Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bulletin Articles

One of my main jobs as a deacon of my church is cranking out the weekly bulletin every Sunday morning. It's a job I enjoy doing and it brings a lot of satisfaction when I see somebody smile while they're reading it or they make a comment about something in reference to it. I've been doing it for over 20 years now with only a couple of short breaks for health reasons. I started typing it on an old manual typewriter on spirit masters and have worn out two or three copy machines along the way.

A lot of the credit goes to the fine help I've gotten from our preachers who pass along the news items to fill the inside. Our current preacher does about 90% of the composition on the news articles, I just rearrange them to fit the available space. Occasionally I'll need to whittle down a lengthy item, but for the most part I cut and paste his stuff verbatim.

While I write an occasional article for the front page, I usually get them off of the Internet. The bulk of the articles over the last couple of years have been from an online database of several thousand articles. Prior to using the Internet as a resource, a lot of the articles came from a print publication that compiles bulletin articles. It has gone through several owners over the last few years. I'm not sure who's running it at the moment, but it often had some good resources.

I take a fair amount of time selecting just the "right" article for the front page each week. Several criteria have to be met for an article to "make the cut."

First, it needs to fit the space available. I can increase or decrease the font size a little to make an article fit, but most of the time they need to be around 500 to 700 words. That's in the neighborhood of 2500 to 3000 characters. Once in a while I have some blank space on the inside and can bleed a larger article over to page three, but usually that's not the case.

Second, I try to find an article that's not to "preachy." Only a fraction of a percent of the folks who read our bulletin are people who don't already attend church on at least a semi-regular basis. I'm not putting out a tract to teach basic beliefs or "show sinners THE WAY." My readers are typically regular church-going folks who were handed a bulletin as they came through the front door on Sunday morning.

Third, I try to make sure there's some "entertainment" value in the article. Not too philosophical, maybe a bit of humor or sometimes something that brings an important topic that's currently in the news to light. Maybe an article with a new spin on an old verse. People don't pick up the bulletin to get their daily dose of hermaneutics, they're looking for something to pass the time while they wait for the worship service to begin.

Fourth, and this is just me, I don't use poetry except on an occasional basis. I know there's a lot of folks out there that are poetry lovers. I don't have anything against a good poem, I just don't find a lot of them that I really enjoy. Personal taste I guess, but I have trouble finding poems that inspire me enough to put them in the bulletin.

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