By now, most pastors and parish councils—not to mention evangelization teams—have realized just how badly COVID has affected parish attendance. And MANY are coming to believe that getting parishioners to come back to Church will be one of the most difficult evangelizing tasks that they have ever faced ...
but it doesn’t have to be.
There is one simple thing you can do to make sure that the faithful do come back. And if you do it right, you might even increase your numbers.
The very SIMPLE and obvious answer to a disengaged parishioner is to actively engage them. And in this crazy time of COVID that means getting on the phone and making some calls.
I know what you’re thinking, “Patrick, that’s TOO simple.” I agree, but I also know that it works.
A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about how hard our current situation must be on individuals in my community who live alone, so I picked up the phone. I decided to call a parishioner that I have gotten to know only somewhat in the past, a woman in her eighties. I was pretty much certain that she wouldn’t know me from Adam, but hey, it was worth a shot.
Her response was wonderful. Once she realized that I was from the same parish and was simply attempting to see if there was anything she needed, she had a hard time even speaking. Through tears she told me that she was alright but admitted that she was struggling with the nagging belief that she was truly alone. My phone call had put an end to that apparently.
Now, I am not a representative of my parish or pastor, but can you imagine if I was? Imagine for one moment that it was Fr. Jeff calling, or the secretary that everyone has come to recognize, or some public face of the parish. What would the response have been then?
You see, when we reach out to a parishioner in this way and it’s NOT to ask for a donation, and NOT to get them to volunteer to wipe down the pews, but simply to say “Hello, how are you doing,” or even better, ”Hello, how can we help you?” the thought process of the person on the other side is: the Church remembers me. And that simple but powerful connection means all the difference when it comes time to return to our places of worship.
As the saying goes, you will be remembered to the extent that you have remembered others.
Yes, calling one person at a time takes time. It has to be personal and it cannot be rushed, but the day is coming when our parish doors will open as widely as before.
So take the time and make those calls.
Say “hello” and then let the Spirit work.
And who knows, you just might find more faces on Sunday than ever before.