“Think like an outsider.”

Last week I had the privilege of joining the priests of our diocese during part of their annual Priests Convocation. The speaker for the day was Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP, who spoke on how parishes can reach “inactive” Catholics.

One of the highlights of the presentation was a segment on “thinking like an outsider.” Fr. DeSiano invited the priests to think about coming to their parish as a stranger and to consider what that experience is like:

  • How easy is it for a newcomer to park in your lot? To find their way around your campus?
  • How friendly is your congregation? Your ushers?
  • How well does the congregation participate in liturgy?
  • What impression will people get within five minutes of walking into your parish?
  • What is the registration process like?  Does it involve more than just sending out collection envelopes?
  • Can people with physical handicaps get around your church?
  • Do you welcome different cultures?

As someone who was once a member of four parishes in four cities in a three-year period, I can attest to the fact that how well the parish is suited to “outsiders” can make a huge difference. And it’s not always the large parish that does the best job — my family had the best parish experience when we moved to rural Iowa and joined a wonderfully warm, welcoming parish community.

 How “user-friendly” is your parish? Would an “outsider” feel welcome there?