I’m curious to everyone’s thoughts on how to increase Mass attendance and ultimately grow a parish?
After over 20 years we received a new pastor. The mandate from the bishop was clear – increase Mass attendance and grow the parish. A team of laypersons was formed to assist the new pastor and we came out of the gates running hard.
We arranged for the local newspaper to do a big front page story on our new pastor and on our parish (perhaps the first one ever in its history.) We followed this up with six weeks worth of ads in our local newspaper in the Saturday religious section. We greatly improved our weekly bulletin, we improved the signage at our parish so people know who we are when they drive bye, etc. We now have a sign-in book for visitors with a space to put their e-mail and we immediately add them to our weekly e-mailed bulletin list.
Our on-line presence exploded in a quality manner within a month. We upgraded our website, we now take advantage of every free advertising means (from the local paper to craigslist to Wikipedia) that meets our quality standards. When something worthwhile at our parish happens we now issue formal press releases. Type our city’s name and “Catholic” into Google and our parish shows up before any other Catholic parish including the older and larger ones.
All of this has been a lot of difficult and grinding work for the last 4 months or so and you can certainly see a large number of visitors on Sundays but I don’t think it’s going to last. Few parishioners seem to want to get involved with maintaining the efforts necessary to grow Mass attendance and ultimately the parish. Even though they have been kept abreast of the efforts (and have been asked to get involved from the very beginning) they seem reluctant to really get involved.
If I ever hear “I don’t know how some Protestant churches attract such lage numbers” I think I will burst. More and more it seems like they simply out-work us and they out-work us for the long term. Their commitment to evangelization seem far stronger than our own. The weekly ad in the newspaper is dignified and costs $30.00/week and it was effective. I noticed that EVERY Protestant parish that’s growing locally has the same ad yet my pastor pulled it without explanation.
Now the people (pretty much the entire parish) who were gung-ho when others were doing the work now focus on excuses for not growing. That Catholicism is “too hard” for most. That trying to build the parish is undignified – even though all efforts have been in the best of taste. It seems to me they are afraid of commiting to work on a long term basis and/or opening their wallets (even slightly) to support evangelization efforts.
Have any of you had experiences along there lines? Thanks.