I visit a lot of parishes in the course of a year and I usually will pick up a parish bulletin to see what is happening. Since my passion squarely is with parish youth ministry, I always look at how the youth leader communicates with the community via the bulletin. First of all, let me say that I have seen some great examples and some epic fails on the part of my fellow Catholic youth ministers. If you ever struggle with the concept and wonder if it makes any difference at all, here are three ways that you can make the most of the free communication you get each week in the bulletin.
1.) Cool Graphics - Let’s face it, most of the graphics in bulletins tends to look like clip art. We have found at Life Teen that if we gear things to look great for teens, the adults will be drawn to it as well. I have seen some youth ministries post feature articles, testimonies and photos from events to make the ministry stay alive for the parish community. Life Teen has a lot of great downloadable graphics including logos that will help draw attention to your posts in the parish bulletin – check them out at http://www.catholicyouthministry.com/download/logos-graphics
2.) Transfer Emotion - The key to great communication is to be able to transfer emotion. Share a glory story of how God is moving in Youth Ministry at your parish and always encourage the teens to get involved. I have seen some youth ministries post feature articles and testimonies. A key is to write to the teens directly, even if they may not be reading the bulletin, a parent just might hand it to them to read the part you address them directly with.
3.) Drive Parishioners To Your Website – Include a link to the youth ministry section of your website for more information. If your part of the Life Teen family you can also direct them to www.lifeteen.com for blogs and daily devotionals. If you are in a diocese where facebook is an allowed form of communication, you could include an invite to your youth ministry facebook page.
4.) Make it Fun! - It’s a big mistake to bore people with your bulletin announcements! If you are not creative ask a creative core member or teen to help you find ways to keep it fun and creative. Remember teens don’t want to start attending something that they think won’t be fun or relevant to them. The bulletin announcement might be your only shot at some teens. Don’t take short cuts just because your plate is already full and the bulletin at times seems like an afterthought or a weekly chore.
5.) Invite, Invite and Invite - The announcement should invite teens to get involved. Make youth ministry accessible for new teens to attend. List enough details so someone who knows nothing about your ministry or events can attend. Too many times, I read the announcements and it seems like they are geared to the 15 excited teens who are already attending and not to the one’s we really would like to be attending. Make sure you communicate in your bulletin to the teens you are not reaching yet.
Most of the time in ministry it’s not the big things we are doing, but the small attention to details that translate into quality comprehensive youth ministry at our parish. Parish bulletins are part of that. It’s time that we bring the same energy that the teens bring to our parish to our parish bulletin announcements – you might just change how people connect with youth ministry at your parish.