Monday, August 16, 2010


With so much controversy always available in the topic of church marketing and with religion itself so much a part of our daily news (e.g. attempting to build a mosque at Ground Zero in Manhattan!), it should have been much easier for me to post a nugget or two within the last several weeks.

Sorry 'bout that, Chief. Just tooooooooo many distractions from other work and some family matters.

We'll be getting back here soon, though. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Raising Money is not the Objective

It takes money to keep the doors open and the lights on at church. But how big a role does money play in your church?

Is money just a behind-the-scenes matter? Or is it on stage, front and center and even upstaging (stealing attention from) the more important activities of your church?

Frank Donaldson founded the Institute of Parish and School Development (ISPD) twenty-one years ago this month. Recently he published ten of the lessons that and his staff have learned about Catholic Development. I believe these lessons can be applied to most, if not all, Christian churches.

In my June 13th post, "How Do You Get People Involved -- and Uninvolved?", I commented (Okay, okay; mostly I just posed questions.) on Lesson 1: People really do want to become involved in the life of our Catholic parishes and schools, but they do need the personal invitation before they take that first step.

Now let's tackle Lesson 2: Raising money is not the "end" result of a Catholic Development effort: it is simply a step in the process of building that strong connection between the "steward" who shares the gifts and that Catholic institution.

It will help to understand ISPD's definition of development: Development is the meaningful involvement of people in your mission and vision for the future.

Are you waging a constant battle to meet expenses? Is there always a capital campaign in the spotlight?

If you feel the pressure of money troubles, your members probably feel it, too. And they might hold the opinion, fairly or unfairly, that too much attention, time and effort is spent on raising money compared to the attention, time and effort expended for developing their spirits.

How often do your church members -- in person, in the mail, by e-mail, by phone, or by walking past a sign-up table of some sort -- encounter someone asking them to cough up their cash? Every time they step onto church property?

Do you believe that, if more people were involved in your mission and vision for the future, more money would be part of that increased involvement? (Read ISPD's definition of development, above, one more time.)

Your answers to these questions might put your money concerns in a more optimistic light.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2 Questions for Church Leaders

One of the most frequently posed questions in church leadership and management is this:

"How can we get more people into our church?"

One of the most interesting questions is this:

"Once people get here, what do we do with them?"

This question might lead to others ...

What all do you have going on at your church?

What all should you have going on at your church?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How do you get people involved -- and uninvolved?

In my last post, I quoted and endorsed the definition of development by Frank Donaldson, President of the Institute of Parish and School Development (ISPD):

"Development is the meaningful involvement of people in your mission and vision for the future."

On the occasion of ISPD's 21st year in business, Frank has offered ten "Lessons Learned in Catholic Development". ISPD specializes in Catholic development. The gist of these lessons can be applied to almost any Christian church or school in your own experience.

Each lesson is meaty enough to raise a lot of questions. Here are just the ones off the top of my head. See if you can come up with answers for them all ...

Lesson #1: People really do want to become involved in the life of our Catholic parishes and schools, but they do need the personal invitation before they take that first step.

Does your church make a personal invitation to people? How is this done? What, specifically, is the invitation? Are greater efforts to invite people made at any particular time of the year or under any particular recurring circumstances?  These efforts might be made, for example, during a "membership drive", or around Easter or Christmas, or at weddings or funerals or other events that tend to attract guests to your church grounds.

Is there ever, often or always a benefit to repeating the invitation? If so, when and how is the subsequent invitation made? Is it made in the same manner or differently than the first time?

What, exactly, is the first step that your church invites people to take? Is it the same first step for each person? Is it the same first step when subsequent invitations, if any, are made? How many different first steps -- or points of entry to involvement in your church -- are made known to people who are invited to become involved?

Does your church have a formal or informal procession of second, third steps and more steps for people to become more involved beyond the first step? Just how involved can a person become? Are there limits? If so, what are they and can they -- should they -- be moved?

What patterns for involvement can you identify? For example, do people tend to get involved to a certain point and then stay at that level? If so, for how long? And why at that level instead of a deeper level?

At what point(s) do people tend to become uninvolved in your church? What discourages them from staying involved? What efforts are made (1) to identify people who are approaching likely "exits" from involvement and (2) to help keep these people involved?

I think that's enough questions for now. Do you have enough answers for your church?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Development: Defined by the Expert

A leader -- maybe the leader -- in Catholic church development is Frank Donaldson, President of the Institute of School & Parish Development (ISPD).

ISPD turns 21 years old this month and Frank has published a list of ten of the many lessons he and ISPD have learned through consulting with hundreds of individual parishes and, though conferences, presentations, seminars and, in recent years, webinars.

Before presenting my observations on these valuable lessons, however, I want to share with you a concept that I believe is the most important thing to understand, outside of your religious precepts, for having a church. It is Frank Donaldson's definition of development.

"Development is the meaningful involvement of people in your mission and vision for the future."

That's not "filling the pews". But I think it is the surest and most sustainable foundation for constantly growing your congregation.

That's not "fund-raising". But I think it is the most sustainable foundation for fund-raising that you can build.

I've no doubt that if you understand development as ISPD does, your job of filling the pews -- and the coffers -- is a whole lot easier.

If you don't "get it" about the role of development, as seen by ISPD, in your church, you probably won't "get" how significantly the ten lessons they've learned can apply to your church.

How do you define development? I welcome your comments.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How to stamp out neglect of individual members

Your church probably has a form for registering new members. Is "Date of Birth" one of the blanks they fill in?

It's useful to know the age of the members. An enterprising church leader might even want to keep track of the average and median ages of the church's membership to gain some insights for more effective leadership, ministries, and communications.

But each members date of birth is important to some one else, too.

It's important to that member.

Is it too much to expect a community of Christians to acknowledge the most personally significant day of the year for that member?

"But if we did that for every member, it would cost us a small fortune in stamps." 

If acknowledging the least of your members is not worth, to your church, the price of a stamp, how can you claim that your community is interested in that member at all? 

How much appreciation do you think will come back to your church for acknowledging each and every one of your community's birthdays?

Ten-fold, at least, is my guess.

  • Hold a card-making event (annually, seasonally, or monthly).
  • Provide the raw materials for card-making: card-stock (paper), scissors, pens, markers -- very similar to scrap-booking supplies.
  • Encourage members of all ages to create at least a few cards.
  • Encourage participants to create a great variety of cards.
  • Provide envelopes, too.
  • A single size and color will help ensure that the created cards will fit the envelopes. Create a rubber stamp to mark the back of the card to identify it as being made by your church.
  • Hold a special fund-raising activity -- maybe selling refreshments at the card-making event -- to meet the anticipated cost of stamps.
  • Have your church's membership stewards, as each member's birthday approaches, select a card from the collection, write a simple greeting, and sign each card, then address the envelope, stamp it and mail it.
  • Consider acknowledging wedding anniversaries, too.
Happy birthday to you and your church. And many happy returns of -- and because of -- the day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why is being seen important at your church?

Does your church track attendance at worship services?

Do you know when individuals have been absent for one week? For two weeks? For three weeks or more?

On the one hand, few people want others tracking -- let alone judging them by -- their attendance. But what does it say about a church -- a community of Christians -- if it fails to notice that Joe Smith, one of the members who attends regularly, hasn't been seen for a long time?

Here's what it says:
  • We are not involved enough in Joe Smith's everyday life to miss him, let alone know why he hasn't been seen lately.
  • It says that we care so little about our fellow member's life that red flags didn't get raised at his absence from our community.
  • It says that we are not in touch enough with each and every one of our members.
If your flock has grown too big for the shepherds to keep track of them, then you need either more shepherds or better shepherds.

How do you know when one of your sheep is missing?

How do you think a member feels when he has been absent from his usual functions and has not been missed?

What can you do to prevent this from happening at your church? Please leave your comments below.