Enhancing Parish Communication in a Time of “Social Distancing”
Mar 21, 2020
By Helen Osman, Communications Consultant, Greater Wings, LLC
So, no one’s picking up the parish bulletins anymore, or coming by the parish office for office visits. How can you keep communion if you’re not communicating?
How you can communicate in this time when some “ordinary” channels of communication have been shut down?
First, let’s remember that, while perhaps life has changed dramatically, our mission as the people of God has not. Communicating we are still here, for every person who lives in our parish territory, is essential. Our witness as people of hope, faith and love must continue, even while our ministries will look very different for awhile.
We must, together, find creative and new ways to make and maintain community, to grow deeper in prayer, and to respond to God’s generosity with gratitude. Some ways to do this include:
- Reassure your parishioners that the parish staff and leadership are still there for them and available. Let them know how they can stay in contact.
- Thank them for what they are doing to help others – whether they are health care professionals, farmers, truck drivers, in high tech, first responders, teachers, etc. Thank them for helping to keep the fabric of our communities’ safety nets holding. Remind them of your parish disaster responder team and how the parish is serving those in need.
- Encourage them to pray with and for one another. Check out the resources available on your diocesan website, utilize your prayer line, pray the Rosary, and, of course, other groups can invite others to join them.
- Ask them to continue their generosity to the parish, through their tithing. In most dioceses, approximately 80-90 percent of parishes’ revenue comes from the Sunday offerings. Remind them you need their financial support to sustain the mission of the Church.
Keep your communications positive. Resolve to keep negative words such as “not” and “no” out of your texts!
The parish bulletin is being transformed. Instead of putting all our effort into those few pages to be distributed one time on Sunday, we now have a whole world of possibilities opening up! Here’s some suggestions:
- Phones – Some phone systems allow for calls to be forwarded to other lines. If not, please consider making sure your voice mail gives people another number to call. Repeat the phone number at least twice.
- Old fashioned postal mail -- Mail your homily and the parish bulletin in postal mail to at least some of your parishioners (perhaps especially those who aren’t able to access the internet).
- Website – Consider this the new front door for your parish, or better yet, the new church. Make it warm, inviting. Maybe now is a good time to jump on board with a diocesan website project!
- Email - Use email to send regular updates, such as when you are live-streaming Masses, scheduling of virtual meetings (whether by conference phone or using web conferencing), sharing content from the diocese, etc. Want to do this but don’t have a lot of emails? Contact your diocese to ask who can provide you with emails of your parishioners from the diocesan database.
- Social media – around the country, diocesan social media engagement efforts have grown exponentially in the last few days. There’s no better time for you to be posting and sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Need help getting started? Ask a younger parishioner! They might also be willing to walk older parishioners through the process of creating an account – or maybe making a video you can share with people via email. (Always remember to honor public health officials’ guidelines about social distancing and hygiene.)
- Videos – Short video messages (under three minutes) can strongly convey emotions and pastoral concern. Live-streaming or producing a video of your Sunday Mass allows the faithful to participate in the liturgy, and enter into a spiritual communion [See http://catholicmissourianonline.com/stories/if-you-cant-receive-communion-make-a-spiritual-communion,2448].
- Signage - Consider even the signs for your parish doors. If you have to reduce office hours, or can’t receive guests due to local public health officials’ directives, please don’t give the impression you are turning people away. Suggested language:
YOUR parish is available to serve you. You can reach us in the following ways:
We’d love to hear what other creative ways parishes are communicating the Good News in these challenging days. Please send us your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are so much better together!