One of the functions of the steering committee will be to inform the individuals who are attached in some way to your parish and/or church, either directly or indirectly, of the actions your group is taking to challenge its closure. Those directly attached to your parish would include the congregation who attends it on a regular basis, those who visit it from time to time to fulfill their mass obligations, relatives of those in each of the above mentioned groups who also may care about the parish and/or church’s continued existence as a Roman Catholic sacred space/place of worship, and those who have previously had a connection to the parish and/or church, or are related to someone who has. With regard to the last two groups of individuals, those who previously had a connection to a church and/or parish but who no longer do would include those who have transferred to other near-by parishes for one or more reasons, and those who have moved completely out of the area in which the parish and/or church is located but who may still feel a connection to it. Parishioners who have died, either while still parishioners of the parish and/or church or at some point after their direct connection with it ended, likely have descendants or other relatives who may still feel a connection to the parish/church of their deceased family member. Thus, it is also the case that the relatives of deceased parishioners may also still have an interest in the continued existence of the church as a roman Catholic sacred space.
Those who are not on the steering committee but who still have an attachment to the parish and/or church which is threatened with closure are key to preventing the closure from occurring or being upheld, in multiple ways. Aside from increasing the number of those who care about the church’s continued existence in the world, those who do not live near the church or attend it regularly but who still care about its existence and are willing to support it are often key to raising the funds necessary to ensuring that the church remains a sacred Roman Catholic place of at least occasional worship over the long-term. Thus, engaging with those who may not be a church’s core congregants but who may none the less care deeply about its continued existence is key to raising the funds and having the support necessary to ensure that the church will continue to exist as a Roman Catholic sacred space long after any reduction in regular worship which takes place at the church may occur.
Among the ways that the steering committee can ensure that those who both attend the church regularly and live near it and those who may be interested in the church’s continued existence as a place of Roman Catholic worship but who may live too far from it to be congregants remain aware of what is transpiring with regard to its future is to maintain various publications and information resources which can easily spread information about the church to all concerned. Among those resources which are useful in this regard are the publication of a quarterly newsletter which can be emailed or mailed through traditional means to those who have signed up to receive it, and through the maintenance of a website and social media pages on platforms such as Facebook which spread news and information about the church to all who view the pages. A newsletter, which through my experience should be published at least four times per year can summarize the most important pieces of news and information that should be known by all of those who are interested in the church. This information can include events that have taken place at the church in the time since the publication of the previous newsletter, and information on projects related to the continued care and maintenance of the church as well as requests for assistance in carrying out these projects. A website can serve as a repository for information related to the church and those efforts being undertaken to ensure it remains a Roman Catholic place of worship that may be known by those who have a long-standing attachment to the church, but may be unknown to those who learn of the church for the first time. Examples of such information include the history of the church, information on efforts being undertaken to ensure it remains a Roman Catholic sacred space, and information on how individuals can lend their support to those efforts. Websites and social media pages can also include information on upcoming and ongoing events and activities which may be taking place at a church, and serve as a means for those leading efforts to retain a church as a Roman Catholic sacred space to communicate with those interested in this work.
It is essential for a steering committee to have an accurate distribution list so that it can successfully and efficiently distribute information relating to both efforts to save a church from closure and to the activities which are taking place at the church. While websites and social media pages are useful to inform the wider world about such activities, and while it is likely the case that some individuals who end up lending their assistance to efforts to save a church from closure and ensure it remains a Roman Catholic sacred space will learn of the situation in question from content posted on a website or social media page related to the effort, it is helpful if possible to have a core group of individuals who are committed to backing the steering committee’s efforts to save a church from closure at the outset. Keeping people informed that action is being taken to save the church, letting them know the specific actions that are being taken in this regard, and how they can help to ensure the church remains a Roman Catholic sacred space is key to ensuring people remain interested in this goal, to helping them believe it is attainable, and to motivating them to remain involved in these efforts for life after the closure of the church is averted. A well-constructed database is also key to efficiently raising those funds that are necessary to pay the recurring costs of utilities and insurance that are associated with maintaining a church as a Roman Catholic sacred space, and also to raising those funds that are necessary to undertake capital projects associated with the church’s maintenance, including structural repair, painting and other such projects as may arise in this regard.
There are multiple ways to maintain a database. Generally speaking a program that allows for the creation of spreadsheets such as Excel is useful. It is important to create categories that will apply to each person in the database, that will allow you to efficiently input the information related to each individual who will be included and also to allow you to isolate subsections of the population that is contained in the database for specific purposes in the future. Collecting the names and contact information of individuals who will populate the database can and should be undertaken in several ways at the same time as other efforts to prevent the closure of your church and or parish are occurring. The collection of this information should also continue on a permanent basis after the church has been saved from closure, and efforts should be taken to ensure that the information in the database is kept updated, i.e. that changes of address are noted and that individuals who go home to God are removed from distribution lists, in order that time and money is not spent on sending them information which they will no longer be able to read.
To efficiently collect the information which will be entered into your database, you should establish an email account specific to the purpose of preventing the closure of your parish and/or church, and make a point in all of the public statements you make regarding your efforts to highlight the importance of people sending their contact information to this address so that they can continue to follow the progress of your efforts. Additionally, you should prominently display on your website and social media pages contact information for your group (its physical mailing address, its email address and a telephone contact,) so that it is as easy as possible for members of the public who may wish to support your efforts to make contact with you. A member of the steering committee should be tasked with database management, to ensure that the database is well maintained. The steering committee should also ensure that both while efforts are under way to prevent/reverse the closure of a parish or church and after such a closure has been averted, that events of a social nature are held to bring together those interested in this effort.