Sunday, April 28, 2013
Is Your Sunday Bulletin a Waste of Paper?
I can recall many examples of where I saw people pick up the Sunday bulletin at my parish, glance at a few pages for anything interesting, and quickly put it aside --- many examples. I never really gave that a thought before this week. The typical parish Sunday bulletin lists parish contacts, weekly masses and upcoming parish events. These are all good things and, if you are looking for information in these areas, those seemed to be good things. Our parish bulletin also lists inter-parish offerings of jobs, items for sale or rent, and advertising for services available from parish members. All good things, I thought.
But more recently, I SHOULD have been questioning if this is the right format for this information. With virtually everyone who can read now having an electronic device of some kind, why should we consider that the prime source of information on our parish is the bulletin? When people want information today, most use a search engine to find results wherever and whenever they want. They don’t have to (nor want to) search for some paper document to find information. So why is that the primary use of most church bulletins?
This weekend I picked up a copy of the Our Lady of Good Counsel (Plymouth, Michigan) weekly bulletin. (You can go to their website (http://www.olgcparish.net/) to check out their bulletin for April 28.) The bulletin contains references to the catechism and its treatment of human sexuality. It also has an excerpt from a book by a well known Catholic author (Fr. Cantalamessa). And it has an article by a non-parish member, a wonderful witness of a non-Catholic family celebrating the conversion of their son to be Catholic --- it tells the story of a parish family, as it supports existing and new members. All in all, it is a wonderful bulletin witnessing to how a single parish can participate in the New Evangelization.
In my business life I was a business analyst, and reasonably well respected. When I discovered (or it was pointed out to me) that a competitor was doing something new, I took a three step approach. 1) I investigated whether we could do something similar, but better. Sometimes this turned out not to be feasible, or it would cost too much money or take too much time to develop. Then 2) I sought to develop partnerships with other companies, to share costs and reduce development time. I negotiated many a partnership. Or 3) If we couldn’t develop something better, than we copied our competitor’s offering. Oh, I don’t mean we ignored patents or copyrights, but we developed something similar in content or looks. This type of business analysis could be done regarding any parish bulletin.
Any parish could develop a bulletin format focused on the New Evangelization, seeking to teach parish members their faith in more depth. Many parishes have excellent teachers of the faith and well-read parishioners who would love to share what they have learned. And if that seemed to be beyond the means of a parish, perhaps they could join with local parishes to share teaching articles common to their bulletins --- or perhaps in a huge degree of cooperation and cost-efficiency, even print only one well-done bulletin, common to all the local parishes. (This is just a smaller scale of Faith Magazine, the parish newsmagazine for the diocese of Lansing Michigan, which does an excellent job of integrating interesting articles and web-based details.) Or your parish could just look at what some other parishes have done well (like OLGC), and copy the format.
I think the parish bulletin of today needs to be more than just a listing of information any search engine could find. In this age of the New Evangelization, it should do more than just inform, it should teach. We owe it to each other.