Posted on Monday December 10, 2012
Among the many activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day.”
—Blessed John Paul II
How do you rebuild a parish? Where do you start? Fr. Michael White, Tom Corcoran, and the Church of the Nativity started with the weekend experience. With an adaptation of James Carville’s famous assessment of the 1992 election, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” they now rely on Pastor Ed Young’s axiom, “It’s the weekend, Stupid!”
Watch and listen to Barry, Nativity’s weekend director, and Kristin, Director of Communications, talk about what he does on the weekends and how they put it all together:
With laser-sharp focus they revamped the weekend experience at Nativity starting with the music and the ministers.
“It’s the Music!”
“We had a music program; what we needed was a worship program” (Rebuilt, 99).
Consider the following reflection/discussion questions when evaluating your worship program:
- Would we say we have a music program or a worship program?
- What style of music is most attractive and engaging to our Timonium Tim? What works in our community?
- Is our music the personal preference of the pastor, the preference of the music director, the demand of the pews, or the preference of the majority of the parish? OR is our music about attracting the lost and growing disciples through worship?
- Do we repeat music enough from week to week for our parish to learn it and participate in it?
- Is our music connected to the liturgical action?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how much participation is there in our music program on the weekends?
You Can Do This: Developing a Worship Program
To get where you need to go isn’t about talent or luck or even money. It’s about consistently following a few basic principles:
- Make sure you have the best musicians you can find (paid or volunteer) and use them; do the difficult thing and ask people who are holding your program down or even making it worse to step aside. Face the hard facts and lean into the conflict in order to advance your program.
- Raise your music and musicians up in prayer. Fast for them.
- Whatever the style, make sure your music is worship and your musicians are worship leaders.
- Take care with the selection of your music and do it in view of the liturgy as well as the lost. You need to be talking to your musicians about the music. It’s not about what you like or they want; it’s about the lost.
- Don’t be afraid to repeat music from week to week. In loving ways, encourage your congregation to sing and sing with them.
“It’s about the ministers!”
To revamp their weekend experience, the Church of the Nativity went way beyond volunteer ushers. They set up a number of ministries for volunteers to serve on during the weekends. Check out the Church of the Nativity’s website for a full list of their Ministry Teams.
Here is a summary of the main “teams” of member-ministers described in detail in, Rebuilt:
Parking Team – They direct traffic, manage flow, assist with special needs, and make sure they’re accommodating the maximum number of cars. But more importantly, their parking ministry is also about establishing a welcoming, festive environment as people enter their campus, wordlessly communicating, “We’re waiting for you. We’re glad you’re here.”
Host Team – Their goal is to greet everyone who comes through any of the doors, demonstrating in a convincing way enthusiasm for their presence.
Information Team – Stationed in the lobby with their own desk and laptop, they handle—you guessed it—information. The team provides visitors with details about programs and services, and helps members sign up to take their next steps in discipleship.
Café Team – They manage the café. They sell coffee, tea, juice, and bottled water all weekend long; bagels and donuts Sunday morning; snacks, sandwiches, and pizza in the afternoon.
Operations Team – They set up and break down for programs and services. They wash windows, vacuum carpets, and keep the place clean throughout the weekend.
Tech Team – They handle the basics: what you see and what you hear. Tech includes the camera crew as well as the people who work the “board,” putting audio and visual together.
You Can Do This: Welcoming New Members
Start putting together, in one place (a binder or on your laptop or website), information that parishioners actually need and want: how to register, how to get envelopes, how to sign up for programs, service, and events . . . everything in one place.
Find three or four people in your parish who you wish there were more of: friendly and enthusiastic people you would like to represent you; recruit them to be your Information Team. Here’s how you do it: Tell them they can actually stop doing everything else they’re already doing, and you promise not to ask them to do anything else as long as they’re in this service. Make the upfront investment in them you need to, so that you’re setting them up for success. Meet with them regularly; make sure they know about everything that’s going on.
Find a space in your lobby or near your front door or at least in a highly visible and accessible place. Put a table there. Try to find a nice table, or a nice cloth for the table. Do not clutter the table top with a lot of junk, just a few relevant and timely things you might have on hand (like your bulletin). Put everything else you need under the table. Have a sign that lets people know what’s the purpose of the table.
- Note: No chairs, your team needs to stand.
- Nota Bene: Do not sell stuff at this table or use it for fundraisers.
Create a schedule for your team and try to make sure people don’t have to serve alone. Help your team understand that they’re not hosting a watering hole for insiders. They are the front line when it comes to evangelization and discipleship.
You Can Do This: Assess Your Facilities
We urge you to consider what your facility looks like to a newcomer or first time visitor. Is it neat and orderly and, most importantly, clean? How your building looks will tell guests more about you than anything you can say from the pulpit. Whether your church is beautiful matters not in the least to the lost; that it is well maintained is critical.