Remember when you cancelled your landline or got a new email address? Did you call this change into your parish office? Did you alert your church administrator?
Parishes and congregations are finding out during COVID-19 that membership rosters are ready for a refresh. It may be time to conduct a census. The outcome will be a roster that contains current email addresses, mailing addresses and cell phone numbers for your supporters. You also may discover that some constituents have moved away – and didn’t leave a forwarding address. The result will be a more accurate database.
Is it worth the effort to do a census? Think about this: Our country conducts a nationwide census every 10 years, including in 2020. The results, despite the time, effort and cost required to conduct it, are well worth it. We know much more about our population, where they live and how to reach them. This allows the United States to plan more effectively for the future.
The same – on a much, much smaller scale – is true about a church census.
The Steier Group recommends that its clients conduct a census prior to launching a planning study. The reason: The study will provide more valid results if all members have an opportunity to participate. If parishioners aren’t receiving mail from their parish, they may not be aware of the study. If the church staff can’t reach members because their contact information is dated, they may be left out.
We also recommend that parishes and congregations conduct them every five to 10 years, regardless of whether a campaign is involved.
The process, while time-consuming, doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here’s one way:
Start with a mailing to everyone on the roster. Those that come back undeliverable are likely parishioners who have moved away. Include a return envelope to make it easy to reply. Ask for changes in telephone numbers and email addresses. Allow for completed forms to be placed in the collection basket or placed in a box in your gathering space outside the sanctuary.
At the same time, create a form on your website and ask for updates. Use social media and email to spread the word and drive people to your website.
Finally, form a calling committee to contact everyone who has yet to respond. The conversations between caller and recipient can extend beyond collecting mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. They can include reminders about worship times. And they can include invitations to join a Bible study, participate in a service project or attend a social gathering.
What a ministry opportunity!
If you have questions about the Steier Group or our services to nonprofit organizations, please contact me.