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Why we killed our church bulletin

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No one will ever confuse me with an avid magazine reader…in fact I’m not sure if I’ve ever met one of those before. The only magazines you’ll catch me reading are Bass Pro Shops or Gator Country and perhaps the occasional issue of ESPN or Sports Illustrated. All of that changed about year ago. A little before that moment our Creative Arts Team started a conversation about doing away with our weekly bulletin in order to refocus their time and resources towards producing a magazine that would take it’s place. At first it seemed a bit fantastical. I mean how many local churches are producing a magazine that is worth reading? But the designers and entire Creative Arts Team believed deeply in this endeavor. So after a few presentations and winning the hearts of the decision makers, (it doesn’t hurt when the organization has a built in culture of risk) we were all in. Below are some of the nuts and bolts that it takes to make this happen and some of the major wins that we’ve experienced.

Some basic Nuts & Bolts

Just as you would expect, the first couple of issues were the toughest to get into a work flow routine and truly understand what it was going to take to get it done. Each issue is 32 full color pages 18 of which are dedicated to feature stories and all church information, 14 pages are dedicated to ministry departments promoting events for the up coming month. We’ll produce 9 issues this year: February, March, April, a summer issue that covers May-July, August, September, October, November, and a winter issue that covers December and January. We’ll print 6k issues per month except for the April (Easter), winter issue (Dec.-Jan.), and the summer issue (May-July) where we’ll print 8k. It takes the following personnel to pull this off: 1 staff photographer / 1 staff graphic designer / 5 volunteer writers / 3 other staff from creative arts spending a few hours editing, writing, researching stories, and general administration. It takes the graphic designer 2 full weeks of time to put one these together. The brands and graphics developed are used in multiple applications such as banners, web, loop video announcements etc.

So here’s to being innovative! Hope this gets the out of the box creative juices going for you! BTW you can check out a .pdf of the March issue.

#1 Cut Costs

Yes, I know you want to ask, so I’ll answer it first. Believe it or not we’ve actually saved money by making this shift! This year we will spend 44k on 9 issues of the Loop. In previous years we were spending more than 74k annually on promotion through our weekly bulletin, excluding man hours. That broke down to about 1k a week on a full color multifold bulletin, 15k annually on “all church event” rave cards, 7k on paper inserts, and each ministry was spending money on their own inserts they were producing.

 #2 Staying Power

What happens to a weekly bulletin after someone reads it, (that is if someone actually reads it)? Sure, it gets thrown in the trash. And the 15 really cool looking inserts that were jammed in there, they’re probably under someone’s car seat with the petrified french-fries from last months Happy Meal. The Loop sits on someone’s coffee table, in their bathroom, in their office at work, or anywhere people keep their magazines around their house. And people come back to it and pick it up from time to time to scan the articles. It feels more valuable than a bulletin and it is more likely to have a longer shelf life and stay out of the trash can a little longer.

 #3 Share Wins

Everybody wants to be a part of a winning team, and the people in your church truly want to hear about what God is doing. It’s what keeps them energized, hopeful, engaged, and on mission. But just about every church that I know about struggles to effectively share wins, to share the stories about how God is moving in the lives of people. The Loop provides us the perfect opportunity to share those stories and to intentionally and thematically share stories to prepare our people for where we are going, or celebrate a key moment that just happened.

 #4 Build culture

Stories and art both reflect, and build culture. It is the art and stories of our lives that both tell us where we came from and where we are going. And make no mistake as the church we are not building a company, we’re building a culture. The art and stories in the Loop help people discover, engage, and embrace the culture of Cornerstone. When someone gets a copy of the Loop into their hands it’s impossible to miss who we are as a community of people at Cornerstone, even if it’s at a subconscious level.

 #5 Promote, Promote, Promote

Ever take a bulletin and give it to your next door neighbor or coworker and say, “Hey isn’t this cool, this is my church, want to come with me this Sunday?” No way! The Loop has become a great tool for the people of Cornerstone to give to their friends and invite them to church. It doesn’t feel like a slick promotional or marketing piece, it’s far more warm and engaging than that. Yet half of the magazine is dedicated to information about how readers can take a next step and engage into the community of Cornerstone in an area that appeals to them at a more intimate level.


Posted in Creative Arts

5 Responses to “Why we killed our church bulletin”

  1. Renato March 19, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Love this story, love the bulletin and creative arts team is really doing an amazing job. I feel that God is smiling up above with joy every time new loop comes out. I am sure He can’t wait for the next magazine, and I can’t wait to read more of His work and His stories.

  2. paul alexander March 19, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    The stories in the Loop about how God is changing people’s lives is my favorite part!

  3. Tyler Pettis March 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    I am actually in the middle of a bulletin redesign right now. I would love to take a peek at your magazine. Any chance you can share a link?

    Thanks!

    • Paul Alexander March 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      Tyler, unfortunately this post was from 2010 and the links have expired. I’ve got a couple of old hard copies laying around if you’d like one I’d be happy to send you one. Send me a contact.

      • John March 6, 2013 at 11:11 am #

        Can you send one on to me, too! 😉

        Could you expand on your last post, Paul. Did you discontinue the magazine and go back to the bulletins? The article intrigued me and I’m curious if there were other bugs to work out which made a monthly-ish magazine just too tall an order.

        My contacts:
        John Morlan
        cc.ef1558550842ileca1558550842rg@mj1558550842

        11049 W La Porte Road
        Mokena, IL 60448

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