Inspiring Parish Bulletins – Pt. 3: Practical Tools from a Pro

I was so impressed by Eden Prarie’s Pax Christi parish communications staffer-extraordinaire, that this week’s post is devoted entirely to her professional approach to parish communications — and how your parish or ministry can benefit!

Melissa Nault is the Communications Specialist for Pax Christi, and that title is fitting: 20+ years in graphic design, and 10+ years with the parish. Her responsibility is to provide creative services for the parish: “Logo design, posters, flyers, books, ads, ….you name it,” she says.

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Having also worked within the corporate communications and advertising environments, I can immediately recognize a pro like Melissa, because she won’t settle for ‘just OK’.

She told me right off the bat, “Every two years, I like to redesign the website and bulletin to keep it fresh.” That’s someone who holds herself to high standards.

Speaking of standards, Melissa has applied her knowledge and experience to her parish’s creative needs. “I come from the corporate world, so I bring with it ‘guidelines.'”

She has devised procedures and documents that allow her to provide the best creative services possible, amidst a growing and varied workload.

The best part? She’s sharing some of these tools with you!

A Parish Creative Staffer’s Toolbox

Melissa’s typical workflow begins with a parish event: “For each event, I require staff to complete a marketing event form. This gets the ball rolling leading to info for the weekly eNEWS, slide announcements at Mass, announcements on flat screen monitors around our building, social media, web/online registration, etc.”

For particular pieces, such as a worship aid, sign or poster, the responsible party will submit a Creative Services Request Form to Melissa. This handy document allows the parish ministry or leader to indicate exactly what Melissa needs to know about the desired piece.

Sample from the Pax Christi Communications & Style Guide, indicating exactly what color red their parish branding should use

What’s my favorite tool that Melissa is sharing with us today? Hands down: the Parish Communications & Style Guide. If you’re unfamiliar with style guides, I highly recommend reading this piece by Cameron Chapman. Style guides are standard procedure in any brand’s marketing materials, but I have (unfortunately) never seen one for a Catholic parish!

Since today’s blog post is, in fact, part of an Inspiring Parish Bulletins series, check out pages 16-18 of the Style Guide regarding the bulletin. (There’s even an instruction to use the Oxford comma! Bravo.)

Finally, get an overall ‘Big Picture’ view of Melissa’s projects and how they begin by browsing her simple Job Flow Chart. This is something any parish can create, and will help define an individual staff member’s responsibilities — thus reducing that classic parish dance move, “Stepping On Each Other’s Toes”.

Lest anyone dismiss Pax Christi’s emphasis on professional standards as unfitting for a parish (ie. Parishes don’t sell products! What is marketing procedure doing in a parish office??)… let’s consider the general state of parish communications. I can’t be the only Catholic who has volunteered or worked behind-the-scenes and has seen any of the following:

  • Confusion due to a vague or poorly-written bulletin announcement
  • Poor event attendance due to lack of planning and (appealing) promotional efforts
  • Ill-will generated between parish volunteers because Guy Who Volunteered to Make the Posters forgot a detail
  • Wasted staff / volunteer energy, time, and resources because one or both parties involved in a project made assumptions about what was needed

These are just a few scenarios; I’m sure you have your own! The point is: When parishes lack boundaries, guidelines, or procedures for communication projects — whether the weekly bulletin or Facebook page — there exists a higher risk of disappointment, confusion, frustration, stress, and wasted resources.

Melissa’s tools empower both the parish communications staff member and the individual parish ministry leader (etc.), because these tools allow both parties to communicate clearly with one another, and put both their sets of talents to proper use. Many thanks to Melissa for so generously sharing her ‘toolbox’ with us!

NEXT WEEK: Look forward to some insights on the bulletin, communications and stewardship, from Max Colas — Director of Marketing and Communications for Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Hoboken, NJ.

I’m so excited to share these stories with you. Please share your thoughts — I’d love to hear from you! – Angela



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