Catholics have opinions about how their parishes should function. (That’s a truth you didn’t need me to outline.) Because they are so invested and we want them to be engaged, we include them in the Vision Planning process right from the beginning. The Parish Leadership Team (created to develop a Parish Vision Plan) is composed of people who represent the entire parish community whenever possible: young, old, families, empty nesters, cradle Catholics, converts, English speaking, Spanish speaking, etc. This group of individuals bring their own opinions as well as their fellow parishioner’s insights.
The first activity of the team is to develop the Parish Survey which will gather the thoughts, opinions, and feelings of the parishioners of the parish. We want everyone’s voice to be heard, no matter what they have to say. Our team compiles the data including sharing the comments included in any open-ended questions. The report concludes with a list of recommended next steps, which is based on the needs of the parish, the survey results, and greater trends in the Church.
Everyone’s opinion is considered – but that doesn’t mean that everyone’s idea is put into the recommendations included in the final plan. This can be difficult for some people to accept. If we employ every idea shared, we won’t accomplish any of them. This doesn’t mean someone’s opinion isn’t valid, just that it’s not right for right now.
So, does this mean we shouldn’t solicit feedback? DEFINITELY NOT. I think we need to continue to give people a voice, to continue to ask them what empowers them to grow in their faith and provide them with tools to share their faith with others. If we don’t, then we remain stagnant, and even worse are not meeting the communicated needs of our people.
There are things parishes can do better and more frequently, which is setting expectations prior to asking for feedback. When we set expectations and then deliver on that reality, we can minimize disappointment.
What can we do to manage disappointment well? Begin by recognizing that disappointment is a complex emotion most easily understood in this equation: Disappointment = Expectations – Reality.
To reduce our disappointment, we can either change the reality or we can more realistically set expectations. It is more realistic to do the latter. When preparing to ask for feedback from parishioners, set the expectation that every voice will be heard and considered in the future direction of the parish.
When will you next solicit feedback from the parish or a select group of parishioners? How can you set expectations well ahead of time? What will you do to communicate well with the parish about the results of the feedback given?