At one point or another in our lives, we have been or will be new to a Parish and her community. As a cradle Catholic, it’s part of our upbringing to consistently be part of the life of The Church. Perhaps we were born, raised, and married in the same parish. Some may visit a different parish in their university years, or others because of a move or life event. The point that we always want to remember is that our parish is to show the love of God and be a reflection of the Christian community. The best ways you can improve your parish begin with prayer and some practical steps to welcome people genuinely and make them feel valued.
Personally greet every person who enters your parish. This should be done by a team of people. Position a greeting and/or hospitality team throughout the church and not just at the front and back doors. Have some in the parking lot or in the hallways and nave. Key signage to know where the restrooms or cry rooms are located are essential. But having people ready to answer questions and/or direct others to the proper places goes a long way in building connections. Furthermore, anyone who asks, “How can I improve my parish?” should definitely be on a greeting or hospitality team, as he’s already begging for a role!
Respond in a timely manner. Just as we appreciate a thoughtful RSVP to a gathering, have the proper team respond to the new visitor, or the email, or the prayer request, etc., within 48 hours out of respect and concern for them. This puts an emphasis on discipleship and communication. If someone shares a prayer request and it lands on deaf ears or in an unread pile of notes, the person will feel embarrassed and likely not reach out again. If a visitor shares contact information, don’t assume you can add it to your entire database. Do reach out and welcome them again with an invitation for coffee during the week or by letting them know you hope to see them again at whichever Mass service they previously attended.
Together as a Family
Anticipate and encourage family attendance. As families continue to come together to learn about the life of Jesus Christ, His teachings, and the Catholic Faith, they desire to know Him better. From planned take home activities to volunteering together, with time and further cultivation, the youth will serve alongside their peers and then as individuals. Children and teenagers are technically proficient and your parish should be, as well. Step up and connect with them via means of the web and social media. Put effort into these golden opportunities for engagement to improve parish life from the youngest to the eldest.
A Place for Everyone
Yes, there’s a place for everyone! Reserve your closest and most convenient parking spaces for visitors, expectant and new mothers and the elderly. Parishioners will not mind walking a little further for the benefit of those in need. While there are quite a few known parish growth tips, why not think outside the box and consider not marking the spaces as “Reserved for…” and just let them remain as open spaces? Sometimes people feel vulnerable or targeted by parking in a “reserved” space. It’s a great additive to a conversation to invite someone to Mass and say that there should be plenty of accessible parking. And, if a visitor shows up on his own and finds an available parking spot closer to the door, he may feel extra welcomed!
Let us ponder some tips to improve parish life by re-reading and implementing in our own lives the Second Council’s “Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People” asserting that the laity should be filled with an apostolic spirit and work closely with their priests. Further, “Nourished by their active participation in the liturgical life of their community, they
- engage zealously in its apostolic works;
- draw men toward the Church who had been perhaps very far away from it;
- ardently cooperate in the spread of the Word of God, particularly by catechetical instruction;
- with their expert assistance increase the efficacy of the care of souls as well as of the administration of the goods of the Church (No.10).”
This adds the responsibility to better the parish on the shoulders of each parishioner. From her book, Love: a Fruit Always in Season, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta writes, “Faith in love is action, and love in action is service.” Shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm, we will build the parish.
Relationships are critical to a healthy church. In larger churches, though, it’s hard to stay connected. You have more people attending, making it harder to really know who attends. People want to feel a sense of belonging. This happens when people know each other.
How do you overcome this problem? Technology.
Technology can accelerate the speed of relationships. In this free guide, Managing Relationships with Technology, you learn how technology is your best team member for managing more relationships.
For more information please visit ACSTCatholic.com.