Why have announcements at all? Occasionally schedules in churches change or members need to know about critical national, international or community events. Unfortunately some congregations seem to use announcements differently, like a warm-up before the main act, as a kind of icebreaker where a pastor or worship leader demonstrates how friendly or witty he or she can be before real worship starts.
Several possibilities exist for the placement of announcements. In some churches they are given in the middle of the service just prior to the reading of the Word and the sermon. Such a placement can be jolting to the spiritual atmosphere that has already been created when the Prayer of Confession is followed by a stewardship pitch, an invitation to a local dog show, choral performance or rummage sale. Although announcements appear to be placed here in order to demonstrate that the church really is a friendly and accessible place, new people may actually be put off by lengthy notices about activities and people they know nothing about.
The Book of Common Worship recommends another option. Considering that a Reformed service typically has three major parts, Gathering, Proclamation of the Word, and Sending, it is suggested that announcements be included during the last segment, but with limitations: “announcements in corporate worship should be restricted to those that relate directly to the ongoing mission of the congregation and have relevance for all members of the worshiping community” (p. 44). Although it makes sense to provide information about the life of the church here, it is possible that this placement could short-circuit the meditative mood previously established and discourage worshipers from listening carefully to the benediction and postlude.
In the Directory for Worship a third possibility is indicated, i.e., that announcements are most appropriately made at the beginning of the service, not at the end (W-3.3301 (a); also see 2.6001 a. (1); 3.3101 (7)). The importance of notices about the annual cycles of the community or events in the church somewhere in the service is recognized, but an important caveat is given that is often ignored by congregations today. “While such events may be appropriately recognized in Christian worship, care should be taken to ensure that they do not obscure the proclamation of the gospel on the Lord’s Day” (W-3.2003).
In a comment in his blog, “Bulletin Bullets” (January 10, 2010), Donald Wilson Stake is blunt. Announcements, in his opinion, should only be at the start of the service. “They should be short and to the point … Announcements, if you must have them, work best at the beginning of the gathering of the people of God. Sharing some information about the life of the community of faith is helpful at that point. Making announcements of any kind anywhere else interrupts the flow and has the feel of a commercial break.”
The structure and sequence of the service of worship in a particular congregation are the responsibility of the pastor, with the “concurrence of the session” (W-1.4006). In this new era of flexibility in the church, what is your response as church leaders to the placement of announcements? Do they assist or hinder the purpose of worship where you currently have them, as you gather to acknowledge the presence of God in the world, respond to God’s claim of redemption in Jesus Christ and offer your lives for service to the world (W-1.1001)?