Tired of announcements during Mass? Here's what to do.
Now I’m not saying making a few announcements to the community during Mass is a bad thing. I’ll leave that to the liturgists and canon lawyers. But I gotta say, sometimes it goes a bit overboard.
First, it can take away from the liturgy. I especially don’t like it when they have such announcements in the middle of Mass right after the Homily (or, sadly, sometimes pretty much instead of a homily). At least put them after the liturgy of the Eucharist and before the closing blessing.
Second, it’s kind of rude sometimes. It’s one thing to take a minute to announce donuts and fellowship going on after Mass, the fundraiser going on in the parking lot or an appeal for some special event or charitable cause. It’s another thing when an organization is selling flu shots or medical screenings or somebody gets up and tells a story for 15 minutes. It’s Mass. And, while I and most people usually quite enjoy the stories or the medical screenings, it just doesn’t seem right to hold people hostage with the final blessing and force them to listen to a bunch of extra-liturgical stuff. Maybe it’s just me. But I say finish Mass, then let those who want to stick around do so.
“BUT BUT BUT,” many parish leaders protest, “Nobody will stick around to listen! And that’s the only time we have people listening to us so they can get the information they need!”
And that’s exactly the problem.
We think the best solution to people not having the information we think they need is to hold them hostage at Mass and force them to listen.
First, people don’t respond as positively when they are forced to receive information - even if they agree with it and want the information. We live in an age of permission based communication. People hate junk mail. They hate spam. They really hate unsolicited salespeople. We fast forward through commercials. We ignore billboards. We turn off as soon as we think somebody is trying to sell us something or force us to listen to something we didn’t sign up for. With most things, we need to reach people the way they want to listen and only if they want to listen in the first place. If they don’t want to listen, then that’s the problem you start with first.
Second, why is it that the only place a parish has the ear of their community is during Mass? It’s like we’re living in 1st century Jerusalem. Christianity is legal now people. It’s okay to talk church outside of Mass and in between Sundays. If the only way you have to reach people is by announcements at Mass and by handing them a paper bulletin they won’t read, there is a better solution.
Here’s one simple suggestion - start an email list. Gather everyone’s email addresses and cell phone numbers (to text message them). The people who are even listening to your announcements at the end of Mass and/or didn’t duck out after Communion, will gladly give you their contact info. (If you need help gathering info, managing mailing lists or sending mass emails/text msgs - check out flockNote.com. This is exactly the stuff we are helping the Church to do better.)
Once you get that working well, start a Twitter account and a Facebook Page. However, email and text messaging will get you 99% of the way there. Then, make sure to use their contact info wisely. If you don’t, people will ignore you as quickly as your Mass announcements. If you do, parishioners will appreciate it, be more active, respond more often and pass the info along to others. Additionally, once you have these channels of communication, you can target particular sub-groups in the community with their specific info instead of generalizing every announcement…which is what happens at Mass and in the Bulletin. I have to dig through a bulletin where 95% of the info there is not for me, just so I can find the 5% that is for me. It’s ineffective. And it’s why most people don’t read the bulletin.
I think you’ll find that once you open up some other more effective communication channels with your parishioners, you will prefer to use those as opposed to burying info in the bulletin or extending announcement time at Mass. You’ll be much more effective and have happier, more involved parishioners that way, too.
Please lovingly share this with your parish leaders. Thanks!
UPDATE: Here is my follow-up post to this post that also responds to a lot of the comments below.