Your parish has been on lockdown with the rest of the country for weeks. Masses have been canceled, sacraments such as baptisms and confirmations have been postponed. Your parish staff has become experts at Zoom conference calls, livestreaming Masses to Facebook and YouTube, and utilizing digital content to keep a connection to parishioners.
Your parish community has adapted to doing the work of Christ digitally. But now that the country is beginning to open again, it’s time to ask the question — where do parishes go on from here? Following are five things parishes are doing to make a “great Catholic comeback.”
1. More Distance, Same Grace
Catholic dioceses are starting to implement new guidelines for re-opening churches. Social distancing, hand sanitizer, and face masks are now the norm as churches open their doors with an abundance of caution. Instead of packed Sunday Masses and crowded donuts and coffee gatherings, there will be taped off pews and over-flow rooms for last minute attendees.
The Diocese of New Mexico issued guidelines for parishes to follow that include attendance guidelines of no more than 10%, the removal of holy water in the church, disposable hymnals, and a thorough cleaning of the building after every Mass. Due to the large amount of work that this now entails, pastors are calling on their members to lend a helping hand. Many have issued digital sign-up sheets to schedule volunteers for church cleaning, as well as additional ushers to make sure everyone is being compliant.
Parishes with larger congregations have gone to even greater lengths in anticipating how Mass will be conducted. Prince of Peace Parish in Houston, Texas is the spiritual home of more than 9,500 households. To keep in compliance with governmental laws regarding social distancing, they have added additional Masses to accommodate all members and visitors and will broadcast each Mass outside using their sound system, to encourage additional social distancing outdoors.
2. Giving Creatively
Before COVID-19, online giving was more of an option than a requirement. Now that Masses are suspended for the public, the ability to drop your envelope into the collection basket has ended. For parishes to meet their payroll and utilities bills, many have had to make the leap into online giving. But just because they finally got an online giving platform, doesn’t mean members will magically know how to give.
From social media call-outs with a link to the website, to a parish-wide email blast from the pastor with a request for continuing weekly donations submitted online, churches are discovering more than ever the need to ask for donations instead of relying on people generously giving of his or her own accord. For parish staff who don’t have the time to reach out to parishioners, LPi has been offering its WeShare Engagement Campaign as the solution to keeping giving consistent.
Through a customized postcard and email campaign, members are directed to the parish’s online giving platform with instructions on how to easily give online. All parishes need to do is supply LPi with their list of parishioner contacts, and we take care of the rest completely free of charge
3. Maintaining a Consistent Connection Using a Well-known Method
Just because your members aren’t coming in for Mass, doesn’t mean they don’t need a bulletin to keep them updated in the happenings of parish life. Continuing to produce a bulletin with readings of the week, spiritual intentions, and father’s Sunday reflection can help achieve that ongoing parish connection.
Consider emailing a link out to your members, sharing on social media, and linking the digital bulletin to your website. If you’re an LPi bulletin customer, your parish listing on ParishesOnline.com automatically uploads the bulletin to your parish listing and sends a link out to anyone who has signed up to receive the bulletin via email.
It’s a great way to keep your parishioners informed, all while continuing to endorse the advertisers who support your parish.
4. Spiritually Feeding the Hungry
COVID-19 has been a unique experience that many have never seen in their lifetimes, causing stress and uncertainty. This is usually the time in which people seek out Christ and the Catholic Church. To meet people where they are and welcome them back to the Church, parishes are preparing ways to help feed them spiritually — both inside and outside their parish.
Online spiritual programs from organizations such as Dynamic Catholic and Blessed is She are just a couple of places parishes can seek out free resources for members. Find a parish staff member or parishioner volunteer to put together a prayer group and encourage Zoom meetups until it’s safe to meet in person. And because all that is needed is usually a pen and a pad of paper, the programs are at little to no cost to the parish or the parishioner!
5. Feel More Connected to the Community
Perhaps it’s the fact that members needed to actually reach out more to fellow parishioners for support, or actively make a point to attend Mass virtually, but there has been reports of more, if not better, connections to church communities since doors have been closed.
Keep the momentum going by opening private Facebook groups for your parishioners to post prayer intentions, requests for assistance or even just a laid-back question and answer setting about what their favorite brand of coffee is. The more they’re able to come together — even virtually — in a social setting can do wonders to their connections after the virus has been tamed.
From our church management platform WeGather, to our online giving solution, WeShare, there are a variety of programs available to meet the needs of your parish digitally. More information can be found by attending one of our dynamic product demos.