Attracting & Retaining Parishioners - Part 2

Last week I introduced Thom S. Rainer (Former president/CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism). I presented a number of Thom’s insights concerning what works, and what does not work, in terms of attracting - and retaining - new church members. We looked at “Information and Communication” issues. This week we will look at ideas involved with “Liturgy, Worship and Infrastructure” after which I shall add some additional personal comments as well.




Insider Church Language. Most of the respondents were not referring to theological language as much as language that only the members know. One of Thom’s favorite example was: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet.” (Fr. Zlock: I don’t know if this is an issue or not. It might be - it might not be. I would need people who are new to the parish (and courageous enough to speak to me about it) in order to alert me when I use too much “church language.”)


Boring or Bad Services. Thom Rainer was not surprised at the presence of this item - the surprise was that it was not ranked higher. (Thankfully we have pretty good, detailed information on this from the two parish surveys that we conducted over the past several years. We know where we are strong. We know where we need to get better. This issue at St. Monica does not seem to “quality” but rather issues surrounding “taste” and “style.”)



Unsafe And Unclean Children’s Areas: This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If a church does not give a high priority to children, don’t expect young families to attend. (Fr. Zlock: I have not heard this as an issue in our church. However, I would like to be able to provide a more comfortable and inviting space (other than the lobby) for conscientious parents who take their smaller, more “active and enthusiastic” children out of the main body of the church for a little bit.)

Dirty Facilities: Some of the sample comments that Thom heard over the years were: “Didn’t look like it had been cleaned in a week.” “No trash cans anywhere.” “Restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop.” “Pews had more stains than a Tide commercial.” (Fr. Zlock: This was an issue when I first arrived. I hope that it has gotten “noticeably” better. When I arrived, one of the first items that I wanted to address was the cleanliness of all of the parish facilities. We hired a cleaning service (FaithWin) which scrubbed every building (even the tops of the pipes in the gym!). They now maintain a regular cleaning schedule of all of our buildings and monitor the inventory of our cleaning and general repair materials. Doyle and McDonald does the landscaping, lawn cutting, snow removal etc… Our Facilities Manager, Frank Pantano (along with Business Manager, Terry Carey with help from Frank Orman) keep an eye out for repair and cleaning needs. We also have an exterminator who checks in on a regular basis. Do we mess up sometimes - sure. The buildings are now being used more often and more heavily than they have been in several years. That has an impact. In addition, there are also people (unfortunately more frequently that we would like) who use the facilities and are simply not as considerate of the facilities as we hope they would be. Thus, situations arise and conditions can quickly become sub-standard before we are aware of it or have a chance to address the issue. Nevertheless, as you can see, we do have a team in place to try and stay ahead of the issues.)


Two final comments:he had a smile and good word for everybody

  1. At St. Monica, our goal for this year is to try and grow the parish by 10% (i.e. “Get The 80”). That can’t be my job alone. EVERYBODY is a stakeholder. It starts with prayer (“Forming Disciples - Step #1, 10 minutes a day. Remember?) which leads to the Lord’s voice whispering to each one of us how we can be more welcoming. We need to be better. People will come. We need to make sure that they come BACK!
  2. It’s YOUR parish - take ownership of it! Telling me and Parish Staff where there are issues and problems and situations and places where things are “not up to standards” is not helpful. Don’t present me with a problem, unless you also propose a solution along with it. Better yet, offer to “solve” the problem. As one IHM Sister once said to me, “Be the ‘answer to’ somebody’s prayer rather than the ’cause of” it.”


Other people will notice - and perhaps come back.



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