One of the best ways to learn things about your parish is through a survey. I work with a lot of churches via our Parish Vision Plan to conduct and then analyze a survey as we prepare to create a 3 year vision plan for the parish.
Many times pastors or committee members ask “What can we learn from the survey that we don’t already know?” They’ll also say, “The Church isn’t a democracy, we don’t want to poll people about teachings or what we’re doing.”
These are two valid points. Many responses on the survey just reinforce things we already know about our parishes. Responses will confirm that we know our office staff is amazing (or super unfriendly), teens don’t want to participate in things happening at Church, families think sports or vacation are more important than Mass attendance, etc.
I agree with the second point. Church teaching isn’t based on popular opinion. We don’t refine teachings based on what our parishioners want or what someone tells us we should do on a TV show. With that being said, I do want to ask parishioners about what they want to learn more about regarding Church teachings so they can understand their faith better.
So what are some ‘ah-ha moments’ that my parishes have learned from their survey?
One parish learned two very interesting things they were able to do something about to make a big impact.
More than one person talked about how the bells were way too loud when they rang 5 minutes before Mass. The reality is that the bells are real bells (so they can’t just be turned down) and they were built too close to the ground. So the sound reverberates between the ground and the bells, which makes it very loud. I encountered this myself the last time I was running into daily Mass a little late at the parish.
So what did they do? Two potential fixes that were not options for the parish are to rebuild the bells so they were further away from the ground or to never ring them again.
The decision they made was to ring them exactly 1 minute before Mass was to begin. This way 99% of the people were already in the Church where they sound beautiful. They made announcements for a few weeks telling Mass attendees about the new time table. It has made a huge impact! It’s also an incentive to enter the Church at least 2 minutes before Mass begins!!
The second item was from a man whose wife is in a wheel chair. The bathrooms at the parish are fully ADA compliant – once you enter the room. This man shared that when his wife needs to use the restroom at the parish, he has to push open the door into the restroom (which opens in rather than out) and be practically inside the bathroom until he wife is able to roll in. Then she has to kick the door open in order to leave the restroom when she is finished.
Some might argue that people should have already thought about this in the past, but the reality is that they didn’t. So what’s the conclusion?
This past weekend they installed a button and automatic door opener for the restrooms so that they are fully accessible for anyone who needs to use them while at Mass on the weekend or the Church any other time.
These were two small things that had a huge impact on the parish – they were easy to accomplish with just a little creativity and openness!
What are some small things your parish can do to make a big difference?