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Making a New Habit in 3 Steps

In the last blog post I discussed and showed how to break a habit. Just in case it was missed, read it here. We discussed the habit loop which consists of a cue, reward, and a routine. Ultimately pattern of behaviors we do on auto pilot. Recall the story of breaking my salt habit.

Creating a habit is very much akin to breaking a habit. The difference is switching from an undesirable habit to a habit we want in our lives.

When I broke my salt habit that was the first step I took ensure I would stay of meds for high blood pressure. It was six years later I began adding routine exercise to my regimen. What initially kicked that off was a friend who asked me:

Mike -“Eric, have you heard of P90X”

Me - “No, what is it?”

Mike - “According to my buddy it is a major *** kicking but guarantees results in 90 days.”

Me - “Ummmm, Ok let’s do it”

I bet $100 most people start out what is thought to be a new habit this way. We sign up for a gym membership or open a special saving account for a vacation and in short order abandon the pursuit all together because we go about it all wrong.

To start my workout habit with Mike and Claire we unknowingly followed the habit loop.

  1. The Cue: The three of would meet at 5:30 AM on week days at the National Guard Armory. I set out my workout cloths the night before to make it easier to show up. Another cue.
  2. The Reward: My reward was I could have a beer each night I worked out in the morning. OK not very altruistic but your rewards will work for you and mine for me.
  3. The Routine: Meet Mike and Claire and workout, have a beer only if I made the work out. 90 days later be in better health

This 90 day habit worked and has subsequently morphed into a five year long routine of exercise. The ultimate reward for all this work is I am still not on high blood pressure meds, I am in the best shape of my life, I have more energy than my peers and I sleep like a baby. Plus I ran my first ½ Marathon this year and rocked it. Is it easy? NO! There are days on a long run I wonder, “why am I out here, this is dumb”. But the reward makes it worth it.

Let’s review the habit loop again:

Decide the habit to be created.

1. Create the trigger or cue: What time will this habit occur? Who will you be with? Where will you be? What will you just have finished? What emotion will you be feeling? Only one of these cues are needed but more can be present.

2. What is the reward: What will you give yourself for the behavior? Do I actually enjoy the behavior?

3. Routine: When (cue) , I will (routine) because it provides me with (reward).

Post your plan where you will see it and it will likely become automatic. See the How to "create a habit" flow chart

I mentioned at the beginning it is common for all of this to fail. Remember that new piece of exercise equipment that morphed into an expensive cloths hanger? Here are some strategies to avoid crashing your plan.

You may need to experiment with the reward. Since we are new to creating good habits we may not choose the right reward for our behavior. The reward needs to be lucrative enough that we want to get off the couch and exercise more than set on it with a bag of chips watching another rerun of Friends. It may take a bit of experimenting to get the reward right.

While creating this habit and even after the habit exists we may fall off the wagon so to speak. For example, we create a new prayer routine and life happens and you miss a week, or two days in a row etc. It would be very easy to say, “Forget it, this is not working”. Or the prayer routine does not go well for several days in a row and we throw in the towel.

Some of the best advice I have read when these circumstances, and they will happen, comes from fitness expert Tony Horton: “Stop beating yourself up if you can't sustain and/or maintain your "perfect" plan. It's okay to miss a workout once in1 a while. It doesn't mean that your process has gone to hell in a handcart. It doesn't mean you have to start over. Life happens. Priorities shift. So what? Big deal. Just start up where you left off.” Read the whole article here

With any new habit I have created I have followed this advice to the letter. And this is the hardest advice I have tried to follow. When I began running I would have four great runs in row, then the fifth run would totally bomb. Breathing was not right, had to take walking breaks, knees hurt, all on a route I ran two days before perfectly. The exact same time and route was a total fail! Why? Life happens. Then there would be days that for one reason or another I missed runs. Rather than whine about a bad or missed run I took great effort to brush it off and chalk it up to life happening and go out again.

That key ingredient of not beating myself up has kept me going each time I put on my shoes. For another resource to help you create any habit listen to Tony. Remember, this philosophy can be applied to ANY habit, not just fitness.

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments and questions. In the next blog post I will explain how companies, churches, and schools have habits. And we can take what we know and change our parishes for the better with new habits.

I go to McDonalds...for the wifi

For the last few years I have made fast food joints the devil in my mind. Making these places out to be evil helps me stay out of them. No they are not really evil places it is only a Jedi mind trick I play on myself to stay healthy and off high blood pressure meds.

That being said, if I am traveling solo somewhere I end up in...McDonalds and yes eat there. My motivation is to get the free wifi. No matter where I go I can count on Micky D to free up my data plan. Plus I can whip out my laptop and work, serf, or anything else I want. I LOVE free wifi.

On my last work trip I had a bit of extra time time to kill so bellied up to a burger and wifi at the Garden City Golden Arches. As I sat there checking email and my Facebook status I wondered how this experience of free wifi and McDonalds would work as a metaphor for our Catholic Churches.

At first my mind wondered over to the Eucharist. My love/hate relationship with fast food could be akin to church/Eucharist. I love free wifi/avoid fast food. Then you have a number of people that love the Eucharist but don't like church.

That works but is not what is on my heart. There has to be more to this than that simple analogy.

Then I asked "what is our Catholic Parishes wifi?" What do we offer people that is so irresistible people show up despite hesitation. McDonald's offers people like me that avoid the food...wifi.

I will tolerate the food in order to get what I really want which is unabated internet access. SCORE!

What is our wifi? What do we offer Catholics whose relationship to Church is similar to my relationship to fast food? We could say Jesus Christ in the Eucharist which for the committed Catholics would be true. But what about the group of Catholics that do not believe in the real presence? What about the group that had a bad experience in the Church? What about the group that identifies themselves as spiritual but not religious?

We have a great opportunity to think different about ministry and what it means to be Church. Our core work, providing the sacraments and catechesis, will not change. But everything in between those two points can. It can include but is not limited to how we communicate, small group opportunities, community, outreach, mission work, relationship and on and on.

For the Catholics and other Christians we want to evangelize too, it is no longer good enough to get them involved. What is better is to add value to their lives by showing we, as Jesus representatives, we care. We care so much we will listen and walk with them. Help them on a journey of meaning to our Lord by accepting them where they are and lovingly bring them to understanding.

This begins with answering, what is our wifi?

Please leave a comment and share this with your friends. Eric

Tips to avoid a dumb story and when to have a good story at Mass

Your stewardship council recruited 2 couples and a single person to share their faith story with the parish. They took the outlines and other resources and have crafted a story for the parish. They dutifully give the story and it totally bombs! What the heck?

If this has not happened at your parish it will. But! There are ways to avoid a bad lay witness talk in both content, and delivery. Plus get more bang from the story buck.

Video #4 in the Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal are designed to help a parish look good and the story teller look and sound great. We will also uncover ways to get the story deep into the parish for maximum affect.

Watch this video then share it with your friends

Tips for Kids and Teens sharing their stories during stewardship renewal

Ever thought of using kids as lay witnesses? We should for several reasons:

  • It gives teens (especially) a meaningful way to contribute to the parish
  • Often times children are not jaded by life and have an innocent way of speaking about Jesus
  • Their enthusiasm can be infection
  • Get the kids...get the parents
  • Kids are darn cute

Really though, a good portion of our parish isn't old enough to vote but they do have a story to tell. We need to hear how Jesus helps these people at the stage of life they are in. From exams and sports teams to the death of relative, divorce....you name it our young people have something to share.

In the final video in our series titled "The Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal", learn how to have kids and teens share a faith story of stewardship through a live interview process and a traditional story.

How to over come..."I'm not a good Catholic" syndrome

For well intentioned ministers in parishes or stewardship council ministers, the easiest part of the lay witness process is identifying candidates. The hard part is getting them to yes.

This happened just this year to me. My priest invited my a married couple who are friends of mine. My buddy called me and asked me what this lay witness thing is all about and followed up promptly with. "Eric, I'm not the holiest Catholic and I don't think I have much to share. My wife has more to share than I do". Subsequently they declined the invitation.

This is a very common reply. We see gifts that are all stewardship in the people we worship with. The problem is these same people cannot see them or place little value on them. Aaaaaahhhhhh!. This is so frustrating!

Video 3 in this series is designed to help you overcome the "I'm not holy enough" syndrome. Plus, I mention a couple resources to help you help your candidates write a story. This episode is content rich and designed to help you get people to yes.

Click the links below for resources for writing a story:

 

 

Thanks for watching, Eric

Let me think about it, I'll call you

I walk through home shows and different events and I make eye contact with a salesman of sort. It is the kind of eye contact where the polite side of me says, "OK I'll listen to the spiel and be on my way". When said salesman is doe a normal reply I might give is "Thanks, that is interesting, I'll call you", or "Let me think about it and I'll get back to you". Translation: "Not only no but heck no am I calling you, I only listened to be polite".

This is a common experience when inviting lay witnesses to share their faith story with the parish. We are at home minding our own business and we get the call for the pitch: "Blah blah at our stewardship renewal". Us: "wow thanks we are honored you asked, let me talk to my husband and I'll get back to you". Translation: "Thanks for the invite church person, but I am not going to mention this to my husband and will forget you called in two seconds".

I may be exaggerating a little but I am closer to the truth than we would like to admit. The trouble we have recruiting lay witnesses is we don't ask well. Our questions are vague, language too big, and often we don't consider where the other person is spiritually. This is a recipe for disaster we repeat over and over in our parishes. It is time to start over.

Video #2 in our Series, "The Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal", is designed to give practical steps to help our friends and neighbors say yes to an invitation to share their story. Plus, give helpful tips to ask as well.

When you are done watching, leave a comment of your experience that went well...or not so much.

Thanks for watching, Eric

How does a piranha live for 30 years?

I remember at mission when I was kid. The priest was from the U.S. but had been serving people from Venezuela or some remote place in South America. I do not recall his name but recall very well his story of the piranha down to the accent he used when he said that word. He related the way a piranha devours it's pray to the way sin can consume us. What is interesting about this story is that....IT WAS OVER 30 Years ago I heard it.

That is the power people visiting with people can have.

In stewardship renewal, a part of that systematic effort is to have lay witnesses share their story of stewardship with the parish. The problem with lay witnesses is that it is a monumental pain the...yeah... to get our parishioners to give a talk. Much less a good one.

To help you create a parish where friends and neighbors can fall in love with Jesus I created a 5 part video series titled, The Power of Stories in Stewardship Renewal. People sharing faith stories with people can be very powerful. Think about it, when we make almost any decision from the purchase of a car or where is the best restaurant we ask our friends. We check Amazon reviews, Yelp and other places to see what others experience with this and that. Then we make our decision to buy, believe, or verify what is happening in our own lives.

A lay witness provides a similar experience for the people in the pews. "Jesus showed me the way when...", "I met my wife at the church social on...", "Adoration made a difference in my life because...".

Our stories share real experience by real people. This helps the rest of us grasp the awesome power of our Lord. But we don't tell stories leaving so many disconnected from Jesus. This video series is designed to help you bring those faith stories to the parish in simple easy to understand methods. Plus, you will learn how to ask, get people to yes, and help them create an amazing story designed to help people fall in love with Jesus.

Gen Y will come to Church, Here is How to Get em back

In the 2013 and 2014 Bishop Brungardt hosted a series of dinners for small groups of random people across the diocese. The dinners were held in big towns, small towns, in all four corners and places in between in both Spanish and English.

The Goal was to see what is on the minds of the people in the pews. Each person was invited to share their hopes and dreams on note cards which I later organized to see what concerns, hopes are rising to the top. This would go on to help Bishop Brungardt prioritize his ministry.

Not counting the need for more Priests, that hope was echoed every place we went across all languages, three other topics emerged in each location and again in both Spanish and English.

 

  • Cultural Unity
  • How do we get fallen away Catholics back
  • How do we keep youth/young adults in the faith?

 

Regarding #3, “How do we keep youth/young adults in the faith”, I read an article in a blog by Fast Company titled A MILLENNIA’S VERSION OF "THE AMERICAN DREAM" GEN-Y HASN'T BOUGHT INTO THE DREAM OF BIG HOUSES AND FANCY CARS. SO HOW DO YOU SELL TO THEIR DEMOGRAPHIC? FIRST THINGS FIRST, FORGET WHAT YOU KNEW.

After reading this article I immediately thought, “the 20 somethings are not the consumers my generation is and they still don’t come to church". "After all, aren’t the isms such as consumerism the driving factor why the 40ish something group don’t come to church?" If consumerism is not the reason Gen Y skips out then it is back to the drawing board.

The article explains four ways to sell stuff to Gen Y. We in parish life do not sell stuff, rather, promote a life in Jesus Christ. Below I take the four instructions companies use to sell stuff and reverse engineered them so parishes can help Gen Y see Jesus in us and grow in the relationship with him.

Flexibility – It is safe to say that Gen Y was not raised the way I was or as generations before. It is not all bad, it is not all good. It just is. Therefore we in church need to accept these people as they are where they are with no expectation their faith life will look like our own. Does Gen Y need to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet and pray the Rosary with regularity? Sure it would be nice but that is only two ways to pray. Exposing this group of people to a variety of ways to pray would be better and help them find what works best for them. Think flexible.

Vision – Why does a parish exist? Why does ministry in our parish exist? I firmly believe that a person whose relationship to Jesus, Mass, and Eucharist is flimsy, those wonderful things about our faith will not be enough to get them through our doors. Especially, if lack luster hospitality, poor music and preaching exist. Asking "why" is important so Gen Y can see the parish vision. The function of the parish in more than a series of motions on Saturday night and Sunday morning. The parish needs to show that the values it holds are bigger than it’s self.

Legacy – Many reading this grew up with this notion: Go to school and get good grades so we can go to a good college to get good job to save money for retirement and on and on. This whole idea is being abandoned by Gen Y. As a group, Gen Y needs more than good grades, money, and retirement at the end of the day. They are on a mission and want their lives to stand for more than traditional results of a life lived. A parish should help Gen Y create their legacy. Whether it is missionary work overseas, here at home, or creating a brand new ministry, this group is legacy driven. Help them create it. (Pssst, this idea works with other age groups too)

Connection – “we also value connecting to each other and the world around us. From Instagram to Snapchat to WhatsApp, millennials are hungry for new and innovative ways to keep in touch, see things in a new way, and share what’s important to them.” It is so true it is cliché, Gen Y is connected and the phones are at the ready….all the time. Each parish should discern how it uses the varieties of communication to speak to and allow others to speak back. Except for practical matters, it seems that most parish communication is one way. Gen Y needs a method to interact with their church in a valuable way. An area to test ideas even flawed ideas, as they search for meaning and wrestle with challenging aspects of Jesus teaching.

This group can be brought into the life of Jesus but it will take devoted and creative leadership. This group has much to offer the world if we speak their language.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think. The best conversations happen after the article.

Eric

Facebook, the rules changed, what you need to know

 

For parishes in the Diocese of Dodge City using Facebook as a marketing/communication tool there are new rules you need to know about. I only learned about these new rules...well today 1/2/15.

A quick history lesson first. Your parish and businesses across the land have used Facebook "pages" for quite awhile for free. We would post our content on our page and hopefully it would end up in a persons news feed and all would be right with the world. Due to user requests to clean up the amount of marketing messages we receive, Facebook will make it more difficult for your messages to show up in fan news feeds organically.

The nitty gritty is this, it is less likely your message will be seen, virtually zero chance. FYI -  previous to this change your message would be only be seen by 10% of fans if your content was great. That means only 10 people would see a message if your parish page had 100 fans. Not so great.

A bit more history if some of the words I used in the second paragraph do not make sense. First, your personal profile and your "page", such as your parish page or the Diocese Facebook page do not operate the same way. A page is a separate identity primarily used to promote idea, brands, companies etc. We work to have people "like" our page so we can promote cause or sell a thing. When a person "likes" our page, our content hopefully is seen in that person's news feed.

History lesson over. With the new rules effective January 1, 2015, we will now need to be smarter to have our content be seen by the people we want to reach. Think evangelization.

  • Tap into people in your office to be your ambassador -- it is imperative to create great original content. Valuable links to your website, infographics, short videos by your priest or youth group, pictures of activities in your parish and thoughtful questions or surveys people can comment on. Bulletin announcement type content will not be good enough anymore. Especially if it is not accompanied by an image. Once meaningful content is created, encourage all the staff, influencers in the parish, and friends to like, comment, and share the content.
  • Try other social media platforms -- Instagram, Youtube, Twitter and others can help your parish reach people where they are.
  • Experiment with Facebook ads -- Facebook ads are relatively cheap and easy to set up. Ads can be targeted to the specific audience you want to reach.
    • For example, below is the result of an add campaign I created to encourage people in the Diocese to subscribe to the Parish Tool Box Podcast. Look for the paid reach in the middle top of the image. For a budget of $30 I was able to reach 7,148 people. That means 7,000+ people saw my ad show up in there news feed. In addition, the actions of the audience can also be seen. This ad was targeted to men and women between 20 and 65 years old that live within a 25 mile radius of cities in our Diocese.

 

  • Now, take a look at the reach of normal posts that are not paid. This would be called organic reach. On most days the content the Diocese posts on our Facebook page reaches less that 100 people. Interestingly enough however, look at the posts that have a video of Bishop John, 800 to 1,000 people were reached. In addition, people engaged with that content by liking, commenting and sharing the content which helps more people see it. Notice at the bottom of the image the post that I promoted with the $30. Over, 7,000 were reached.

 

If this seems confusing lets keep it very simple. Create valuable content and ask people to like, share and comment on it. Paid promotion can help your message be seen. Video and images work.

This will help you evangelize and make your parish a place people can fall in love with Jesus.

Leave a comment and share this post with your friends, and don't forget to like it on Facebook :)

Peace to you, Eric

Is this where we totally biff?

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,

Eric

 

 

Two great videos to transform your life and your parish

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.

 

Eric

 

Learning from Harley Davidson tattoos

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.

Thanks Eric

Stewardship Renewal Q and A September 17, 2014

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. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Ideas for Stewardship in small parishes

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

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
    Hospitality
    Prayer
    Formation
    Service
  • 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.

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The Wizard of Oz got Catholocism Right

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.

 

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Everyone and Anyone = No One

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.

Eric

Not another free water bottle. Please..no more

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?

Chris: Yes

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

A Bad Sunday that isn't so bad

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

The words “Step up” tick me off, how about you?

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.

Please leave comments in the comment box. Eric

Diocese of Dodge City


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