Mark pulled his battered golf clubs from the back seat and carried them over to Brother Vernon Bakers light blue town car.
“Pop the back, Elder. I’ll put these clubs in and we’ll get on the road.”
The elderly pastor pushed the button and the trunk snapped open. Brother Baker’s clubs were there, new and shiny, as if anticipating their day on the greens. Mark settled his clubs in beside them. It was then he noticed a church bulletin lying on the trunk deck. Curious, he picked it up and carried it to the passenger seat. Brother Baker backed out of the drive and they settled in for the twenty minute trip to the golf course. Mark studied the bulletin with interest.
“What is this, Elder? Is this your weekly bulletin? Do you do this every Sunday?”
The bulletin was two sheets of standard photocopy paper folded in half and saddle-stapled in the middle. This created a little eight-page magazine. The cover and back was in full-color. The inside pages were black and white with lots of photos and short articles. It was obvious that someone has spent considerable time designing it.
“That’s our monthly bulletin that we give to all our members. We also send it to our visitor mailing list each month. It’s a key method of staying in touch with our best prospects. We send out almost three thousand copies every month.”
Mark glanced up in surprise. “Three thousand? Every month? Wow. That must cost a lot! Why all the effort? What’s so special about your bulletin?”
“Remember me telling you about our prospect list several months back while we were out fishing? We have been building this list for years and it’s now over 8,000 names. We send the monthly bulletin to all our past visitors. If they visited our church for any reason – church services, socials, special activities or events – we send them our monthly bulletin. We have had excellent success with this.
Mark did not look convinced. “What do you mean by success? What do you get from this bulletin that a flyer or brochure would not do?”
“Flyers and invitational brochures are fine, but if you send them every month they quickly lose their effect. After a point they just toss them in the trash without a second glance. This little magazine here different. We constantly get feedback from those who get it that they look forward to it every month. And by success, I mean we get return visits. Every week we hear comments from visitors saying they read about a particular service in our bulletin. Getting your visitors back is important, Mark. Do you remember why?”
Mark nodded. “You said that in your church few receive the Holy Ghost the first time they come – I think you said less than six percent – and that most visitors come three or more times before they make their way to the altar. So if we want folks to receive the Holy Ghost we have to get them back again.”
Brother Baker nodded. “Almost 100% of our converts come from our visitors. They are the most important people in our city. We do everything we can to get them back. Do you remember the four things we do in our visitor follow-up ministry?
Mark grinned. “Sure! We try to do the same in my church. We call the visitor within 24-hours of their visit. We send them a letter within three days. We then knock on their door within seven days. Then we add them to our computer prospect list for mail-outs and invitations.”
“Exactly. And you should continue to make home visits every three or four months. The visit is the most important step in getting them to return. But we have also had great results with our monthly church magazine. It’s short, interesting, and full of photos and great articles. We have quite a following in the city that read it from cover to cover every month.”
Mark slowly flipped through the little publication. “So you go through all this trouble just to get people to read your bulletin?”
“Mark, not every visitor that comes to our church is ready to live for God. Right now, they may feel they have no need of God. But three years from now they may find out that they have a serious illness, or their child is in the hospital, or their husband loses his job, or a hundred other problems that life hands us. It’s during these times of crisis that people feel out of control and in need of God. A large percentage of people come to God during these times of crisis. We just have to be there and they have to know we care. The message they get every month in our bulletin is that we have a great church on fire for God. People’s lives are being changed and miracles are happening every day. If they need God, if they need a miracle, our church is the place to come. To get this message firmly in their hearts requires more than just the occasional flyer. This little magazine brings in visitors every week.”
“Okay, you have sold me. But how do you do this? Isn’t it a lot of work and expense?
Elder Baker shrugged. “Not as much as you might think. I have a team of four people that work together to produce it. It’s done entirely on computer using Microsoft Publisher. They write the articles and take the photos. They get it run off at the local copy shop and bundle it to be sent using non-profit bulk-rates. Our cost for three thousand is about four hundred dollars. But our church is a lot larger than yours. You would probably send out less than five hundred bulletins each month. So your cost for postage and printing would most likely be less than a hundred dollars per issue.”
Mark nodded slowly. “That’s not bad at all. And I would be targeting my very best prospects. So what do you put in this bulletin?”
“Well, as you can see, the cover masthead is our church name and logo. Under that is a flyer promoting our next big event, which this month is our Christmas cantata.
“On the inside cover is the pastor’s page. I always write a short article dealing with current events in light of the scripture. I try to target how the church is relevant to our daily lives.
“The next page is photos. We take lots of photos of a key church event and group about six of them on this page with a title and short description. This page says that we have lots of fun activities and we sure wish they could have been there.
“Page four is normally a testimony from someone that has been healed or perhaps a conversion story. We include several photos and a short write up about how their life has been changed by the power of God. We get lots of comments on this page.
“Next we have church news. As you can see, there is a short description of five or six activities that’s coming up in the near future. We add some good clipart on this page so it’s not all words.
“Page six is the most read page in the magazine. We fill it with jokes, humor and a church comic or two. People tell us they look forward to this page every month. If for no other reason, this gets them to open it up.
“Next is a page we call Diggin’ Deeper. It’s a short devotion in which we address a key aspect of salvation and Christian living. We always try to get a good title that will entice them to read it. I believe the Word can touch their heart.
“Finally, the back cover is a calendar with all church events typed into the squares. Then below that we have our mailer section that includes the return address, mailing label and bulk-rate box. So eight little pages, 8 ½ by 5 ½ in size, saddled stapled in the middle with a wafer seal on the edge. It’s our little church magazine that does a massive amount of evangelism for us. It’s worth every penny!”
Mark nodded his head and carefully looked over each page. It was a great idea. He was sure there was a lady in his church that would love to do it.
“I like this, Elder. But I think I would do a few things differently. I have always liked those ‘question and answer’ columns – you know, the ‘Dear Abby’ kind. I think I could do that on my pastor’s page and perhaps get people to send or email me questions.”
Elder Baker grinned. “Sure! That’s a great idea. We also used to do an opinion poll that was quite popular. Several times we would insert a kid’s coloring or puzzle page and would tell them to bring it to church the next Sunday for a prize. We’ve done interviews with city leaders, mission trip reports – we vary it up occasionally. People enjoy that. But the bottom line is this: Our new converts tell us that they would read this little bulletin every month and way down in their hearts they knew that, one day, they would make our church their own. Between this bulletin and our visits to their homes every three or four months, we convinced them that we loved them, that God loved them, and that God was the answer to the problems in their lives.”
“Wow! This is so cool! Can I get some back issues of your bulletin to show to my saints?” Mark asked in earnest.
Brother Baker feigned concern. “Ahhh – I don’t know about that. I don’t want you to steal all my great pastor’s columns for your magazine.”
Mark laughed. “I won’t. But if you let me borrow them I’ll give you my notes from my last Sunday’s sermon. It’s a great message and three received the Holy Ghost!”
“It’s a deal,” the elder pastor exclaimed with mock enthusiasm as he pulled into the golf course parking lot.
Mark smiled. It was going to be great day!