We live in an era where websites and social media pages are a staple for nearly every person and organization, parishes and dioceses included. Live streaming church services has become increasingly popular over the years among most denominations. However, because of the in-person necessity of Mass and the sacraments, the Catholic Church hasn't always been as quick to jump on the virtual engagement train.
Of course, nothing can completely replace the value of face-to-face connections and in-person community, but in light of recent events, we can look at the impact of the COVID-19 virus as an example of the critical need for having quick access to virtual engagement options and tools.
1. Strengthen Your Email List
In your parish database, how many households do you have accurate email addresses for? Engaging parishioners virtually will rely heavily on the accuracy and breadth of your email data. You can certainly share information with parishioners through your website and social media channels (and you should!), but delivering important information directly to your parishioners’ inboxes, without having to hope they seek it out on their own, is so much more effective. Capturing emails isn’t always easy, so keep in mind that there are great tools out there to help you!
2. Communicate with Parishioners
Strong and frequent communication is key. Your parish is a vibrant, faith-filled community, so don’t forget to keep things interactive! Email and communication campaigns are a great way to keep your parishioners informed and engaged all year long. Segmenting your messaging is a great way to ensure individual parishioners receive the information they care about most. Knowing that what they receive from you is relevant will keep them from hitting that ‘unsubscribe’ button.
3. Live Stream Mass
Live streaming Mass isn’t very common, and understandably so, but there are instances where it is highly beneficial. Although facing nation-wide Mass cancelations due to a pandemic is extreme, it’s still good to have the tools ready to go for any circumstance. Even when we’re not facing a pandemic, there are always those members of the parish family who are sick or elderly and unable to attend. Existing resources like EWTN are great, but there is something to be said about participating virtually with the community you personally know and love. There are countless platforms available for streaming, even as simple as YouTube or Facebook!
4. Encourage Online Financial Giving
Your parish relies on the weekly offertory to keep your parish mission both moving forward and growing. Parishioners are bound to get sick, travel out of town, or even simply attend Mass at a different parish on occasion. Encouraging parishioners to give online will ensure your offertory remains steady, even when families aren’t there in person. Parishioners of all ages appreciate the tradition of physically placing an envelope in the offertory basket. That physical act of giving doesn’t have to be ignored. Many parishes offer laminated cards that indicate online giving, so a parishioner can pick one up as they enter the church to place in the basket as it comes around. The cards are collected each week and then reused the following weekend.
Technology is here to stay and always evolving. While in-person connection will always be important, these four tips can be your starting point to begin virtually engaging your parish community. Whether your parish is small or large, these will help you all year long, regardless of circumstances.