Parishes with good communications find that parishioners tend to be eager to participate and glad to contribute their time, talent, and treasure because they feel like they’re “in the loop.” But parishes that don’t effectively share the news — either deliberately or accidentally — find that the people can feel left out. Such a parish can become fertile ground for rumors and complaints.
Sometimes parish communications can bring dramatic results. One of the parishes we serve had a non-Catholic man married to a parishioner show up one year at RCIA. His reason? “I started reading the parish newsletter my wife received each month, and I decided I want to be a part of this community.”
Not every issue of the newsletter brings a convert to the Church, but they are a valuable tool for parish communications. We hear regularly of lapsed or semi-active Catholics who resume practicing their faith because they receive monthly newsletters mailed to their homes, and they realize how much they are missing. It’s a great vehicle to showcase parish life and teach parishioners about their faith.
Our surveys show that above 90% of churchgoers read the bulletin. It’s an invaluable source of announcements and news. To be most effective, it needs to be kept fresh in appearance and content.
Announcements at Mass
To be effective, Mass announcements need to be announced clearly enough that they can be heard, and be short enough that people keep listening. It’s best if they are limited to one or two very important matters, plus any changes to announcements in the bulletin.
Parish Web site
Parish Web sites run the gamut from stupendous to horrendous. Some are extremely elaborate, with parish histories, virtual tours, and parish chat rooms. Others offer only basic information. As the Internet becomes ever more popular, parishes without a website are squandering an opportunity to reach their members. For example, if you post your bulletin on your website, parishioners who were out of town or sick can keep up with what’s going on. Parishes post duty schedules (ushers, altar servers, etc.), photos of parish picnics, among innumerable other possibilities. Some parishes even accept on-line contributions!
While all the above communication vehicles are important, person-to-person contact is best when possible. If you can take care of something with a personal call rather than a letter or bulletin blurb, reach for the phone.
Effective communication is a challenge in every parish. People are busy, and they don’t always take time to listen. You have to tell people more than once and in different ways. But the effort is well worth it. After all, communicating is sharing the news – and the word Gospel itself means Good News. Let’s share it!
Pointers for Effective Communication
- Get an excellent editor – People are less likely to take your publications seriously if there are lots of misspellings, wrong dates, and other errors.
- Be willing to spend some money – First class production shows the reader that the content is important. Cheaply done materials usually look, well, cheap.
- Give plenty of advance notice for upcoming events – Brief notices to “save the date” can be run periodically until it’s time to give more details. Don’t be surprised when you wait until the last minute to announce a program, and then find that people have already made other plans.
- If you have a Web site, keep it up to date – It’s discouraging to check a parish website for the 2010 Christmas Mass schedule, only to find instead the Holy Week schedule for 2005.
- Thank people in print – Any activity, program, or event takes people to do the work. Regularly thank your staff and volunteers who are behind the scenes.