Why do we have a church bulletin?

Every church I’ve attended provided a folded bulletin as I’ve entered a service.   Why?   The obvious reason is to disperse information. But over the years, the bulletin has developed into something more – a graphic design statement, a place for the pastor to put an editorial, an item for greeters to have in their hand, reading material to occupy visitor’s time.

Where did this start?

With Albert Blake Dick’s invention of stencil duplicating in 1884, the order of worship began to be printed and distributed.[1] Thus was born the famous “Sunday morning bulletin.”   This bulletin was modeled like the theatre programs people received in their entertainment districts.

So, bulletins got really complicated.  Bulletins got very expensive.
Bulletins started takin up LOTS OF TIME for pastors and support staff (which meant it cost the church even more money).

And church members get really upset with punctuation mistakes and misspellings in their bulletin.
And church members got even more upset when their announcement didn’t make the bulletin cut.

And it got more complicated . . .

Church events couldn’t be cancelled if they had been printed in the bulletin.
Some churches began to attach discounts to restaurants to their bulletin.
Entire companies were then formed to help churches create bulletins.

Then, along came something often called the digital revolution.

Announcements projected on the screen.  E-mails.  Facebook.  You Version.  Twitter.   Blogs.  There are many, many ways to get our information without preparing a bulletin.

Still, printing on paper is effective and needed.   However, it doesn’t have to be a folded program arranged like a “play bill.”

Something to ponder.


[1] Ferguson, Everett. Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centetries, 3rd ed. Abilene, TX: A.C.U. Press, 1999.
Frank Viola;George Barna. Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (Kindle Locations 2860-2861). Kindle Edition.

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