OK, I admit it. I am excellent on diagnosis, clever at prescription, poor in practice. What am I talking about, sending "thank you" notes. Saying thank you, no sweat. Writing thank you, not so much.
With stewardship renewal now coming to a close across our diocese the most important part of the renewal process needs to be done. That is sending a thank you note to each person that has given a gift of time, ability, and alms. Not each family, each person.
Depending on the size of a parish this could very well be a huge job. But, I don't think most people expect a handwritten note, a post card acknowledging a gift was given and received will do. A simple signature from the Pastor and or stewardship council member(s) will seal the deal. Quick side note, there are parishioners that will be hostile to the notion of the parish mailing out a thank you card. Ignore the haters and do it anyway.
My own parish and others I have visited will yield a dozen or more people that gave a gift during stewardship renewal and heard crickets as a reply. That is a big stewardship death trap. When a person takes time to discern their forms, fill them out, mail them or bring them back to the parish and never hear from the parish....it is likely that person will not give a gift again.
It is possible that the parish sends a thank you note and "Bob" forgot about it, did not receive for some reason, or accidentally pitches it with junk mail then proceeds to complain about not being thanked. To help stop that from happening it is good practice to thank people often and everywhere. In the bulletin, at the pulpit, social events, and special events. Also, a new ministry called the thank you ministry could be charged with writing random thank you notes on behalf of the parish.
In any event the folks need to be thanked by the parish. Just before Thanksgiving, I sen you a message with two videos all pointing to gratitude and the transforming power of showing it. If you happen to work in ministry on behalf the parish or you happen to be like me and need to show gratitude, this is a perfect time to start.
Do you have a difficult time sending a thank you note? Click over to the stewardship page and leave a comment with you biggest challenge saying thanks.
Thank YOU! For leaving a comment and for subscribing,
Two great videos to transform your life and your parish
Written by Eric Haselhorst
Thanksgiving is over but the power of the season is not lost. The two videos below are from entrepreneurs I read who both sent out thanksgiving messages that resonated with me and are truly stewardship videos. Stewardship begins with gratitude, take a look at the first five words of the Diocesan definition of stewardship.
"Stewardship is the grateful response"
Take few moments to watch one or both of the videos. See how creating a culture of gratitude in your parish can transform you personally and your parish.
Tell, after watching one or both of the videos how you will show genuine gratitude to our loving Lord for the many blessings we have. Leave your comments in the comment box.
Learning from Harley Davidson tattoos
Written by Eric Haselhorst
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 Renewal Q and A September 17, 2014
Written by Eric Haselhorst
Hear your questions answered about the 2014 Stewardship renewal via live google+ hang out on September 17th 2014.
Please click my email address and tell other topics you would like to have covered.
Ideas for Stewardship in small parishes
Written by Eric Haselhorst
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.
8 Rock Solid ways to get Lay witnesses
Written by Eric Haselhorst
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.
Not another free water bottle. Please..no more
Written by Eric Haselhorst
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