Five Tips for Building Vibrant Church Greeters

Posted on October 14, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Woman greeting at churchChurch greeters are a vital part of your parish ministry and a successful greeter team can help grow your church. Greeting is an opportunity to express God’s love through Christ and to help set the tone before Mass for parishioners and guests.

1. Make a plan

People respond to leadership and are more likely to take this ministry seriously if you have a plan in place. Prepare a simple list of responsibilities for new greeters. Always smile, make eye contact, and provide welcoming gestures like opening the door for everyone. Provide examples on what to say when greeting parishioners and guests. Create a rotating schedule that makes it flexible and easy for volunteers to participate.

2. Share your vision 

Greeting is a simple act, but one that can mean the difference between whether a visitor comes back next week or ever. Communicate with your team that you want everyone who visits your church to feel like they belong. Visitors should be greeted with warm smiles and welcoming gestures. Always refer to visitors as “guests” to follow the warm welcome approach.

3. Lead by example

Provide shadow training for new greeters. Team each new greeter with an experienced greeter during a Mass to help them learn how to put the simple list of responsibilities in action. Provide examples of preferred greeting phrases like:

If you haven’t seen the guest before, instead of asking “Are you new here?” say”I don’t think we’ve met yet, I’m John” or “It’s great to see you! Welcome.”

If you have seen the guest before say something like “Good morning Mary, good to see you again” or “Welcome Bob, it’s great to have you.” It’s ok if you can’t remember their name right away, what’s important is that people know that you are being actively inviting to them personally.

4. Seek out people who are naturally friendly

Identify people in your church who are naturally outgoing and personally ask them if they would use their gift to welcome people into God’s house.

5. Encourage one another

Any ministry can be discouraging at times, and greeting is no exception. Not everyone you talk to is going to be as friendly as you are and not everyone is going to come back. It’s important to take time to celebrate guests who return, share positive stories as a greeter, and encourage one another to keep up the good work.

 

There Is No Need to Fear

Posted on October 13, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, October 18, 2015, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Photos of Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, and Catherine Doherty. Photo of Mother Teresa © Saikat Paul / Shutterstock.com.It is quite amazing to consider the status that Blessed Mother Teresa gained in this world by living a life that certainly was not mainstream in any modern culture. While so many of us on this planet sought to advance ourselves and accumulate more and more wealth, she lived a life of poverty and of service to others. Yet, she was held is such high esteem by so many.

In North America, our modern history is filled with figures who have lived similar lives. Dorothy Day started the Catholic Worker Movement and lived with those who were poor and cast out of mainstream society. Catherine Doherty began the Madonna House Apostolate to serve the needs of the poor and to provide a community for lay people and religious to live a simpler way of life. While Saint John Paul II was pope he opened the cause for both of these women toward canonization. There are always examples of people like this around us and, for the most part, they are admired and held up as examples of lives full of generosity and compassion. So why are so many people more like James and John in this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark?

In the reading, the apostles are concerned about status and where they will end up when Jesus leaves. Jesus says to them, “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” He then explains to them that idea of status they have here on earth is not true status that has any merit in the kingdom of heaven. He lays out to them that he is to be their example, saying, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In the Gospel of Mark that we will hear next Sunday, Jesus meets a blind beggar on the side of the road. He encounters the man and heals his blindness, demonstrating to his disciples how those who are the least are truly the ones with status in his reality. The Teresas, Dorothys, and Catherines of our age have heard and understood this message, choosing to follow Jesus by becoming the servant of all.

Some will say it is arrogance, selfishness, materialism, or pride that keeps most of us from hearing the words directed at James and John and following them. But I suspect it is not as simple as a case of good versus sin. For many people, the words of Jesus are beautiful and speak of a life of fulfillment, which is why we laud rather than ridicule those who follow them. What keeps more of us from following this path is an emotion as common as love itself: fear.

We are comfortable in our modern lives padded with technology, entertainment, personal goods, and wealth. We are, in essence, safe. It is unsettling to think of venturing outside our comfort zone. We are like children learning to swim. We are told the truth, that we will not drown, yet we do accept it as reality. Any thought of letting go of the wall or venturing into the deep end fills us with terror.

We can say that society does not see the way of life that modern saints live as desirable. Yet, few would seek to denigrate or disparage them. Instead, we may say, “It takes a special person to live that way,” or, “Life has dealt us a different set of circumstances that prevent us from truly being the servant of all.” If we had more money, more time, or more freedom we could be somewhat like these modern examples, or even like Jesus himself.

But the Gospels do not record Jesus checking out the bank accounts of those he called to be fishers of men. We do not read about an interview process where they are questioned about their amount of free time or other obligations that may have them tied up. And when Jesus sends them forth with the Great Commission to bring this good news to all the ends of the earth, the Gospels do not inform us of any vetting process the first disciples put into place to make sure those who decided to follow Jesus were good candidates.

The fact is that Jesus simply told the first apostles to drop their nets, leave their possessions behind, and follow him. The command then was to baptize all men and women into this way of life. What kind of servant of all would call others to this life without continuing to care for them? Do we not believe that God cares for us so much that if we just let go and follow him that we will receive all we need?

Someone held in high esteem once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” He may have been speaking to a different set of circumstances, but the truth of that statement speaks to us here as well. There is no need to fear. Perhaps the call has been getting louder and louder for someone reading this to let go and let God. The rewards are greater than any sacrifice. And who knows? Maybe years from now some other writer will be writing a similar reflection about this very same reading and will speak of a similar but larger group of people being considered for sainthood: Teresa, Dorothy, Catherine, and…?

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

PRAYER

Eternal Word,
only begotten Son of God,
teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
to fight heedless of wounds,
to labor without seeking rest,
to sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
save the knowledge that I have done your will.
Amen.
-Prayer for Generosity, St. Ignatius Loyola

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Lessons from Fantasy Football

Posted on October 13, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

Fantasy FootballToo often in the Church we look at things like we are playing fantasy football. We look for the pastor to carry most of the burden for the pastoral care of those in need in our community. We look to the DRE to pull through and get all the catechists needed for the new faith formation year. We often times look for other key people to get the job done while we watch from the sidelines. But no one in a community, or on a football team, can succeed without the effort of everyone involved

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Everyday Stewardship: When Lightning Strikes

Posted on October 8, 2015 by - Everyday Stewardship

LightningOne evening at my house the skies were filled with intense lightning and rain was pounding the windows. So the TV along with all the other electronics were turned off, including the lights, and the blinds were lifted so we could watch the event further unfold. My wife mentioned a family in our neighborhood that had recently lost everything in a house fire caused by a lighting strike. She asked all of us in the family, “What would you run and get if we had to leave the house due to a lighting strike?”

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Between the Francises

Posted on October 6, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, October 11, 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 7:7-11
Hebrews 4:12-13
Mark 10:17-30 or 10:17-27

Pope Francis. Photo © AP Photo/Alessandra TarantinoHe’s back in Rome. That gentle smile is no longer dominating our TV screens. His halting English is no longer a challenge coming over our radio waves. Pope Francis is no longer on American soil. Have we forgotten his vital presence? It’s only days since he was here. It’s only a couple weeks since we were very proud to be Catholics! Hopefully, his message is still ringing in our memories and hearts.

“His vocation was to recall the church to the radical simplicity of the gospel, to the spirit of poverty, and to the image of Christ in his poor…
“The joy and freedom…
“His constant tendency to turn the values of the world on their head…
“Preferential option for the poor…
“Espoused a radical commitment to nonviolence…
“Vivid sense of the sacramentality of creation…”

These words are from the two-page biography of… not Pope Francis of the twenty-first century, but St. Francis of Assisi whose feast was last Sunday, October 4! (All Saints, Robert Ellsberg). Not quite a thousand years separate these two men. Amazing, isn’t it, that their thoughts and words and actions were so similar. Legend has it that one day St. Francis invited his brothers to go with him to preach the Gospel. They began walking and walking and walking, right through the village. As they moved on to the open road again, one brother questioned Francis, “When are we going to preach?” Francis responded, “Ah, but we have been, all through the village.” Again, tradition often attributes to Francis, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

What do we remember mostly of our modern-day Francis? Not his words to Congress, with the president, to the UN, at Madison Square Garden, or in Philadelphia. What we remember most are the images of him with the crowds, receiving the babies, the children, the handicapped, the common folk, and the forgotten ones of our society. We remember the light in his eyes and the genuine smile as he blessed, embraced, and touched. What did he say? Hmmm. His words, too, were important, many of them echoing those of the twelfth-century Francis. What we saw and heard can be summarized in the old cliché. “He walked the walk.”

There was some point in each of these Francises life that they approached God and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And God looked at each man and loved him. God loved him and invited him to a deeper life, a life that would reflect another life, that of his totally beloved Son, Jesus. Francis of Assisi was a rich young man! Rather than turn away from the invitation, he stood in the center of Assisi and renounced all his possessions. He went so far as to lay all of the clothes he was wearing at the feet of his father right then and there… in public.

There was a time in the life of Pope Francis when he, as a young man at the time of his religious profession, sang the song of the Jesuits, “Suscipe me, Domine,” “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will, all I have and possess. You have given all to me; now I return it… Give me only your love and your grace. It is enough for me” (Prayer from Spiritual Exercises, #234).

The invitation of Jesus was not just for a young man two thousand years ago, nor for another young Italian nine hundred years ago, nor even for an Argentinian in our time. That invitation is spoken to each of us. The beauty of it is that the invitation comes over and over in each of our lives. Pope Francis said yes as a young man when he became a Jesuit. He also said his yes when he became a bishop. There was another yes when he became pope. He has responded positively to each invitation. We saw him also respond to little invitations like the one to eat with the disabled in Washington instead of attending a state dinner.

We are all pilgrims in our lives as we walk our unique paths. A pilgrim must always be listening… listening for the invitation as God says, “Walk this way, turn here, leave your possessions behind, come follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” We may respond positively! Or we may hang back with excuses… that it’s too hard, Lord… the path too narrow, the climb too steep.

Jesus responds to our objections, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” By ourselves, we can’t do it! But “give me only your love and your grace. It is enough for me!”

This week we receive an invitation, a challenge, in the words of the Gospel. Can we choose just one of the areas our modern-day Francis brought to our attention? Here’s a simple one to help the environment. Can we shop for our groceries this week and remember to bring our own bags? No plastic bags! A few countries have forbidden them. In the US, California has outlawed them. How about going out of our way to be friendly to one person who belongs to a minority? Or a handicapped person? Can we answer just a small invitation coming from God? As we start saying yes to these seemingly tiny invitations, it will become easier to say our yes to the big ones. All of this, of course, with the grace and love God continually showers upon each of us!

Patricia DeGroot, OblSB

PRAYER
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

—Suscipe, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

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Organizing Your Bulletin Content

Posted on October 1, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Organizing Bulletin ContentAn attractive bulletin will draw in readers and be easy on the eyes to read. Objectively look at your bulletin and ask yourself if it’s easy to read or if it seems cluttered. If anything looks too busy or distracting, it’s time to organize your content and try something new.

Here are some techniques that can be used to highlight areas of interest and make it more attractive for reading. Remember to keep it simple, be creative, and have fun:

Add More White Space

“White space” is the portion of a page left unmarked in margins, between molumns, and around objects. Using white space properly can make a dramatic difference to the look of your bulletin.

Leave white space before and after each article to make it easier to read and to improve legibility. White space will make your bulletin look more formal and improves the overall look of the text and paragraphs on the page.

Use Column and Page Headers

Organize your content with other like articles and use a large bolded title header at the beginning of the column or page. Use a font such as Arial, Corbel, or Cambria and try twenty-four point or larger. This one simple format will make a huge difference and dress up the layout of a page.

Also use headings for each article and make them bold and a larger point font than the text.

Color Screen Behind Text

Pick an article that needs to be highlighted and place a 10% fill color behind the text. Only use this for small amounts of text such as a single paragraph and only sparingly throughout the bulletin. Use the liturgical color for the week or a bright color for the season.