I was fortunate to lead a workshop with a parish last week about getting parishioners to re-engage post COVID, drawing on insights from my book Marketing God. The conversation was quite fascinating and stimulating as the team worked through some opportunities that are now present, as a result of COVID. A few of the items they discussed I thought might be of interest to others, and so I thought I would share here.
The team discussed the “points of light” from COVID, or the positive elements from the pandemic shut-down. A truly positive outcome was the real ‘hunger” and yearning for the Blessed Eucharist. Because so many parishioners really missed receiving Holy Communion, this offers a few opportunities as people return. A critical opportunity is to reflect on the Holy Eucharist, why it is so compelling and why there was such a longing for it. As the source and summit of our faith, addressing the deep desire when it was no longer available can help to lead parishioners into a deeper understanding of this most Holy Sacrament. Research has told us that there has been an historically low number of people truly understanding this gift of our faith. Yet, many people were truly yearning for Holy Communion. This is an opportunity to educate and help people grow closer to the Lord as they learn why they so deeply missed the Blessed Eucharist.
There was a very interesting conversation about those who are still watching the Mass streamed or online from their TV’s. There was surprise that people did not seem to know that things were open again and that people could return to Mass in person. Furthermore, it seemed like people did not know what ministries were open yet. That was surprising to staff as everything is posted in the bulletin. However, as they discussed, if someone does not go to Mass, they will not get the bulletin and many people do not understand that everything, including the bulletin, is shared on the website. The solution, have the priests make announcements during the mass that welcomes everyone back, mentions upcoming events and reminds everyone to find it all on the website, so that even those watching from home know what is occurring and how they can find the information.
A big thing in their state is that masks are no longer mandatory at Mass. That becomes an opportunity for the people to see each other’s faces, for the first time in a long time. The group discussed the importance of making sure that everyone knew that the choice of wearing a mask or not wearing a mask was completely fine and based on the individual and their needs. They further discussed mentioning how grateful the priests, deacons and staff are to see everyone again. It was noted that some parishioners did not realize that the priests did not know who was attending church or not. So, sharing that message would remind the congregation that not only could they not see each other, but the priests, deacons and staff could not see the parishioners either, and they truly missed seeing the congregation. They further discussed new parishioners and that new parishioners might have been coming to church for awhile and have yet to meet any of the other parishioners, because everyone had masks on. The idea of having some sort of parishioner event where all the new parishioners could meet other parishioners was excitedly embraced.
There were so many things learned from this discussion. Probably the most critical one is that while being closed due to COVID was horrible for many reasons, now that things are opening up again, returning to church and Mass is exciting and energizing for everyone. In marketing we never want to let a good opportunity, like the re-opening of churches, go to waste. How can you encourage attendance and create a vibrant God-centered community as things re-open for you?