A press release is a general announcement that companies and event organizers send to media outlets in the hopes that the newspaper or the radio station will give them some free publicity. When e-mail became ubiquitous, the old-fashioned press release morphed into something else — spam.
I got a dozen of these spam messages in just the last couple of hours, promising that I could control costs, lose weight, protect myself with a wilderness knife, and a few that I can’t mention in public.
Who are you actually targeting?
The thing that all these messages have in common is that they’re generic. The people who send them are hoping that if they blanket the Internet with their press releases, someone in the universe will reply. I fear that a lot of RCIA teams are doing the same thing with announcements in the bulletin.
Most of the announcements I see are generic blurbs aimed at no one in particular. Because I’ve written my share of these kinds of things in my disreputable past, I understand the motivation. Our numbers are down, and we desperately want more inquirers in our RCIA process. We don’t know where to find inquirers, but there must be at least a couple of potentials at Mass on Sunday. So we decide to invite “everyone” to RCIA by placing a general announcement (aka, press release; aka spam) in the Sunday bulletin.
And it never works. Never. But we are a people of hope, and so we keep trying.
Generic announcements won’t reach unique individuals
Think about how your generic announcement is read by potential seekers. You might have a Lutheran-married-to-a-Catholic who knows more about both Lutheran tradition and Catholic tradition than many of your RCIA team members. He won’t think the announcement is for him because it is for people who “want to learn more about being Catholic.”
Or, if she has time to read the bulletin, a single mom who feels like she isn’t doing a good enough job as a parent. She doesn’t want to learn more about being Catholic. She wants peace and joy in her life.
Or the 20-something who wants to get married to her Catholic boyfriend. She is agnostic and could care less about becoming Catholic. She just wants to marry her boyfriend, and her being Catholic seems important to him.
And what about the thousands of people in your city who are seeking something more meaningful in their lives but who will never be in church to read your announcement?
How to get out and meet your next inquirer
If we truly want to reach these potential inquirers, we have to stop sending out press releases. Instead, we have to make a phone call, shake a hand, go to an event, post a story on Facebook, volunteer outside the parish, encounter strangers. If we do these kinds of things, we will be much more effective at inviting new seekers into our RCIA processes.
Share your ideas
What methods do you currently use to attract seekers? What are some of your success stories? Please share in the comments box below.
6 thoughts on “Stop sending out RCIA press releases”
A challenge that I am constantly facing. I look forward to seeing what others are doing.
Great article! We can never underestimate the personal touch, whether we’re looking for inquirers or for catechists. Bulletin and pulpit announcements serve only as backup reinforcements to a personal invitation. And they shouldn’t be aimed at inquirers, they should be a rallying cry to the rest of the congregation… Do YOU know someone who is considering the Catholic faith? Reach out to them and have them contact us… or ask if it’s OK if someone can contact them and let our team know to reach out. When I look back at all the different catechetical and liturgical ministries in which I’ve been involved, they ALL began with a personal invitation. So the more we teach our fellow Catholics to reach out on our behalf, the greater our chance of reaching those who we are seeking.
Trying to get “others” to evangelize is like herding cats, so it is up to the RCIA team to seek out people who 1) don’t go up for Communion, 2) people who go up for a blessing at Communion time, 3) people who appear to not know how to “behave” in Church (know the prayers, when to stand, when to sit, etc.). These people can be approached after Mass and just ask of them,”I saw that you didn’t go to Communion, does this mean you are not Catholic, can I talk to you about that?” This is how I have brought several people in as seekers who then ended up receiving their sacraments and becoming Catholic. It is that personal touch and that word of concern that brings people in.
“And it never works. Never.” Really.
While I believe the personal, face to face invitation is the way to go, I can’t be everywhere. We have had good success with bulletin announcements. Something like this:
Do you ever ask yourself…
What am I looking for in life?
What is the meaning of my life?
How can I be a better person?
What can I do about the loneliness I feel?
How can I come to know God’s love?
How can I know the right path God has in store for me?
If you are asking these questions, or questions like them, we may have the answers you are looking for. Are you interested in finding out more?
Sessions are always held on [day] at [time].
This first session is [date] in [location] at [parish name and address]. Feel free to come any [day].
Please give us a call if you have questions, would like further information, or need directions, at [number]
or email at [email address]. Or check out our church’s website: [web address].
Great comments. I too took the liberty to step out last year and talk to people not in the communion line. It works! Takes very gentle conversation to begin the encounter, like, “I have seen you at Mass and not participating in the Communion line. Do you know everyone is welcome in the line to receive a blessing if not Catholic.” This opens the door for more discussion.
I have a couple of people in mind that I will soon approach as well. As RCIA Team we need to pay attention to recognize new people at Mass and those not participating at Eucharist. Step out of that comfort zone and speak.
When Jesus recruited the Apostles, he didn’t send out flyers; he got in the boat with them. We need more of that.