Rising postage costs and poor service of the U.S. Postal Service have forced religious mailers to start considering "alternative delivery methods," according to Allen C. Bradley, a church mailing expert.

Bradley, general business director of the Advocate, the newspaper of the Newark Catholic archdiocese, is the principal representative of religious Press Association and the American Service's Mailers Technical Advisory Committee.

He has been asked by Postmaster General William Bolger to join a new task force which will examine the impact of alternate delivery methods on the mail service.

Bradley said that heretofore the cost of alternative mail delivery has been too high, but that a recent inquiry has indicated these costs are going down. "I found that the gap has narrowed between the U.S. Postal Service and independent delivery," he said.

Bradley said that even before the latest postal increase in May, the mailing costs for his organization had risen by 214 percent since 1971.

Of the postal service rate increases, Bradley said: "Perhaps we could digest them if the service were there. However, it is not. We see just the oppostie, deterioration of service or in some cases, a complete lack of it."

The Catholic Press Association, Associated Church Press, Evangelical Press Association, and the American Jewish Press Association work jointly on postal matters. They have warned that soaring postal costs jeopardize the future of 700 religious publications with a combined circulation of 70 million.

Rates charges by the independent deliverers are still about twice the rates paid by religious mailers through the U.S. postal system, Bradley said. But a few years ago the independents' rates were double what they are now.

"As more [Publications] come aboard, the rates go down," he said. He noted that perhaps a dozen major commercial publishers, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, and TV Guide, now use alternate delivery for part of their mailing.