When we embarked on our Stewards of Creation year-long congregational theme in the fall, one of the significant changes we made was to our bulletin format. Based on my previous 2 years of experience at Cross of Hope, I noticed that for whole seasons, we would reused a significant amount bulletin text from week to week, as we typically select a liturgy that we would use for each liturgical season, pasting in other weekly changing material to print a new bulletin for the following week. The portion of the bulletin that included liturgical text being reused included items like the Confession & Forgiveness, Hymn of Praise, Communion Liturgy, Blessings, and other unchanging weekly worship instructions, while the elements of the bulletin that changed week to week included items like readings, prayers of the people, and hymns.
The theory was pretty simple: What if we take all of the material we reuse each week, and only print it once per season? Then the items of the bulletin that change on a weekly basis would be printed in a separate insert. Turns out this was a more complicated endeavor than the Worship and Music Table had at first anticipated. This sounded like a great idea from a paperwork standpoint, though from a worshiper standpoint (particularly from on our first of now 6 iterations of this same general idea), it originally made the worship service admittedly very hard to follow. For each new ~5 week season we solicited feedback and refined this approach to printing our worship material in our search to find the best of both worlds: less paper usage, but still easy to follow.
Today in the Season of Watershed we seem to have found an approach that is indeed this best of both worlds scenario with our ~5 week bulletin taking the form of a “micro-hymnal”, one booklet that has reusable liturgy material in the front, and all of that season’s selection of hymns in the back (with big bold, easy to follow numbers). This allows us to print just a single double-sided half sheet of paper for our weekly changing worship supplement. We weren’t so sure how it would be received when we first tried this approach in our last season of Cosmos, but it turned out people really liked it! Even many folks who had previously offered critique came back saying, that was way easier to follow than our previous approaches.
As a result, we’re still printing 40-50% less paper per season than we would if we simply printed completely new bulletins each week with no reusable component, and of course, the number of weeks that we reuse each liturgy, significantly impacts that percentage. That, in and of itself, is something to celebrate, but as it turns out, it’s not just about paper usage. As some have pointed out, trees are a renewable resource, so why bother worrying about our paper usage? Well, it’s not only about our use of this natural resources, it’s about Stewardship in a holistic sense; why use more when we could accomplish the same thing with less. As a result, we not only use less resources, we also spend less money! If you hadn’t noticed, the offices printing budget for 2017 was cut down along with many other line items that needed to be reduced. Using less paper helps us to keep that cost lower than it has been in the past. Finally, there is an aspect of this new bulletin approach that many completely overlook and that is from the perspective of our people resources. You may not realize this, but each week our bulletins are assembled, behind the scenes, by a wonderful rotating team of faithful volunteers. This micro-hymnal approach leverages the functionality of our new printer’s ability to fold and staple complete bulletins so that volunteers don’t need to. It turns out that many of our bulletin assembly volunteers love this new approach, as it results in much easier work for them.
When we began this year-long Stewards of Creation journey together, not quite knowing what the future would hold, our highest hope was that through the challenges and joys of this spiritually formative journey, we might grow together and learn how we might be even better stewards of all that God gives. As we take a step back from the paperwork, workflow, worship experience, etc. it is plain to see that this new approach to printing worship materials is not only guiding us to better stewardship of natural resources through using less paper, while still being easy to follow, but it has also guided us to being better stewards of our financial resources, better stewards of our office technology, as well as being better stewards of our invaluable human/volunteer resources. Sounds like a win, win, win, win to me.
Let us journey on faithful stewards!