How to create Fillable PDF Files

How many readers have been frustrated at the process of downloading a terrible copy of a document, filling it out by hand, then, either mailing it or dropping it off at the church office? Yeah, it annoys me too. 

First, it is 2016 and filling anything out by hand almost throws me into fit. To help parishes create places where friends and neighbors can fall in love with Jesus, and annoy parishioners less, I found how a parish can make a fillable PDF file. 

Why is this important? Face it, anytime we have to interpret handwriting we just double the amount of time it takes complete a project. Not to mention the error rate when inputting data. That alone is a time dump.

To create a fillable PDF that allows people to type in responses we traditionally hand write, we need software. Not any software, but Adobe software Adobe Suite of Products. Adobe software is not inexpensive and does require a person to learn it. Then there is Adobe Creative Cloud which is paid monthly. 

What can a parish or Catholic school do get the services they want at an affordable price? Easy, buy what we need. I've written about Fiverr in the past and have just begun using it to create Fillabel PDF forms for different offices here at the Chancery office in Dodge City. 

Take a look at the Seminary Application, I had this fillable PDF made for our potential seminarians. Not only is this easier for applicants, it reduces office errors when using the data which is a big benefit. 

Here is one of four documents created for Prayer and Action. Student Registration. Again, these forms are a great way to for people fill in good information and even email it in when it is completed.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with Stewardship. If you think about the pillar of Hospitality, what can fall under hospitality? It is an act of hospitality to provide great convenient tools to help parishioners do what we ask of them.

Another reason this is stewardship is our time. The pillar of time and abilities asks us to stewardship our use of it. We traditionally think about the time we might spend in prayer, time we give away for things. Another way to look at the pillar of time is to ask this question, "Is it the best use of our time to spend time interpreting handwriting?" Not to mention data entry errors can be a big time waster and cause extra hassle in the office and for volunteers?

Make is a 2016 goal to create at least one form your parishioners can fill out will less hassle.

Here is a tutorial showing how to use Fiverr

Connection, Trust, and Asking, how am I doing?

I read Amanda Palmer's book "The Art of Asking". Another author I listen to and read has referenced Amanda's ideas and I have been curious. Plus, I was quite taken with her TED talk I watched quite sometime ago. The video actually summarizes the book quite well, however, you will miss why her ideas work. 

 

The book and video are about "asking" for help which seems pretty simple. What is not so simple is all the work that goes into preparing our audience, our fans, supporters.....parishioners for the ask. 

Preparing for the ask, how does that work? Let's talk about the kinds of asks in our parishes.

First, there is the financial ask. We have a need to build or buy something, tell the folks what it is, they give, the parish buys. Pretty simple. Or, there is an event and the parish needs people or things to do stuff. Again, make a case, make an invitation and boom, people and stuff. This can be slightly more difficult that asking for money but we do it routinely. 

Then there is Amanda's ask. Amanda does things a bit different. As she created her career she provided value and connection with her audience. This was done in a variety of ways but was through Twitter, her blog and other forms of digital media. It was being available to fans during live performances. It was a multitude of connections over time which allowed her fans to ultimately trust her, and she trust them.

Because this virtual relationship and connection, when Amanda was ready to ask, her audience wanted to help. Re-read the last three words of that sentence, "wanted to help". 

When it comes to weekly collections at our church do our folks "want" to help because the parish provides so much? Or do the folks give out of obligation or something else? The same could be said for volunteers. Do they want to help or is there another less noble motivation?

Amanda didn't coerce her audience, she didn't beg for support or have a big ad budget to start. She started out as a street performer as a silent living statue after all. Doesn't get much more low budget than that. No she provided value in her art and connection. 

These are the questions I ask when I go to Mass and look around at people. These are very very good people I am with on Sunday. If the parish suddenly closed would anyone miss it? If I didn't show would the parish notice? Do these people feel connected to others in the parish? Do I trust the parish to do what they tell me? Does the parish trust me?

Amanda has created a very unique movement in her industry. One worth studying. 

Connection, Trust, and Asking, how are you doing? Leave your comment in the comment box.

The number one way to beat the resistance

The Chancery staff (the folks that work for the Bishop that work for you in the Diocese) have had a habit lately of Tuesday morning prayer. Today the reading was from Ecclesiastes 7:8-10, 13-14.

One line in in the reading caught my attention as many readers get caught up in a terrible trap. Ecc 7:10 (Read the whole reading)

Do not say: How is it that former times were better than these? For it is not out of wisdom that you ask about this. 

During times of struggle, nostalgia, political campaigns, meetings at church working raise attendance, money etc. We often revert to our earliest learned behaviors. Or times when the world our world was warm, cozy, and familiar.

When the path is unknown, when our imaginations cannot see the future, it is these times when we say, "That's not way we did in the past", "We tried that once and failed", "That will never work". There a hundred reasons for an idea to not work. But they are not valid. Here is why.

For it is not out of wisdom that you ask about this. 

A nostalgia for warm cozy and familiar times in our lives exists and it is powerful! It is so powerful it keeps interesting ideas that might fail from being put in place. It why we don't get off the couch and exercise. It why our Catholic parishes are losing young people. 

Steven Pressfield in his absolutely brilliant book The War of Art names this longing for we humans to look back and yearn for the the past. Those times in our lives when things made sense, were predictable and familiar. He calls this, The Resistance. The Resistance is what keeps many of us fat and happy. It is that internal self sabotage that keeps us from doing what Matthew Kelly says "Being our best selves". Seth Godin has a brilliant narrative explaining the resistance in this short video.

The Resistance, this looking over our shoulder wishing on days go by is what is slowly, painfully, sabotaging our church. The Resistance is rooted in fear and fear is this driving force. The past is what we know. The past worked. Our brains (the Resistance) loves the tried true and familiar. 

What the Resistance hates is the unknown. Who can see the future? Not many people. It takes a very special person to paint a picture that all of use see and tell ourselves, "Yes, I'm going with her". The Resistance is why we have sin, the Resistance is why spouses divorce, the Resistance crucified Jesus. 

Here is key to overcoming the Resistance. Identify it. Name it. At your next parish council meeting and your priest tells you he wants to consult more people about your kick butt idea to entice young people to mass, lovingly tell him, "Father, the resistance is talking to you".

When you want to write that book and or start that exercise program but will wait until tomorrow, tell yourself, "the Resistance doesn't want me to start". Let the Resistance come into your life and exit without fanfare. It will be one of the most difficult things we can do. Overcoming Resistance will make the biggest difference in our lives personally. And the biggest difference in our parishes.

Post this scripture in a prominent place before a meeting and in our home. Taking chances, diving into the unfamiliar, the scary will be the greatest areas of growth for our futures. 

Do not say: How is it that former times were better than these? For it is not out of wisdom that you ask about this. 


The resistance is not wisdom. It is fear. 

What areas of resistance do you struggle with? Post your comments in the comment section. 

 

 

 

2 Simple ways to make your website user friendly

Many parishes have websites and I have two tutorials that will help you make your site more valuable for people that visit. These were specifically designed for Solutio Built website but guess what? The idea will cross about any site and email!

The first idea is to insert a link to your content. This idea is easy and FREE! It costs nothing to add a link to another idea, article, video, email address, or podcast. And, by adding a link in your content you can control where your visitors go. I'm sure you are aware there is plenty of cooky stuff on the web. 

The second idea is to add a video to you website. Video is huge and ads tons of value to your ideas. Again, you get to control and guide the conversation by providing the sources of information. As with links, videos free from sites like Youtube. One caveat, videos cannot be embedded in email the same way as a website. 

Go make a difference in your parish by adding great value to your work and to the lives you affect. 

PS -- these ideas will work on Wordpress websites and many others. Go get em.

Map vs Compass ~ What will you choose?

What we thought worked no longer works. Notice that in your parish or at your job?

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution maps have ruled our world. We all had one, it worked, we could find comfort. Typical maps (not too long ago) sounded like this. "Go to school, get good grades to get a good job to make enough money to buy stuff and save money for a comfortable retirement". "Create music, get picked up by a record label, make an album, sell lots of them, go on tour and live a celebrity lifestyle" or "Create an event at our parish, post we need volunteers, host event, turn away extra help". Or this classic, "The parish income is down, father will give a short financial report at mass, the following weeks income will be normal again".

The maps worked. But, not anymore. Going to school does not guarantee a great income or a long term job. Anyone with an Iphone and a free Youtube account can record and publish music. Church people routinely ask, "Eric, how do we get more people involved?" or "Eric, how do we raise more money?"

Ever notice when Jesus was teaching or preaching he didn't give clear instructions? He'd say stuff like “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". Huhhh? Brilliant but where is the 12 step program, the check list, instructional video. Anything that clearly states what you want brother!

The maps created and followed since the industrial revolution no longer work. Sure we can adopt a program and see results for a period of time. But what we are seeking is long term change. The mark of our lives and ministry will not be how many people showed up. Rather, how much impact did we make.

If you think about Jesus, he never worried about how many showed up. He taught from the heart, connected with people, human to human. Gave messages of hope and forgiveness. Jesus taught us by example and the life he led. Jesus didn't use a map... He used a compass.

A compass points in a singular direction no matter how we hold it. The compass does not guarantee the course will be easy. There can be mountains, trees, valleys, rivers and all sorts of obstacles but a compass says "your goal is that way". That is how Jesus taught. His goal was to honor his father and bring as many people to his father as wanted to join him. We know all the obstacles in Jesus way as he followed his goal.

This is our new path. To lead like Jesus, with a compass. Using a compass will be dangerous. We might fail, we will take all the blame if it does. The haters will hate, the doubters will doubt. To make the long term change in our parishes, to make an impact on people this is the new tool we have to use.

What will you do? Rely on a map, or use a compass?

Leave a comment in the comment box sharing how you will move forward in your parish.

Cheers,

Eric

Unpacking the stewardship day 2015, what I learned

If you missed the 2015 Stewardship Day, we certainly missed you! It was a remarkable day with record attendance of over 275 people! The day was electric and a total blast.

My goal for 2015 was to increase attendance by 20% which was exceeded. To get different results, I tried different things with marketing and digital media. Here is what I learned that can benefit your parish events. Keep in mind, I wanted different results so I was much more aggressive about trying things that might fail.

  • First, I went to the Diocesan Bulletin Corner on the diocesan website to submit a "save the date" bulletin announcement for all bulletin editors in the diocese. I asked editors to run the announcement for a month early in the spring. It's free and can be in each bulletin in the diocese. Click here to see the Bulletin Corner.
  • Second, I create an email campaign of six emails going to my email list of 245 subscribers. I use www.mailchimp.com as my bulk mail service. Each message was crafted with language to created interest, emotion and scarcity. All six emails are below with descriptions for the use of each message. I used six messages as internet marketers recommend this type of system when selling an idea or product.

Email #1 - Designed as a point of first contact. "Hey something is coming up".

Email #2 - Just as the first sentence indicates... "Just in case you missed the first message..." The chances of your message being filtered into junk mail or being missed all together is pretty high. A second contact affirms the first message.

Email #3 - The third message is totally designed to address reasons people would say "no". The biggest reason people turn down great events at our churches is time. I don't have time or, I can't stay all day. I addressed both roadblocks in this message as well as build anticipation.

Email #4 - This message serves two purposes; continue building anticipation and provide social proof. People eat at restaurants with crowded parking lots. A crowded parking tells us "that restaurant must be good". Amazon reviews, Youtube views and Facebook likes provide the same social proof. I created social proof by using comments from past conference evaluations to show readers that this conference provides value and is the place to be.

Email #5 - In this email I introduce scarcity. I wanted to readers to make a decision and telling them the deadline is coming up is one way to produce scarcity. I also reinforce the value of the conference by promoting the topics again.

Email #6 - This email is the final call to action and to let readers know that registration is closing.

Did the campaign work? I cannot tell who registered as a result of the email directly. What Mailchimp can tell me is approximately 25% or 61 people opened the messages on average. I placed links inside the messages in several places and the click through rate was 3.6% or 6 people on average clicked the link for more information. I received more feedback on this campaign than most marketing I've done to date. The first four messages scheduled a week apart on Wednesdays at times MailChimp told me the message would most likely be read. Messages 5 and 6 were scheduled on the final day of registration. One early afternoon and the final message #6 at 8 PM that evening.

  • Dave Myers, writer for the Southwest Kansas Catholic created a great ad that ran in the Diocesan newspaper.
  • A short promotional video was created in June and placed on the diocesan Youtube channel. This video also went out in a teaser email, was place on the stewardship website, and ran in the monthly notes for all priests to see. The video received 199 views.
  • A targeted Facebook Add was ran for seven days. Why an add? Organic reach for Facebook Pages, such as the Diocese facebook page, no longer works. Plus, I wanted to target a specific group of people which Facebook is excellent for. The target groups was women, 30-55 who lived within a 25 mile radius of towns in our Diocese. That gave me the very good coverage. I would have selected Catholic women but that only works if a person identifies their self as Catholic. In my research I did not find a Catholic identifier among women I know to be Catholic. I excluded men as women have greater attendance than men.

Did the ad work? Well, sort of. I accomplished one goal which was to get the Conference information in front of more eyes. Mission accomplished. I know 216 people interacted with the add. There were Likes and Shares which helps the message spread organically (no cost)...Bonus. My present technology limits my ability to see who clicked through and landed on the registration page. A Facebook tracking pixel embedded on our website would allow me to see how many people clicked through. But, I started the process late and had no time to figure how to do it.

  • A Facebook event was created the same day the Add went live. They are two separate things. The event will go into the newsfeed of all the people who "like" the Page. Four people responded that would attend. What is nice about an event is I can see who responds which is a great way to track and see what works.

Did the Facebook event work? Not really but it didn't hurt. It was free and simple to create. Plus, it did create a bit of awareness and reinforced all the other marketing efforts.

  • Annually I send out an invitation from Bishop and trifold brochure for the conference to approximately 3,000 people I have in a data base. This process is 100% frustrating as most of this mail goes in the trash IMO. This year I worked with Coleen Stein to rework this piece. I chose to make an 8 1/2" x 5 1/2" post card using heavy card stock that used feminine language and more images. The goal was to present the day as a relaxing journey oriented to appeal to our target audience. The art work for the post card was created at www.fiverr.com

Did the postcard work? I really have no way of knowing. Although, I did not have 6,000 sheets of paper folded and 3,000 envelopes stuffed. My attitude was much better. Win for me. Effectiveness questionable...

Did it work? Win. Win. The take away here is to give people a bit of ownership in an event and they will naturally spread the event around.

A few statistics from the evaluations. I asked "How did you hear about the conference?" on the evaluation. I forgot to mention to the audience I wanted them to fill out the evaluation plus this specific question. The results are not representative but still interesting.

Number of people who responded: 22 of 275+
Email Bulletin Facebook Priest Youtube Family Friend Postcard
19 16 1 3 0 2 1 1

 

Where do we go from here? I took time to post this for ministers in this Diocese to see what can/could work in your parish. If you have any questions about the practices I used, please post a comment in the comment box. I am happy to elaborate. One thing to keep in mind as you consider all this content, not everything here will work for you. Some practices may be wrong for marketing your events or ideas. But please consider what could be tried to expand your efforts.

Peace, Eric

Use web services to simply parish work

Simplify church work by using the internet. For a couple years I have been using Fiverr.com personally and professionally for a couple years and it is freaking AWESOME. The way it works is this, figure out what kind of job that is wanted done (virtually anything can be done on). Go to Fiverr.com and search for someone to do that task. Hire them, give them the details, wait for the work to be done. Here is a short list of work I have hired freelance workers to do for me:

  • Flyers
  • Video Intro/Outros
  • Copy Writing
  • SEO research
  • Web site analysis
  • Transcription
  • Graphic art work (a lot of this)

Not every job has been a home run. But, for $5 I can afford do overs.

Check out the video below where I demonstrate how to use Fiverr.com.

Please post your comments and questions.

Catholic Habits - Not the kind your wear

To be perfectly fair to the Catholic Church, we have done a great job creating very good habits for many people.

Example 1
Cue It’s Sunday or Saturday night
Routine Go to Mass
Reward Eucharist/Obligation/See Friends/Grace it varies from person to person but you get the idea
Example 2
Cue 4 AM Tuesday Morning
Routine Go to adoration
Reward one uninterrupted hour with Jesus
Example 3
Cue Meal time
Routine Dinner Prayer
Reward
Example 4
Cue Lent
Routine Abstain from meat on Fridays
Reward Church Unity

Our habits as one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church run far, wide, and deep. But what habits at our local parish can be added or deleted?

In my travels across the diocese of Dodge City and work in other places, a bad habit many parishes are noted for is hospitality, rather, lack of. It stems from the parking lot to our websites. For many parishes we simply do not have a reputation of hospitality.

With all we have learned in this series, could hospitality become a habit? Moreover, could hospitality be our keystone habit?

In an interview Pastor and author Andy Stanley had with author of the Power of Habit Charles Duhigg, Andy asks the question, how do we uncover our organizations keystone habit? The response is this: “Find the changes that should be easy to do but we shy away from.” Listen the full interview here

In Andy’s churches case, his church leadership wanted to be an inviting church. To have each church member invite people to their services and events. This should be an easy task but they found it to be hard. Something the leadership and parishioners shied away from. Through a series of leadership meetings they uncovered three cues parishioners should listen for when visiting friends and even strangers. When the parishioners heard the cue, their routine was to invite that person to the church.

The result was staggering. Once the parishioners were given specific cues to act on and the routine to invite, over time a habit of invitation was created. When parishioners heard one of the three cues the invitation response was automatic. The church grew and the parishioners had the reward of helping it grow plus helping people meet Jesus.

Back to hospitality, what if each parish discerned specific cues to listen for, then, a specific action (routine) to follow the cue. Then taught this to the entire parish? What affect do you reckon would happen?

Hospitality the word carries default baggage of coffee and doughnuts and door greeters. What if we said, “When you see a person who is frowning (the cue), say hello, shake their hand and thank them for being at Mass (the routine)”. That is not a difficult set of actions but I can tell you I don’t do this.

Would this be the habit that has a disproportionate affect on the rest of the parish?

I regret to leave this series with more questions than answers as I come to a close. However, the four pillars of stewardship begin with Hospitality. Bishop John’s short definition of Hospitality is “I love my neighbor”.

What act of hospitality in each parish in the diocese of Dodge City could tell each person "I am Loved?" and be the habit that breaths life into our Church that is needed? A task we should pray for and act on.

You know have the tools to figure it out. You have science, resources, links to info graphics, interviews, and lectures in your hands. You have the power of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Saints to guide the process.

Will we be bold enough act? Take what you have learned and make a difference in your life. Then make a difference in the life your parish.

Thanks for reading this series, please leave a comment in the comment box.

Rick Warren made Discipleship a Habit in His New Church

It might be odd to highlight a protestant pastor and church in a Catholic blog. Not really so odd when we use what in happened in Saddleback California as a case study

Before we get to the Power of Habit in organizations, there is one more powerful concept worth noting, the Keystone habit.

For specific information regarding keystone habits, check out this great podcast with author and Pastor Andy Stanely and Charles Duhigg, author of the Power of Habit. Listen here

A keystone habit is that habit that has a disproportionate impact on a person or the culture of an organization. For example, exercise is a keystone habit. People that begin an exercise regimen of some sort will experience positive changes in other areas of their life. Regular exercisers (even as little as one time a week!) notice a combination of the following: their eating habits and cravings change, they eat less bad food, they spend less on credit cards, they feel better about themselves, they are happier, less stressed and are less hostile. All these benefits are a result of adding one good habit. This is what makes this habit a keystone habit.

Keystone habits exist for organizations as well. Paul O’Neill, new chief executive for Alcoa Aluminum made Alcoa one of the safest places in the world to work with a capitalization of 27 billion while he ran the company. Within one year of running the company Alcoa’s income hit a record high. Read the whole story here. O’Neill accomplished all this by focusing on one thing, safety. Safety became Alcoa’s keystone habit. With laser like focus throughout the company safety was priority #1. And the results speak for themselves. Do read the whole story for context.

Likewise, in 1979 a young pastor began a church in the Saddleback Valley of California. Over the years of growth Pastor Rick Warren discovered he and his pastors could not properly attend a congregation of 20,000 parishioners and set forth to build people in small groups. To avoid small groups becoming nothing more than coffee clubs he created a curriculum teaching parishioners new habits.

“If you want to have Christ-like character, then you just develop the habits that Christ had," one of Saddleback's course manuals reads. "All of us are simply a bundle of habits. … Our goal is to help you replace some bad habits with some good habits that will help you grow in Christ's likeness." Every Saddleback member is asked to sign a "maturity covenant card" promising to adhere to three habits: daily quiet time for reflection and prayer, tithing 10 percent of their income, and membership in a small group. Giving everyone new habits has become a focus of the church.

"Once we do that, the responsibility for spiritual growth is no longer with me, it's with you. We've given you a recipe," Warren told me. "We don't have to guide you, because you're guiding yourself. These habits become a new self-identity, and, at that point, we just need to support you and get out of your way."

There are two key concepts presented here. One, keystone habits have deep effects in the life of an organization. Two, churches can harness the power of keystone habits to help parishioners become disciples.

In the next article we tie all of what we have learned together to help you make your parish a place where your friends and neighbors fall in love with Jesus.

Leave a comment in the comment box and share this with your friends.

Eric

You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks? Yes you can..

Without insulting serious addiction, there is good cause to believe that some addictions are not addictions, rather habits.

For years I was a saltaholic. Added salt to everything from steak to french-fries to salad was very normal for me. I mean, who doesn’t add salt to french-fries? People with high blood pressure or pre-hypertension that’s who… Yep, at the ripe age of 37 the signs hypertension began to show up. Hypertension runs in my family as I discovered so it was a matter of time that I would have to be treated for it in some fashion.

But at 37! Surely I could change what I was doing to avoid prescription meds. Thus, it was time to break bad habits.

First, how does a habit work? For every habit there is a cue, a reward, and a routine. The cue sets off a series of behaviors that ultimately looks like this. A mother makes a vow to not eat out to help the family budget. But what happens? On the way home, like most days, she drives by McDonalds. She is a bit stressed and the kids have lost their minds. Plus, it is supper time. The cue, wigged out kids. The routine? Hit the drive through, drop $30 and head home. An hour later, regrets having ate out and wrecked her budget again.

For me and salt the cue was…eating food. The routine, setting at the table, organizing my plate and grabbing the salt shaker. The reward, the flavor and using the salt shaker.

See the "How to change a habit" flow chart

How do we break these habits? Obviously some habits are easier to break than others. In the case of the stressed out mother, she could simply take a different route home to avoid the site of the golden arches or other fast food joints. In addition, she could keep bags of crackers in the car and pass them around to the kids. The kids may still act goofy but the crackers may quiet them down a little on the way home.

In my case the habit was a bit harder to break. No matter where I go I gotta eat and salt is everywhere. I figured out my triggers, routine and reward. Eating and using copious amounts of salt as soon as I sat down. The reward was the taste and physical act of adding the salt. To break this habit loop I did a couple things. 1, quit putting a salt shaker in on the table or moving one away if it was within easy reach when dining out. 2, I bought Mrs. Dash, not the same thing I know but it does add flavor to food and it gave the satisfaction (aka reward) of shaking something on my food.

Over time my craving for salt disappeared. Plus I quit using Mrs. Dash as that reward was no longer a neccessary. As it turned out, staying off high blood pressure meds became the reward and that keeps me off salt to this day. Side note, my pallet is very sensitive to salt now. There are some foods I avoid all together now due to being too salty.

From these examples we can see that in fact we can teach old dogs new tricks. Even when we are the old dog.

In the next entry in our series we will explore how to instill new habits. Often we know what we need to do but do not have the tools to move forward. For another even more succinct version to learn how to break habits, check out Charles Duhigg’s video where he explains how he broke a cookie habit and lost 12 pounds. See it here, watch the video now

I got home and I don't remember how - what I learned

Part 1 in a Series

I can recall at least four times I have said “I will stop by the store on my way home for lunch”, only to end up in my drive way thinking, “Crud, I wanted to stop by the store on my way home”. What happened? At 12 PM my lunch routine started and my brain went into auto pilot. I grabbed my keys, got into my car, turned on music, I left the parking lot, turned on Central, slowed down for the rough crossing at Comanche street, waited for the light at Soule Street, missed the red at 6th and turned on Hart then my driveway.

What I am describing is a habit. According to researcher Wendy Wood, she monitored people’s daily behavior and found that 45% of the decisions we make are actually habits. They’re not really decisions and from that, we know that every habit happens at a kind of border: It’s a decision we made at some point but then stopped making and continued acting on. Read the full story in Time Magazine

In this series I will explore how we can change Catholic habits (not the kind you get by taking vows) and use them to make the Church a place where friends and neighbors fall in love with Jesus.

Our brains are wired up to crave habits. It takes less mental muster to accomplish routine tasks. That is why rote prayers are so wonderful in times of stress. At the loss of a loved one or after a car accident we do not have to think about the words when we need Jesus, Mary or one of the Saints. With our friends and family we can say a Rosary and be united. Our brains, not to mention our hearts, can divert our energy to other tasks versus thinking about what to say. To read more about how our brains work with habits read, The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

In my story about the failed attempt at an errand I wanted to do over lunch, I told my experience about one of hundreds of habits that you and I have on any given day. The route we take to work, the foods we eat…or don’t eat, where we set at church, programs we watch, money we spend or save. Hundreds of little decisions we chose at one time and act upon without even thinking.

If in doubt about how powerful habits can be, check out how TARGET, the retail store, uses our buying habits to sell us stuff. This is definitely three minutes worth watching.

Imagine the power of people and faith we could unlock by helping people change their habits. In this series I will cover:

How to break a habit

How to add a habit

Institutional Habits – Church habits

These articles will be brief and packed with links to more information for further study. The basics concepts will be out lined in an easy to ready format.

At the end of this series, you will have the knowledge to not only change your parish, but also your life.

Thanks so much for reading and share this with your friends. Leave comments in the in the comment box to start a great discussion.

Eric

Making a New Habit in 3 Steps

In the last blog post I discussed and showed how to break a habit. Just in case it was missed, read it here. We discussed the habit loop which consists of a cue, reward, and a routine. Ultimately pattern of behaviors we do on auto pilot. Recall the story of breaking my salt habit.

Creating a habit is very much akin to breaking a habit. The difference is switching from an undesirable habit to a habit we want in our lives.

When I broke my salt habit that was the first step I took ensure I would stay of meds for high blood pressure. It was six years later I began adding routine exercise to my regimen. What initially kicked that off was a friend who asked me:

Mike -“Eric, have you heard of P90X”

Me - “No, what is it?”

Mike - “According to my buddy it is a major *** kicking but guarantees results in 90 days.”

Me - “Ummmm, Ok let’s do it”

I bet $100 most people start out what is thought to be a new habit this way. We sign up for a gym membership or open a special saving account for a vacation and in short order abandon the pursuit all together because we go about it all wrong.

To start my workout habit with Mike and Claire we unknowingly followed the habit loop.

  1. The Cue: The three of would meet at 5:30 AM on week days at the National Guard Armory. I set out my workout cloths the night before to make it easier to show up. Another cue.
  2. The Reward: My reward was I could have a beer each night I worked out in the morning. OK not very altruistic but your rewards will work for you and mine for me.
  3. The Routine: Meet Mike and Claire and workout, have a beer only if I made the work out. 90 days later be in better health

This 90 day habit worked and has subsequently morphed into a five year long routine of exercise. The ultimate reward for all this work is I am still not on high blood pressure meds, I am in the best shape of my life, I have more energy than my peers and I sleep like a baby. Plus I ran my first ½ Marathon this year and rocked it. Is it easy? NO! There are days on a long run I wonder, “why am I out here, this is dumb”. But the reward makes it worth it.

Let’s review the habit loop again:

Decide the habit to be created.

1. Create the trigger or cue: What time will this habit occur? Who will you be with? Where will you be? What will you just have finished? What emotion will you be feeling? Only one of these cues are needed but more can be present.

2. What is the reward: What will you give yourself for the behavior? Do I actually enjoy the behavior?

3. Routine: When (cue) , I will (routine) because it provides me with (reward).

Post your plan where you will see it and it will likely become automatic. See the How to "create a habit" flow chart

I mentioned at the beginning it is common for all of this to fail. Remember that new piece of exercise equipment that morphed into an expensive cloths hanger? Here are some strategies to avoid crashing your plan.

You may need to experiment with the reward. Since we are new to creating good habits we may not choose the right reward for our behavior. The reward needs to be lucrative enough that we want to get off the couch and exercise more than set on it with a bag of chips watching another rerun of Friends. It may take a bit of experimenting to get the reward right.

While creating this habit and even after the habit exists we may fall off the wagon so to speak. For example, we create a new prayer routine and life happens and you miss a week, or two days in a row etc. It would be very easy to say, “Forget it, this is not working”. Or the prayer routine does not go well for several days in a row and we throw in the towel.

Some of the best advice I have read when these circumstances, and they will happen, comes from fitness expert Tony Horton: “Stop beating yourself up if you can't sustain and/or maintain your "perfect" plan. It's okay to miss a workout once in1 a while. It doesn't mean that your process has gone to hell in a handcart. It doesn't mean you have to start over. Life happens. Priorities shift. So what? Big deal. Just start up where you left off.” Read the whole article here

With any new habit I have created I have followed this advice to the letter. And this is the hardest advice I have tried to follow. When I began running I would have four great runs in row, then the fifth run would totally bomb. Breathing was not right, had to take walking breaks, knees hurt, all on a route I ran two days before perfectly. The exact same time and route was a total fail! Why? Life happens. Then there would be days that for one reason or another I missed runs. Rather than whine about a bad or missed run I took great effort to brush it off and chalk it up to life happening and go out again.

That key ingredient of not beating myself up has kept me going each time I put on my shoes. For another resource to help you create any habit listen to Tony. Remember, this philosophy can be applied to ANY habit, not just fitness.

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments and questions. In the next blog post I will explain how companies, churches, and schools have habits. And we can take what we know and change our parishes for the better with new habits.

I go to McDonalds...for the wifi

For the last few years I have made fast food joints the devil in my mind. Making these places out to be evil helps me stay out of them. No they are not really evil places it is only a Jedi mind trick I play on myself to stay healthy and off high blood pressure meds.

That being said, if I am traveling solo somewhere I end up in...McDonalds and yes eat there. My motivation is to get the free wifi. No matter where I go I can count on Micky D to free up my data plan. Plus I can whip out my laptop and work, serf, or anything else I want. I LOVE free wifi.

On my last work trip I had a bit of extra time time to kill so bellied up to a burger and wifi at the Garden City Golden Arches. As I sat there checking email and my Facebook status I wondered how this experience of free wifi and McDonalds would work as a metaphor for our Catholic Churches.

At first my mind wondered over to the Eucharist. My love/hate relationship with fast food could be akin to church/Eucharist. I love free wifi/avoid fast food. Then you have a number of people that love the Eucharist but don't like church.

That works but is not what is on my heart. There has to be more to this than that simple analogy.

Then I asked "what is our Catholic Parishes wifi?" What do we offer people that is so irresistible people show up despite hesitation. McDonald's offers people like me that avoid the food...wifi.

I will tolerate the food in order to get what I really want which is unabated internet access. SCORE!

What is our wifi? What do we offer Catholics whose relationship to Church is similar to my relationship to fast food? We could say Jesus Christ in the Eucharist which for the committed Catholics would be true. But what about the group of Catholics that do not believe in the real presence? What about the group that had a bad experience in the Church? What about the group that identifies themselves as spiritual but not religious?

We have a great opportunity to think different about ministry and what it means to be Church. Our core work, providing the sacraments and catechesis, will not change. But everything in between those two points can. It can include but is not limited to how we communicate, small group opportunities, community, outreach, mission work, relationship and on and on.

For the Catholics and other Christians we want to evangelize too, it is no longer good enough to get them involved. What is better is to add value to their lives by showing we, as Jesus representatives, we care. We care so much we will listen and walk with them. Help them on a journey of meaning to our Lord by accepting them where they are and lovingly bring them to understanding.

This begins with answering, what is our wifi?

Please leave a comment and share this with your friends. Eric

Tips to avoid a dumb story and when to have a good story at Mass

Your stewardship council recruited 2 couples and a single person to share their faith story with the parish. They took the outlines and other resources and have crafted a story for the parish. They dutifully give the story and it totally bombs! What the heck?

If this has not happened at your parish it will. But! There are ways to avoid a bad lay witness talk in both content, and delivery. Plus get more bang from the story buck.

Video #4 in the Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal are designed to help a parish look good and the story teller look and sound great. We will also uncover ways to get the story deep into the parish for maximum affect.

Watch this video then share it with your friends

Tips for Kids and Teens sharing their stories during stewardship renewal

Ever thought of using kids as lay witnesses? We should for several reasons:

  • It gives teens (especially) a meaningful way to contribute to the parish
  • Often times children are not jaded by life and have an innocent way of speaking about Jesus
  • Their enthusiasm can be infection
  • Get the kids...get the parents
  • Kids are darn cute

Really though, a good portion of our parish isn't old enough to vote but they do have a story to tell. We need to hear how Jesus helps these people at the stage of life they are in. From exams and sports teams to the death of relative, divorce....you name it our young people have something to share.

In the final video in our series titled "The Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal", learn how to have kids and teens share a faith story of stewardship through a live interview process and a traditional story.

How to over come..."I'm not a good Catholic" syndrome

For well intentioned ministers in parishes or stewardship council ministers, the easiest part of the lay witness process is identifying candidates. The hard part is getting them to yes.

This happened just this year to me. My priest invited my a married couple who are friends of mine. My buddy called me and asked me what this lay witness thing is all about and followed up promptly with. "Eric, I'm not the holiest Catholic and I don't think I have much to share. My wife has more to share than I do". Subsequently they declined the invitation.

This is a very common reply. We see gifts that are all stewardship in the people we worship with. The problem is these same people cannot see them or place little value on them. Aaaaaahhhhhh!. This is so frustrating!

Video 3 in this series is designed to help you overcome the "I'm not holy enough" syndrome. Plus, I mention a couple resources to help you help your candidates write a story. This episode is content rich and designed to help you get people to yes.

Click the links below for resources for writing a story:

 

 

Thanks for watching, Eric

Let me think about it, I'll call you

I walk through home shows and different events and I make eye contact with a salesman of sort. It is the kind of eye contact where the polite side of me says, "OK I'll listen to the spiel and be on my way". When said salesman is doe a normal reply I might give is "Thanks, that is interesting, I'll call you", or "Let me think about it and I'll get back to you". Translation: "Not only no but heck no am I calling you, I only listened to be polite".

This is a common experience when inviting lay witnesses to share their faith story with the parish. We are at home minding our own business and we get the call for the pitch: "Blah blah at our stewardship renewal". Us: "wow thanks we are honored you asked, let me talk to my husband and I'll get back to you". Translation: "Thanks for the invite church person, but I am not going to mention this to my husband and will forget you called in two seconds".

I may be exaggerating a little but I am closer to the truth than we would like to admit. The trouble we have recruiting lay witnesses is we don't ask well. Our questions are vague, language too big, and often we don't consider where the other person is spiritually. This is a recipe for disaster we repeat over and over in our parishes. It is time to start over.

Video #2 in our Series, "The Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal", is designed to give practical steps to help our friends and neighbors say yes to an invitation to share their story. Plus, give helpful tips to ask as well.

When you are done watching, leave a comment of your experience that went well...or not so much.

Thanks for watching, Eric

How does a piranha live for 30 years?

I remember at mission when I was kid. The priest was from the U.S. but had been serving people from Venezuela or some remote place in South America. I do not recall his name but recall very well his story of the piranha down to the accent he used when he said that word. He related the way a piranha devours it's pray to the way sin can consume us. What is interesting about this story is that....IT WAS OVER 30 Years ago I heard it.

That is the power people visiting with people can have.

In stewardship renewal, a part of that systematic effort is to have lay witnesses share their story of stewardship with the parish. The problem with lay witnesses is that it is a monumental pain the...yeah... to get our parishioners to give a talk. Much less a good one.

To help you create a parish where friends and neighbors can fall in love with Jesus I created a 5 part video series titled, The Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal. People sharing faith stories with people can be very powerful. Think about it, when we make almost any decision from the purchase of a car or where is the best restaurant we ask our friends. We check Amazon reviews, Yelp and other places to see what others experience with this and that. Then we make our decision to buy, believe, or verify what is happening in our own lives.

A lay witness provides a similar experience for the people in the pews. "Jesus showed me the way when...", "I met my wife at the church social on...", "Adoration made a difference in my life because...".

Our stories share real experience by real people. This helps the rest of us grasp the awesome power of our Lord. But we don't tell stories leaving so many disconnected from Jesus. This video series is designed to help you bring those faith stories to the parish in simple easy to understand methods. Plus, you will learn how to ask, get people to yes, and help them create an amazing story designed to help people fall in love with Jesus.

Gen Y will come to Church, Here is How to Get em back

In the 2013 and 2014 Bishop Brungardt hosted a series of dinners for small groups of random people across the diocese. The dinners were held in big towns, small towns, in all four corners and places in between in both Spanish and English.

The Goal was to see what is on the minds of the people in the pews. Each person was invited to share their hopes and dreams on note cards which I later organized to see what concerns, hopes are rising to the top. This would go on to help Bishop Brungardt prioritize his ministry.

Not counting the need for more Priests, that hope was echoed every place we went across all languages, three other topics emerged in each location and again in both Spanish and English.

 

  • Cultural Unity
  • How do we get fallen away Catholics back
  • How do we keep youth/young adults in the faith?

 

Regarding #3, “How do we keep youth/young adults in the faith”, I read an article in a blog by Fast Company titled A MILLENNIA’S VERSION OF "THE AMERICAN DREAM" GEN-Y HASN'T BOUGHT INTO THE DREAM OF BIG HOUSES AND FANCY CARS. SO HOW DO YOU SELL TO THEIR DEMOGRAPHIC? FIRST THINGS FIRST, FORGET WHAT YOU KNEW.

After reading this article I immediately thought, “the 20 somethings are not the consumers my generation is and they still don’t come to church". "After all, aren’t the isms such as consumerism the driving factor why the 40ish something group don’t come to church?" If consumerism is not the reason Gen Y skips out then it is back to the drawing board.

The article explains four ways to sell stuff to Gen Y. We in parish life do not sell stuff, rather, promote a life in Jesus Christ. Below I take the four instructions companies use to sell stuff and reverse engineered them so parishes can help Gen Y see Jesus in us and grow in the relationship with him.

Flexibility – It is safe to say that Gen Y was not raised the way I was or as generations before. It is not all bad, it is not all good. It just is. Therefore we in church need to accept these people as they are where they are with no expectation their faith life will look like our own. Does Gen Y need to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet and pray the Rosary with regularity? Sure it would be nice but that is only two ways to pray. Exposing this group of people to a variety of ways to pray would be better and help them find what works best for them. Think flexible.

Vision – Why does a parish exist? Why does ministry in our parish exist? I firmly believe that a person whose relationship to Jesus, Mass, and Eucharist is flimsy, those wonderful things about our faith will not be enough to get them through our doors. Especially, if lack luster hospitality, poor music and preaching exist. Asking "why" is important so Gen Y can see the parish vision. The function of the parish in more than a series of motions on Saturday night and Sunday morning. The parish needs to show that the values it holds are bigger than it’s self.

Legacy – Many reading this grew up with this notion: Go to school and get good grades so we can go to a good college to get good job to save money for retirement and on and on. This whole idea is being abandoned by Gen Y. As a group, Gen Y needs more than good grades, money, and retirement at the end of the day. They are on a mission and want their lives to stand for more than traditional results of a life lived. A parish should help Gen Y create their legacy. Whether it is missionary work overseas, here at home, or creating a brand new ministry, this group is legacy driven. Help them create it. (Pssst, this idea works with other age groups too)

Connection – “we also value connecting to each other and the world around us. From Instagram to Snapchat to WhatsApp, millennials are hungry for new and innovative ways to keep in touch, see things in a new way, and share what’s important to them.” It is so true it is cliché, Gen Y is connected and the phones are at the ready….all the time. Each parish should discern how it uses the varieties of communication to speak to and allow others to speak back. Except for practical matters, it seems that most parish communication is one way. Gen Y needs a method to interact with their church in a valuable way. An area to test ideas even flawed ideas, as they search for meaning and wrestle with challenging aspects of Jesus teaching.

This group can be brought into the life of Jesus but it will take devoted and creative leadership. This group has much to offer the world if we speak their language.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think. The best conversations happen after the article.

Eric

Diocese of Dodge City


910 Central PO Box 137 Dodge City, KS 67801 | 620-227-1500

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