How to get FREE resources for your parish – this week!

FrRobertBarronCatholicism

If you’re like me, you’ve worked behind-the-scenes in parishes and apostolates for a long time, and you want your parish catechetical / evangelization materials to be…

  • Low cost
  • Strong Catholic teaching
  • Easy to understand
  • Intriguing / interesting
  • Outstanding, professional quality
  • Easy to implement

You have a right to be so demanding.

Word on Fire agrees, and has granted your wishes… all of them!  This week only — in celebration of their CATHOLICISM project becoming the most-watched Catholic documentary in history — Word on Fire Catholic Ministries is giving away TONS of their best DVDs, books, and study guides.

How to get free stuff this week

Each day, Word on Fire will give away different materials.  Today (Monday), it’s 100 copies of the CATHOLICISM DVD!  Simply go to CATHOLICISMWeek.com daily to enter giveaways and see special video clips.  Be sure to “Like” Word on Fire’s Facebook to stay updated.

Future promotions

I believe so strongly in Word on Fire that starting this special, celebratory week, I have partnered with them to continue providing you with exclusive news and resources in the future.  Subscribe to Inspired Angela so you don’t miss out!

Catholicism

Free resources – and fun with Star Wars priest Fr. Roderick – TGIF!

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Hey friends,

Just because I love you and it’s Friday, enjoy some fun & free stuff.  You’ll get more throughout the week on my Facebook page – Inspired Angela!

530 free geometric background images (Thanks, Design Shock!)

List of free awesome stock photo sites (Thanks, NuSchool!)

Pexels: Free super stock video clips

100 free fonts (Thanks, Web Designer Depot!)

Super fun: Father Roderick Vonhögen, the original GeekPriest, recorded himself watching the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.  It’s going viral via BuzzFeed, YouTube, and Facebook!

For more fun with Father: Check out his podcasts “Secrets of Star Wars“, “The Break“, and others on SQPN.com.  (Yes, he really is that much fun in real life.)

Me in Jedi training with Father Roderick

UPDATE – New resources added: Priests’ video messages for teens

FrRobGalea

I’m so glad that my white-collared friends have been promoting yesterday’s post about the video project for teens that we put together for last weekend.  A few more resources to share:

Fr. Kyle Schnippel has made his video available for public viewing:

 

If want something longer than the short videos I’ve been sharing, check out Fr. Rob Galea’s “My Story” mini-documentary.  This is what we had originally planned to use, but decided to go for a more personal touch. Father Rob also covers topics that aren’t discussed in the other videos, like how he prays and his vocation story.

Priests to teens: “What I want you to know about priests”

FrKyleSchnippel

So last week, I did something a little crazy: I asked priests for a favor…the week before Holy Week.

And whaddaya know, they answered!

My husband and I were tasked with leading our parish youth program’s presentation about the Sacraments at the Service of Communion: Holy Orders and Matrimony.  To create a ‘hook’, I asked several priest friends of ours to record a short video message for the teens:

  • Length: 30 seconds – 2 minutes
  • Introduce yourself.
  • What’s one thing you want teens to know about priests/priesthood?

I gave them my email address and a hard deadline, and asked for their prayers whether they could record a video or not.

Thanks be to God, we received videos from 6 priests — 2 from our Archdiocese, 3 from other cities in the U.S., and 1 in Canada.  I compiled the videos in iMovie, and we played the final product before our presentation about Holy Orders.

It was well-received; the teens were glued to the screen.  Why?  Well, one major reason is because these priests took time out of their busy lives to record personal video messages for them!

One of the standout entries was this video from Father Chris Decker, which he’s made public on the Catholic Underground Facebook page.

Another was this one by Father Darryl Millette, which he’s now published on YouTube.

 

Check them out — and share with your teens!  I encourage you to consider this project with your youth group, especially if…

  • …you’re focusing on vocations, but you just can’t seem to schedule a religious or clergy to speak during your meeting.
  • …you want to expose your teens to priests / religious other than those whom they already know from your parish community.
  • …you don’t have many clergy / religious living in your community.

Practical notes: I heard back from about half of the men I contacted.  (There were also 2 deacons in the mix.)  Remember: This was only 1 week notice, and a busy week liturgically.  The other videos I’m not sharing here were recorded using smartphones or computers; nothing fancy.  What’s important is the message and the clear care that each priest has for his intended audience.

If you’re interested in this video concept, check out another simple video project I did for our youth leaders.

Infinite thanks to the clergy who prayed for this project and those who recorded videos.
FrKyleSchnippelFrStevenGamezFrRyanHumphriesFrJonathanFelux

“Little Known” People & Projects You Should Know

Edmund Mitchell and I chatted Tuesday night. It was fun! I felt a little bit old. (I used Tamagotchi in an example. Give me a break… I had a full day of work.) Somehow, we hit some deep points.

I promised Mr. Mitchell that I would “blog this”; projects and people that I enjoy and you should know — since I couldn’t commit to picking just one when he asked me.

APOSTOLATE: Dr. Mark Hickman – Vasectomy Reversals

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BLOG: Anthony Baratta – Evangelical to Catholic

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PODCAST: The Sports Fathers

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BOOK: Peregrine: Poems by Paul Soupiset

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CATHOLIC MUSICIAN: Dave Moore

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WEBSITE: Reverb Culture !!!

Those are a few!

Dear Catholic Communicators: Do Your Work Better.

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If your church website doesn’t work, you’ve obviously gotta fix it…

…but have you ever seen a faith-based organization or church use the same templates year after year — not only for websites, but for the bulletin, administrative documents, and even internal processes within parish groups, programs and event planning? Have you noticed that, even though some improvements are needed, no change is made because “we’ve always done it that way,” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

The Problem

My experience working with dozens of Catholic organizations has informed the following opinion: Many people working in Church circles want to see improvements in communication, participation, and loyalty, but few people challenge themselves to improve an existing item, process, or structure.

Maybe Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations isn’t a perfect teaching text for these situations, but I’ve had many conversations with Catholics who are also frustrated about this phenomenon, and our conversations often include this point: Within ministry environments, the lack of perceived 1.) personal gain, or 2.) competition, tends to lead to…

  • little to no discussion about current pro’s and con’s
  • little to no consultation of professionals or leaders from outside the community
  • little to no research of other parishes / apostolates for inspiration and ideas

The general exceptions to these trends are capitol campaigns and major fundraisers. Why? There is obvious financial gain on the line and clear competition for that gain.

However distasteful it may seem to consider that parishes and apostolates are, in fact, competing for people’s attention, participation, and loyalty, the fact remains: The third-largest religious group in the United States is “Former Catholics.” One in three people were raised Catholic, yet fewer than one-fourth still describe themselves as Catholic.

Former Catholics

Are we not competing?

“Competition” may have negative connotations — including ill will toward one’s competitor, an unhealthy desperation, dishonest / immoral conduct, etc. — but Saint Paul taught that we should live our faith with such dedication, that we “run so as to win” (1 Cor. 9:24).

How could we settle, then, for “the way it’s always been done,” or “we’re getting by”?

We shouldn’t; it’s downright unbiblical.

A Solution

Imagine my twenty-year-old self, nervously sitting across from the Creative Partner at an advertising agency near downtown San Antonio. I’d applied for an internship with nearly every agency in town, and this one had been the first to respond.

After a few questions about my personal background and experience, I started to relax. Then, my interviewer asked me, “Who are some artists, graphic designers, or ad agencies that inspire you?”

My brain went blank. Stunned silence.

I’d been trapped in a bubble. Mostly self-taught and primarily interested in Catholic communications, I had never researched commercial marketing, influential graphic designers, or branding campaigns.

Although I was accepted, one of the first lessons my mentor taught me was the importance of researching other successful professionals and projects. I was tasked with creating a competitor analysis chart, comparing our advertising firm to others in our area and the nation.

Dear fellow Catholic communicators, most of us live in a ministry bubble. Most of the people you work with are probably fans of yours, and praise most of what you do — especially if you’re the only graphic designer / desktop publishing pro / video editor / photographer / webmaster / etc., in your organization.

You are in a dangerous situation. Your ministry bubble is contributing to your own high opinion of your work. You aren’t challenging yourself enough. You aren’t comparing your work to other churches’ projects. You aren’t comparing it to what church-goers see in their ‘normal lives’ (at the office, at the mall, on TV, online). Your skill set is falling behind the times, because your technology is ancient, and you’re smugly dealing with it. You have no one to challenge you.

We must rise to a higher level. Here are 5 ways I challenge myself to aim higher:

  1. Subscribe to news websites, blogs, or online journals in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Read them. Find webinars in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Take them. Learn from lectures & podcasts in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Get the picture? Learn from people who are competing to be the best at what you do.
  2. Before starting a project, look for similar examples in your field (outside of faith-based circles). Take notes. What makes each one successful? Behance is one of my favorite places to do this.
  3. Draft several different versions of one project.
  4. Apply your new knowledge and awareness of your field: Critique your own work. Then, let other (knowledgeable) people critique it.
  5. Let time test your work: Anticipate your projects as much as possible, so you can wait a day or two (or more) before deciding on a winner.

Run so as to win.

Tools for Communicators – Learn About and Use Color Effectively

Kuler

Do you know the science behind color? Did you know that certain colors have certain effects on the human brain? Did you know that there are lots of free resources for color education, inspiration and usage?

You will become a more effective communicator when you know how to properly put color to use. Check out the following links, and let me know what resources you have to share!

By the way, my favorite color is RED. What’s yours? – Angela

Education:

PANTONE – If you don’t know this word, I highly recommend you take a graphic design course pronto! (Or watch Karen excitedly explain.) Follow these color experts on social media for the latest color news: Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram

Graphic Design Tutorial: Basic colour palettes (Video) – Graphic designer Shawn Berry gives a crash course on the color wheel, RGB, CMYK, and how to work with color in 11:40 minutes

The Effect of Color (Video) – PBS Digital Studios gives you the scoop on color theory in 7:29 minutes

DOs and DON’T of Colour” – Summary of color temperatures, psychology, undertones, and use

I firmly believe in keeping reference tools nearby, and utilizing them often. My desk at work is stocked with magazines for inspiration, and my bulletin board has two posters about color:

  1. Color Wheel & Quick Reference – Similar to this one
  2. Color Psychology Chart

Inspiration:

ColourLovers – Color palettes….tons of ’em

ColorLovers

The Day’s Color – Originally a daily site, but great archive of inspiring color schemes

TheDaysColor

Colorgorize the Web – Get color inspiration from this curated collection of website designs, categorized by color

Colorgorize

Creation:

Colourco.de – Interactive color scheme creator

colourcode

 Kuler – Color scheme designer by Adobe

Kuler

Inspiring Parish Bulletins – Pt. 4: Bulletins & Stewardship

Adding Curb Appeal: January "call to stewardship" bulletin cover is an actual word game!

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!

Adding Curb Appeal: January "call to stewardship" bulletin cover is an actual word game!

StPPHoboken-Stewardship2

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:

StPPHoboken-Scripture

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

Real-life example:

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:

StPPHoboken-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.

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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

Inspiring Parish Bulletins – Pt. 3: Practical Tools from a Pro

PaxChristi

I was so impressed by Eden Prarie’s Pax Christi parish communications staffer-extraordinaire, that this week’s post is devoted entirely to her professional approach to parish communications — and how your parish or ministry can benefit!

Melissa Nault is the Communications Specialist for Pax Christi, and that title is fitting: 20+ years in graphic design, and 10+ years with the parish. Her responsibility is to provide creative services for the parish: “Logo design, posters, flyers, books, ads, ….you name it,” she says.

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Having also worked within the corporate communications and advertising environments, I can immediately recognize a pro like Melissa, because she won’t settle for ‘just OK’.

She told me right off the bat, “Every two years, I like to redesign the website and bulletin to keep it fresh.” That’s someone who holds herself to high standards.

Speaking of standards, Melissa has applied her knowledge and experience to her parish’s creative needs. “I come from the corporate world, so I bring with it ‘guidelines.'”

She has devised procedures and documents that allow her to provide the best creative services possible, amidst a growing and varied workload.

The best part? She’s sharing some of these tools with you!

A Parish Creative Staffer’s Toolbox

Melissa’s typical workflow begins with a parish event: “For each event, I require staff to complete a marketing event form. This gets the ball rolling leading to info for the weekly eNEWS, slide announcements at Mass, announcements on flat screen monitors around our building, social media, web/online registration, etc.”

For particular pieces, such as a worship aid, sign or poster, the responsible party will submit a Creative Services Request Form to Melissa. This handy document allows the parish ministry or leader to indicate exactly what Melissa needs to know about the desired piece.

PaxChristi-style
Sample from the Pax Christi Communications & Style Guide, indicating exactly what color red their parish branding should use

What’s my favorite tool that Melissa is sharing with us today? Hands down: the Parish Communications & Style Guide. If you’re unfamiliar with style guides, I highly recommend reading this piece by Cameron Chapman. Style guides are standard procedure in any brand’s marketing materials, but I have (unfortunately) never seen one for a Catholic parish!

Since today’s blog post is, in fact, part of an Inspiring Parish Bulletins series, check out pages 16-18 of the Style Guide regarding the bulletin. (There’s even an instruction to use the Oxford comma! Bravo.)

Finally, get an overall ‘Big Picture’ view of Melissa’s projects and how they begin by browsing her simple Job Flow Chart. This is something any parish can create, and will help define an individual staff member’s responsibilities — thus reducing that classic parish dance move, “Stepping On Each Other’s Toes”.

Lest anyone dismiss Pax Christi’s emphasis on professional standards as unfitting for a parish (ie. Parishes don’t sell products! What is marketing procedure doing in a parish office??)… let’s consider the general state of parish communications. I can’t be the only Catholic who has volunteered or worked behind-the-scenes and has seen any of the following:

  • Confusion due to a vague or poorly-written bulletin announcement
  • Poor event attendance due to lack of planning and (appealing) promotional efforts
  • Ill-will generated between parish volunteers because Guy Who Volunteered to Make the Posters forgot a detail
  • Wasted staff / volunteer energy, time, and resources because one or both parties involved in a project made assumptions about what was needed

These are just a few scenarios; I’m sure you have your own! The point is: When parishes lack boundaries, guidelines, or procedures for communication projects — whether the weekly bulletin or Facebook page — there exists a higher risk of disappointment, confusion, frustration, stress, and wasted resources.

Melissa’s tools empower both the parish communications staff member and the individual parish ministry leader (etc.), because these tools allow both parties to communicate clearly with one another, and put both their sets of talents to proper use. Many thanks to Melissa for so generously sharing her ‘toolbox’ with us!

NEXT WEEK: Look forward to some insights on the bulletin, communications and stewardship, from Max Colas — Director of Marketing and Communications for Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Hoboken, NJ.

I’m so excited to share these stories with you. Please share your thoughts — I’d love to hear from you! – Angela