Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Scary, All Right

Neighborhood-wide mailings must be paying off for some of our separated brethren.

Not all that that long ago all I received were invitations to Christmas and Easter services from two or three local Protestant churches. Then, a couple of years ago, Vacation Bible School mailings began to appear in my mailbox.

Today's mail brought the above announcement of a parenting-related series of Sunday sermons from a nearby non-denominational group.

The six Catholic parishes in my immediate area have been losing almost 4% of their combined parishioners year in and year out for the last 10 years. (In 1998 we had over 8,300 folks in our collective pews; by 2007 more than 2,500 of them had disappeared.) I suspect the main culprit is far too many years of adult catechesis ranging from the merely anemic to the totally non-existent. This, coupled with the "liberal" Catholic outlook of some of our current and former pastoral staff, explains a lot.

But I also have to wonder just how much of a role mailings like this are playing in that decline.


Dave said...

Here's some anecdotal evidence...

When I first moved into my new place years ago now, I was spammed with literature from many Protestant churches. A Jehovah's Witness left a message on my answering machine this past weekend.

I did/have not receive any Catholic literature welcoming me to the neighborhood.

I think a poor job is being done in recruitment.

Mike said...


When I was at OLM we had an Evangelization Committee that took on the project of trying to make us a more welcoming parish. One of the things we brainstormed is just what you're talking about.

A couple of us took on the task of determining how we could find out when new people had moved into the parish. I believe we saw that home sales were fairly easy to get info on, but we were stuck when we tried to find ways to learn of new apartment dwellers.

The committee broke up shortly thereafter when 2 members (50% of the group!) moved away from the parish, so nothing really came of this.

Thanks for the memory jog. I'm going to see if Holy Cross has ever done anything like this.

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Dave said...

PS - I got the same postcard in the mail yesterday.

Mike said...

Dr. K.,

The "Sex and Pancakes" mailing didn't make it to my house (I'm sure I would have remembered it if it had!).

While some of the Protestant stuff is fluff, I don't know if I'd put a sermon series on parenting in that category. Oh sure, the postcard itself is somewhat over the top in its attempt to get attention, but the topic being pushed is a serious one of interest to many parents.

Underlying this, I'm sure, is the hope that the church will pick up some new members from those that respond. Unfortunately, some of those new members may come from our pews.