Each year, LPi conducts dozens of Building a Vibrant Parish seminars across the country to help local parishes engage their members and strengthen the Church. Today our team is at Spirit of Life Catholic Church in Mandan, ND sharing our experiences, tools, and strategies to help build a more vibrant parish.
The church bulletin is certainly the oldest and most common channel of communication used by parishes. How it is used and what is included as content varies greatly from place to place. But too often, it is seen as little less than a handout containing dates, times, and advertisements for programs. The potential of many a bulletin is left completely untapped.
You could create a dozen different ways of communicating in your parish, but the bulletin is the only way to communicate to all Mass attendees and visitors. Even as the digital world expands, that paper bulletin is gold in terms of evangelization value, because you get it right into their physical hands. Imagine the Catholic who has returned after years away, the young adult who showed up for the first time not sure whether church is even relevant in her life, and the young family that is church shopping and had a difficult time just getting all the children out the door, all at your church on a Sunday morning. What is contained in that bulletin you place in their hands that might make all of the difference? Does the ink tell of only news, or does it clearly celebrate the good news?
To read more from Communicating Kerygma, A Fresh Look at Parish Communication by Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS, Director of Parish Community & Engagement at LPi, click here.
Broadcaster and recent Catholic convert Adrian Chiles recently set himself a challenge to go to church every day for more than a month, and never the same one twice. Most of us will never have this kind of opportunity, but Chiles’ insights, reflections, and images speak to every one of us who have ever sat in a pew.
Here’s an excerpt:
“For the Lent just gone by, I resolved to go to church every day. I’m a Catholic, so it would be Mass every day for more than a month. It felt like it would be a real struggle – a penance. It turned out to be anything but. It was a rich and enriching experience – spiritually, obviously, but I was also enraptured by the churches themselves, the communities they serve, and the people with whom I shared all those Masses.”
With more and more of the Internet traffic being on mobile devices, it is critically important that your church website be mobile friendly. Remember, your website is a marketing and engagement tool. It is how local Catholics, traveling Catholics, and anyone interested in finding a church can learn about your parish online.
Click here to read the full article
By Elise Harris
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2015 / 09:54 am (CNA/EWTN News). – Amid a torrent of recent news reports on persecuted Christians, Pope Francis reflected on those killed for their faith and said that these modern “Stephens” suffer as the Church’s first martyr did.
“The Church today is a Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness,” Francis told attendees of his April 21 Mass, held in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.
“In these days how many Stephens there are in the world!” he said, referring to the first apostle who was killed for proclaiming Jesus Christ, and is hailed as the Church’s first martyr.
“Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya; let’s think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his companions because he was a Christian,” Francis said.
He also brought to mind “those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other migrants because they were Christians; let us think – just the day before yesterday – of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians…and of many others.”
The Pope also called attention to the many Christians suffering silently inside jail cells just because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Among them is Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, who in 2010 was convicted of violating Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, an allegation she denies. Her husband and daughter traveled to Rome last week, where they met with Pope Francis and received his blessing during his Wednesday general audience.
In February the Islamic State released a video depicting the decapitation of 20 Coptic Christians after they had gone missing near the coastal city of Surt, also known as Sirte, in Libya.
On Sunday another video was released by social media accounts associated with the ISIS showing the mass executions of Ethiopian Christians in Libya.
In an April 20 message sent to Abuna Matthias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Francis offered condolences and said that “It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant…Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ!”
The Pope’s comment on the Christian boy burned alive referred to a 14-year-old Pakistani named Nouman Masih, who passed away April 15 after being set on fire by two unknown men. After inquiring about his religion, the men doused Masih in kerosene and set him alight.
April 16 marks the day that another tragedy on Francis’ list took place when 12 passengers on a migrant boat traveling from Libya to Italy were thrown overboard by fellow migrants for being Christians.
Reports indicate that a disagreement sparked among passengers on a rubber boat bound for Italy and carrying 105 people, during which 15 Muslim passengers threatened to abandon at sea the Christians, who came from Nigeria and Ghana, based on their faith.
After a fight broke out 12 of the Christians were thrown overboard to their deaths, while others survived the attack by resisting the drowning attempt and forming a human chain. The Italian coast guard has arrested 15 people in association with the attack.
In his homily Tuesday, Pope Francis said that “the true history of the Church is that of the Saints and the martyrs.”
He recalled how the Apostle Stephan had to deal with false witnesses and the anger of those accusing him.
Stephan, the Pope noted, reminded the elders and scribes how their ancestors had persecuted other prophets, and when he described his vision of the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God they didn’t want to hear it, so they threw him out of the city and stoned him.
“God’s Word is always rejected by some. God’s Word is inconvenient when you have a stone heart, when you have a pagan heart,” he said.
Francis noted how the whole history of Revelation is marked by the many martyrs who have been killed “for their faith and loyalty towards God’s Word, God’s Truth.”
He closed his homily by pointing out that there are also many “hidden martyrs,” who are the faithful men and women that listen to the voice of God and look for new ways to help their brothers and sisters love the Lord.
These people, the Pope said, are often viewed with suspicion, vilified and persecuted by the modern “Sanhedrin’s” who think they possess the truth.
His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago, born to eternal life April 17, 2015. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
1. Use boxes sparingly: Cluttering a bulletin with lines and boxes makes it difficult for your parishioners to know where to look. Keep lines to a minimum and separate content with color or white space. Try adding images to help illustrate the content allowing for a more attractive, clean layout.
2. Use white space: It is a design element that is often overlooked by editors, who strive to fill every bulletin with as much information as possible. Cramming the publication full of content can overwhelm parishioners and potentially discourage them from reading. Paring down the text is like clearing the aisles. Cutting some content will greatly improve the overall look and organization of the publication, making it easier to navigate, which should in turn encourage reading.
3. Avoid underlining: The practice of underlining dates back to the days of the typewriter, when it was used to emphasize text because typewriters lacked bold and italic styles. It is unnecessary in today’s age of modern technology. In addition, underlining is confusing for your readers because Web addresses are typically underlined. Text with a line underneath makes the words appear to be hyperlinks in print. Keep in mind that most professional publications such as books, magazines, and newspapers tend to avoid underlining, so it is wise to follow this best practice.
4. Make sure your text doesn’t get lost: Using dark texts on dark backgrounds makes them difficult to read especially for older individuals. Try using a lighter background or using white text with darker backgrounds. A general rule of thumb is that the background color should be only 30% tint or less to ensure it is light enough that text can be read. When inverting your text (white text on a dark background), make sure your background color is at least an 85% tint so it is dark enough to provide contrast for the white text.
5. Stick to 3 Fonts or Fewer: Multiple fonts can make a publication look messy and unprofessional. Stick to three or fewer styles for a more cohesive, appealing look. As the saying goes, everything in moderation. The key is not to overuse any one technique.
6. Use Better Images: Images found through search engines like Google and Bing are often copyrighted and using them without written permission is illegal. These images are also often low resolution and so appear low quality when printed. For higher quality images that will print beautifully, we would encourage you to use LPi’s Art & Media Portal or a stock photo website like istockphoto.com.
7. Provide new, relevant content: Recycling the same material from week-to-week discourages parishioners from reading the bulletin. Move this kind of static content to your website and direct readers there instead. This will free up room for more dynamic, interesting, articles within the bulletin to engage your parishioners.
Creativity can be very elusive, especially when you are working on a deadline and need an idea as soon as possible! Many of the world’s greatest thinkers developed unusual habits in an effort to spark their minds. Maya Angelou made hotel rooms her workspace of choice, while Igor Stravinski got his innovative juices flowing by standing on his head.
Here are some ideas for putting that inspirational content to use in bulletins, newsletters, and social networks:
Typographic artwork can serve as a permanent staple within your bulletin or used when needed.
- Use as a Banner or Heading: Combine inspirational art with other content to create bulletin banners.
- Place on a Perforated Page: Readers can tear out a new inspiration each week to post on their refrigerator or bulletin board.
- Article Inspirations: Use inspiring images to help springboard inspiring articles.
- Place an image on your calendar as a monthly reflection
- Pin image to your boards
- Use as a Facebook cover photo on profile picture
Now that you have some inspiration to work with, it is time to get started. How else can you imagine using these images? Please share your ideas in the comments.
Spring will soon be in the air, and Lent is now upon us. Preparing for holy seasons presents a challenge to our editors, who must find a way to squeeze many special events and masses into the bulletin. What is the best way to convey important dates and church happenings to parishioners within a limited amount of space? Depending on the type and amount of information, there are several layout options to consider.
Traditional Calendar Style
Calendar layouts are ideal for displaying very basic details. The following example worked well because only the date, time, location, and event name were needed. One limitation of using this method within Microsoft Publisher is that the table row height expands based on the amount of content in each cell. In other words, unless the content is the same length for each day, the calendar’s rows may vary a bit in height.
How To Create a Traditional Calendar
Creating a traditional calendar in Microsoft Publisher is not a straightforward process, but it can be done. The calendar must be created manually by inserting a table into the document, with 7 columns and 6 rows. Resize the top row to a shorter height, as that area will contain the days of the week. Next, number each cell based on the dates within the calendar month. To avoid confusion, enter all dates first, then go back and type in the events for each day. See Microsoft Publisher’s Support website, or call an LPi Tech Support Representative if assistance is needed with table formatting.
Chronological Event List
Event lists work well when there are only a few events to note, and/or if the time span for activities is shorter than a month. Alignment, color and white space can help organize the information, as demonstrated in the below example.
Using tabs to align the dates and events balances the information and improves readability.
How to Create a Chronological Event List:
Tables featuring a row for each weekday are useful when there are several daily activities. This layout offers extra room for event descriptions, if needed.
How to Create a Chronological Table
Create two separate tables, with three columns and fifteen rows each. Label the left column with days of the week. Decrease the width of the middle column, and then type in the numerical date, working vertically down the table. Event descriptions can be placed in the right column.
Cluster Parish Events
Juggling multiple events for more than one church may seem daunting, but using a list or table format makes it possible. Event lists can be organized by abbreviating the church names, with a clearly labeled key section. The following is an example of a tabbed event list with key.
Table layouts may work better if each church has many events that are not shared with the other locations. Simply include a separate column or row for each location.
In summary, there are many potential ways to organize event information in a concise, readable manner. Note that some of the above examples may require an intermediate to advanced level of skill with Microsoft Publisher. Feel free to contact your local LPi tech support department if you need any assistance with tables or tabs.
Have any alternative methods or tips for managing your events/activity list, besides those mentioned above? Please comment to share your thoughts. We are always interested in new ideas and suggestions!
All newsletters share a common purpose of communicating a message to a targeted group of people. The type of information and reason for presenting it will vary, however, because every newsletter is unique. For instance, the goal could be to build brand awareness, increase an organization’s membership base, educate readers, garner donations, etc. Regardless of the intention, most publications fit into one of several distinct style categories.
Here are the most common types of newsletter designs:
Which style is best for your organization?
Bulletin editors who read other posts will be familiar with some of the following tips, however there are several other considerations to keep in mind when designing a newsletter.
- When choosing a layout, first and foremost, consider the amount and type of content necessary. If there is a lot of important information that must be included, use a design that keeps the text clear and readable. If certain articles are a priority, be sure to place them towards the beginning, and set them apart with graphic elements or white space.
- Next, think about the culture of your organization, and the target audience. The design should reflect the values and interests of both parties. If unsure what style is most appealing to your readers, perhaps take a poll and/or ask for suggestions.
- How is your newsletter distributed? Mailed, picked up, downloaded online, or emailed? The method in which the reader receives and views the publication should influence design decisions. For instance, if readers prefer to read your newsletter online instead of receiving a hard copy, it is helpful to use attention-grabbing graphics and colors to keep them interested and prevent unsubscribing. If the publication is a mailer, it will likely be quarter-folded, with the back page on the outside being the first thing that readers see. Therefore, any logos or branding should be prominent on the back cover, and you may want to place the most important article and/or table of contents there as well.
- Finally, consider your technical abilities. As an editor, you are responsible for working within a regular deadline to gather articles and assemble them within your template. Be honest with yourself about your comfort level in using a more advanced layout, which may include grouped images, master pages, various font styles, tabs, etc. With practice you will become a pro, but if you feel stressed at the thought, perhaps a simple, traditional layout would be a better starting point. You can always redesign the publication at a later date once you feel ready to take on a new challenge.
Remember that there is no right or wrong choice when it comes to newsletter design. Any of the above options can be transformed to fit your needs!