Video Ideas for Your Parish Website

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Catholic Tech Talk

More and more parishes are starting to incorporate video on their website as a way to demonstrate what the church has to offer and to invite more people into the doors on Sunday.

There’s a lot of talk about the need for the Catholic Church to be “more engaging,” but we can’t engage people until they meet us at Mass!

Videos are a powerful way to urge potential or former parishioners to come to Mass, to communicate your church’s mission, and invite people to be more engaged members of your faith community.

To get started, seek out a volunteer in your parish or consider shooting video yourself using just your smartphone. Your videos should be short, around one to three minutes, and you will probably want to host them on a site like YouTube or Vimeo. If you have an idea that will take longer than a few minutes, consider developing it as a series.

Here are a few ideas for creating videos for your parish:
Welcome videos

Many parishes have a written “welcome message” from their priest on the front page of their website, but welcome videos can be even more inviting and show that you’re making an extra effort to reach people. Your pastor can explain the culture of the community, discuss the parish mission, and invite members and visitors to come celebrate Mass.

Here are two great examples. Not only do they show images of the community and feature testimonials and messages from the priest, but they also invites the viewer to “Come, Join Us.” These videos may have been professionally produced, but they offer a great outline of the message to convey.

Video testimonials

Video testimonials are an extremely powerful evangelization tool and are great for your website and social media channels. Record parishioners talking about their faith journey and how it led them to your church. Invite them to talk about how your parish has affected their family life and strengthened their relationship with God.

Here’s a great example from Catholics Come Home:

 

Question of the Month

Pick a different question each month and record parishioners after Mass answering it. Here are a few examples to get you started: What do you love about your church? What does faith mean to you?  Where do you find God in everyday life?

Get creative

When my parish experimented with video a few years ago, the video that received the greatest amount of views was one taken of our priest on Ash Wednesday where he decided to spontaneously offer “ashes to go” and a blessing for anyone who wanted them in the Starbucks parking lot across the street from the church between services. This simple act of showing our priest reaching out and engaging in the community resulted in twenty times the results of any other video on our parish website.

When you’re thinking of great video ideas, try to be as creative as possible. For example, you could hold a contest for your parishioners or school children to create a video about your parish. Parishioners could vote on their favorite and place the winning video on your website.

Here’s a creative Day in the Life of a Priest video from LifeTeen:

 

Other Sources

A number of dioceses and archdioceses have jumped on the video bandwagon, so if you don’t have the time to create a video right now, check those websites to see if there are any videos you can repurpose on your site. If your specific diocese has produced a stewardship appeal or special collection video, embedding them on your online giving page would be a great place to start.

Here are two great examples from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee:


For fun, educational, Catholic videos, check out Busted Halo. They have a huge collection of short videos that cover a wide variety of topics including the meaning of the sacraments and holy days. They may seem basic, but these videos are a great way to evangelize to the people who aren’t at Mass every Sunday.

Here’s a great video from Busted Halo about the Eucharist:

If your parish is currently looking for a website tool that makes uploading and using videos easy, click here to learn more about how our website tool WeConnect can help you build beautiful, engaging websites.

Ten Tips for Recording Video on Your Phone

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Catholic Tech Talk

Videos are a great way to connect with visitors to your website and nearly everyone has a powerful video camera in their pocket–their smartphone.

With a little practice and these few tips you can create great footage for your website. In addition to livening up your website, videos are also a great way to connect to visitors on Facebook and YouTube.

Here are ten simple tips for recording videos on your phone

Video

1. Record outdoors whenever possible. Bright, natural light is always better, but stay out of direct sunlight.

2. If you have to record indoors, make sure there’s plenty of light. Just avoid windows or lighting directly behind your subject as it can wash them out.

3. Always turn your phone and shoot horizontally. If you don’t your videos will be sideways when you watch them on your computer or TV.

4. Keep the microphone as close to your subject as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask them to speak up.

5. Subjects should look just off camera and the camera should be at the same height as the person’s head. You don’t want to be looking up or down at them.

6. Be sure there is space above your subject’s head and in the direction they’re looking at.

7. Keep it steady. Phones are light and jump around. Brace your elbows at your side or on a table, or invest in a small tripod.

8. Watch your fingers. Don’t cover the microphone or the lens.

9. Don’t zoom in and out as it often results in poor image quality.

10. Avoid walking or moving shots as they can result in shaky, unstable footage.

 

These are our tips, what are yours? Share in the comments.

 

5 Tips for Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Posted on April 29, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Spring is a time to start fresh after months of cold weather and short days. And with spring comes the annual ritual of spring-cleaning our homes from top to bottom in order to start anew.

But while we spend so many tireless hours making sure our physical homes are in order, what are we doing about our spiritual homes? Spiritual spring-cleaning is a way for us to deepen our relationship with God, grow our faith, and connect with our church community.

Here are 5 tips to help you put your spiritual house in order this spring:

 

Step One: Renew Your Mind – Take Out the Trash

RenewMany of us struggle with negative thoughts, sinful behaviors, and animosity towards our fellow man. Cleaning out this area of our lives can be the most difficult, but also the most rewarding.

As negative thoughts flood in, make an effort to replace them with positive thoughts, prayers, or Scripture passages that speak against them.

As we are tempted to be dragged into sin, ask God for the strength to resist and be willing to say “no” to people in your life that are enabling your sin. And if you do sin, do not allow it to overwhelm you or distract you from Jesus. Simply give it over to Him and start over.

And as we feel animosity towards our fellow man, remember Jesus’ call for us to love one another as ourselves. One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with this struggle is to pray for the person right in the moment—if I am continually praying for God to bless someone and to encourage them, I often find that my negative feelings start to fade away over time.

Step Two: Forgive those who have wronged you

ForgiveUnforgiveness and bitterness can completely weigh us down, overwhelm us, and prevent us from living a strong spiritual life. Jesus went so far as to say that if you are at church offering a gift to God and remember someone you need to forgive, that you are to leave the church and be reconciled to them.

Forgiveness is an extremely difficult thing to do, but it is also an extremely Christian thing to do, as we worship a Savior who forgave even those who put him to death, and who forgives us our sins and shortcomings. So keep Christ in your mind and let go because harboring that bitterness is only hurting you.

Pray for the person who has wronged you. Forgive them directly in person or over the phone if it safe to do so, remembering that you are releasing yourself and connecting to God by doing as He would do.

 

Step Three: Dust off your Bible

BibleThe Gospel of John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God, so what better place to encounter Him than in the pages of Scripture?

If you don’t regularly read your Bible, don’t allow guilt to stand in the way of getting started. Set small goals (like reading through the Gospel of John) and make new goals as you go along. Even if you can only spend a few minutes a day reading, God can redeem that time and use it to grow your faith

If you do read your Bible regularly already, set a goal to read a few more minutes a day or to read through the entire New Testament by the end of summer. Be intentional about what you read and always seek out new insights as God speaks to you through the Word.

 

Step Four: Connect with the Mass

MassThe Mass is the center of all things, bringing the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ into the present moment, connecting us with the eternal every single week. Many of us miss out on the beauty and holiness of the Mass and the depper meaning behind the structure, prayers, rituals, and readings.

Make an effort this spring to connect with the beauties of the Mass, whether through participating in an RCIA class, through books and resources, or by sitting down with a priest or deacon and ask them to share.

This is one step that I promise will help you have an entirely new appreciation for the Mass and will open your spiritual eyes to how God works through every moment.

 

Step Five: Let prayer cleanse you

PrayerThe idea that we can come before the throne of God in prayer is beyond incredible. Establishing a healthy prayer life can transform our lives and keep us spiritually fresh throughout the year.

One of the keys to incorporating prayer into your daily life is to start small, setting aside a few minutes each day where you can be alone with God. Over time you can then build on that foundation.

Prayer can also be done anywhere—during your morning commute, with family and friends, while taking walks, etc. Another great place to pray is right in the house of God, so consider arriving for Mass a few minutes early each week and spending those moments in communion with God.
 

Use Color to Organize Content & Engage More Readers

Posted on April 13, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 3.05.33 PM

Meet St. Bernard Parish in Wauwatosa, WI. Over the last year we worked with its business manager to rebrand the parish, creating a new logo,website, and Facebook banner. So now it is time to redesign the bulletin. So now it is time to redesign the bulletin.

Chris Meyer became the business manager at St. Bernard’s just a year ago. Having just moved to Wisconsin from Oregon in the same position, she was eager to make some changes in order to help reinvigorate the parish. After creating new brand identity, she set out to update all the parish communications. When we got to the bulletin she was determined to upgrade it to full color throughout the publication. St. Bernard’s is a small parish with limited resources but she felt strongly that the small expense to add color would help achieve her goals.

  • Applied new graphic banner inspired by a statue of St. Bernard in front of the parish.
  • Used newly created color palette.
  • Used cover art from Art & Media Portal’s new Vibrant Series.

Bright colors were used to organize content and make it easier for readers to find their info quickly. The bright reds, blue, greens, and yellows in the new color palette gave us an excellent range of color to work with. The new content structure allowed us to break up a lot of information into bite-sized chunks. Now, formerly long strings of information are found easily in their respective sections and set apart within the page.

  • Carries the new parish brandinginside to reinforce message.
  • Strong graphic treatment for calendar.
  • Organizes dates and helps parishes know where to find weekly events.
    • Inspirational graphics add reader appeal as well as integrate thoughtful messages into the bulletin. (Search “Inspirational” in Art & Media Portal to find inspirational quotes for all your communications.)
      • Formerly long strings of information are found easily and set apart on the page.
      • Bright colors were used to organize content and make it easier for readers to find their info quickly.
      • Flexibility was kept a priority, knowing a variety of information comes in all shapes, sizes, and priorities, and may change from week to week.
      • Original Bulletin

        Without the use of color, it was difficult for the parish to organize and highlight the week’s most important content.

        Download PDF

Why Brand Your Parish?

Posted on April 11, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

If You Don’t Tell Your Community Who You Are, How Will They Ever Know?

Branding Header

Branding within a local Catholic church community is an effective ministry tool that is all too often underutilized and misunderstood. Today’s church has embraced using a myriad of different tools to communicate with current members and to welcome visitors. Websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, email platforms, and apps have been added to the parish arsenal of brochures, bulletins, newsletters, welcome packets, annual reports, and ministry directories.

The problem is, if we are not intentional about creating our parish brand, we risk ending up with a bunch of completely different looking communications that don’t say anything about us. If we could stop for a minute to reassess what we want people to think about us and determine the best way to tell that story, the sky is the limit for the impact we can have in our communities for Christ

The Power of a Great Brand

Top 5 Reasons to Brand Your ParishImagine a world where every piece of communication —verbal, print, online—was branded consistently across all of our ministries both inside the parish and out in our local community. What if the message was something that resonated with people who heard and saw it? What would happen?

We would see increased engagement in our ministries not only from our existing parish members but also a growing number of fans throughout our entire community. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion surrounding what branding is and how to go about getting it done.

Add to that a mental barrier that exists in the church that associates the mere mention of “branding” with the evils of Corporate America and consumerism, and it is outright rejected as something worthy of pursuit.

Who Do People Say You Are?

While there is a lot of confusion out there, at its core branding is actually fairly straightforward. Simply put, it is an intentional decision to align what you want people to think of your parish (and therefore Jesus) with what people actually do think.

Even if you are sending the message you want them to hear, it won’t connect with anyone if that’s not the message actually received. Communication is a two-way process, right? So perception always ends up being reality. This means it’s what they hear you say you are that matters more than what you said you are. How your parish is perceived in your community will affect your ability to successfully fulfill your mission of spreading the good news of the church.

You need a good, well-thought-out brand focused on what makes your parish unique. There is no other church just like yours anywhere.

Branding your parish will help you prove your clarity of purpose, build reassurance and trust, establish consistency and reliability, and ultimately create a place where people feel they belong. The reason to use branding as a ministry tool is it will help you seize every opportunity to express why people should choose to come to Mass, serve the poor, get more involved in a ministry, and offer up everything they are and have to God, our Father, the Creator of the universe.

Does Your Parish Have a Brand?

Did you know that whether you have intentionally set out to create a parish brand message or not, you already have one? That’s right, if you don’t brand yourself someone else will do it for you. What does that mean?

It means if you don’t give people a place to understand in their own minds who your parish is, they will do it for you. If you don’t tell people who you are how will they ever know?

They won’t, but they will decide for themselves anyway.

Think about it this way, let’s say we meet someone who is quieter than most others. Every time we see this person, he or she says almost nothing. Without any more communication to convince us otherwise, we might decide the person is standoffish, rude, an elitist, or even arrogant. The truth could be that the person is desperately shy and awkward in a group setting. However, we have already decided what we think (our perception), in light of the fact there was no other information available.

This is why it is important that a parish be proactive in establishing its own brand.

Does Everyone Know You’re a Catholic Church?

Your Brand MessagingIt is common for many Catholic parishes to identify themselves in communications as simply a “Catholic church.” The only messaging they use consistently throughout their communications is their parish name, for example: “St. Mary’s,” followed by the words “Catholic Church.” The words are typed in a basic font and often the same image of their parish building is prominently featured on the front cover of everything they publish.

If this is your parish, you are not alone. However, it’s important to point out here that it is highly likely that everyone in the community around you already knows you are “Catholic” just by your church name. So what else can you tell them to engage them?

These same people more than likely knew you were a church the first time they drove by your building. So what other information do they need from you to care about who you are? What do you want them to know about your parish besides the fact that you are a Catholic church?

There has to be something more you can tell them to help them understand why they should consider coming to learn more about you. If you want to attract more visitors, like the unchurched, or lapsed and disenfranchised Catholics, and engage more regular Mass attenders in the mission of your church, then you need to tell people why they should care.

What Do People Think of When They Think of Your Church?

To create a brand message for your parish you will need to start by asking yourself these simple questions.

What do people think of when they think of your church? Who do you say you are? Who needs to know this? How will they find out? Why should they care?

I believe this last question is one of the most important because if you don’t give them a reason to care they won’t hear you and you won’t ever get to share with them the greatest story ever told. Yes, of course, that’s the message all Catholic churches are called to share with their communities but first you have to get their attention. Branding a church is different than branding a company. Most companies use the power of branding to differentiate their products or services from those of their competitors. It might surprise you that while a local Catholic church never seeks to differentiate itself from the other Catholic churches in the area, every parish does have competition.

What kind of competition does the Church have? Think about it like this: What are all the things that keep people out of the church? What are the things that compete with people’s time? It’s the world.

We live a world that is filled with things that distract us from being in a daily relationship with God, loving and serving others, and finding our God-given purpose. These distractions, like television, electronics, busy children’s schedules, and the demands of work, keep us so busy that many people don’t think they have time for church.

This is even true for many people who attend Mass on Sundays but are so overwhelmed by their hectic lives, they can’t imagine giving another hour of their time and talent to the church. Branding done well and consistently can help you reach people with the message that there is something more, something they are missing. It should communicate why replacing an hour of Facebook time with an hour serving on a committee, attending a ministry event, or even coming back to Mass on Sunday could help them find more purpose and a sense of belonging.

What Is Your Brand Message?

Your parish brand messaging consists of two important elements that need to work together: Your Brand Messaging = Your Brand Identity + Your Brand Story.

Your Brand Identity helps you create visual recognition of your parish. Brand Identity is something you can see that appeals to the senses. It has the ability to take a bunch of different kinds of communication and unify them as one.

Your brand identity is the visual representation of your parish expressed through things like the colors you use, your logo, the fonts you choose, email signatures, publications, websites, social media, directories, and ministry materials. Some parishes already have a strong brand identity. However, the real power of building great brand messaging starts with creating a unique parish story and then updating your brand identity to reflect your story.

How Do You Tell Your Brand Story?

Jesus knew the power of a brandThere is no other parish just like yours. You are one of a kind and that’s the Brand Story you need to tell at every touchpoint you have with your staff, ministry leaders, parishioners, and your community at-large.

There are undoubtedly many things that make your church unique but try to pick one that you and your staff can agree on. I recently had the privilege of visiting a large, vibrant parish in Texas. I went to experience an annual event called Heart of Worship.

While I was there I spent some time with Sharon, the Director of Communications, and Tony, the Business Manager. Because I am so passionate about the power of using branding as a ministry tool, over lunch I had the opportunity to ask them questions about what makes them unique. They both agreed that the one word that defines their pastor, Father Drew Wood, best is “love.” It’s clear he is filled with love and compassion for others. Then Sharon said, “Father Drew longs for St. Laurence to be a ‘Safe Harbor’ for everyone in the community.”

Now that’s the beginning of a great Brand Story if I’ve ever heard one.

Time With God Shouldn’t Be a Chore

Posted on March 31, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

ChoreWhen I first came to faith in Jesus Christ, I struggled to focus during my prayer, worship, or devotional time. I knew I was supposed to spend time with God, but it became more of a “punch the clock” situation rather than a vibrant, connected relationship with my Creator.

As I read more of the Bible, I encountered prophets, priests, and kings who spoke of delighting in the Lord with all their heart. That’s what I wanted. And as I encountered more and more of Jesus in the Gospels, I saw that he did anything but punch the clock with the Father — he lived out his faith in every circumstance and brought God into every situation.

LakeSo I began to seek out ways to do that, to meet God in unexpected avenues and to invite him into areas of my life where I had been unintentionally leaving him out. I still prayed. I still went to church every week. But I widened my perception of what a relationship with God could be and delighted in the ways God would show himself everywhere if I opened my eyes and my heart to receive him.

Last week, I ran across an article from Relevant Magazine that spoke exactly to this issue – how we can get to know God in unexpected avenues and transform our regular time with the Lord so that our soul is set alive.

If this is something you struggle with or know someone who does, please feel free to read and share.

Easter Sunday is Concluded…Now What?

Posted on March 29, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

EasterIt is now the quiet time… The Triduum services are completed. The Easter Vigil (the “mother” of all vigils) has been concluded for another year — to varying degrees of liturgical success in each individual parish, I am sure.

The crowds that seem to magically appear and arrive for Easter Sunday Mass have come and gone. Candidates and catechumens have been received into the Church. Easter egg hunts are wrapped up as well as family Easter gatherings. Now what?

Click here to read the full post from Word on Fire

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March 27 – Easter Sunday

Posted on March 27, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

easterSundayToday’s Acclamation

“Christ, my hope, has risen: he goes before you into Galilee,” (Easter Sunday Sequence),

Daily Lent Reflection

This medieval liturgical hymn (‘Praises to the Paschal Victim’ or ‘Easter Sequence’) may be sung before the Gospels throughout the entire Easter Octave. It is a meditation on the Alleluia verse and it contains a powerful proclamation of Christ’s resurrection, even from Mary’s viewpoint. But why Galilee when the empty tomb and all the disciples are in Jerusalem?

Galilee is where it all began: the annunciation, origins, birth, growth, hidden life, hard labour, first proclamation, first ministry, first miracles, first following, effervescent zeal. We are invited to complete the circle and start again: at home, at work, called and captivated afresh by the One who leads the Way.

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where is my Galilee, the place of my first encounter with Christ? How will my Alleluia be heard today?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark

March 26 – Holy Saturday

Posted on March 26, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

holySaturdayToday’s Scripture

“Then the LORD said to Moses: …Tell the Israelites to set out.” (Exodus 14:15 ).

Daily Lent Reflection

It is night. Persecutors are pressing behind the Israelites and the sea is swelling in front of them…and yet God is saying march on. When we find ourselves in such dead ends, it is hard to believe that the original destination, glimpsed in more peaceful moments, is more than an illusion. It is a scary place to be.

It is even easy to blame God for getting us into such troubles on the first place, dismissing the voice that urges us on… And yet persistence is a hallmark of any liberating exodus. The dawn sees both problems miraculously resolved: the crossing accomplished dry-shod and the enemies drowned. But just imagine the morning scene had the Israelites decided, instead, to give up their confidence in God over that one night…

Daily Lent Challenge

Today I ask where am I heading? What helps me not to give up?

Teresa Keogh, Archdiocese of Southwark