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How Parishes Can Maintain Engagement (And Giving) During the Coronavirus Pandemic How Parishes Can Maintain Engagement (And Giving) During the Coronavirus Pandemic
We hear a lot of people sharing their concerns about reduced offertory during the coronavirus pandemic. This is concerning, but not surprising, given the circumstances.

In thinking about the most pressing needs for your parish communication right now, you might be tempted to focus on soliciting donations or making a big push for online giving. Perhaps we should pause and consider what motivated people to give to their parish before the pandemic? How might we foster that motivation (before deciding to give) in our parishioners now?

The answer is engagement. People are willing to give their time, talent and resources when they feel connected (and spiritually nourished) with their parish community. So keeping them engaged — or re-engaging them — in this new reality of time away from your physical parish is essential.

Remember, people are our mission. And people will be the ones supporting our parishes. But it’s really hard to ask people to make a sacrifice or pitch in if they don’t feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves.

Helping people feel connected starts with the leadership and engagement of the pastor. Your parish leadership team should consider calling parish staff to check in on them. Then, move on to non-staff parish and ministry leaders. Then, the pastor can invite leaders to join him in engaging with the parish community. A 5-10 minute phone call can be all it takes to get started.

Here’s what to say in your phone call:
  1. “Thank you for being a parishioner.”
  2. “How are you doing?”
  3. “How can I pray for you?”
  4. Let them know about any upcoming live stream event hosted by your parish or invite them to tune into a livestream hosted by the Archdiocese.

Here’s a challenge: can you call five people every day? That’s less than an hour spent on the phone. Then, can you invite those five people to call five people of their own every day? For this outreach to be the most impactful, it has to be consistent and sincere. Don’t even worry about overlap! There’s nothing wrong with someone getting two phone calls in a few days from someone checking on them.

What about asking for money?
It’s true that our parishes have been impacted financially by the pandemic. If you think of asking for money as a transaction, you may risk offending and losing the donor and possibly even the parishioner. But if you treat your community as a family and show them how they are loved by Jesus, valued by the community and part of a mission, then they will step up and help you through this crisis. No matter what your parish culture was before the pandemic, you can start today to build and develop a culture of connection and community in your parish.

Be honest with people. Invite them into participation by saying something like, “We are the body of Christ. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Everybody has a role to play in this family. Right now, we are going through a crisis, and I would appreciate it if you could please consider how you might be called to help.” Help them feel personally valued. Tell them you miss them at Mass, and that their presence is important to what makes your parish great.