Parish Health Defines Mission


Parish health defines mission

The argument for conducting a parish census is clear: a proper understanding of parish health crystallizes parish mission. Where are your energy and time to be directed? What are healthy expectations for engagement, outreach, giving? Not to mention the practical details: are you spending too much on liability insurance as happened with Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish? What about wasted postage for returned mailings and an inbox full of bounced emails from parishioners who may, or may not, still be in the pews?

Setting the course for your parish, whether the destination and goals be practical or spiritual, must be solidly grounded in the present reality. ParishSOFT Family Directory and its parishioner portal, My Own Church, provide the means to not only conduct a successful parish census but also pave the way for future engagement.

What does it mean to be a parishioner?

The foundation of any parish census is the question: what does it mean to be a parishioner? According to some sources a parishioner is: “One who is registered and actively participates in the liturgical/pastoral life of the parish through the generous, sacrificial and proportionate sharing of his or her God-given giftedness of time, talent and treasure.”[1]

Check with your diocese to see if there are established criteria for the diocese. If not, perhaps it’s time to discuss how to define a registered family – the core of your parish – and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Next, ask yourselves the question: what information is important to the parish? Gathering pertinent and truly relevant information is a way of honoring parishioner trust, and it’s an opportunity to get to know your parishioners. Good data will begin to give insight into how to better serve parishioners, and through them, your community.

The goal: a parish fully alive

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Be clear about the goal of this census. Before we can love each other, it helps to know each other.

The census is essential to the health of the parish and our ability to come alive in Christ as a parish family. It’s about serving each other and your community. It’s about meeting and enriching lives before there is a major event that causes a parishioner to reach out for help. Communicate this goal clearly when introducing the parish census initiative to your parishioners.

Regularly reinforce this message through pulpit and bulletin announcements, encouragement from the pastor, posters in gathering spaces, email, and social media. Not all parishioners will be on any one platform, so be sure to utilize all the resources available to meet them where they are.

An article from The New York Times highlights the importance of follow up and frequent reminders: “Most people need to hear something seven times before they acknowledge you’ve said it. It’s the way we are programmed.”[2] It may seem repetitive to you, but consistent and persistent messaging could mean the difference between someone who is on the fence finally making a move to get involved or falling through the cracks. And what a difference a life makes!

Plan of action

You’ve defined your goals and understand your mission. Parishioners, even those who may not be fully on board yet, know the parish is mobilizing. Now what?

#1. Introduce or reintroduce ParishSOFT My Own Church (MOC).

Per Part One of this series, we’ve already set up your online parishioner portal (MOC) and have been in communication with parishioners about this valuable tool. For those who haven’t already, give them the option of updating their own census information online.

Consider having laptops and tablets in the gathering space after weekend Masses with staff on hand to help parishioners get setup. Another idea is printing out business size cards with the parish mission on one side, and room to write their MOC log in credentials on the other.

After a predetermined amount of time…

#2. Put together informational packets for parishioners who didn’t register on My Own Church.

Depending on how many packets are needed, determine as a parish staff what the packet should contain. Consider including important messaging about why the parish is conducting a census, an educational handout on setting up My Own Church, and also hard copies of the census forms for those who choose not to use My Own Church. For parishioners who opt for paper forms, specify when the packet should be returned to the parish office for staff to enter updated parishioner information into ParishSOFT Family Suite.

Leave labeled packets out in the church for several weeks for parishioners to pick up.

#3. For those who have not picked up packets or responded to your emails, confer with staff about next steps.

Ask, who are these families? Is there a pastoral care need we need to address? Have they moved? Should we mail the packet or mark them as unregistered?

#4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Throughout the census process, be in communication with parishioners about what you as a parish are doing and why. Be prepared to answer questions about how you will keep their information safe. Don’t forget to ask them to reach out to family members and friends who might have fallen away. This is a beautiful opportunity to welcome them back and invite them to be a part of something new that the Holy Spirit is doing in your parish!

Next up: maximize your data

So, what’s the benefit of information collected in ParishSOFT? Powerful filtering and reporting (no heroic efforts needed!) let your staff turn updated parish data into a treasure trove of insight for ministry work and parish health. Coming soon in Part Three of this four-part series, we will discuss setting goals and analyzing data to enable you to better reach your parishioners!

Interested in learning more about how ParishSOFT Family Directory and My Own Church can support your parish mission? Call us at 866.930.4774 x 7, or sign up for a free demo!

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

[1] Loughman, Dan. “Dan Loughman: What Does it Mean to be a Parishioner?” Web blog post. Catholic Stewardship Consultants, Inc. 7 Jan. 2011.

[2] Mueller, MP. “Are Your Messages Being Heard?” Web blog post. You’re the Boss: The Art of Running a Small Business. The New York Times Company. 6 Jan. 2011.

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