Communication What's new at Nativity

Updating Old School “Pulpit Announcements”

February 2, 2017

For some reason, the Mass announcements hold a high position on the list of things in churchworld that generate disagreement. There is lots of disagreement about who, where, when, and how the announcements will show up on Sunday morning.

At Nativity the long time custom was for the celebrant to read announcements from the pulpit following communion. There was no strategy to it, just whatever he thought was worthy of special attention in the bulletin or what some special interest lobbied him to mention.

The announcements were not very interesting, mostly parish meetings and fundraisers. Maybe that’s why most people left after communion.

A couple of years ago we transitioned to a prerecorded video presentation given by an attractive and engaging announcer.

We show the video before Mass. More than the message itself, these announcements were mostly a way to create energy and excitement as parishioners and guests arrived. We were OK with that but more recently began to consider, how about if people actually listened to the announcements? Before, many people would either talk over them or be distracted in other ways. Now people stop what they are doing and pay attention. Here are five reasons we think it’s working.

  1. We branded the announcements.

Branding programs can really help with engagement. We have found this over and over again in our different ministries. Generic can get lost or overlooked. We now call our announcements “5b4” (i.e., the five announcements we make before Mass).

  1. We make fewer announcements for bigger impact.

So many times churches hand out bulletins stuffed with ads and inserts and load up the home page of their web site with everything that is going on. And then, they repeat it all from the pulpit. When everything is important nothing is important. We were guilty of this too. In our new format we only make five announcements and we bill them as “the 5 things you need to know this week.” These are church-wide announcements that are of potential interest to everyone. So, we wouldn’t have an announcement for the next meeting of the parish council, but we would have an announcement about small group sign up. Most of the time we avoid specifics like where an event is going to be held or the details of how to get involved, instead driving them to our web site.

  1. We present the announcements as a countdown.

The order of announcements is not just arbitrary. Instead it creates a countdown, from 5 to 1. They form a sort of mildly compelling crescendo that builds anticipation and excitement, progressing in importance and proximity. In other words, the list counts down to what matters most to the most people at this moment.

  1. We moved from one announcers to two.

One of the problems in Catholic churches is that one person does all the talking, from the consecration to announcements and instructions and everything in between. This diminishes the power of that voice. When Father insists on doing it all, he is actually reducing his effectiveness. More voices means greater engagement. Our announcements are now done with two announcers. We still have the attractive and engaging voice, Kristin, who is joined by Tony. Tony is the guy next door, he’s “Timonium Tim.”

With two people on the screen at the same time it looks more conversational and they can play off one another. Their interaction creates an ongoing “story” of our parish, they’re “who we are.” We pre-record our announcements, but you can do two voices live as well.

  1. We added a musical sound track to our announcements.

This sounds pretty inconsequential, but in reality transitions are vitally important in communication. We don’t often appreciate a smooth transition until we are forced to sit through awkward ones. Music is one of the most effective transitions, and keeps the presentation moving. Obviously this is only possible in a pre-packaged video presentation.

If you’d like to check out for yourself what these announcements look like, visit us online:

Even if your parish doesn’t have the technology or resources to make video presentation every week, there are simple things you can do to improve your announcements:

  1. Give them a brand.
  2. Cut down on the number of announcements.
  3. Write them out ahead of time.
  4. Father needs to stop doing them- another voice or two is needed.
  5. Make sure your announcers practice and rehearse.

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