Having recently started working for the Archdiocesan Youth Ministry office in Toronto, I entered into the exciting/terrifying role of cold-calling parishes around the Archdiocese to find out who is doing what, where, how, and when . . . if at all.
Going through that process, I found an extraordinary number of common factors that if I wasn’t on a mission for real information, probably would have found absolutely comical. As a person intentionally looking for information about a parish’s youth ministry I found it a bit disappointing as to how little helpful information was available, let alone current information. Generally the problem could be fixed up in a few minutes.
Take a moment and consider if any of these areas could be a problem at your parish:
Is your website up to date?
Because parish websites are MEANT to be accessed for information, how current and relevant the information is can lead to plenty of assumptions – right or wrong – about the ministry. A website I visited in November featured a youth page that featured the upcoming retreat at the end of June (that had passed five months prior, not coming up in 7 months).
Are you easy to contact?
Make sure your contact information is up to date as well. I received some replies from some youth ministers weeks later who noted that they rarely ever check the email address promoted on the website. For someone wanting to contact the parish youth minister, advertising contact information that is hardly utilized does not breed confidence that the youth ministry is an active one. If contacts and information is past due, it sends a message that things are not happening at your parish.
Does your Parish secretary have information about your ministry?
When a parish secretary answered the phone I introduced myself and asked for information about the youth ministry of the parish. Most often, the secretary had little to no information about the ministry. Sometimes they knew what day “the youth” met . . . sometimes they didn’t. The same for the times of the meeting – many gave their best guesses or thoughts, but couldn’t say for certain.
When I asked if they could explain what sort of ministry was being done, themes being explored, or if any retreats were on the horizon – no one had any concrete information at their disposal. Whether by phone or even “walk ins” to the parish, we should be mindful that our information gatekeepers at the front desks can at the very least speak with some confidence – or better yet – enthusiasm about our youth ministry.
Equip your parish secretary!
It’s your job to equip your parish secretary with the necessary information. Take the time whenever something new is happening – a kick off, a new semester, a guest speaker, a retreat – to meet/contact your parish secretary and be sure to guide them with what exactly you want communicated. Let them know the best way to contact you – another phone line? Your cellphone? A website? Facebook?
When your phone point person is in the loop it makes the youth ministry look like it is going concern for the whole parish staff. Not only does this help get information out accurately, but likely it will improve your relationship with your parish secretary.
Being on the front lines of all sorts of phone calls, no one likes feeling that they are out of the loop or had no idea that something big was happening at the parish and that they had to get a phone call from a parishioner to find out. Support them and more likely they will be much better at supporting you!