The Over-Stuffed Bulletin


Do you remember those prank peanut cans? You would buy one at a novelty store, and then give it to one of your friends. When they opened the can, a fake snake exploded out of the can and flew toward their face.

Maybe I’m remembering it more dramatically than it was, but there were a few Sundays when our church bulletin felt like a prank peanut can. There were so many inserts and announcements in the bulletin that it felt like a ticker-tape parade in the lobby. So many flyers shot out of the overstuffed bulletin that there were papers falling all over as the greeters handed them out. Inside the sanctuary looked pretty much the same. It was obvious each of our guests and attendees had big bulletin mishaps and didn’t think it was worthy picking them up.

First-time guests are overwhelmed. Each falling paper is pressuring them to attend an event or give to a project. It’s too much.

Besides the fact that it was a huge waste of paper and even more money, we should have been more intentional with what we were advertising to our people. Our theory was that it would be easier to let each ministry advertise whatever they wanted. It would be less drama and less work on the part of the communications team. But instead, we just made a mess.

Our regular attendees are used to things falling out of their bulletins. But the first-time guests are overwhelmed. Each falling paper is pressuring them to attend an event or give to a project. It’s too much.

Imagine if we loved our guests enough to make things simple for them. What if we prioritized our announcements? What if we chose the one or two things we wanted to communicate to guests and kept it to that? Do you think we would be more effective? Do you think we would get a bigger response by advertising just one event instead of ten? I guarantee you we would.

Jonathan Malm is author of Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors from which this article is adapted and used by permission. Published by the Center for Church Communications, the book is available from Amazon.

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About Author

Jonathan Malm

Jonathan Malm manages and He recently coauthored The Volunteer Effect: How Your Church Can Find, Train, and Keep Volunteers Who Make a Difference (Baker Books, 2020) and The Volunteer Survival Guide: Your Question-and-Answer Resource for Volunteering (Baker Books, 2020). His books are available at Baker Publishing Group, Cokesbury, and Amazon. Read more at

Be the Welcoming Church cover image of a smiling person warming embracing anotherLewis Center video tool kit resource
Be the Welcoming Church

Learn how your church can make visitors feel truly welcome and comfortable!

The Be the Welcoming Church Video Tool Kit will help you develop a congregation-wide ethos of hospitality and institute best practices for greeting newcomers, making them feel at home, and encouraging them to return. The resource includes engaging videos, a Study and Discussion Guide, and more. Be the Welcoming Church may be used for hospitality training or in adult classes or groups. more. Learn more and watch introductory videos now.