Evangelizing Parishes Pay Attention to Weather
With all the weather expertise in WNY, have you ever wondered why
there are so many Catholics still
unsure about whether or not there will
be Mass on a wintry morning? Why do we continue to get frantic
calls just minutes before daily Mass? Is a curt message on the rectory
voicemail the best that we can do for our core members at such times?
Businesses and other organizations have more efficient methods to notify
their folks right up to the minute of unforeseen circumstances. How
about your parish?
With more people coming to church from multiple zip codes, where
weather patterns differ so widely, caring parishes are now providing
their congregation with a simple system for weather advisory. With
this protocol parishes show they care for those traveling for meetings, events,
and daily Mass. The protocol can employ
can employ group texting, group email and social media to
reduce unneeded anxiety and insure people's safety. Isn't that the
right message to be sending to our core clients? From a purely practical
standpoint, our core clients are our main source of income, and that is
all tied to weekend Mass attendance. Why would we want there to be any
needless uncertainty or frustration associated the the Mass attendance
The alternative? Often, the alternative is busy, frustrated office
personnel, spending unnecessary time making last minute calls,
answering angry callers or accepting inevitable complaints about why
someone did not get word off the branches of a failed phone tree.
Here are a few other tips:
1. Use this simple graphic - It's yours. But do not forget to pair the image with your parish logo. Post it on social media, or in a group email or text, to signal closures, explain a location change, or identify details of a postponement. Why? Images are ten times more recognizable to a scanning eye than any text message. A picture of the snowed-in church (taken before plowing), sends an even more persuasive message. Many youth programs already use Snapchat or Instagram quite effectively.
2. Anticipate Questions - And be specific about any particulars when communicating changes in location or postponing events and consider providing a phone number for up-to-the-minute updates.
3. Multiply the Message - Have all parish staff and organizational leaders forward the same advisory to their teams.
4. Anticipate and address rescheduling questions promptly - Have one person monitor the social media or email to address any questions and concerns related to meeting rescheduling and getting related tasks accomplished. There are always people who disagree with such a decision, provide them with a way to express their frustration.
5. Do not abandon traditional media outlets -Some people are not online and will still want to call the parish office, or follow on a designated radio or television station. Continue to keep these media outlets advised as well.
6. With regard to daily Mass and in those rare instances when the Bishop releases Catholics from Sunday obligation due to extreme weather,
not provide access to a televised or
online alternative? Each day and
every weekend there is a Mass broadcast in this Diocese (see Daily
Mass Schedule for those who are homebound) as well as the broadcasts at
EWTN. A few parishes can actually
provide a live feed of the Mass from their own church via the parish website
for the homebound (e.g. St. Gregory the Great and St. Lawrence parishes). Other parishes can televise Mass in a parish
chapel, use simpler technology with a laptop or tablet via Facebook Live or
Twitter Periscope for daily Mass which is appreciated by those unable to travel
due to health, disability, age or mobility concerns.
Parish meetings can be convened employing Google Hangout, Facebook Live or Go-To-Meeting, to gather people from their homes when necessary.
7. Empower young communicators - who are already in constant communication, via Instagram or Snapchat, with many parish households.
Of course this system refers to local emergency closures of parish
events due to unforeseen circumstance - heating system failure or extreme weather. Only the Bishop can release people from Sunday obligation. Most
often an early warning system will be used for parish meetings, events or daily Mass attendance. And it will be most appreciated by those who are particularly challenged in extreme weather due to age, disability or health.
For more information on what constitutes an evangelizing parish,
Office for Evangelization and Parish Life