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ICSC Region IX Stewardship Conference April 21, 2017
Check out the great content from previous conferences here

A couple things we can learn from a Spartan Race

Are you aware of a Spartan Race? A Spartan race is a 5k or more race with series of obstacles in it. This kind of race is not particularly unusual for adventures in the great outdoors. The difference in a Spartan race is each obstacle that is missed requires each participant to do 30 burpees. Not just any burpee either. A full pushup burpee

I did a Spartan Race at Fort Carson Colorado a few years ago it was a 5 miles race with 25 military obstacles. I ended up doing 90 burpees because I couldn't chuck a spear, throw a dummy grenade in a barrel, or climb this silly rock wall looking thing. 

Why would I participate in a race that was the equivalent of a muddy butt kicking? No one made me do it. There was no grand prize for completing it. Plus, I had to pay a $100 to participate (I was late signing up). What gives?

Part of the answer can be explained in this video with author Steven Pressfield and the creator of the Spartan Race. What comes out in the video is the idea that creating something difficult is its own reward. Not difficulty by legislation, difficulty that is chosen. When the free will we have is exercised to overcome a challenge, we are changed over time. 

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about difficulty in his book David and Goliath as well. Researchers conducted an experiment to raise test scores on an already difficult test. Here is what the researchers found. By making the test a little harder, test scores went up. See a full excerpt of the story here.

How did the researchers make the test more difficult? They made the font a little more difficult to read. This caused students to focus more, to slow down, to take extra time concentrating on the problem. 

This is why Lent and some pilgrimages work so well. There are people that will make a pilgrimage on their knees in homage to a variety of Saints. We join together each Lent to sacrifice a good thing or take up a ritual as an observance. 

Do we really need to walk on our knees for a pilgrimage? Is there a "rule" or protocol for this experience? Do we have to give something up for Lent? Sure we have specific days for fasting but outside of those days is more required? No.

Why does this work? Just like a Spartan race or hard exam made a little harder, many times we choose out of free will to do difficult things. Because it is difficult comes the reward when crossing the finish line. Challenging mind body and spirit to over come what seems overwhelming is a huge reward in and of itself. When these events are a little harder we are required to focus more, concentrate and work harder. 

Like the race or Lent, these are group activities performed as part of a larger community. We have shared experience and a common language born out of the activities.

I've been pondering the idea that we Catholics are not challenged enough. Not challenged with red tape and layers of regulation designed to make folks who want the easy way out perform. No, a real challenge designed to tap into the spirit. To move free will from a sedentary state to one that is alive and vibrant. 

Perhaps it time to challenge the people in the pews into choosing a religious Spartan race of sorts. It works during Lent.

Why RCIA ministry is overwhelming — and what to do about it

Reblogged with Permission by Nick Wagner. Visit Nick's blog at Team RCIA 

This great article is pointed at RCIA ministers. But, this information is timeless for all of us who steward our time. 

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAThe number-one reason RCIA ministry is so overwhelming is our inability to say no.

I’ll bet you thought I was going to say lack of volunteers. Sure, more volunteers will help. But I once encountered a parish that had 35 members on its RCIA team. And they all felt overwhelmed.

The truth is, no matter how much or how little help we have, many of us never seem to get out from under all our obligations. The only solution is to start saying no.

Why we can’t say no

Saying no used to be really hard for me. But I got over it. I had to. I was missing out on spending time on things that really mattered to me. I was spending so much time on what other people thought was important, my own priorities got little attention.

If you’re like me, it’s probably hard to say no for some of these reasons:

  • 1. You don’t want to be rude
  • 2. You like the attention you get from saying yes
  • 3. You worry the project won’t get done if you don’t do it
  • 4. You worry the project won’t be done right if you don’t do it
  • 5. You don’t want people to think badly of you
  • 6. You’re afraid of passing up a “golden opportunity”

The real reason we can’t say no

But all of these are not the deep reason many of us can’t say no. What underlies all of these is a lack of discernment. God gave you gifts for a specific reason. What is that? What is your thing? What gives you joy? What ignites your passion? What feeds your soul?

Once I had a clear vision of what God was calling me to, what God had gifted me for, it was much easier to say no. Now, if someone asks me to do something that’s not my thing, I can say no because I know that’s not what God is asking me to do.

  • *Will you chair the banquet committee? No, not my gift.
  • *Will you write a bulletin announcement? No, doesn’t give me joy.
  • *Will you help out with the Christmas environment? No, I have no passion for it.
  • *Will you help start a new committee the pastor wants to form? No, doesn’t feed my soul.

 It’s not about time; it’s about passion

Notice, that none of these “no’s” have anything to do with time. Maybe I have lots of time this week, and writing a bulletin announcement would only take a few minutes. Shouldn’t I sacrifice my desires for the good of the parish and say yes?

No! That’s the point. God gave you gifts for the good of the parish, the good of your life, and the good of the world. Every minute you spend not using those gifts, every time you “sacrifice” your time for what someone else wants you to do, you are not doing what God wants you to do.

Every minute you spend not using your gifts, you are not doing what God wants you to do.

How to find your passion

What if you don’t know what your true gifts are and what God is calling you to do? I wish I could give you a simple answer for that. The discernment process is different for everyone.

I know this one thing. You have to pray. A lot. And listen with your heart. A lot. And if you are feeling overwhelmed, that kind of deep listening prayer is hard to do.

So start saying no right now. Even if you accidentally say no to something that is what God is calling you to do — for now, that’s okay. If you don’t know what your thing is, your top priority is to discover your calling. Once you know what that is, you can start saying yes to only those things that God is asking you to say yes to.

How did you learn to say no?

I know that many of you have already figured out how to say no to anything that doesn’t ignite your passion. How did you learn to do that? What are some strategies you used? Share your insights, and help others as they start to say no more often.

Photo: Gerd Altmann | Pixbay

If you missed the Stewardship Day

If you missed the 2016 Stewardship Day you missed a lot. Check out all the great resources from the Day. 

Resource2016 TopicsEmail the Speaker
Youtube video Making Hope Happen Shane Lopez's Website Shane Lopez PhD
Handout The Four Levels of Happiness   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  The Spitzer Center  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
  The Magis Institute ~ Happiness Video 1 ~ Video 2   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
Handout  Caring for people with Disabilities  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Handout Expanding KanCare  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Electronic Giving Options to make giving hassle free

Electronic giving in a parish in the Diocese of Dodge City can be the difference between a whole lot of the same. Or, an extra little shot every month in the bottom line. Per a request from the Catholic Church in LaCrosse, I organized a few resources for your consideration. Here are a couple companies active in our diocese with different parishes. Almost all the companies will clone an existing websites look and feel so parishioners don’t know they are on a third party site. The fees vary but at the end of the day it is a cost of doing business. 

For well intended Parish finance council numbers people. THE FEES ARE IRRELEVANT. The difference in income will more than cover any fees! Offering electronic giving is an act of hospitality. Many parishioners are writing one check per week. It is to their parish. Make giving convenient. It is not about the parish, but a person's need to give. Make it simple FOR THEM!

The chancery does not endorse one company or method over another. We do support the use of electronic giving very much. 

Vanco Electronic giving - The pricing page

Parishes using Vanco:

*Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe - Dodge City
*St. Dominic - Garden City - Side note. St. Dominic is the most effective at using electronic giving. This is in part to regular pulpit announcements encouraging people to use it. I think approx. 20% of their weekly income comes from ETF in various formats.
*Prince of Peace - Great Bend 

Parish Giving

*St Andrew Wright – Fr. Bob praises the simplicity of this system. He equates the benefit of ETF to “another bad Sunday” worth of income. Meaning, calculate what a lower Sunday offering would be at your parish. That is the amount of extra income at Wright due to ETF. 

I will update this post with additional information as it comes in. 



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.



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 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

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 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 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

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
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.


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.


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

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