I’ve been in the church for seven generations. Being a “lifer” I’ve experienced a lot. I remember why certain things got started and why they developed the way they did. This is a mixed blessing, believe me.

What bothers me is that some of these outdated practices persist when the reasons they were instituted no longer exist. I’ll detail a few on an issue that’s been on my mind for a while now. Most of my soapbox has to do with information dispersal at church.

The Sunday Sacrament Bulletin

The bulletin itself is still needed, I think, but the form it takes can certainly change to serve needs better. Traditionally, it included the program for Sacrament meeting and a few announcements. Although the congregation’s information needs have changed over the years, few things about the bulletin have.

Relevant for one hour

For example, the Sacrament program is relevant for (drumroll) one hour, yet it takes up the majority of space on the bulletin. It could probably be condensed into much less. I don’t want it to disappear though. It’s a major way to learn people’s names and who they are, especially when new to a ward/branch.

But it doesn’t need to dominate the space on the bulletin. Because of this dominance, announcements get abbreviated and squeezed although many of them remain relevant to more than just that day’s congregation and for much longer than one hour.

Only one bulletin

There is an assumption that a family should only have one bulletin. This is a tired old relic from mimeograph days. A mimeograph was the precursor to the photocopy machine.

Mimeographing had its limits. You could only produce so many before the copy became too damaged or light to create any more.

Bulletins were limited because mimeographing capabilities were limited. Therefore, bulletins were limited to just one per family.

Photocopying capabilities made this almost entirely irrelevant. Only toner and paper are limited with that. However, the idea of only one per family has persisted, especially it being just for adults.

No relevance to kids and youth

So, kids and young people are deemed unworthy of a bulletin. This isolates them and reinforces the notion that they aren’t as important as adults at church, especially when there is no information on the bulletin relevant to them.

When I included a line drawing on the bulletin, children started coloring it during Sacrament meeting and looking forward to it being there. Suddenly, the bulletin was relevant for kids.

When I included a QR code to youth material on the bulletin, suddenly it had relevance to the youth as well. Bulletins don’t have to be relevant to just adults. If we included information relevant to kids and youth, bulletins would be relevant to them. Kids and youth may even discover they have importance at church too.

Bulletins often include the subject of the day’s Gospel Doctrine, Relief Society and Priesthood lesson. Why can’t it include the subject of the youth and kids’ lessons? Why can’t their information be included?

Submit announcements by such and such a day

Again, this goes back to mimeograph days when the person “cutting the stencil” had to have all the information by at least Thursday night so that they could compile the information and cut(type) the stencil on Friday.

This was done on a typewriter but it didn’t involve paper or ink. This was a laborious practice of putting a delicate piece of material called the stencil into a typewriter and cutting the letters into the stencil so that the blue mimeograph ink could then have a configuration to ooze out of.

You had to have really good lighting and constantly check it to make certain you were hitting the typewriter keys hard enough to cut the stencil.

This took up most of Friday.

Saturday was reserved to run the bulletins off on the mimeograph machine. This also took a while. That’s if everything went well. It often didn’t. The stencil could break and the stencil would have to be cut again. This was the equivalent of typing everything over again.

Something on the mimeograph end could also break down causing a Saturday emergency before everything was needed on Sunday.

So, it made SENSE to get all the information to the person by Thursday night so that this laborious process could proceed and the bulletin would be ready by Sunday.

How do I know all of this? Well, my mother cut the stencil and my father ran the mimeograph machine when I was young.

However, it all makes no sense now. Bulletins are done digitally. Last minute additions on Saturday night are no big deal. Bulletins can be printed off and photocopied on Sunday morning with little effort. This ensures that the information is as current as it should be.

Reactive versus proactive

In the past, the bulletin coordinator generally depended on people to get them the announcements they wanted on the bulletin. This made a certain amount of sense because the process of cutting the stencil was so time-consuming.

In addition, the only communication options were snail mail and the telephone. Believe me, it was HARD getting people off of the telephone in those days. Nowadays, people are briefer. If a bulletin coordinator had to call people themselves, they’d spend all the weekdays doing that and the weekend cutting the stencil. It was horrific.

However, with digital tools this process is streamlined, less complex and less time consuming. It makes sense for the bulletin coordinator to query people and ask for announcements, clarifications, further details, additions, etc., especially via email or text message. They don’t have to just sit back and wait for people to get them information. They can reach out for it.

However, people are still being reactive instead of proactive. Seeking out the information you know you need makes more sense than waiting for someone to give it to you. And, if people are used to hearing from you and giving it to you, it becomes much more automatic on their part.

Why Are We Still Doing This? Bulletins, Newsletters, Flyers and More:

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