Sharing Church management best practices in the Catholic Church
The parish census can be a game-changer--"Just who are we as a parish?" But is can be many decades between parish censuses. Where to go for help? A pastor recently told me the Legion of Mary assists parishes with these processes. Does anyone have experiences with this?
Once the data is good enough, I have used a program called Microsoft MapPoint to map the parishioners. Talk about "a picture says a thousand words"! You can learn a lot about your parish by viewing a mapping of its people!
Any other parish census resources that people use?
Parishes can utilize a variety of methods for parish census but the bottom line is that it takes the commitment and time to go door-door in a personal way. A census is an engagement and evangelization process arnd needs to be well planned and resourced. I have found that "neighborhood coffees" and meetings in parishioner homes and apartments can assist, but do not work for all parishioners.
Mapping of parishioner households is interesting, but takes on a different level of insight and interest when a diocese invests in mapping all registered households and parish leadership begins to see the patterns of "choice" being made and the resultant market share analysis which emerges. Also, these patterns of choice can shift dramatically in any given area in teh first 6 months after the pastoral assignment shifts in a diocese.
Parish census and registration files need to be refreshed every three years at the latest in order for effective pastoral planning to take place. Sometimes, these are also opportunities for parishioner feedback on the quality of, and satisfaction with, the parish ministry, services, communications, leadership and management, including decision making.
I'd like to see a parish census with an "appreciative inquiry" twist. In other words, I would like to see a census that takes a page from appreciative inquiry and asks parishioners what they like best about their parish. Further, I'd like to see the pastoral council follow up the parish census by interviewing representative parishioners. After the followup interview, council members could create a narrative that shows why parishioners appreciate the parish they attend. The narrative might be published in the parish bulletin or in a public-relations pamphlet. The point is this: people come to the parish Sunday after Sunday because they find that it nourishes them. Too often we pastoral planners focus on problems. Appreciative inquiry challenges us to discover our successes. Parishioners themselves have the ability to express what success means in the Catholic parish. The parishioners' accounts of what they appreciate can provide the positive context in which to solve the inevitable problems that arise.
Very helpful responses! Are there any parish folks who'd like to share their parish census experience?