When I started as Creative and Communication Director at Peachtree, the church was producing super lengthy bulletins for weekly worship, up to 24 pages long. They were the size of a university syllabus, or maybe a small town phonebook. Here’s an example of the old style.
Peachtree hired me to bring innovation in ministry, and the bulletin was a prime example.
I had come to create “a storytelling culture,” which is a cool way of saying that I was hired to bring creativity and innovation to worship and communications, using more narrative and less information-based approaches. One of the most obvious needs was the 24-page bulletin and the church’s dependency on print.
Why Peachtree was so dependent on print isn’t hard to understand. Peachtree is a stately church, part of a “high cotton” tradition with a great reputation as one of Atlanta’s finest institutions. Innovation in communication systems tend to work their way up the socio-economic ladder, with the laggards at the highest rungs, because they have the most invested in the old systems. There’s a high correlation between socio-economic status and resistance to innovation. Peachtree is no exception.
The church even has a commercial, 4-color offset press in the basement. Some of my colleagues disliked the symbolism of the press and hoped I would get rid of it or at least drastically minimize its use. I saw it not as an albatross to moving forward but an incredible asset, when used properly. However, 24-page weekly worship bulletins, which is what the church was doing, were not the way to go.
The problem was, we couldn’t kill it right away, because the congregation was dependent: it was the main way the church communicated. If we killed it, people would have no way of knowing what was going on.
First, we needed to grow other means of communication.
We ran a survey on preferred channels, or means of communication. We launched a Facebook page and grew it to 1000 likes in a few months. We installed HD projectors and permanent screens in the sanctuary. We began creating branding packages for our worship series. We revamped the church’s website. We rebuilt the dead campus hallway screen distribution network. We established priority for what gets communicated and when, so it wasn’t a free for all of competing information.
The idea was that when people were used to our new systems, most of which were digital and visual, in worship, in social media feeds, and so on, we could make the switch.
The projectors were expensive and the permanent screens in the sanctuary were controversial. But once those were in and we began using them every week, we could make the switch in the bulletins.
At the one year mark, with other systems in place, we debuted the new bulletin.
It was four pages long. Here is the first one we produced.
We got some push back, of course, and added in a few things – but without extending the length.
Here is an archive of all of them as we post them, so you can see the most current one.
One friend in Atlanta’s branding and marketing scene calls it the best looking church publication he’s ever seen.
The lesson: To make change happen, don’t kill the old thing. Introduce alternative new innovations, which once established reduce the influence of the old thing.