For the next four weeks, we'll be taking a look at how you can prepare your church for one of the best opportunities you have during the year to evangelize and attract new parishioners: Christmas. Using the themes of the four weeks of Advent as our guide (hope, faith, joy, and peace), I'll give you a few tasks to do each week on how to best prepare for this great evangelization opportunity.
Week 3: Joy
Does your church reflect joy?
One would think that finding joy in working in a Catholic church would be easy...but one would probably be wrong in that.
Don't get me wrong, it's amazing being able to work right near and for Jesus, but the thing with working for a church is...it's also a lot of dealing with other people.
Where is the joy in your parish? Chances are, you have that group of cranky folks in your church who seem to always bring the mood down and yet are some of your best (and only) volunteers, so their bad attitude hangs around. Soon, you find that going to Mass becomes associated with work, because you see that person who's been driving you nuts with their complaints all week.
But where is the joy? The joy of your church should be centered around Christ. And its presence (or lack thereof) could make or break whether your "A&P" Catholics ever return.
To do this week:
This week, take a look at your church's tone. Is it dull and dry or full of joy and life? If the first, brainstorm some ways you can try to improve the atmosphere - ie. family programs after Mass, opportunities for shared humanity, joy-filled Christmas decorations. (Note, joy doesn't mean sacrificing sanctity. Reverence should always be first and foremost, but joyful reverence shows the meaning behind the sacred.)
Consider sending an email or taking a few moments during liturgical minister training to encourage the importance of being welcoming and upbeat to those we meet at Christmas.
If you do not already have them, see if you can gather some volunteers to be greeters at Mass. Encourage them to greet everyone with a smile and a joyful Merry Christmas. Bonus points if you can have parking assistants in the parking lot who can help ease tensions before and after!
Review the Christmas music selections with the choir director and schedule any final rehearsals for the children's Christmas pageant.
If you are in a director position in your parish, organize a thank you lunch for volunteers and employees to express your gratitude for their hard work. Help establish some camaraderie with a Secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange.
Festively decorate the parish office and play upbeat Christmas music with the staff to help spread cheer.
Put together a last minute cookie baking get together with the parish's Ladies Guild or Family Faith Formation and donate the baked cookies to the food pantry.
Finalize any preparations and schedules for decorating the church for Christmas (and make sure to include joyful decorations!).
To pray about this week:
Pray that all who enter your church this Christmas feel a renewed sense of joy often lost or overlooked in this world.
Offer up your hardship and stress this week for those who are grieving this year and find it hard to find joy.
Ask God to make your own heart joyful this Christmas.
Bible verses to reflect on this week:
How we can help this week:
Does your website need a joyful tune-up? Let us help you spruce up the design of your site.
This week, we will be offering up our work at Gloriam that your own joy may be fostered this season.