Howdy all - thanks for the great comments on my recent post: Tired of announcements during Mass?  Here’s what to do.  I just have a few thoughts after reading many of the comments (these will make more sense if you read the comments over there first):

1) It’s a shame that such an important topic (communicating with parishioners better) ends up in arguments about how the Latin Mass is so much better or superior than the Novus Ordo. This is about how we open up more effective communication channels with parishioners instead of forcing them to listen to excessive, extra-liturgical announcements at Mass. Such excessive announcements can become annoying and disruptive, are ineffective and work to break down trust between a parish and its parishioners. Of course, some announcements at Mass at the proper place, and which are necessary and brief, are appropriate and should be embraced by us as part of the community - not selfishly complained about because they disrupt our personal prayer time. But too many parishes have taken advantage of this, even if not on purpose. And either way, there are much more effective ways to do it. Like, for example, email.

2) If people won’t give their email addresses to parish leaders, there is a reason. The following points will address possible reasons.

3) People give their email addresses to people/organizations they trust. Parishioners don’t want to give you their email address because they don’t trust you. The reason they don’t trust you is because you haven’t earned it…you’ve violated it. You’ve violated it by taking advantage of them and their time at Mass by forcing them to listen to excessive, extra-liturgical announcements they don’t want to listen to. Trust me…the solution is not to keep doing the same thing hoping they will eventually break down from exhaustion and surrender their contact info. If you want their money, prove you’ll be a good steward of it.  Getting their email address is no different.

4) Additionally, when you were trying to collect their email address did you assure them that their email address will be kept safe and secure?  And that you comply with CAN-SPAM act?  And that they can unsubscribe at ANY TIME by clicking a link at the bottom of the email? If you use a proper emailing system (including I mentioned) then you can tell them all of this. That will help a lot.

5) They also may not have given their email address to you because you haven’t given them incentive. Why would they give you their email address if you are going to continue to give them the same information at Mass? Some of them don’t want the info ONCE. Why would they want it TWICE? Once you commit to using email (instead of forcing it on them at Mass), people will jump on board…at least the people who really want to hear you will. You have to say, “In an effort to respect your time at Mass and to save money and paper, we are moving to mostly electronic communication. Simply sign up for our e-mailing list. We will no longer be making as many announcements during Mass or sending you expensive mail-outs or calling you to make sure you can be somewhere. This will be more efficient for all of us, save YOU money, save YOU time, enable you to get information the way you prefer, and enable us to send you more timely, up-to-date and accurate information. For those of you who do not have email access, we will offer a special bulletin for you to pick up each week and or have mailed to your house if necessary. Let us know if you have any other special needs we need to address and we’d be happy to try.”  You have to encourage people and give them motivation. Then…stop enabling them to get their information in other places by continually announcing at Mass. The transition won’t be smooth. But it will be worth it once it’s done and you’ll never go back.

6) Get creative. Offer a prize or something to get people signed up. People may not sign up by just asking them, but they will sign up for the chance to win a $200 gift card or a chance to dunk Father in a dunking booth or to give him his next hair cut.

7) Of course there must be exceptions for elderly or those without access to electronic communication. But they should be exceptions. Most people in most areas have access to the internet and email. Take advantage of that. If people don’t know how to use email or the internet, offer a class and teach them.

8) Just because you have 1000 families does not mean you’re going to get 1000+ email addresses. Let’s be realistic. I’d be wiling to bet that a majority of those families haven’t even registered at your parish either. And how many of those are showing up to Mass regularly?  And how many of those are listening to announcements at Mass? How many read the bulletin?  I’ll bet the number would be very similar to the number of people who will end up giving you their email address (if you do the things mentioned above).  And with a little confidence in them and earning of their trust, it could be a lot more.

9) A lot of this problem is caused by the level of (or lack of) engagement of parishioners in general. No matter what language you use at Mass, if your parish is not preaching truth and standing up for something and teaching its parishioners to do so themselves, then they will not be invested in your parish. If they are not personally invested then they are not going to “let you in” to the level of intimacy that allows an email address or cell phone number to be shared. Period.

It’s really, really sad that most parishioners don’t trust their own parish with their email address. Really sad. But it’s because they aren’t invested in their parish and their Church…or they don’t trust it. They just don’t care enough. Trust me, the answer is not to keep beating them over the head with stuff or guilting it out of them while holding them hostage at Mass. It’s not working. Stop already. Inspire them to love their Church and motivate them to become personally invested at your parish. Then they will be begging you to take their email address, their phone number and to call them whenever you need anything…time, talent or money. Begging you.