Stewardship Beyond the Pews

September 18, 2009

Stewardship, The Pilot

By Tim Potrikus

Pastors and parish leaders throughout the United States are faced with an increasingly complex ministry. Families are more likely to be mobile, have seasonal homes outside the parish, or have extended families who want to stay connected to their community at home. Changes in American family life along with changes in the organization of Catholic parishes have combined to form unique challenges in prayer, service, and sharing at the parish level. Likewise, strained financial resources, shifting demographics, and natural or man-made disasters have caused more than a few church buildings to close, adding to the frustration of many parishioners.

Often, the impact of these events causes parishioners to feel disconnected, at least temporarily, from their new parish. The challenge in the coming years is to develop a more sophisticated communications plan, which can evolve with the parish and engage the community as a whole. An informed congregation is more likely to stay involved in their parish, by giving their time, sharing their resources, and actively participating in community prayer.

A well-prepared and attractively designed parish bulletin is the foundational element for parish communications. But dissemination of important information solely by a paper bulletin and pulpit announcement is likely to reach a third, or fewer, of Catholics within a given parish. A 2008 survey conducted by Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) illustrates that only 61% of Catholics living within a parish boundary are registered in their parish. When coupled with the ratio of registered Catholics who attend Mass each week, an evident need exists for an integrated communications program to reach beyond those attending Mass.

Adding complexity to the challenge is a cultural change in communication. Electronic platforms such as Twitter® and social networks like Facebook®, now attract nearly all age groups. Like those commercial platforms, electronic communication is beginning to transform today’s Church by helping it reach Catholics who may not be in the pews each week.

Through services such as opt-in e-mail registration, parishioners are kept informed of meetings, services, and parish news, including last minute schedule changes. Parish staff can use on-line tools to create informative resources that the members can use in their ministries. Trips to the rectory and interruptions in the operation of the parish offices can be minimized by utilizing electronic distribution of pre-approved prayers, adult faith formation, school and catechetical newsletters, and schedules. Parish Web sites have the potential to become a portal for parishioners who need to communicate for their ministry, join in prayer, or stay informed about events at the parish or in the parish schools.

As the leading provider of parish bulletins in the Archdiocese of Boston, Liturgical Publications Inc (LPi) has the resources, references, and products to help you get started. LPi recently introduced a new Web site, www.SeekAndFind.com, designed specifically to connect parish, parishioners, and the bulletin sponsors who support your parish. At SeekAndFind.com, parishioners can sign-up to receive their bulletin via e-mail each week. The e-mail can be customized by the parish staff, inviting members to attend Mass or informing them of upcoming important events. Bulletins are automatically updated each week with no work on the part of church staff, and archived copies of past bulletins are available as well. Without any Web programming knowledge, church staff can turn their page on SeekAndFind.com into a communication resource for their community. Other resources are available at www.4LPi.com.

Of course, LPi will continue publishing the paper bulletin while advancing new technologies to help our parishes connect with their community. We are grateful for our friends, family, and customers in the Archdiocese of Boston, and look forward to the future for all who are part of the Church we serve.

Tim Potrikus is Vice President and General Manager of Liturgical Publications, Inc. LPi provides weekly bulletin service to more than 160 parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston. For more information, please visit www.4LPi.com or www.SeekAndFind.com or call 1-800-888-4574 ext. 3319.

This article originally appeared in a special “Parish Stewardship & Fundraising” section of The Pilot on September 18, 2009

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