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 decision? 

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,

why not provide access to a televised or online alternative?  Each day and every weekend there is a Mass broadcast in this Diocese (see Daily Masses, Diocesan 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, 
contact: Office for Evangelization and Parish Life
(716) 847-8393