Can you imagine putting a Harley Davidson Tattoo on your body? Me either. I am fascinated by anyone who adds a branded tat to themselves. I mean really, this is a company logo for crying out loud and the ink is often worn by people that DO NOT even own the product!
In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek teaches the following: People to not buy what you do, they buy why you do it. If we asked Catholics across America, "what makes a good Catholic", a common response would be, "a good Catholic goes to Mass". Attending Mass is a good thing but will that activity alone provoke a person to have a chalice or a rosary inked on their person permanently. Hmmm.
Why can a company selling worldly goods provoke a group of people to permanently mark their body with a logo? The answer to that has everything to do with biology according Sinek. Our brains are created with distinct sections one being the Neocortex. This part of our brain is responsible for analytic function and language. Then there is the lymbic part of our brains, this part is responsible for emotion, behavior, and memory but it has no capacity for language.
Now that we know how our brains work, go ask a Harley fanatic why they have the company's logo as a tattoo. The answers will likely have zero to do with the motorcycle and everything to do with the emotions Harley has so masterfully created in those that like the brand. Think about these slogans Born to Ride, It's time to ride, Legend of American roads (in Russia), The Legend Rolls On, The Road Starts here It never Ends, Live to Ride, Ride to Live. These slogans have nothing to do with the motorcycles. The bikes are the end result of why Harley Davidson is a company in the first place. The people that wear these tattoos identify with the why Harley Davidison is in business. These people adopted that identity of the open road, freedom, and the intangibles the brand represents.
What can Catholics learn from this? Ask a Catholic, "why do you go to Mass?" It is likely we will hear answers that justify the behavior because going to mass for devoted Catholics is an emotional act. What we learned about our brains above is that the part of our brain controlling emotion is incapable of words. Therefore the emotional experience devoted Catholics have to the Mass is almost impossible to articulate in a way others would understand. It is akin to answering why we fall in love. We say "she is so funny, he is kind, she loves children". Words are difficult to explain why we love someone just as words are difficult to explain why we come to Mass
I was 13 years old (I think) and my family was on our way to Mass in an old Ford Escort. A down pore flooded several streets in Great Bend Kansas and we had to navigate the flooded areas to get to 5 PM Mass at St Patrick Church. There was water coming in the door. There was an 1" of water on the floor when we arrived in the parking lot! Why did we go through all that trouble to get to Mass? "Well we are Catholic and that is just what we do...we go to mass". Is what my family did inspiring? After reading this, do you want to join us? Probably not.
What if we had said "We do not miss Mass because that is our special time where we pray as a family and community. It is where our community meets to pray for one another, lift high our sins and those is desperate circumstances. It is where we praise Jesus for all he gives us and receive his son so we are nourished to live another week. We actually drove through flooded streets so we would not miss. People do not buy what we do, they buy why we do it.
Each parish that has a desire to increase parishioner engagement, raise money, or engage youth needs to re-read the last paragraph. It is our work to discern our "why", our call from Jesus Christ. To inspire our parishioners to travel this journey to the Lord they need to know why. Harely Davidson knows it's why and tattoos are proof they do.
Tell me your "why" by leaving a comment. Join this conversation and share it with your friends.
Stewardship in small parishes can be tricky. How does a small parish make a difference and add value to a community? Perhaps it is time to consider helping the poor in a tangible way.
Consider the following facts provided by Catholic Social Service regarding poverty in Kansas. Read the article here.
It is the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. In 1967 the poverty rate was 26% and in 2012 it was 16%.
The average family spends $2000 a year on food they will never eat.
25% of water is used to grow crops that will never be eaten.
In Kansas in 2010 20% of children living below the poverty level were being helped through the state benefit program. In 2011 it was 9%.
TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits have not changed in 17 years.
No public benefits will cover the cost of disposable diapers. Children cannot go to daycare without disposable diapers.
In Kansas a single mother with 2 children working a part-time minimum wage job makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Most employer based health insurance is not available to part-time employees.
Everyone up to 130% of poverty level is eligible for Medicaid.
States that expanded Medicaid decreased the number of uninsured by 29%. Those that didn’t increased the number of uninsured by 5.9%.
Maybe an answer is a quarterly diaper drive for low income parents in your city or county? Or a temporary housing shelter? A meaningful gift for needy families. Free daycare for low income parents. The list is limited by imagination. Small parishes can make a significant difference in the lives of people and be Jesus to others.
The role of the lay witness has never been more important. We presently live in a connection economy meaning, people want to connect to people. Not a church necessarily, or a company or an organization. People.
During stewardship renewal this is why the Lay Witness is important. To connect a person to Jesus it will likely not be scripture alone, the building alone, or even the Eucharist alone (remember, about 50% of Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist or do not understand the teaching).
To connect people to Jesus, to help foster that relationship in others with the Risen Lord it may very well happen through us who do understand and believe. Our stories of faith will be help connect, thus, the lay witness. See a variety of lay witness resources here
The challenge is recruiting lay witnesses. Catholics can be a proud yet humble group. Ask most people why they are connected to Jesus or how their relationship is special and it seems most people brush the question off. A common reply to an invitation to share a story would be "Me? I'm not that special" or "I don't have anything special to share". And, many people simply do not feel adequate to share. They have sin in their lives, they were divorced, addicted, less than perfect kids or a feeling they do not measure up to do this important work. It is real.
Here are 8 ways to help recruit lay witnesses:
Invite in love. We do not care about the past except for how it made the witness into who they are today. We are not here to judge but connect people in the pews to Jesus through the witness.
Invite again in love.
Remove mental road blocks by offering to help write the story.
Give mental prompts with a pre-written introduction and conclusion plus questions to answer for the body of the talk. Click the PDF icons to right to download outlines.
Lay witness Outline
A person reading their talk at mass can be the most powerful, however, if public speaking is an absolute no, have the person or family write out their talk and include the talk in a newsletter, email, social media or website or all of the above. Make sure to include a photo of the family.
Do not forget children and teens. Jesus welcomed children and told adult to bug off when he said, "Let the children come to me". Out teens and kids have a better understanding of Jesus than adults do. Let them speak and write. For a list of tips to include children click here and here
Invite from the back rows. The best stories of God's love and that intimate story of Jesus comes from out of the ordinary places. Invite the single mom struggling to get to mass much less participate in parish life. The cancer survivor, bachelor farmer, widow, usher, the coach that prays for their team before a game. If the witness does not appear holy, it does not mean they do not act it when away from the building.
Invite invite invite. Invitation with love is key and persistence pays.
Above all, do all this with love. The goal is to have each person or family share their story of the Jesus to connect another person with Jesus. A 45 year old father of 2 and a wife of 15 years can learn much about Jesus when hearing a widower share his story of Jesus love and compassion when he lost his wife of 50 years to cancer. A single woman can learn much about Jesus when hearing a divorced dad share his story of raising kids alone except for the grace of our heavenly mother.
For we in the pews to connect to another person in the pews to Jesus is the fruit of our effort.
If you have questions, please leave a comment and share this with your friends by clicking share.
At the opportunity to sound a heretic I share this story with you. I was in a small parish in our Diocese and had a nice conversation with a woman that was typical in my work. Our conversation wondered over to people in their 20s and 30s and her urging those people to come back or begin attending her church. I could tell she was beat down at her unsuccessful efforts and I offered a thought I will share with readers. "If people outside the Church do not understand the Eucharist and the sacraments, what does the mass offer them? Especially if the music is poor/mediocre and homilies do not give a meaningful message? It is no wonder these same people are not coming or staying."
Many readers, myself included, are not coming to Mass week after week for the music (it does add a ton though). And, if the preaching does not speak to us we will be back the following week. To outsiders, and many insiders for that matter, that do not know our vocabulary and have an ambiguous relationship to church, they need something else until they do understand.
This is where the rubber meets the road for us who set in the pews. Remember Dorothy, Toto, Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz? Dorothy is set on a mission to find the Wizard, she sets out on her own knowing the Wizard has the answers to her questions. Along the way she picks up the Scarecrow, Tin Man and finally the Lion at each point singing: "We're off to see the.....".
Riddle me this:
1. Did Dorothy use the Catechism to convince her fellow travelers to go with her to see the Wizard?
2. Did Dorothy go on about history and doctrine to convince her companions the Wizard would be the right thing to solve their troubles?
3. Did Dorothy use big mysterious words the strangers would not know?
4. At any point in the film did a character tell Dorothy and travelers to it was there duty to go to Emerald City to see the Wizard?
5. Did Dorothy condemn the Tin Man, Lion or Scarecrow for not believing what she did?
6. Did Dorothy cast judgement on her companions?
If the answers were no, no, no, no, no, no then you answered correct. What Dorothy learned at the beginning then passed on to the other characters is this: "I found the way the truth and the light, you can be helped too, join me." Then Dorothy locks arms with each of the characters and they took a journey to the Wizard...together. They helped one another overcome scary moments, moments of doubt, insecurity, and obstacles (including the wicked witch). They celebrated together when they met the Wizard and together, learned valuable lessons they each sought.
Dorothy found the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion in different circumstances. Knew truth and invited each on a journey, then walked with each to meet something bigger than themselves. If our parishes had more Dorothy's would it make a difference?
I think this is the exact crossroads we are at in church. People in their 20s and 30s are seeking connection. Yes we can connect these people to Jesus but that connection will happen through us. Until the the 20-30 people can see Jesus in the Eucharist and overcome the mechanical flaws at Mass, they will have to see Jesus in us. That means we in the pews will have to be more Jesus like. Less judge mental, more humble, more loving, and develop an ability to meet people where they are.
Please leave a comment and share this message with those who want to make a difference.
Consider the following Scripture passages from the Gospel according to Eric
And Jesus said to his Disciples "Everyone is invited to follow me"
Then Jesus said, "Anyone want to be the rock I build my church on?"
Peter said, "Everyone is invited to a dinner by the sea where Jesus will bless then share loaves and fishes, please RSVP to Matthew by the 1st."
Do these scripture passages sound anything like a typical bulletin or pulpit announcement? They should as every place I have been to mass I have read to heard these very similar messages. Seth Godin wrote and excellent blog post on this exact topic. I was edified when I read it as I have held this belief for a long time. Read this brief excerpt from the full post.
"When we say to a group, "everyone help me with this," it's easy to let someone else do it. And those asked can see the surplus, the wasted energy, the duplication implied with 'everyone'. If the crowd is assigned to help every person down on his luck, or to keep the city or the planet clean, well, that everyone doesn't have to be me."
"everyone doesn't have to be me." I reread that last six words several times as it is exactly true. I set a Mass and here the word "everyone" and it seems like my default thought process says: "Father is talking to someone else not me". For some reason everyone gives each of us a way out. We can easily think if everyone is invited then other people can go. We have deniability. Thus, very few people participate.
I cannot imagine the result Jesus would have had if he would have used my scripture passages. The results would have been terrible. But Jesus did not use the words anyone and everyone. No, he called people by name: Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas”John 1:42. There are countless other passages where Jesus looks a person in the eye and speaks to them. Not everyone.
It is worth the heavy lifting to stop using the terms "anyone" and "everyone". Those two words are impersonal and allow us a way to get off the hook. Taking time to ask Bob, Jill, or Anastasia will make a tremendous long term affect.
It was a year ago and my family and I were taking in a local home and garden show. One of the gimmicks to get people in the door was free water bottles, pizza and stuff. I went to look around then caught up with my family and low a behold, 3 water bottles. The discourse went like this:
Me: Where did all the water bottles come from?
Chris (my wife): The kids picked them up, I thought we could use them.
Me: Don't we already have several of those water bottles?
Me: Can I give those back? How many water bottles do we need?
The rest of the conversation is not fit for this article but needless to say our stash of water bottles remained the same. However, someone at the same event was doling out t-shirts like Pez and we came home with several.
Isn't it curious in American culture our propensity to take stuff we don't need? We have all been there. It is a home and garden show, a sporting event, parade, or conference. At a local football game t-shirts were being shot out of an air cannon for a law firm. We ended up with one that not one person our family can wear and is not even cool. The girls use it as a night shirt.
Back to the point. Why are we so eager to collect things that add no redeemable value to our lives. Just like my water bottle example. We had enough. We did not need more. Our cabinets were screaming for space the way it was and more water bottles was not going to help. Yet free water bottles seemed very attractive. T-shirts at sporting events are the same way. Bring out an air cannon or a group of cheer leaders and toss shirts into the air the crowd will go wild.
Do not misunderstand, I fully appreciate why we get these freebies. It is marketing which I cannot fault. And air cannons are pretty cool, just wish they would shoot rolls of hundreds or even fives vs t-shirts. We as stewards of our lives and the stuff God gives us need to step back and ask our selves what will bring joy and value. Would we have 75% of the contents in our homes if we took a discerning look into our closets and cabinets?
How much more free would we feel without cabinets and dressers overflowing with possessions that we do not truly enjoy? I reckon a good many people cannot image what it would feel like without being surrounded by stuff. Even stuff we do not need truly value or care about.
What possession adds joy to your life? What thing in your life could you get rid of and never miss?
Leave your comments in the comment box. Thanks Eric
What is a bad Sunday worth in your parish? No I'm not talking about a questionable homily or music that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up...in a bad way. No I'm talking about the offertory.
Each week those of us in the pews dutifully, hopefully joyfully, place our gift of treasure in the collection basket. Over time patterns emerge in giving. Winter is better than summer, Christmas and Easter are better than other weekends in the year, the 9 AM Sunday Mass is better than the 5 PM Saturday night mass and on and on. So my question, what amount in the collection plate is a "Bad Sunday"?
Now that the value of a bad Sunday has been determined, imagine what a parish could spend that money on if a parish could count on an extra bad Sunday each month. Could a parish make scholarships for NCYC to students? Could the office pay for a part time staff member? What fundraising effort could be eliminated? Perhaps a mission in a foreign land could be created? Maybe, each month a random charity could be supported?
Now that the imagination has been fully sparked, the question can be asked, "How do we get a bad Sunday?" Offer an electronic giving program. A program where people like me can go online, set up a hassle free account and put our giving on cruise control via bank draft, debit or credit card. With modest promotion a parish could achieve a bad Sunday per month. Hopefully much more. This slight uptick in the collection plate at the end of the month is due to automatic giving. On any given weekend a percentage of the parish is away from church. Either traveling, sickness, or a number of other factors. That group of people that did not show up for mass may or may not send in their weekly gift. However, a giving program put on auto pilot makes a weekly gift whether Bob and Thelma are there or not. Add up enough Bob and Thelmas and wallah! A bad Sunday extra of financial gifts.
Electronic giving is not a magic pill. If not promoted people will not know it is available and ready to use. Like any other ministry in the parish, electronic giving needs proper promotion.
But Eric! What about the fees? If people start giving electronically we will lose money to credit card and bank fees... WRONG! Yes there are fees but has anyone heard the K-State or KU Fundraising arm whining about fees? No. Fees are a cost of doing business. Plus, if promoted even modestly the increased income will more than cover fees from vendors.
So who wants a bad Sunday extra? I do! There will be a session at the 2014 Stewardship Conference dedicated to electronic giving and what it can mean to a parish. Register here today.
Please leave comments in the comment box. Thanks Eric
Would someone step up and lead? If people would just step up! Who’s going to step up? If they would just step up.
Grrr at all the above. The sentences above are almost default settings when a volunteer or leader is needed. Maybe I’m being selfish and do not want to volunteer my time. Maybe I have stewarded all my available resources and do not want to give more. Maybe I don’t care about that ministry. Or, maybe, just maybe, the person asking did not tell a good story that would spark my interest and touch me emotionally.
I do not claim to have all the answers but what I am certain of is that Parish life is more fragmented than it has ever been. This is not a bad thing in my opinion as we cannot change that fact, merely adjust to the new normal. With so many choices before each person, we in parish will have to work harder to connect people to meaningful ministry and ideas.
I will say it again. We, the people serving, have to work harder to connect. We will have to work harder to uncover hidden abilities in our fellow parishioners. We have to reach out more in addition to running the plant.
I’m sure any staff across our Diocese reading this will be overjoyed at the thought of doing more with the same resources. But I think this presents a great opportunity to follow Pope Francis’s sage advice to “make a mess” and “smell like sheep”.
In this new normal I think the golden opportunity is for each parish to set down and ask “what are we doing that is making a difference?” Then, “what are we doing that needs to die”. There are a good many ordinary ministries and ideas that have simply run their course and need to be put on the top shelf for a few years. That is a good thing.
Another Golden opportunity in the new normal, is the ability to try something new, something different. Not a re-branding of a present ministry, but something totally different. Perhaps Father can teach lessons via a website via video or start a pod cast. Maybe it is a webinar. Perhaps it is a 30 minute lunch and learn at the local coffee shop or café. Perhaps the school becomes a school for arts or science versus a school for everyone. Perhaps the passionate parishioner can follow through on their idea that did not fit before.
Going forward in the new normal the best question to ask for any ministry present or future is this, “How is this ministry going to connect people”. Not just get them involved, but help them commit emotionally to our parish and ultimately Jesus.
Now, if people would just step up and read this. Sorry, could not help myself.
I attended a Home and School meeting at a K-8 Catholic School. One of the members promoted an idea to have a fundraiser in the coming year to boost teacher salaries. I understand the person's motivation. Unfortunately that idea will keep Catholic schools in perpetual states of fundraising and will ultimately fail.
Fundraisers fail Catholic schools financially for the following reasons:
1. Band aids stop bleeding but they don't cure cancer. Catholic schools I have been associated with generally seem to live in perpetual states of being underfunded. Therefore, when the smallest crisis or interesting project comes up, we gotta have a fundraiser. Fundraiser are band aids. The "thing" not in the budget is the bleeding and the fundraiser takes care of the short fall. Unfortunately there are numerous good ideas and small crisis that we plan to not to budget for because we know we can find a good person to create a fundraiser to cover. This is short term thinking that wears volunteers and parents out.
2. Creating Give to Need Parishioners. We people in the pews like to see brick and mortar, statues, pavement, pew cushions, sounds systems, air conditioners, Christmas, and Easter Flowers. These types of expenses can be large out of the ordinary expenses not in the ordinary budget (except the flowers, Christmas and Easter happen every year...at the same time). So when a parish does not have a sinking fund for the items that will fail over time, a finance council member or even the pastor will ask for extraordinary gifts to pay them. And the laity dutifully responds. We like to our money spent on things we see. Nothing wrong with this overall. The problem is that we create a culture of giving to a need versus giving because we need to. The mind set between giving to a need and needing to give is very different and a different mindset is necessary.
3. Ratios matter. I am not aware of a Catholic school that is fully self supporting. Schools I am familiar with all receive primary funding in two forms: Tuition and the parish subsidy. The ratio of this funding typically follows a conservative 1 to 2 ratio. For every 1 dollar of tuition money, the parish subsidizes the school 2 dollars. This does not include endowment income, annual auction, or other significant fundraiser. Ratios matter due to this fact, the highest portion of the school budget comes from the parish subsidy not annual fundraisers. The long term and best way to increase funding to a Catholic School is to increase the income at the supporting parish.
4. Convert or Convert, that is the question. Fundraising robs every school and parish of conversion to discipleship. It takes much giving ones self over to Jesus and fully trusting the Lord to say, "I will give 10% of my income to my parish to do with as seen fit". That is a different kind of discipleship than giving $200 to the latest fundraising campaign. Conversion requires us to be challenged and to answer that challenge with extraordinary trust and devotion to God. A detachment from worldly stuff. Not that stuff is bad, no, a detachment.
Really what all this leads up to is living and promoting stewardship as a way of life. When we promote the Holy heck out of stewardship with intent and purpose we solve many of the funding issues so common to Catholic Schools. Along the way some of the other common complaints of parish and school are solved too. Bonus! Let's cure cancer versus put a band aid on it.
Comments are requested and welcome. Leave them in the box below.