During the 2020 pandemic, churches were taken off-guard when forced to close to their communities as the coronavirus raged on. While scientists and health officials tried to understand COVID-19, churches throughout the world struggled to minister to their flocks in new ways. However, one thing that the staff of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church didn’t have to keep at the forefront of their minds was how to keep regular donations from dropping, thanks to the WeShare Engagement Campaign.
The saying “too much social media” has never been truer today. From Mass to meetings, school classes to weddings, we managed to Zoom, livestream, and Facebook Live everything we possibly could. It’s no wonder that as we delve into 2021, most of us are experiencing some form of social media burnout.
For many, scrolling through Pinterest and posting to Facebook no longer has the same magic (for lack of a better word) than it did in the past. In fact, if you were to look at your phone’s screen time feature, it probably shows a lot of online activity, especially when compared to what was considered a normal amount of time a year ago. So, where does that leave parishes that have been using social media to communicate? At a crossroads.
From how often to post to the type of content people are searching for, here are four social media trends parishes should watch for in 2021.
Last year, digital communication creation and consumption went up exponentially due to COVID-19. From complete lockdowns for weeks at a time, to seeing one another by way of a birthday drive-thru or a socially distanced visit in the park, we began to rely on social media and other digital means to connect with one another and stay informed. And while we still rely on these means even today, it’s beginning to slow down in 2021.
Churches with social media platforms should consider the type of content they post, rather than the amount they publish. Right now, our society is being saturated with digital messages. If you’ve been posting often, but not seeing much engagement, it might be time to rethink your strategy. Quality content that is easy to digest and comes with a clear call to action, will do better for your church than a funny meme shared twice a day.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Reddit, TikTok … there are hundreds of platforms you can access if you want to reach everyone in your wheelhouse. However, it’s time to accept the fact that not only do we not have the bandwidth to keep multiple platforms up and running, but that it’s probably not even worth it.
If you find that most of your followers come from Twitter, but not so much from Facebook, it’s OK to focus on Twitter. Cultivate where your soil is rich, instead of trying to grow your audience on “rocky ground.” Remember, the goal is to reach people for Christ, and if you get the most results from one platform over another, then it’s best to focus your resources.
If your church is a hub of constant events, gatherings, classes, digital devotions, and spiritual services broadcasted via Zoom, you need to not just tell others about it — you should show them, too! Does your parish offer socially distanced confessions, a drive-thru food pantry pick-up for the community, or have a fantastic Bible study for older adults? Make sure that everyone knows by sharing through more than just your weekly bulletin.
A social media post with this type of authentic content is the perfect way to get the word out on what God is doing through your parish. So whether you have images of parishioners working together in ministry, a grand total of much needed donations for your monthly mitten drive, or a handwritten note from a grateful recipient, be sure that you’re sharing it with others so they can join in, too.
By now, you have probably heard about TikTok, a short-form video sharing app with a feed that features an endless stream of mini videos made by users. From stay-at-home parents trying to desperately homeschool their kids, to teens dancing to the latest hits, professional therapists validating the stress of daily life, even grandparents taking their turn, it’s obvious that their base is only getting bigger. But is it right for your parish?
Oftentimes, people share to platforms like Instagram and Facebook the best they have in their life. Pictures look professional and flawless, posts are “humble brags” and full of list of things they’re grateful for. But today, people are getting tired of perfect. They want messy, they want authentic, they want someone to laugh AND cry with, because their life isn’t perfect. And that’s the whole premise of TikTok. It’s full of millions of users who don’t have it together, who just want to laugh and share what they know with one another. So maybe it’s the new pastor sharing the way he makes his coffee, or a small snippet of the choir practicing for Sunday morning, there are plenty of ways you can share the life of your parish to the community.
Looking for more ways to engage your community? Here are some resources to help!
As a church leader, you’re bound to notice when there are some new faces in the pews on Sunday. From college students who attend your Sunday afternoon Mass, to families with young children who stay near the back in case their toddler acts up, you get all sorts of people coming through the doors. However, the more important question you need to ask yourself is: are they coming back?
Today, people are more willing than ever to attend churches further away if their spiritual needs have a better chance of being met. If you find yourself with a revolving door parish, here are four things to consider that help first-time visitors not only stick around but participate in the life of your church.
There’s an old saying that goes, “You can’t promote your church as the best, if the bathrooms are consistently dirty.” Put simply, you can spend hours promoting your parish using multiple communication vehicles, compelling images, social media posts, and content on your website. But if your parish isn’t living up to the hype, it’s not going to help you. Ensure your parish is truly meeting the needs of you members by auditing your church and adjusting if necessary.
If you find that your visitors are not coming back, you need to ask yourself why. Is the choir as good as it can be? Is the secretary friendly and helpful for those seeking information? Is the homily engaging, and does it leave parishioners looking for more? If not, you need to work on it.
Amazing Parish has a great book about just this topic. Written by Patrick Lencioni, “The Better Pastor” is the story of a priest who is challenged to think differently about his job as pastor. Instead of seeing issues with things going on in his parish and not doing anything to make them better, he is challenged by a parishioner to be proactive and “change the way they work and serve the people God has put in their lives.” While fictional, the story sheds light on issues that so many pastors struggle with — be sure to check it out!
Your ushers are trained to welcome people with a greeting and a smile to match, and your administrative assistant is bright, cheery, and helpful when the phone starts to ring. But when newcomers come through your door, some long-time parishioners are …. not so welcoming. They like what they like, discourage change, and often lay claim to specific pews.
Members are part of the welcoming committee, too! Remind them of the importance of a welcoming smile and an encouraging word by sharing tips with them via the bulletin and the pulpit each week. Offer tips for all age ranges and make it fun!
It can be as simple as asking them to say hello to someone new each week, or more elaborate such as listing some tips in the bulletin on ways your parish is working on becoming more welcoming.
Your parish has a wonderful congregation that is kind, caring, and energic, but like any group, it can be intimidating for new people to find a way in. You need a Sunday Welcoming Committee to make it official!
If you often see new people come through the door, ask some of your key parishioners to make it a point to welcome and invite them into conversation before or after Mass. Whether it be a simple wave in the pew to a quick conversation in the parking lot, a call-out can do wonders for those seeking a new faith community.
Put a call out into your faith community that a new, totally non-committal ministry is starting up. The only thing they need to do is put on a bright smile, keep their eyes open for new faces, and say hello to anyone looking for a companion on their faith journey.
Maybe they had a great time at Mass. They felt fed spiritually, welcomed by your members and are fully aware that your church wants them to come back. But … life gets in the way. By the time next Sunday rolls around, they’ve forgotten that special feeling. It’s time to make sure they truly know that you want them back.
It’s Hospitality 101: one final way to ensure that your visitors come back next Sunday is to go ahead and invite them. From a few kind words such as “See you at Mass!” to a schedule of events and Mass/Confession times that you hand off to them on their way out the door, sometimes all it takes is a proper offer.
Need some tips on increasing parish engagement in 2021? Check out 3 Ideas to Build Your Church Community Post-COVID.
Lent 2021 will look different this year. From sprinkling a bit of ash on a person’s head (rather than tracing a cross on their forehead) to livestreaming prayer services and offering “grab and go” Lenten meals, “adapt” will be a commonly heard word for many.
If your parish is looking for new ways to engage and invite your parishioners into deeper communion with Christ this Lent, take a look at one parish’s COVID-19 Lenten schedule. Feel free to use it for your own faith community, or adapt it based on your parish’s wants and needs.
No need to set up your livestream technology for this! All you need is a smart phone, a speaker (think father or an engaging volunteer), and a quiet place with good lighting.
Choose a time that allows people to easily log in, such as during the noon lunch hour. Purchase or make simple rosaries and package them in a bag, along with a rosary guide, and hand them out on Sundays throughout Lent.
What better way to build community with your parishioners than a challenge to start the Lenten season! There are plenty of free online devotionals to take advantage of, such as Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever, and Blessed Is She resources.
If you have the time and the staff, you can also create a whole program from scratch, customized to your faith community. Perhaps it’s praying one specific prayer every day for a week and coming up with a daily or weekly challenge. Whatever it is, be sure that you promote it ahead of time so your parishioners can get in on the action!
Sometimes we need a light check-in with the Lord to examine our hearts and make sure we’re on track on our journey with the Lord. Offer your parishioners an opportunity to do that with an hour of Eucharistic adoration and benediction. One such ministry to watch is Arise Milwaukee, a non-profit Catholic ministry located in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that is devoted to helping people encounter Jesus in a powerful way.
Each Wednesday they hold “Cor Jesu,” which is a Latin phrase for "Heart of Jesus." It's an opportunity for anyone in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to encounter Christ through Eucharistic Adoration, Reconciliation, praise, and worship, followed by Mass.
Be sure to offer this time of prayer and worship for both in-person and virtual participants. Choose a time that will allow people to easily get away, such as in the evening.
One of the best ways to create close relationships with our parishioners is by being in close communion with them. The pandemic, however, has prevented many parishes from doing their usual fundraisers and other events. Don’t stop the food altogether though — carry-outs, deliveries, and curbside pick-up are all valuable options to offer.
Partner with a local restaurant if making food yourself isn’t an option. All proceeds to benefit a parish ministry!
Here is a great way to take a well-known prayer and make it virtual for those who are unable to leave the house due to health, scheduling conflicts or lack of transportation. It can be as simple as someone following the priest around the church as he prays the stations or sharing a link of a prerecorded video.
Check out our own Tracy Earl Welliver as he prays the Stations of the Cross and reflects using his Everyday Stewardship theme. Share them with your parish contacts via email or post them on social media.
In honor of the Year of St. Joseph, begin praying the 33-Day Consecration to St. Joseph. Have your priest or deacons record the prayer and a small reflection for the day and post it on social or send via email for others to pray along with.
You can also encourage families to pray together in the home when it works for them by providing prayer cards and devotionals.
This Lent, encourage your parishioners to pick up their cross and follow Christ with encouraging reflections and heartfelt prayers. Shop our online store today for the Everyday Stewardship Stations of the Cross reflections and prayer card. Available for bulk orders.
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