Is the bulletin something we just do in Catholic parishes? Or something we do with a mission, a sense of purpose, a strategy?
It’s not a stretch to say that most parish bulletins are treated as nothing more than routine maintenance for the people who are already involved with the parish.
We presume that people who read the bulletin:
- are already meaningfully responding to the Gospel
- have an interior desire for the sacramental life of the Church…..and more!
In this spirit of routine maintenance, we fill the front cover with:
- lists and phone numbers of parish staff
- unchanging photo or drawing of the church building
- stock images providing by publishing companies (i.e. a soaring eagle and flag for the 4th of July)
On the inside we say:
- “New members welcome” – without pitching a reason why one would want to become a member
- “Notify rectory 6 months before scheduling a wedding date” – as if all couples have a sense of even wanting to be married in the Church
Now, don’t get me wrong…none of these tendencies are wrong, immoral, or bad in and of themselves. They’re useful pieces of information, or in the case of the soaring eagle and flag, a harmlessly dull way to fill space.
But here’s the thing—when we allow 90% or more of our bulletin to be routine maintenance for those who are committed Catholic Christians, we’re missing an opportunity to communicate with:
- the unchurched
- the uncatechized
- those who are lonely
- those who are longing for God but do not know where to turn
- and others…
Having a routine maintenance approach betrays, in the words of Pope Paul VI, the “deepest identity” of the Church, that the Church “exists in order to evangelize.”
Now, the bulletin’s not the main effort of any parish (nor should it be), but I propose a principle that’s not time consuming and something all of us have the capacity to do: Order the content of your bulletin, from front to back, along the stages in the process of evangelization that emerge from the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Mission Activity of the Church. What does this look like?
- Pre-evangelization…building on the basic human needs and showing how these needs include a desire for God
- Missionary preaching or initial proclamation of the Gospel…even though it’s familiar/redundant, you never know who may be on the margins of Christian life or never chose to believe.
This means that something on your cover should explicitly speak to those who have not discovered their need for God or have not accepted the Gospel.
Then moving on to aspects of parish life that incorporate:
- Initial catechesis
- Continuing catechesis
The effort is about making sure the order and orientation of our bulletin content reflects the truth that the Church exists to evangelize. Just because the bulletin is “routine administration” doesn’t mean it should be done without missionary zeal.
Let the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ permeate and enliven everything we do—even the lowly bulletin.