Max Colas was once a senior marketing executive for a global company. Back then, he sang in his parish choir at Sts. Peter & Paul in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The parish began preparing a strategic plan to boost stewardship (generous giving of time, talent, and treasure among parishioners), and the staff needed some way to develop greater understanding of ‘stewardship’.
Max recalls their dilemma: “Stewardship is often poorly understood in a consumer society, so (the parish) needed to convey a clear message to our parishioners through a series of articles, reflections, events and homilies.” He suggested making better use of the parish bulletin.
“What made the bulletin particularly relevant to the stewardship message was its recurring nature,” he says. “We knew that becoming stewards would take time, and incremental steps would be achieved, so we needed a recurring outlet that could accompany that transition.
“Even though parishioners cannot always attend Mass, all registered parishioners receive the bulletin by email. If they read it, (the bulletin) would help build a continuous momentum” toward strengthening stewardship, Max explains.
Exercising his own stewardship muscles, Max offered his marketing expertise to improve the bulletin.
Here’s how he did it:
1. Get Parishioners to Take the Bulletin Home
“The first challenge, as one pastor recently put it,” Max explains, “was to add some curb appeal to the publication.” He switched from the original Microsoft Publisher platform to Adobe Creative Suite, added photos of parish life, and infographics.
Adding Curb Appeal: January “call to stewardship” bulletin cover is an actual word game!
2. Make the Content Relevant
“Beyond the regular stream of announcements from the ministries, other parishes and the Archdiocese of Newark,” says Max, “we started creating contents internally and sourcing relevant materials.”
For example: Parish staff members with theological training contribute interesting articles about topics of faith, book reviews, or Scripture reflections. The parish pastor reviews the content, and contributes his own column.
This weekend’s Gospel reflection (Peter as Rock) becomes more relevant when framed in a modern-day situation (hiring / job application) and more interesting with a headline, 3 columns, bullet points:
3. Engage Parishioners in Stewardship Goals
A. Use the bulletin to explain and expand on stewardship in general, and stewardship initiatives in particular
B. Provide regular updates on how those initiatives are being implemented; facilitating regular transparency and accountability
When the parish needed to begin a construction project, it launched the fundraising campaign with a video. During the following months, the bulletin featured explanations of the new space, the architectural plans, the funding progress, etc.
Max says these bulletin items were key to building stewardship: “By reporting in detail and regularly on this project, parishioners felt involved, and many got involved financially or through their technical expertise. Then we could report on the electrical setup, fire alarms, painting, furnishing, the well-attended inauguration and then on how we were using it.
“That’s transparent reporting to the stakeholders, and I think that providing a regular, almost systematic forum for that accountability is a very valuable asset of the bulletin.”
Weekly bulletins also include a financial stewardship infographic:
End Goal: Building Up the Parish toward Evangelization
Today, Max is Director of Marketing and Communications at his parish. For him, stewardship is not an end, but a means to the ultimate end:
“One of the biggest challenges of stewardship,” he observes, “is to make parishioners own the parish, but if they feel it is their parish, then they get engaged, and stewardship happens. The bulletin provides that recurring window of visibility, accountability and call to responsibility, and that’s how the parish gets strengthened.
“Now that our bulletin is read, we have a more effective channel to support our mission and stewardship. Often, parishioners pick up a few copies of the bulletin to share with friends, which helps us evangelize.”
There you have it: Invest in your bulletin, engage your parishioners, build up your parish, and your parish can become a stronger source of evangelization.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on parish bulletins! Has there been a particular “part” in the series that you felt was most beneficial to you? Please let me know in the comments, or on Facebook.com/InspiredAngela. I’m always open to hearing what inspires you!
Many thanks to all the personnel at the various featured parishes who so generously shared their knowledge and experience; you made this series inspiring. – Angela