Why Radical Hospitality Matters

Posted on July 15, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Hospitalitity I really love hospitality and try never to take it for granted. When someone takes time to create a beautiful environment or greets me with a warm welcome and a smile, I am hooked. My name is Jane Angha, Director of Ministry Blueprints, a little company all about radical hospitality and welcoming in faith communities.

Leading with Beauty 

People often think hospitality is a luxury or an option if you have time, money, and volunteers. Others think it is a waste of resources to fuss with hospitality and things such as décor, environment, food, and how the room looks for an event or gathering. They swear it doesn’t matter to most people and that no one will even notice. I beg to differ. Hospitality is an integral part of setting the stage for an encounter with Christ. Leading with beauty touches our hearts, minds, and souls.

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Sowing Mustard Seeds – Your Weekly Offertory and Leading People to Christ

Posted on June 14, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Mustard Seeds 1We assume that in order for our parish to build a new church building or even for our community to make the budget, it will require much more than we have to give. What is the true value of our treasure?

Jesus tells us in the parable of the mustard seed, that if we have “faith as small as a mustard seed”[Matthew 17:20], we could move mountains. In stewardship, we oftentimes neglect to see that amazing things can take place due to the generosity of even the smallest gifts.

Let’s Face Facts

True Stewardship extends to all forms of gifts and talents, but how we view and use our money can be a key indicator of how we practice stewardship in all aspects of our life. The typical Catholic household donates 1.1 to 1.2% of their income. 1 In 2013, 24% of all parishes in the US were operating at a loss. This begs the question, how can we effectively engage our faithful in this important discussion?

Most of the parishes LPi works with use Mass attendance and offertory as indicators of their overall health. Unfortunately, both of those occur too late in the process of the parishioner deciding how to practice their faith. If attendance and offertory are declining, the real damage has begun and your parish is behind the trend.

We Are Called to Mission

Mustard Seeds 2

When a parish can demonstrate to its members that it has a defined a clear mission that reflects the Kingdom of God, people don’t need to be repeatedly pressured to give. LPi began offering our Sustainable Offertory Program, a unique approach to increased offertory programs, to affect a sustainable change to parishioner giving habits and create within them new patterns of generosity. The feedback from our partner parishes demonstrates three aspects of successful programs.

Think Positive

When we begin discussing a future campaign, the conversation is always about the positive aspects of the parish and how parishioners can change the lives of the people the parish serves through investment in ministry. A diocesan leader that has worked with us likes to say, “No one wants to give to the Titanic!” With a focus on the positive and the understanding that God is still in control, the message in an LPi Sustainable Offertory Program creates a desire on the part of the parishioner to invest in something that makes a difference.

Articulate Your Long-term Vision

This desire to make a difference leads naturally to a focus on the vision and mission of the parish. Parishioners want to know that their parish community stands for something important, and that parish leadership is leading them on a mission to make a difference. At LPi, we are seeing the parishes growing and engaging their people most effectively are those that have a clear mission articulated and invite people to become a part of something greater than themselves.

The Mission is the Main Thing

Often, as soon as money is mentioned, people turn off their ability to listen. LPi offers several forms of stewardship coaching that influence our approach to working with a parish on a Sustainable Offertory Program. In fact, we have actually advised some parishes that a financial campaign was not in their best interest at the time. In those cases, we begin their journey with visioning exercises, basic stewardship catechesis, or honing another aspect of their mission before embarking on the actual Sustainable Offertory campaign.

From Seeds to Pearls
Mustard Seeds 3

In a Sustainable Offertory Program, you gain the advantage of asking your parishioners to sow mustard seeds. If a parish is at the average weekly giving level of 1.1% of parishioners’ incomes, then with simple mustard seeds we can make a tremendous difference. We begin with small seeds in the hopes that one day each of us can possess nothing and be possessed by nothing other than the love of Jesus Christ.

1 – Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century. Charles E. Zech, et al. Oxford University Press. 2017.

Can They Find Your Church Website Online?

Posted on May 31, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Some tips to make it easier to search for your church online

Find Your Church OnlinePeople rely on the Internet to search for and find information about their community. For your church, this can be the perfect opportunity to connect with and make a good impression on new members.

Typically, an Internet user searches for something online and looks at the first ten websites suggested. This is only one page of website suggestions offered. If your church website is not showing up in the first page or not at all, your potential parishioners or visitors may never even know you exist online. So how do you make sure they find you?

There are two practices you can try, SEO and SERP, to get started. Let’s break down each of these terms and review some tips and tricks you can try on your website to make it easier to find your church website online.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. A search engine is the place where you type in what you want to find online. The most common search engines include Google, Yahoo, Bing, and AOL. Optimization is the act of making something as effective as possible.

Simply put, SEO is the process of making your website as effective as possible so search engines find your website and list it in the results, making it more likely new members in your community will find your church website.

What is SERP?

SERP stands for Search Engine Result Page. It is a list of suggested websites. The websites are collected based on your keyword. Your keyword is the word or words you typed in to your search engine.

How do search engines get their results?

Google Yahoo Bing logosSearch engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and AOL have all written a mathematical equation that looks at the following things in your website:

  • What words are in your website?
  • How often is your website updated?
  • What kind of images are on your website?
  • How fast does your website load?
  • How easy to read is your website?
  • How often is your website visited?
  • Are there other websites that link to your website?

Then it looks at the history of the person searching: where that person has been online, and where he or she is located in the world.

From there, the search engine compares your website to every other website that might relate the keyword that someone searched for. Then, it ranks those sites in order of relevance. Remember, it is very unlikely that someone will click past the first page, so it is important that your church is ranked within the top ten.

How do you make your website easier to find?

Make sure your church name, address, city, and state are all on the home page. Put your church name at the top of the website. This will make it the most important bit of text, and also be part of the title in the list of results. Then put your address with city and state in text on your website. Search engines look for this specifically, so where you put it is up to you. A good practice is to place it at the bottom of the page, in the footer. That way it shows up on every page of your website. Keep in mind, having your church name and address as an image does not help—search engines do not analyze PDFs or images for content.

Use keywords that people search for online in your text.

Don’t forget, a keyword is the word or words someone typed into a search engine to find something on the Internet. In order to pick out keywords that you think will help your site be found by search engines, first look at your church. What is your church about? What message do you want someone visiting your church website to take away? What words might you use to look for a church website if you were new to a community?

Now make a list of those words and type them into your search engine. See what the results are. Does your church fit into that list? Narrow your list down to two or three keywords. When you have decided what keywords you think are good for your church, use them in page titles or throughout the text on your website.

Find Your Church Online 2You can also check to make sure your chosen keywords are ones people actually use when they search online. There are websites that will let you test a keyword. For example, SERPs Keyword rank checker. On this website, you can type in any keyword and it will show the top ranked websites and an average number of times that keyword is used by searchers in search engines every month.

Use images to engage readers.

Search engines look for images. Images are more appealing and engaging to the reader on your website. This means people will spend a longer time on that page, which translates into the search engine ranking your website better than other websites that don’t have images. Note that if your website visitors land on your website and then click off right away, the search engine views the website as less trustworthy, which will cause your website to slowly move down the list.

Plus, visitors want images. When someone visits a webpage, they are more likely to continue reading and scroll to the bottom of the page if there is an image visible at all times. A good idea is to place your images every two to three paragraphs to keep a reader’s interest. The image needs to relate to the content on your page. When you load it into to your website, make sure to add a title and description. The title needs to have a keyword, and it needs to be honest. If your image title does not match the image and content, you will hurt your SEO.

Claim your online listings.

Search engines also look to see if your website links to other websites and if other websites link to your website. One easy and trusted source of links to your website are through things like Google My Places, Yahoo Local Listings, Bing Places, and YELP. You’ve seen these listings if you have searched for a business. They usually appear with an image, map, and often a description of that business with links to its website.

Your church may never have claimed these, but they probably already exist. Test it out in different search engines and see what shows up. If there isn’t a listing you can create one, and if there is, you need to make sure your church controls what is on there. If you don’t claim it, someone else can.

Giving Tuesday 2016—Help Us Help Others

Posted on November 16, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Giving Tuesday 2016 LogoGiving Tuesday is a global day of generosity and charity celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving that stands in contrast to days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The idea is simple—find a way to give back and share that idea with others on social media.

This Giving Tuesday, November 29, LPi will collect donations for various charities across the country and match each donation, dollar for dollar.

Your $5 donation becomes $10. Your $10 donation becomes $20. And so on.

Here are the organizations we’re supporting this year:

On Giving Tuesday, we will send an email with instructions on how to donate through our website, Facebook, or Twitter page. If you’re not currently on our email list you can sign up here or you can look for the post on our Facebook page.

It doesn’t matter what cause or charity you select, we encourage you to give from your heart to charities across the country or in your own community. Join us on Giving Tuesday to make a bigger difference to those in need.

 

10 Points on Good Stewardship for Students

Posted on August 17, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

The stewardship way of life is for everyone, even those who are young. As students go back to school as another summer has passed, it is a great time to reflect on how a student is called to live out his or her stewardship. Here are 10 things to focus on as the academic year begins.

    1. 10 Points on Good StewardshipGod has given you the gift of intellect and it should be used wisely.
      Do not try to just get by in your classes. Offer your best effort and cultivate your intellect so you can become the best student possible.
    2. The work you do in class is your gift to God.
      At this time in your life, you are called to be a student. What you do in class is your unique offering to God.
    3. Don’t waste the gift of time.
      For generations, students have put off studying or class projects until the last-minute. That is being a poor steward of one of God’s greatest gifts: time. Learn to manage this precious resource.
    4. CommunityAlways remember you are a part of a community, even if you don’t feel like it.
      Unless you are homeschooled, other students trying to make sense of growing up and the need for school surround you, and at that, even homeschoolers have communities that they see periodically. You are never alone in the jungle of school and there are peers, parents, and school staff that are willing to help you discern what is best for you.
    5. Be grateful for the chance to be in school.
      Millions of children all around the globe have had the chance to attend school taken from them. Their futures are severely compromised because they are missing the chance to learn basic knowledge that will allow them to prosper in the world. Never take your ability to attend school for granted.
    6. God is calling you today in your classroom.
      Perhaps it is through a classmate, a teacher, or a circumstance, but somehow God is asking something of you each day. Be aware and stay mindful of all those who cross your path each day. Something or someone very important might cross your path, never to return again.
    7. Cross Light BulbHold yourself accountable.
      Don’t fall into the temptation of slacking off, not doing your work, or even worse, cheating. Integrity is a precious gift that should never be tossed away. No one else is responsible for your actions except for YOU.
    8. Embrace the entirety of your life as a student.
      Growth in school is about more than books and subjects. God has filled this world with people to meet, sports to play, and moments to rejoice in life. Don’t let this time pass you by and get involved.
    9. Begin and end each school day with prayer.
      When you awake, offer the day and all your efforts of the day to God, and then when the day is over, spend time with God reflecting on how you succeeded and how you failed as a good steward and disciple of Jesus. Allow God to walk with you throughout your day by creating bookends of prayer for your day.
    10. Stay committed.
      The school year can be long. Make a commitment to stay focused and not fall behind. The good thing about the times we fail in that commitment is that we can recommit ourselves and begin again.

    Be sure to share with students, parents, teachers, and your parish family. Have an awesome school year and always keep God as the main thing.

    This list is also available as a downloadable PDF here.

Stewards of Our Strengths at the 54th Annual ICSC Conference

Posted on July 25, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

When my parish first began its stewardship journey, it was not uncommon to have conversations that began like this: “I understand the need to be a good steward of my time. Each of us only has so many hours in a day, and we never know when our life will end. I ‘get’ that we need to be stewards of our treasure.

StewardshipEven though I always feel I need more money, I can learn to separate my wants from my needs. But stewards of our talents? What are our talents? What does it mean to be a steward of talent?” For many years, we searched for ways to help people become aware of and grow as stewards of their talents. That is one of the many reasons why we were so excited when we discovered StrengthsFinder .

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5 Ways to Create a More Welcoming Parish

Posted on July 22, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

 

My wife and I have an area of our church where we like to sit with our two boys. We are not the people who have our “pew” but do have our section. Sound familiar?

For the past few months, our pastor’s homilies have centered on the theme of welcoming. One that stuck with me was called “pew hospitality” and the idea that parishioners should move to the center of their pews so others didn’t have to climb over them to get to their seats.

Since that Sunday, I have always moved the middle of the pew. It’s a simple idea, but can have a real impact on how visitors view your church.

 Create a More Welcoming Parish

 

 

 

 

 

NumberOneLeave the first few rows of parking open for guests

Ask parishioners to arrive a little early and park further away.

If someone hasn’t attended church for a while, they are more likely to leave if they can’t find somewhere to park.

 

NumberTwoRemove the doorstops
Ask a few parishioners on your hospitality committee to welcome your guests and hold the door for them when they enter the church. This creates a more personal, inviting experience for everyone.

For more tips on building a vibrant church greeter ministry, click here.

 

NumberThreeAsk families to be greeters

A parent and child can be a terrific greeting team, keeping it fun and lighthearted, while serving in a ministry together.

 

 

NumberFourInclude a note about welcoming children and babies into Mass
Let visitors and parishioners know that their babies and children are welcome at Mass. Last weekend, there were two babies in our pew and it brought smiles to people’s faces as they made sounds during Mass.

 

 

NumberFiveAsk people for feedback

Once you’ve taken some initial steps to become a more welcoming parish, ask some members of your family or friends who don’t attend your church to visit and give you their honest feedback. Take it to heart and make improvements when necessary.

 

Bring Your Bulletin to Life with Color

Posted on July 7, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recently took advantage of the latest print technology offered by LPi and upgraded its entire bulletin to full color, transforming it into a beautiful, vibrant communications tool for the parish.

First, you need to know that LPi did not create this awesome bulletin transformation—the parish did. But you will never believe who on the parish staff created this engaging new design. It was Joe Kallenberger, Director of Administrative Services for the church.

Joe started with a strong overall color palette and organized their content into different color blocks. With the use of such vibrant colors, the white space stands out in greater contrast and improves the visual flow for the reader.

Here are a few changes that make this bulletin really stand out:

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