Consider the following Scripture passages from the Gospel according to Eric
And Jesus said to his Disciples "Everyone is invited to follow me"
Then Jesus said, "Anyone want to be the rock I build my church on?"
Peter said, "Everyone is invited to a dinner by the sea where Jesus will bless then share loaves and fishes, please RSVP to Matthew by the 1st."
Do these scripture passages sound anything like a typical bulletin or pulpit announcement? They should as every place I have been to mass I have read to heard these very similar messages. Seth Godin wrote and excellent blog post on this exact topic. I was edified when I read it as I have held this belief for a long time. Read this brief excerpt from the full post.
"When we say to a group, "everyone help me with this," it's easy to let someone else do it. And those asked can see the surplus, the wasted energy, the duplication implied with 'everyone'. If the crowd is assigned to help every person down on his luck, or to keep the city or the planet clean, well, that everyone doesn't have to be me."
"everyone doesn't have to be me." I reread that last six words several times as it is exactly true. I set a Mass and here the word "everyone" and it seems like my default thought process says: "Father is talking to someone else not me". For some reason everyone gives each of us a way out. We can easily think if everyone is invited then other people can go. We have deniability. Thus, very few people participate.
I cannot imagine the result Jesus would have had if he would have used my scripture passages. The results would have been terrible. But Jesus did not use the words anyone and everyone. No, he called people by name: Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas”John 1:42. There are countless other passages where Jesus looks a person in the eye and speaks to them. Not everyone.
It is worth the heavy lifting to stop using the terms "anyone" and "everyone". Those two words are impersonal and allow us a way to get off the hook. Taking time to ask Bob, Jill, or Anastasia will make a tremendous long term affect.
It was a year ago and my family and I were taking in a local home and garden show. One of the gimmicks to get people in the door was free water bottles, pizza and stuff. I went to look around then caught up with my family and low a behold, 3 water bottles. The discourse went like this:
Me: Where did all the water bottles come from?
Chris (my wife): The kids picked them up, I thought we could use them.
Me: Don't we already have several of those water bottles?
Me: Can I give those back? How many water bottles do we need?
The rest of the conversation is not fit for this article but needless to say our stash of water bottles remained the same. However, someone at the same event was doling out t-shirts like Pez and we came home with several.
Isn't it curious in American culture our propensity to take stuff we don't need? We have all been there. It is a home and garden show, a sporting event, parade, or conference. At a local football game t-shirts were being shot out of an air cannon for a law firm. We ended up with one that not one person our family can wear and is not even cool. The girls use it as a night shirt.
Back to the point. Why are we so eager to collect things that add no redeemable value to our lives. Just like my water bottle example. We had enough. We did not need more. Our cabinets were screaming for space the way it was and more water bottles was not going to help. Yet free water bottles seemed very attractive. T-shirts at sporting events are the same way. Bring out an air cannon or a group of cheer leaders and toss shirts into the air the crowd will go wild.
Do not misunderstand, I fully appreciate why we get these freebies. It is marketing which I cannot fault. And air cannons are pretty cool, just wish they would shoot rolls of hundreds or even fives vs t-shirts. We as stewards of our lives and the stuff God gives us need to step back and ask our selves what will bring joy and value. Would we have 75% of the contents in our homes if we took a discerning look into our closets and cabinets?
How much more free would we feel without cabinets and dressers overflowing with possessions that we do not truly enjoy? I reckon a good many people cannot image what it would feel like without being surrounded by stuff. Even stuff we do not need truly value or care about.
What possession adds joy to your life? What thing in your life could you get rid of and never miss?
Leave your comments in the comment box. Thanks Eric
What is a bad Sunday worth in your parish? No I'm not talking about a questionable homily or music that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up...in a bad way. No I'm talking about the offertory.
Each week those of us in the pews dutifully, hopefully joyfully, place our gift of treasure in the collection basket. Over time patterns emerge in giving. Winter is better than summer, Christmas and Easter are better than other weekends in the year, the 9 AM Sunday Mass is better than the 5 PM Saturday night mass and on and on. So my question, what amount in the collection plate is a "Bad Sunday"?
Now that the value of a bad Sunday has been determined, imagine what a parish could spend that money on if a parish could count on an extra bad Sunday each month. Could a parish make scholarships for NCYC to students? Could the office pay for a part time staff member? What fundraising effort could be eliminated? Perhaps a mission in a foreign land could be created? Maybe, each month a random charity could be supported?
Now that the imagination has been fully sparked, the question can be asked, "How do we get a bad Sunday?" Offer an electronic giving program. A program where people like me can go online, set up a hassle free account and put our giving on cruise control via bank draft, debit or credit card. With modest promotion a parish could achieve a bad Sunday per month. Hopefully much more. This slight uptick in the collection plate at the end of the month is due to automatic giving. On any given weekend a percentage of the parish is away from church. Either traveling, sickness, or a number of other factors. That group of people that did not show up for mass may or may not send in their weekly gift. However, a giving program put on auto pilot makes a weekly gift whether Bob and Thelma are there or not. Add up enough Bob and Thelmas and wallah! A bad Sunday extra of financial gifts.
Electronic giving is not a magic pill. If not promoted people will not know it is available and ready to use. Like any other ministry in the parish, electronic giving needs proper promotion.
But Eric! What about the fees? If people start giving electronically we will lose money to credit card and bank fees... WRONG! Yes there are fees but has anyone heard the K-State or KU Fundraising arm whining about fees? No. Fees are a cost of doing business. Plus, if promoted even modestly the increased income will more than cover fees from vendors.
So who wants a bad Sunday extra? I do! There will be a session at the 2014 Stewardship Conference dedicated to electronic giving and what it can mean to a parish. Register here today.
Please leave comments in the comment box. Thanks Eric
Would someone step up and lead? If people would just step up! Who’s going to step up? If they would just step up.
Grrr at all the above. The sentences above are almost default settings when a volunteer or leader is needed. Maybe I’m being selfish and do not want to volunteer my time. Maybe I have stewarded all my available resources and do not want to give more. Maybe I don’t care about that ministry. Or, maybe, just maybe, the person asking did not tell a good story that would spark my interest and touch me emotionally.
I do not claim to have all the answers but what I am certain of is that Parish life is more fragmented than it has ever been. This is not a bad thing in my opinion as we cannot change that fact, merely adjust to the new normal. With so many choices before each person, we in parish will have to work harder to connect people to meaningful ministry and ideas.
I will say it again. We, the people serving, have to work harder to connect. We will have to work harder to uncover hidden abilities in our fellow parishioners. We have to reach out more in addition to running the plant.
I’m sure any staff across our Diocese reading this will be overjoyed at the thought of doing more with the same resources. But I think this presents a great opportunity to follow Pope Francis’s sage advice to “make a mess” and “smell like sheep”.
In this new normal I think the golden opportunity is for each parish to set down and ask “what are we doing that is making a difference?” Then, “what are we doing that needs to die”. There are a good many ordinary ministries and ideas that have simply run their course and need to be put on the top shelf for a few years. That is a good thing.
Another Golden opportunity in the new normal, is the ability to try something new, something different. Not a re-branding of a present ministry, but something totally different. Perhaps Father can teach lessons via a website via video or start a pod cast. Maybe it is a webinar. Perhaps it is a 30 minute lunch and learn at the local coffee shop or café. Perhaps the school becomes a school for arts or science versus a school for everyone. Perhaps the passionate parishioner can follow through on their idea that did not fit before.
Going forward in the new normal the best question to ask for any ministry present or future is this, “How is this ministry going to connect people”. Not just get them involved, but help them commit emotionally to our parish and ultimately Jesus.
Now, if people would just step up and read this. Sorry, could not help myself.
Please leave comments in the comment box. Eric
I attended a Home and School meeting at a K-8 Catholic School. One of the members promoted an idea to have a fundraiser in the coming year to boost teacher salaries. I understand the person's motivation. Unfortunately that idea will keep Catholic schools in perpetual states of fundraising and will ultimately fail.
Fundraisers fail Catholic schools financially for the following reasons:
1. Band aids stop bleeding but they don't cure cancer. Catholic schools I have been associated with generally seem to live in perpetual states of being underfunded. Therefore, when the smallest crisis or interesting project comes up, we gotta have a fundraiser. Fundraiser are band aids. The "thing" not in the budget is the bleeding and the fundraiser takes care of the short fall. Unfortunately there are numerous good ideas and small crisis that we plan to not to budget for because we know we can find a good person to create a fundraiser to cover. This is short term thinking that wears volunteers and parents out.
2. Creating Give to Need Parishioners. We people in the pews like to see brick and mortar, statues, pavement, pew cushions, sounds systems, air conditioners, Christmas, and Easter Flowers. These types of expenses can be large out of the ordinary expenses not in the ordinary budget (except the flowers, Christmas and Easter happen every year...at the same time). So when a parish does not have a sinking fund for the items that will fail over time, a finance council member or even the pastor will ask for extraordinary gifts to pay them. And the laity dutifully responds. We like to our money spent on things we see. Nothing wrong with this overall. The problem is that we create a culture of giving to a need versus giving because we need to. The mind set between giving to a need and needing to give is very different and a different mindset is necessary.
3. Ratios matter. I am not aware of a Catholic school that is fully self supporting. Schools I am familiar with all receive primary funding in two forms: Tuition and the parish subsidy. The ratio of this funding typically follows a conservative 1 to 2 ratio. For every 1 dollar of tuition money, the parish subsidizes the school 2 dollars. This does not include endowment income, annual auction, or other significant fundraiser. Ratios matter due to this fact, the highest portion of the school budget comes from the parish subsidy not annual fundraisers. The long term and best way to increase funding to a Catholic School is to increase the income at the supporting parish.
4. Convert or Convert, that is the question. Fundraising robs every school and parish of conversion to discipleship. It takes much giving ones self over to Jesus and fully trusting the Lord to say, "I will give 10% of my income to my parish to do with as seen fit". That is a different kind of discipleship than giving $200 to the latest fundraising campaign. Conversion requires us to be challenged and to answer that challenge with extraordinary trust and devotion to God. A detachment from worldly stuff. Not that stuff is bad, no, a detachment.
Really what all this leads up to is living and promoting stewardship as a way of life. When we promote the Holy heck out of stewardship with intent and purpose we solve many of the funding issues so common to Catholic Schools. Along the way some of the other common complaints of parish and school are solved too. Bonus! Let's cure cancer versus put a band aid on it.
Comments are requested and welcome. Leave them in the box below.
The title of this article is not a trick question. Frankly there are a ton of people setting in the pews that are fairly indifferent to our what our parishes have to say. I bet every parish staff member or religious will stand and give a big Amen to the following...
We ginned up a great program, marketed the holy heck out of it with Mass announcements, email blasts, text messages, Facebook updates, Tweeted, gave it special real estate in the bulletin, the event comes and goes. Then Joe and Helen, the two most faithful parishioners, who attend everything, have 4 adoration hours, lead the rosary, heal the sick and make shoes for children overseas say the following "we never heard about it".
Can I get an AMEN!
The reason this happens is the message is not relevant to them. Seriously, after I receive a 1,000 messages from church or any organization that offer no value to me, I tune out about everything else that wonderful organization has to say.
How do we solve this communication juggernaut? With permission marketing. When parishioners give us permission to speak with them, we have a great opportunity to speak to people that care about the parish. That person has taken a moment to say "I trust you" or "I love what you have to say and want to hear more". This is the premise of permission marketing.
This type of relationship takes the focus away from the Parish and the Parish needs and focuses attention on the person in the pew and their needs. It no longer about me but you.
This is why I am a champion of emails lists, like MailChimp, or Aweber. Both service and others like them allow parishes to place an "opt in" feature on your website. This allows Parishioners to say "I want to hear from you".
I am a champion of services like Flocknote. Again, services like Flocknote allow the people in the pew to say "I want to hear from you parish, please send me text alerts, or email, or Facebook update, or a live call".
All these features I have mentioned are game changers for a Catholic Parish. The mindset behind all these services is the conversation changes from me, to you.
One important thing to keep in mind with permission marketing. The content, ideas, and information we share once we have permission to share it, must be of value, appropriate, and not turn into SPAM. If our conversation turns into SPAM we can lose permission as people will opt out and we will likely not gain their trust again. Read more on this by a brilliant article by Seth Godin
The challenge now is to decide if we want our parish to continue ineffective email blasts to people may not want them and mass announcement that may tuned out for dinner plans. Or, the hard work of saying something that matters to people who care.
Please leave a comment in the comment box.
The office of stewardship has 7 student kits and a full set of leader DVDs for your parish to host Financial Peace University. From Dave's website:
"We all need a plan for our money. Financial Peace University (FPU) is that plan! It teaches God's ways of handling money. Through video teaching, class discussions and interactive small group activities, FPU presents biblical, practical steps to get from where you are to where you've dreamed you could be. This plan will show you how to get rid of debt, manage your money, spend and save wisely, and much more!"
It is no secret I watch and read a variety of entrepreneurs. I get quite a charge from these people and it is remarkable how Catholic there voices are. Yes! These secular authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs are surprisingly Catholic in voice.
Actually I have no idea if these people are friendly or even hostile to religion of any sort but that does not matter. What matters are the worlds they use. Read their books or blogs. Watch their videos. Very common themes will begin to emerge that are the foundation of stewardship and make the Holy Spirit very tangible.
One theme the four people I have mentioned champion is the idea that each of us has "art" within us. A second is passion. To follow those ideas that we care about with all our passion and energy. To become who we are "called" to be.
Let's examine each of these themes. Art - It seems most folks I know define art as painters, sculptures, musicians, poets, and likely eccentrics that gain notoriety for haggard lives and drinking problems. The modern definition that I am reading from the four people I have sited is this: "your art is that thing that adds value to world". This definition opens up a flood gate of possibility to each of us. No matter how obscure we may think our idea is, it is now art. Better than that, it now our art, my art.
For example, I have been making and selling high end models of farm machinery and teaching people how to do it along the way. No I am not solving world hunger or curing cancer. What I am doing is adding value to the people that like what I do. I equip enthusiasts to begin making their own memories, indulge a hobby, and bring a little joy to their lives. Each of us have something like that in us. It could be coaching sports teams, collecting stamps, sewing, working with the poor, reading with children. Each person has a gift (art) in them. 1 Peter 4:10
It took Sr. Rosemary Stein prodding me to admit out loud this passion I have is a gift from God. I knew it deep down but as I mentioned, these are farm toys, not things Mother Theresa might identify with. But the gift is not of less value than the gift of another person either.
The second theme I read from each of these people is passion. Passion can be associated with enthusiasm, excitement, drive, and focus. Again, each of us has that thing we do where we lose all sense of time. Where we look at the clock and it is noon then look again and it is five. Then we wonder where the time went. There is that zone where we skip supper and are relentless to finish the project. That close is not good enough, only where the project meets are finite standard are we happy. Once we can say "it is done", we are not tired but energized. This my friends is the work of the Holy Spirit. Pervade as passion by Seth, Amy, Pat, and Marie, but work of the Holy Spirit under our Catholic umbrella.
So what is your art? What is your passion? How does the Holy Spirit affect your life? Leave a comment in the comment box below.
Talk to you soon, Eric
Pope Francis is pretty hip on folks like me getting out doing work for other people, especially the poor.
Service through the lens of stewardship is the finale of a process. A maturating Christians that loves you, our neighbor, Jesus, and our Faith.
Stewardship of formation can be tricky. My experience thus far is very well intentioned ministers think the best method to teach the faith is to teach a great deal of head knowledge.
While that idea is not bad, I can say with confidence that at this point in my life a lecture classroom situation if almost offensive. I spent plenty of time being lectured facts and figures in college. Don't get me wrong, I am not apposed to learning. Quite the opposite actually. Entering middle age I want to know how the Gospel connects to my present life in meaningful ways. Like many of my peers, I need an emotional connection to Jesus that is far beyond facts and figures. Formation is much bigger than dates and names.
Allow formation to be the conduit to bring people in the pews to Jesus.
I wonder how many people in the pews think there is one way to pray? For those Catholics that are very good people but self conscious about how Holy they are, I think prayer can be intimidating. Especially if we compare ourselves to the seasoned Catholics in the first 10 rows praying the rosary and in what looks like fervent prayer.
This video disrobes the notion there is one way to pray. Please leave comments in the comment box.
I asked, you told me, and I listened. I asked stewardship committees what I could produce to help with stewardship renewal and brief videos explaining the 4 Pillars was requested.
Here is the first installment. Please let me know how it helps you and what I can provide you next. Please leave comments in the comment box.
I firmly believe in the power of a story to touch the heart of people in the pews. Seth Godin wrote a book titled “All Marketers Tell Stories” teaching us how to sell stuff. Chip and Dan Heath wrote two books Made to Stick and Switch teaching us how to make ideas memorable and how to change behavior in people. Plus, Jesus told stories, lots of stories. Why don’t we?
I have invited people to share their story only to be told “it’s not that special” or “I could never speak at Mass”. With those first two hurdles in mind we need to remove road blocks if these stories are to be told.
For those of living in a family it is not uncommon for one parent or spouse in an anger to throw verbal bombs like this at the rest of the family: “You Never , You always , Nobody ever ,”. Yes this happens in my house and many of us have been on the receiving end of these grenades and they are lies. It is true we family members leave our shoes out, the dishes in the sink, and forget to let the toilet seat down no doubt. But absolutes are dangerous words and are not true. Plus, absolutes make people feel terrible. After hearing the lie we always do X when it is more like often or sometimes we can be hurt and think, “well heck with it then”.
What is tragic about the opening paragraph is that not only does it happen in our homes, it happens in our churches as well. This grenade sounds something like; “we can plan X event but nobody shows up”. Or, “people always leave after communion”. It is true our target audience may not show up to an event, but, if the people that usually show up attend we at least affect a group people. It is true some people leave after communion but not everyone.
A common reaction to promote a new idea (or even an old one) is to ready the information machine and begin yelling at people until the message sinks in. I’m beginning to think we have enough information.
Honestly, if I want information on anything, I can have it in seconds on my iPhone. From tying balloon animals to stewardship there is no lack of information. The problem is much of the information I receive in my newspaper, email, and Facebook feed is impersonal with no connection to my life. This why the Sunday bulletin does ZERO to connect parishioners to meaningful stewardship or anything else in the parish.
To inform parishioners of an idea, what we have to do it connect to people. This means the good old days of anonymous bulletin inserts with passive language will not do. The announcements at mass read by people that do not care will not work. Websites with a descent story of ministry but no pictures or video of the people I worship with and no links to more information is not good enough.
When a parish wants my precious attention, parish better put a real human face on an idea. The idea must be relevant to my life and be valuable. Better yet, the idea must touch my heart on an emotional level. The content and delivery better be much more than passive irrelevant facts which are great for my head, but are unlikely to move me to action.
The next time an announcement is made, article written, or an idea is shared, take the time to find the person who is passionate about it and have them make the case for it. Give me an opportunity to trust what is said through a good story and connect to it. Provide me resources I can go to if I want more but do not assume I want it all right now. Your passion may be balloon animals so tell me a great story about how the balloon animal ministry made a difference. Provide a link to a youtube video I can watch, if I want to. Then invite to make a difference with you.
Follow this template and stewardship will catch on, just like the balloon animal ministry.
Ever wonder why enrollment at some Catholic Schools drops? I have an idea for sure and the following conversation brought it to light. A friend of mine and were talking about a school. My friend was a bit outraged that enrollment had fallen from the glory days of 400+ to now a wink over 200. Some reasons for the drop could be lower quality of education, changes in staff, and loss of strong athletics.
But I have another idea. I asked, “How many people our age do you see at mass on any given weekend?” The truth is, not many. Even the parents of the students, by and large, are not showing up much less the parents without students at the school. My hypothesis is this, people in the 40ish demographic have checked out of regular Mass attendance. Since a large group of Gen X is no longer attending church regularly, why in the world would they want to drop 3, 4, 5, or 10 grand on a Catholic Education?
Make no mistake I am a huge supporter of every Catholic Parish having a gift shop. Or even a group of parishes teaming up create gift shop. "WhaaAAAaaaat? You want my parish to set aside space and resources to sell gifts?" NO! Not at all, I want each parish to set aside space and resources to people like me can go "gift shop" and uncover what I am called to do for Jesus.
This idea comes from a parish on the east coast I read about a long time ago. Basically the parish took the junk they sold in their "gift shop" out. Then, set a desk in there with a woman who had the job of helping parishioners discover their own unique gifts...in the "gift shop". Very clever.
I believe there is so much potential wasted in our world due to people having no idea what their gifts are. We moan and groan in parish leadership that no one will "step up" for various ministries. But if I am setting in the pew and do not know I have a particular skill at something I'm volunteering. Why would I? This is where gifts discernment comes in. To help people discover who God wants them to be.
Imagine this conversation between a 30 something Catholic woman and her protestant friends at a child's birthday party.
Kacey: Steph you seem to be happier lately. What's going on?
Steph: I discovered I have a gift for communication. It seemed speaking came easy for me but I learned it is a gift and now I have the confidence to do it more. It has made a difference at home and work and wow is it fun.
Kacey: Wow where did you learn this about yourself. Sounds interesting.
Steph: Oh yeah. I learned it at my church, St. . They started this new program to help people find their gifts and I am so glad I went through it.
Before I let the cat out of the bag so to speak, I give you this brief intro complements of Seth Godin’s blog post 1/8/14. Read the full post here
Let's agree on two things:
1. There are thousands of times as many things available to read as there were a decade ago. It's possible that in fact there are millions as many.
2. Now that everyone can write, publish, email you stuff and generally make noise, everyone might and many people already are.
As a result, there's too much noise, too much poorly written, overly written, defensively written and generally useless stuff cluttering your life.
If Seth’s statements are accurate, and I believe they are, then how does each Catholic Parish wade through the noise to be heard by parishioners? Often when I speak to an audience about communication I use the analogy of a Facebook newsfeed. Most people I know have 300+ friends, “like” several pages, are involved in groups, plus FB places ads in our newsfeed. With all that clutter to scroll through there is no way our attention can be given to each item. So what do we do? Scroll through the feed reading 5% of the content ignoring 95%. And reading 5% is generous IMO.
If I have heard it once I have heard it 1000 times, "we can't get people to show up to _____________________________ event at our parish". Why? Frankly we are using an outdated formula with carrots and sticks. The old formula worked something like this:
For a couple of decades this formula worked brilliantly and suddenly it didn't. What happened? The nature of what we do for a living, the way we spend out time changed and the system in our parishes did not. The mindset did not evolve. Luckily for us there are thinkers in the secular world that have discovered what happened and how to fix it. The video below presents ideas for business but I think they have tremendous value in the church world. To get to the punch line fast forward to 12:40. The "fix" is presented from that point forward.
After watching this video, please post comments if you agree or disagree and why. Thanks so much!
To learn in depth about motivation read Daniel's book Drive. It is well done.
What if our parish created a ministry that would help people remove noise and clutter from their lives and handle stress better. Think it would get any traction? I "like" TED on Facebook and this video popped into my news feed. TED talks catch my imagination so I gave this one a listen and I found fascinating. I watched and wondered how our parishes could take this idea and create a meaningful way to help their harried, over scheduled, hyperactive parishioners. Seriously, have we looked at ministry as treating the whole person? A very good argument could be made along this line of thinking, can we minister to the spiritual without ministering to the whole person.
For example, our parish needs money so Father and lays witnesses, maybe a finance council member make the ask. If we over extended, over mortgaged, credit card swiping under income middle class there is a good chance the "ask" will fall on deaf ears. Perhaps personal finance workshops or debt reduction lessons are in order. FPU anyone? How about this? A husband and wife show up to Mass after a delicious argument over a mother in law. Reckon the "ask" for a catechist will be heard? How about the Five Love Languages Or Marriage For Keeps on an annual rotation.
I think Pope France is right. A poor church for the poor. Not just the monetarily poor but he poor in spirit, the poor in parenting, the poor in stress management. The new evangelization is a golden opportunity to think different. To connect people to people who are the Church.
What clever ways can a parish connect and minister where you live? Please leave your comments in the comment box.