love to hear how leaders are rethinking their systems, especially church communication systems.
Denise Utter, M.A., is a freelance consultant, writer, and a speaker—she’s been coaching with Vibrant Faith since 2018. She has worked in ministry and education for 30 years. Denise loves to inspire ministry leaders to reimagine faith formation, put families at the center of faith, and provide innovative approaches to faith formation.