Parish websites

Okay, I’m warning you in advance that the following is a bit of a rant.

I am just a little annoyed right now. Being young and not really settled yet, I have lived in several large cities in the last few years, and I don’t actually have a parish I call home. In fact, I often attend Sunday mass at a different parish each week, since I’m still trying to find a place I like. There is one parish in my current city that I have enjoyed attending, but as it is pretty far from where I live, I usually attend mass at this particular parish only once a month.

This morning, since I wasn’t especially busy, I decided to go to mass at this parish. Now, when I say it’s far away, I mean I have to take pubic transportation for almost an hour to get there. I arrived about 10 minutes before mass was supposed to start, at a time which they advertise on their website. I was surprised to find that there was already mass going on. It turns out that they had changed their mass schedule for this particular Sunday. I had glanced at the website for the parish this morning to check on the masstimes, but didn’t see anything about the mass schedule having been changed; now I see they did have something about it, but not in the most obvious place, for example on the first page of their website in large letters! :mad: So I had the choice to wait around for 1.5 hours until the next mass started, or go somewhere else. I left, to find a church that actually has mass at the times it advertises. I’m not sure I’m going back. Now tell me, what exactly was the necessity of changing the mass schedule? And if the mass schedule absolutely had to be changed, post it on the top of the webpage in large red letters. Seriously.

On a slightly unrelated note, priests often complain about how few people go to confession anymore. Maybe the problem is not that they don’t want to go, but that confession is not readily available. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to go to confession at a church during a time they have listed on their website as having confession, and either the confession has been in some not very obvious place, for example, a back chapel, or the priest hasn’t actually been there at the time he was supposed to be there. If you run your parish webpage and confession is not held in the most obvious place (a confessional in the church) then please explain where confession is and how to get there. Signs in the church also help. Or maybe these parishes are trying to be unwelcoming to newcomers? :confused:

Okay I think I am done ranting. For now at least.

Parish offices may have some paid staff, stretched very thin and maybe not tech-savvy (they cannot afford to pay to have a skilled web master). The rest is done by volunteers.

It is always wise to call and verify Mass Times and Confession times.

I have never actually heard a parish acknowledge it had a problem with its website; if they asked for volunteers to maintain their website, then someone would certainly step forward. Instead you often find parishes who haven’t updated their websites since 2001; why even have a website if the information is not updated to reflect the current schedule? It’s just confusing. For those of us under the age of say, forty, who use the web as our main source of information, this is a complete turn-off. And parishes wonder why so few young people attend… :shrug: I’m not saying that the non-attendance of young adults is due solely to bad websites, but I think it’s indicative of a deeper problem, and if parishes can’t adapt to modern forms of communication it’s not exactly encouraging. If any kind of business does not use all of the resources available to advertise, the owners can hardly be surprised when they don’t attract any new customers; churches aren’t businesses, but they do need to be aware of how information is communicated!

I’ve built and maintain the website for my parish as part of my stewardship to the parish. People come to me and ask me to put something up on the web and I comply after verifying that it had been approved. We have over two hundred pages on our website. I am willing to bet that about half of them contain outdated information. The other day I cam across a page which talked about an upcoming trip to Rome in 2004. Another page said that we are now accepting reservations for 2007.

If/when I come across these pages, I disable them but I do not go around looking for them. Basicly, the person who told me to put the page up is responsible for informing me when it is no longer needed. When that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

I assume that most parishes run the same way unless they have a paid person on staff whose job it is to take care of that.

Up front, let me say: I sympathize with the predicament you found yourself in and I understand you are in rant-mode. However:

I would guess that few if any parishes consider a website as their primary channel of communication to the community. Rather, the paper bulletin and pulpit announcements serve to inform the regular attendance, and if you were regular in your attendance, you would likely have known about the change.

If you will not settle in a parish, you will never be part of its community. :shrug:

:twocents:
tee

Its not just churches that are lax in this area, I’ve seen lack of updating in commercial sites as well.

Calling ahead is of course a good idea.

Parishes should not have to beg for help in any area. If they listed every need in the bulletin there might not be room for anything else.

We as adult Catholics presumably know our talents and should offer in any area that we might be able to help. Are we children who need a chore list? Why is it that typically 1/3 or less of a parish population is doing all of the work while the rest only sit in a pew for 90 minutes per week and offer nothing to keep things going? Oh, I forgot. Some of them email complaints about how everyone else is doing or not doing things. This is my rant!

My parish was hit by a huge storm on Thursday and Friday that ripped away roofing and caused serious damage in our area. If we had needed to change mass times, was someone really supposed to remember to update the website for the random visitor in the midst of chaos? We didn’t know if all of the power would come on for Saturday mass until it did. The handful of choir members who showed up sweated and ran around pulling cables and setting up microphones with nary one volunteer from all of the 1000+ people in the pews to help us as we scrambled in the last 5 minutes before mass was due to begin. Thankfully none of us ladies had on dresses since it would have resulted in some serious immodesty as we crawled and ran about.

Finally, we sweated like pigs while singing in the hot church and got through mass. I’m not normally a sweaty person, but I had it stinging my eyes as I left church. Honestly, if someone had complained about the website not warning them that the A/C was not working, I might have lost my lady-like demeanor.

Puh-leez, let’s cut people a bit of slack or step up and do the job ourselves. Rant over.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that for me, as a young adult, the web is the first place I’m going to look for information. I understand parishes have very limited resources, I just meant that to be more welcoming to newcomers or travelers, especially ones in my age group, having the mass times and confession times up to date is not really that much to ask. Often if you actually do call a parish office, you get an answering machine repeating the information on the website, and not information about any special changes to the schedule. Also, I would like to point out that I was not the only one confused by the change today; I saw quite a few people walk into the church at the time mass usually starts, wondering why mass was almost over at the time it should have been starting. I would actually be happy to join a parish, but since this place is almost an hour commute, it’s not really ideal.

I’m sorry to hear about the storm near your church. I hope everything turned out okay.

For a church in a smaller town, it probably is a pretty good assumption that the same people are showing up every single week; I don’t think that’s true for a parish in a large city. People are often moving in and out of the city, and there are also a lot of visitors. It’s a pretty important for a church in a large city to keep their information up to date simply because the number of new people is so much greater.

But once I do join a parish, I will keep in mind the need for volunteers.

Well it wasn’t that big of a deal, so I will stop complaining now. It’s just something I’ve run into over and over again in the past few years, and it’s quite discouraging at times. I know parishes aren’t trying to be unwelcoming, but some certainly do a better job than others of making new people feel welcome, and I guess that’s the whole reason for my complaint about the websites.

I think this statement is the key issue. I’m also a young adult and the internet is also my first source of information for pretty much anything. And I agree that it drives me CRAZY when websites aren’t up to date, not just for churches, but in general. (Poorly designed websites also drive me crazy!)

I think as people my age and younger grow up, this will become even more important. I’ve grown up using a computer for as long as I can remember and I’m probably one of the oldest in that situation. As people from younger generations grow up, having a good and accurate website will be essential to reaching out to them as that will most likely be their primary source of information.

I am an OLD adult (a real senior citizen) and I use the internet for my first source of info quite often, probably most of the time. I have encountered out of date websites for churches very, very often, including local parishes, not just when traveling.

Some outdated information is just that, who cares? But times for Mass and other religious activities is extremely important and if a parish is going to have a website, that, at least, should be carefully managed.

I have, actually rather often, searched for times of Holy Week Services at parishes away from home. It has been something of an adventure.

With all my parish’s problems the trains do run on time, just as advertised. WE start literally on the minute. We had a very short-lived pastor that thought he could start Mass 5-10-30 minutes late. He was terribly mistaken…

Tee eff em:

A website is part of a parish’s OUTREACH - One that fails to warn of impending changes to the Mass Schedule is worse than useless, because it tells visitors, “newbies” & “Out-of-towners” YOU DON’T CARE! This isn’t part of the 200-250 pages linked from some of your larger parish websites - This is either Page 1 or Page 2. If this isn’t updated, nothing is. Why would any visitor want to become a member of a parish community who thought so little of him or her that they didn’t even do something as basic as updating the front page on the parish website to notify him of a change in the Sunday Mass Schedule?

Katherinette sounds as if she’s trying to find a parish home, but stuff like what she described here sure can make that pretty discouraging.

I think we need to remember that in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the reason the Father sees the Prodigal Son “Afar off” is because He is scanning the horizon looking for him. The Father is seeking the “Prodigal Son” even while the son who blew His entire fortune on riotous living is trying to make his way home.

Your Brother & Servant in Christ, Michael

If you go to catholicweb.com and find a church you can look for your church in your state. Many of the churches but not all have their weekly bulletins in pdf form via that website. I know that here in FL the mass schedule changes in the summer.

JC Servant:

I’m sorry to hear about the storm & the damage to your parish.

Sounds as if your pastor needs to have a LONG TALK with your parish about the meaning of “service” - You & your fellow choir members should never have been stuck with all of the “Roadie” and “Clean-up” work - The need for “volunteers” should have been on PAGE 1 of your parish’s WEB SITE & should have been announced both before & after every Mass. I really believe that’s something your Pastor & the other priests should have been doing…

… I think you realize Catherinete wasn’t dealing with a situation that was anything like your’s, and that changes in the Sunday Mass Schedule are something parishes plan weeks, if not months, in advance. and, Parishes coordinate these changes with their Dioceses & Archdioceses, which reflect the information on the parish Websites on their Websites. I don’t think it’s not unreasonable to ask that a parish put a notice on their Website’s “Homepage” saying, “The Sunday Mass Schedule will be changed on (DATE of the CHANGE),” 2 or 3 weeks before the Sunday on which the date is to occur… Unless, you really believe it’s OK to turn away visitors, “Newbies” and “Out-of-Towners”.

I’m sure that, since Catherinette was trying to attend a MASS, given the situation you described, she wouldn’t have cared if the parish’s A/C had been out. Remember, she had spent an hour on public transit trying to get there, so it wasn’t like she had a nice, easy comfortable 15 to 20-minute drive. and, She’s lived in several large cities over the couple of years, so she hasn’t had much of a chance to settle down or become a part of a parish community.

Your Brother in Christ, Michael

“Little” Catherine:

Here is something I want you to listen to - You’re a “Child of the King”, and it seems you’re having a tough time of things…

[FONT=Tahoma]Keith Green - When I Hear the Praises Start (Live)
[/FONT]youtube.com/watch?v=fIgVU_5FsqA

[size=4][FONT=Garamond]I know you’re limited in transport (Public transit does that). Because of that, I’m going to urge you to try to find a parish closer to where you live [/size][/FONT][size=4][FONT=Garamond](Within 20-25 minutes of where you live if possible)[/size][/FONT][size=4][FONT=Garamond] where think you have some chance of fitting in. I’m also going to suggest that if you know anything about how to maintain or create Websites, you volunteer to work on theirs. This might be “Part of your stewardship” as tee ef em said, and, as some of my Charismatic friends put it, you might “have a burden for this”.

I agree with you about Confession times and how some parishes treat it - it’s really a scandal and discourages people from using the Sacrament.

I hope this helps.

Your Brother & Servant in Christ, Michael[/size][/FONT]

As a web site developer and programmer I can attest that most business and churches do their best to maintain their web sites and keep them up to date. There are instances when the information falls out of date and is not current. However, to interject some common sense into this conversation, rarely if ever does the phone number of a parish change. If you are traveling, even to a church an hour away or a block away, the best policy is to call and find out what times the church celebrates mass.

Since we are all internet users we know or we should know that not all web sites are up to date; it happens; its the nature of the beast. If you’re upset or even mad because you traveled a great distance only to discover the mass times had changed, take a lesson from this experience and learn to call ahead. :slight_smile:

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The easiest way to join a parish is to simply find the one closest to your apartment and attend there. Do not get on public transportation to go an hour out of your way–passing several other Catholic churches in the process. Yes, the church near your apartment may not be the prettiest, have the best music, homilies, whatever–but it is your church.

Especially for a transient person, being close to your parish is important. It will be easier to attend in bad weather, last minute need for confession, etc. You will be more likely to run into fellow parishoners at the store, etc and so form closer friendships. And, you will be close enough to more easily volunteer!

I do hope that you begin to regularly attend your local parish and that you are able to volunteer to help with the website or something else that they need help with.

I agree and again reiterate that we (as tech-savvy folks) need to be the ones volunteering to help with the website. A simple call to the parish during office hours should do it. " Hi, I’m parishoner Sally and I noticed that the Mass times are out of date on the website. I’d be happy to help with keeping that current if you need help." Then they either say, “Great! Come in and fill out a volunteer form.” or “Oh yes, we know, Frank the web guy is out sick, we’ll get it updated soon.”

I guess we should also try to make plans for Mass before Friday at 4pm, so that we can call the parish in question and verify Mass times before the staff leaves for the day. :rolleyes:

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