For most people in our community and across the culture generally, life revolves around the school year. Most parishes have recognized this, which is why student programs and faith formation classes follow the school schedule. Consequently, while not a liturgical season, the start of the school year marks a new season of life in our parish. That’s why we call the weekend after Labor Day “Kick-Off Weekend.”
It would be cliché to say that this year’s kick-off will be unlike any that have come before. And yet, it’s true. Kick-off is normally the biggest weekend of the year in activity, energy, and attendance, which is why it’s usually my favorite weekend. And while it will be different, the 2020 kick-off will not be lacking in activity, energy, or (thanks to our online broadcasts) attendance. If anything, its importance is only magnified as we’re all craving the re-connectedness it symbolizes.
What’s new this year?
Connecting Online and In-Person Church
Online church is not going away. Online should always be an option for the homebound and it remains the most effective way to introduce the unchurched to your church. But we know the truth is that even pre-COVID some “regulars” at church came no more than twice a month. Maybe you don’t like that fact, and perhaps you want to work to reverse it (we do). But meanwhile, online is a great way to keep your parishioners engaged with the parish even when they’re not physically present.
That’s why this year we are going to continue improving our broadcast capabilities, especially in the ways in which we can connect our in-person and online audiences. It is our view that these two audiences are actually one community of worship and faith. For Kick-off Weekend, we’ll be trying out something very special – something you might have never before seen on a parish Mass broadcast. Tune-in Sunday morning to find out.
While online church is not going away, the particular novelty it enjoyed at the beginning of the crisis has been wearing off. Over the past few weeks, we have noticed an increased interest in coming back to church. But for many, that journey will be made in small steps. That’s why this fall we’re trying out something new to create just such a step.
“Watch Parties” are small in-home gatherings of friends, neighbors or extended family, to attend our weekend Mass broadcast together. These gatherings are safe: distanced, masked, and outdoors, when possible. Once Mass is over, discussion questions can kick-start faith-sharing on the topic of the weekend’s message. The big benefit is that they are born out of pre-existing relationships. The host can extend invitations to people who are otherwise unchurched and might never have accepted an invitation to church.
Video! Video! Video!
Over the summer, we’ve greatly increased our capacity for the development of video content. It’s not just because we like seeing ourselves on screen: this year, almost all of our programs will utilize video in some way. In the absence of most in-person gatherings, the success of our student programs, small groups, and children’s faith formation is almost completely dependent on producing quality video messages and content. One example is our daily devotional email. We’ve seen a huge increase in interest since we turned the old text-based message into a video format at the beginning of the summer.
It’s tempting to want to just go back to normal. But the health of our parishes depends on our ability to move forward. Now is the time to kick-start that journey.