I firmly believe in the power of a story to touch the heart of people in the pews. Seth Godin wrote a book titled “All Marketers Tell Stories” teaching us how to sell stuff. Chip and Dan Heath wrote two books Made to Stick and Switch teaching us how to make ideas memorable and how to change behavior in people. Plus, Jesus told stories, lots of stories. Why don’t we?
I have invited people to share their story only to be told “it’s not that special” or “I could never speak at Mass”. With those first two hurdles in mind we need to remove road blocks if these stories are to be told.
For those of living in a family it is not uncommon for one parent or spouse in an anger to throw verbal bombs like this at the rest of the family: “You Never , You always , Nobody ever ,”. Yes this happens in my house and many of us have been on the receiving end of these grenades and they are lies. It is true we family members leave our shoes out, the dishes in the sink, and forget to let the toilet seat down no doubt. But absolutes are dangerous words and are not true. Plus, absolutes make people feel terrible. After hearing the lie we always do X when it is more like often or sometimes we can be hurt and think, “well heck with it then”.
What is tragic about the opening paragraph is that not only does it happen in our homes, it happens in our churches as well. This grenade sounds something like; “we can plan X event but nobody shows up”. Or, “people always leave after communion”. It is true our target audience may not show up to an event, but, if the people that usually show up attend we at least affect a group people. It is true some people leave after communion but not everyone.
A common reaction to promote a new idea (or even an old one) is to ready the information machine and begin yelling at people until the message sinks in. I’m beginning to think we have enough information.
Honestly, if I want information on anything, I can have it in seconds on my iPhone. From tying balloon animals to stewardship there is no lack of information. The problem is much of the information I receive in my newspaper, email, and Facebook feed is impersonal with no connection to my life. This why the Sunday bulletin does ZERO to connect parishioners to meaningful stewardship or anything else in the parish.
To inform parishioners of an idea, what we have to do it connect to people. This means the good old days of anonymous bulletin inserts with passive language will not do. The announcements at mass read by people that do not care will not work. Websites with a descent story of ministry but no pictures or video of the people I worship with and no links to more information is not good enough.
When a parish wants my precious attention, parish better put a real human face on an idea. The idea must be relevant to my life and be valuable. Better yet, the idea must touch my heart on an emotional level. The content and delivery better be much more than passive irrelevant facts which are great for my head, but are unlikely to move me to action.
The next time an announcement is made, article written, or an idea is shared, take the time to find the person who is passionate about it and have them make the case for it. Give me an opportunity to trust what is said through a good story and connect to it. Provide me resources I can go to if I want more but do not assume I want it all right now. Your passion may be balloon animals so tell me a great story about how the balloon animal ministry made a difference. Provide a link to a youtube video I can watch, if I want to. Then invite to make a difference with you.
Follow this template and stewardship will catch on, just like the balloon animal ministry.
The Reason Why Enrollment at RC Schools is dropping
Written by Eric Haselhorst
Ever wonder why enrollment at some Catholic Schools drops? I have an idea for sure and the following conversation brought it to light. A friend of mine and were talking about a school. My friend was a bit outraged that enrollment had fallen from the glory days of 400+ to now a wink over 200. Some reasons for the drop could be lower quality of education, changes in staff, and loss of strong athletics.
But I have another idea. I asked, “How many people our age do you see at mass on any given weekend?” The truth is, not many. Even the parents of the students, by and large, are not showing up much less the parents without students at the school. My hypothesis is this, people in the 40ish demographic have checked out of regular Mass attendance. Since a large group of Gen X is no longer attending church regularly, why in the world would they want to drop 3, 4, 5, or 10 grand on a Catholic Education?
The best story I've found supporting a gift shop in your parish
Written by Eric Haselhorst
Make no mistake I am a huge supporter of every Catholic Parish having a gift shop. Or even a group of parishes teaming up create gift shop. "WhaaAAAaaaat? You want my parish to set aside space and resources to sell gifts?" NO! Not at all, I want each parish to set aside space and resources to people like me can go "gift shop" and uncover what I am called to do for Jesus.
This idea comes from a parish on the east coast I read about a long time ago. Basically the parish took the junk they sold in their "gift shop" out. Then, set a desk in there with a woman who had the job of helping parishioners discover their own unique gifts...in the "gift shop". Very clever.
I believe there is so much potential wasted in our world due to people having no idea what their gifts are. We moan and groan in parish leadership that no one will "step up" for various ministries. But if I am setting in the pew and do not know I have a particular skill at something I'm volunteering. Why would I? This is where gifts discernment comes in. To help people discover who God wants them to be.
Imagine this conversation between a 30 something Catholic woman and her protestant friends at a child's birthday party.
Kacey: Steph you seem to be happier lately. What's going on?
Steph: I discovered I have a gift for communication. It seemed speaking came easy for me but I learned it is a gift and now I have the confidence to do it more. It has made a difference at home and work and wow is it fun.
Kacey: Wow where did you learn this about yourself. Sounds interesting.
Steph: Oh yeah. I learned it at my church, St. . They started this new program to help people find their gifts and I am so glad I went through it.
Before I let the cat out of the bag so to speak, I give you this brief intro complements of Seth Godin’s blog post 1/8/14. Read the full post here
Let's agree on two things:
1. There are thousands of times as many things available to read as there were a decade ago. It's possible that in fact there are millions as many.
2. Now that everyone can write, publish, email you stuff and generally make noise, everyone might and many people already are.
As a result, there's too much noise, too much poorly written, overly written, defensively written and generally useless stuff cluttering your life.
If Seth’s statements are accurate, and I believe they are, then how does each Catholic Parish wade through the noise to be heard by parishioners? Often when I speak to an audience about communication I use the analogy of a Facebook newsfeed. Most people I know have 300+ friends, “like” several pages, are involved in groups, plus FB places ads in our newsfeed. With all that clutter to scroll through there is no way our attention can be given to each item. So what do we do? Scroll through the feed reading 5% of the content ignoring 95%. And reading 5% is generous IMO.
If I have heard it once I have heard it 1000 times, "we can't get people to show up to _____________________________ event at our parish". Why? Frankly we are using an outdated formula with carrots and sticks. The old formula worked something like this:
provide pizza and pop or wine and cheese (depending on the target audience of cource) -- a reward
wait for people to show up
For a couple of decades this formula worked brilliantly and suddenly it didn't. What happened? The nature of what we do for a living, the way we spend out time changed and the system in our parishes did not. The mindset did not evolve. Luckily for us there are thinkers in the secular world that have discovered what happened and how to fix it. The video below presents ideas for business but I think they have tremendous value in the church world. To get to the punch line fast forward to 12:40. The "fix" is presented from that point forward.
After watching this video, please post comments if you agree or disagree and why. Thanks so much!
To learn in depth about motivation read Daniel's book Drive. It is well done.
What if our parish created a ministry that would help people remove noise and clutter from their lives and handle stress better. Think it would get any traction? I "like" TED on Facebook and this video popped into my news feed. TED talks catch my imagination so I gave this one a listen and I found fascinating. I watched and wondered how our parishes could take this idea and create a meaningful way to help their harried, over scheduled, hyperactive parishioners. Seriously, have we looked at ministry as treating the whole person? A very good argument could be made along this line of thinking, can we minister to the spiritual without ministering to the whole person.
For example, our parish needs money so Father and lays witnesses, maybe a finance council member make the ask. If we over extended, over mortgaged, credit card swiping under income middle class there is a good chance the "ask" will fall on deaf ears. Perhaps personal finance workshops or debt reduction lessons are in order. FPU anyone? How about this? A husband and wife show up to Mass after a delicious argument over a mother in law. Reckon the "ask" for a catechist will be heard? How about the Five Love Languages Or Marriage For Keeps on an annual rotation.
I think Pope France is right. A poor church for the poor. Not just the monetarily poor but he poor in spirit, the poor in parenting, the poor in stress management. The new evangelization is a golden opportunity to think different. To connect people to people who are the Church.
What clever ways can a parish connect and minister where you live? Please leave your comments in the comment box.