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Envy- Science and Theology Unite

Science and religion have more in common than they do differences. A favorite podcast of mine had an episode on one of the seven deadly sins. I found fascinating and very complimentary to our faith. I hope you do too. 

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Stewardship happens at age 40

"The transformation of the disciple into the steward happens in diverse and sometimes subtle ways. For many Christians the transition begins in the late thirties or forties. An external event may trigger the change, perhaps a new assignment in ministry or a promotion in one's responsibility at work. The triggering event may be within the family, as parents realize that it is they who must decide about their children’s religious education. Or the impetus toward stewardship may be more interior: I sense I must begin to take my own religious experience more seriously, or I feel a need to be a more active contributor to the future of this religious congregation." Seasons of Strength, New Visions of Adult Christian Maturing, Evelyn Eaton and James Whitehead pg. 49

"Invited in mid-life into more responsible jobs and more authoritative positions, we are reminded that what we care for- children, schools, parishes, the land - we do not ultimately possess. A stewards is, by definition, no an owner." pg 50

As Director of Stewardship for going on 11 years, "I am wondering, what if my approach has been wrong?" If the ideas above are true, then stewardship cannot "take hold" until a person has the spiritual maturity to respond as a steward. Perhaps this is another idea for conversion which often accompanies stewardship.  

I've been giving this thought and while I would like to think I am good steward, it has only really been in the 5 or so years that I have fully appreciated that my kids are not mine as stated in the first paragraph. I mean, I knew all along of course. But I am not sure I really appreciated that my three kids are very different people than my wife and I. Frankly, it was something I grew into. 

That leave me hanging on the idea that stewardship is something we grow into. While I "know" what it is, I may not be able to live it right away. Matter of fact, I had Priest tell me that "we are not ready for stewardship here yet."

When I heard that I immediately thought, "how the fritz am I supposed to my job!!" A couple years of reflection has taught me that, the people in his parish probably are not ready for stewardship. If they are spiritually immature and consider themselves "owners" vs "managers" anything I try to do will have minimal affect. 

To make sense of this dilemma, what if we did this? We know that most parishioners come into stewardship in middle age according to the book. At least have a conversion experience to grow into a steward. We know it is a process. What if we created the process?

Think about it, to become Catholic there is a process, it is RCIA. What if we create a RCIA type process for stewardship? What if we took many of the processes we already have in place and enhanced them a bit to follow a RCIA type of flow? 

Would this idea enhance our parishes? Would it provide a systematic approach? I bet it would. If you would like help me create it please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , together we will figure it out. 

Why do Finance Councils have it figured out?

Ever notice how the finance council seems to attract people to serve? Why is that?

I was thinking as I came into work that the parish finance council over of the councils does not have quite the trouble finding qualified people to minister. In my mind I came up with list reasons most councils fail to attract ministers. 

  • The expectations are not clear
  • We have no idea if the person is a good fit 
  • Term limits are not defined
  • The council/committee has ambiguous goals
  • The nature of a person's work does not easily crossover to ministry

These are just a few reason why many ministries struggle to stay alive and vibrant. 

The finance council easily answer:

  • The expectations are clear: mange money for the parish
  • People with some sort of analytic background are drawn to the council
  • Term limits are explicit
  • The goals generally include, manage money, increase giving. 
  • It seems if a person is in one the following professions, an invitation to serve follow
    • Business owner
    • Accountant
    • Financial advisor
    • Insurance salesman
    • Farmer

This formula for the finance council seems to work through out the diocese. Is there anything that can help other ministries even come close to this success? Inviting professional teachers to be catechists seems to work.  What else?

A possible solution is to help people uncover their gifts. In the past we have had Called and Gifted which has served a number of people. I am a huge champion of the Clifton Strengths Finder. Neither of these tools is "the" solution. Rather, part of a solution. One that puts the needs of a person before the needs of the parish. A painful idea when we need 4 more catechists and a confirmation teacher yesterday. However, a worthwhile long term solution.

The Office of Stewardship is very interested in helping your parish become a place where we help our people find meaningful ways to be Jesus to others. If the ideas above will fit into your parish, let's work together. Email today  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Do I really need coaching?

The idea of coaching is not new. Football players from 8 years old to NFL pros all have a coaches. Not that the players need to know how to play the game, rather, to be guided to a win. 

With that idea in mind I picked up the book, The Coaching Habit by Michael Stanier. What prompted this interest is Catechist Coaching that is being developed in our diocese. What is happening is Catechists (aka religion teachers, PSR, CCD etc) are offered coaching. This is not to tell a person in the classroom what they are doing wrong, rather, guide that person, at their request, to solve their own problems.

I was exposed to a taste of the training coaches go through and was immediately intrigued. The short bit I received was about Positive intent language vs negative. For example, rather than ask "Did you do your homework?", negative intent, ask, "What homework do you have left?", positive intent. 

In the positive intent I am conveying that my child has done or is doing their homework. I am telling my kid "you got this". See a list of positive and negative intent language below plus a downloadable PDF at the end of this post. It is remarkable how much different conversations go with my kids by incorporating this simple change of language into my routine. It makes a difference.

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Is Finding your strengths valuable?

There is evidence to support each person working in areas of strength versus weakness adds value to the person and organization that person is working in. Obviously, when we are doing something we naturally good at, the work is easier, it is done with more skill, and the task takes less time. 

Now imagine a parish staff, or a pastoral council, or an entire parish working in their strengths. A group of people working is areas of strength is very much a possibility. Take a look at the chart below. What is presented is the Diocese of Charlotte staff for the offices of Stewardship and Development. Each person's gifts are noted on the chart by category. At a glance the whole staff knows who is the likely person to do specific tasks. 

Four Domains of Leadership Strength

 

What would happen if your teaching staff at your school, catechists, or one family learned their strengths? Not only would using the strengths finder add value to the people in the pews, church staff could look at a list of volunteers and know exactly who to invite into ministry opportunities. 

To get this started in your parish, contact the office of stewardship 620-227-1537 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The formula to help Hispanics respond

The Vibrant Ministries Special Appeal has seen much success. A success that should be noted is in the Spanish Speaking community. The community responded well which could be an anomaly. However, this response was seen in multiple parishes which is a pattern. Patterns are the result of systematic behaviors. Patterns, can be replicated.

The play book for the VMA looks like this:

1. Speak more write less.
2. A great story - aka case study
3. Letter from Bishop
4. Multiple announcements at mass
5. Lay witness talks (people talking with people)
6. Bulletin announcements
7. One on one invitations (people talking with people)
8. Special envelopes

This formula is why the VMA was successful.

Stewardship renewal can follow this approach with time, abilities and tithe/alms. I will explain how each point can be adapted to stewardship renewal.


1. Think orally. Written material has been found to be less effective than people speaking to people in the Hispanic community. The team members communicating should be given clear specific talking points they believe in.
2. A great story. Communicate how the giver and their parish will benefit from their gifts of time abilities and tithe/alms in very specific terms. It is not good enough for people to hear that “we need to keep the lights on”. That message does not instill hope. Dreams and specific goals matter and should be articulated regularly just as VMA articulated so well with the three specific goals of the appeal.
3. A letter from Bishop for parish ministry is not practical or necessary. A heartfelt letter from the pastor with hope sprinkled in is.
4. Multiple announcements at Mass – From prayers of the faithful to specific renewal announcements, keep the hope inspired message top of mind for parishioners.
5. Lay witness talks – Lay witness talks are often the most challenging part of the process as many Catholics are A) scared to public speak B) too proud to speak C) feel they are not worthy to speak. No small feat to overcome. However, good lay witness talks work and support the multiple forms of communication people hear. Not to mention, give credibility and trust to the messages they have heard. Check out this 5 part video series on recruiting great lay witnesses.
6. Bulletin announcements – Often it is not what we say, but the way we say it. Words matter and negative intent language ruins a great story and message. Click here for a positive intent language list.
7. One on one invitations (people talking with people) – Another very powerful and labor intensive endeavor. This step, according to interviews I conducted with parishes, had the most influence of any steps in this system. One on one is relational, builds community, and again, builds trust into the goals a parish wants to accomplish.
8. Special envelopes – who would have thought a simple orange envelope would have the results that were intended? But they did and still do as the collection phase continues. It could have been any color. A signature envelope tells respondents “this is for me for this purpose. It is tied directly to something I care about.” A specific way to respond made it easy for people respond.
9. An extra step not listed in the original system. Follow up. Once all this work is done we are not technically done. It is not uncommon for people to make a promise and lose track of that promise over time. A plan to keep the renewal goals for that year top of mind is key so the momentum is not lost through the year.

Should this entire process be used annually for a stewardship renewal? That depends largely on the desired results. If a family goes through Financial Peace University and does the things taught, a family will be debt free and retire with dignity. Go through Weight Watchers following the system and we lose weight. Go through Alcoholics Anonymous following the system we get sober. Use the outlined stewardship renewal system and Spanish speakers will give more and in greater numbers to their parish.

The thing about systems is the more closely we follow it, the more closely and faster we get the desired results. Do half of the system, we get half the result.

The interesting thing about systems, do them long enough and they become habit. Habits over time make the system easier to transmit behaviors to others and for new comers to adopt.

These are the observations and results of asking “why did Spanish speakers give to the VMA. If the office of stewardship can help your parish, we are glad to meet you where you are and go on a journey together.

LED vs Florescent bulbs

Today we are talking about stewardship of the environment. Four foot florescent lights are likely all over your parish and home. As an experiment, the chancery office is trying out 12 LED lights to replace bulbs in fixtures with bad ballasts. 

A bit of history first. The large diameter T12 bulbs we have all know for years are being phased out. Soon only T8 will be available, the smaller diameter florescent bulbs. To go from T12 to T8 requires one to replace the ballast to match the T8 bulb. Expect the ballast to be from $11 to $22 to make the T8 change plus the cost of the T8 bulbs.

Knowing what is coming and having 3 bad ballasts to replace anyway, I bought a case of 12 Hyperikon Replacement LED bulbs off Amazon. These had great reviews and are reasonably priced.  

I watched several Youtube videos showing how to make the switch. There is a modest bit of rewiring before you can use the LED bulbs. It is quite easy really. Another bocuns, you can cut out the ballast and recycle it. All the ballasts in the image on the right are what I removed from three, four bulb fixtures. 

Regarding wiring, if readers would like a tutorial video showing how to rewire the fixture, I am glad to provide that. Do have an electrician double check work to ensure the safety of the buildings that are having bulbs replaced. 

 

Onto the light. Once the bulbs have been replaced the difference is noticeable. We actually removed two of the four bulbs in the fixture due to the brightness. Reference the photos to see the difference in LED and Florescent light. 

Florescent to LED experiment
Florescent LED

Electricity savings.

Consider the following with florescent bulbs, the fixtures had 4 bulbs each at 40 watts/bulb. Using LED bulbs we used two bulbs at 18 watts/bulb. Mathematically speaking we are saving 77% electricity mathematically. See chart below.

Florescent 4 bulbs x 40 watts = 160/fixture Saving 124 watts or 77% electricity
LED 2 bulbs x 18 watts = 36/fixture  

Over time their is significant savings of electricity.

Next steps. The chancery office will be changing out florescent bulbs for LED as ballasts fail throughout the building. The main floor lobby will be converted much sooner as it is the main gathering space and a common look and feel is desired. 

This article was created to help parishes in the Diocese of Dodge City. If any questions arise please contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or leave a comment in the comment box. 

 

Do income and expenses in the bulletin really help?

A pastor in our Diocese asked me about the practice of publishing parish weekly income and expenses in the bulletin along with the actual weekly need to keep the plant and ministry running. 

Conventional wisdom is to publish this information for transparency purposes and to show parishioners what is needed to keep the operation running. In plain terms the following is at play:

1. We can see the parish administration is stewarding resources well. No secrets. 

2. If the income falls near or below expenses we may say "holy smokes, we are running in the red, time to up my weekly gift".

Not satisfied with my own ideas I asked my colleagues in the Region IX (Nebrask, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri) what they thought about the question. Here are a few responses.

We encourage parishes to report it for accountability and transparency.  We ask parishioners to be good stewards of their money, the parish needs to also.

Also, over the past year, trying to get parishes to give updates on more than money, trying to fight the claim that stewardship is only about money.

So, my home parish developed the attached page in the bulletin – The Steward’s Corner.  We give weekly updates on Time (Prayer), Talent (Participation) and Treasure (Generosity).   Plus provide other stewardship formation articles.  

All the information on the left side is updated weekly.  The information on the right side is various articles we have that rotate in and out of the bulletin on a monthly basis.

Left side – we list things the offertory was used for – this ties ministry and offertory together – people see what they are giving to.  We include how much on offertory subsidizes the parish school – this is very important to our parishioners.  (Most parishes in St. Louis don’t realize that 30 – 60 % of their offertory subsidizes their parish school.  We tell everyone that Catholic education is our parish’s largest ministry.)

Also, include scripture quotes on stewardship that shows stewardship comes from the Bible and that it isn’t something the Church just made up to get people to give more money. 

Bottomline – we have seen a very positive reaction to this page and more of our parishes. Click to view sample.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In addition to reporting on financial giving, it would be helpful if the parish found other points of data to include regularly in the bulletin, e.g. number of people at Mass, number of kids in religious ed, and once per year, the sacramental records of the parish should be reported in the bulletin.  I’m always surprised when I do strategic planning for a parish and suggest they look at this data and so many people – even those on parish and finance councils – have not even seen it.  Dan Ebener Diocese of Davenport, Director of Stewardship and Parish Planning

I would add that whether the bulletin gets read depends on the quality of the bulletin.  If it is the same old information week to week then it probably won’t make a difference if you post the financials. It does need to be easy to understand.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Coordinator of Stewardship, Diocese of Wichita 

Parishes should publish financial information weekly as well as publish occasional thank you notices recognizing the benefits derived from the various gifts to the parish and/or school including weekly offertory, legacy gifts, special events, etc. The benefits of this practice are many: The regular reports affirm the parish’s accountability; motivate and acknowledge the generosity of the parish community; and praise God for the many gifts received (time, talent and treasure) in the form of intentional stewardship of the parish and school operations.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Executive Director Office of Stewardship & Development, Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas

As you can see, my colleagues collective wisdom shines bright. Not only should we report weekly income and expenses, but also, spotlight other areas of stewardship. As well as take opportunities to give thanks and form parishioners about stewardship. 

If you have any questions for the contributors, click their name for an email address. In the mean time, leave a comment and tell me what you think. Should we or shouldn't post the weekly financial statement?

Eric

 

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. 

 

Eric

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.

Diocese of Dodge City


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