This week in my diocese, we will have our fall gathering of adult faith formation leadership for discussion and sharing. One issue that is sure to come up is the perennial one: how do we get people to participate in what we offer? Although in our June event with John Roberto of Lifelong Faith Associates, he suggested that parish leaders need to move toward ways to individualize people's experiences through technology and a well-curated website that speaks to their needs, I suspect most of our people aren't ready to begin that.
Most parish leaders will remain in our current mode: typically in the Church we come up with a presentation we think will be what people need to hear, we make bulletin and pulpit announcements, maybe posters, and we wait for people to come to us. Afterwards, we bemoan the lack of attendance, but then start over and do the next event in pretty much the same way. As a friend of mine used to say: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got."
The problem is, however, that we make a lot of assumptions when we offer programs. The simple fact that a minority of Catholic adults participate in adult faith formation offerings seems to be due to our inability to convince them of the value of those programs. Lacking the technology expertise, time and motivation to move into an individualized offering, web-curation stage, the very least we can do is look at how we choose or design programs, and, after that, how we market them effectively. One place to look for assistance with this is to experts in product design creativity, promotion and motivation.
In the book Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services for an Uncertain World, David Verba, of Adaptive Path, suggests that
"When a person engages with your products, services and environments, a set of distinctly human qualities comes into play. A person's experience emerges from these qualities:
I don't have the answers, but I suggest it might be use for parish leaders look at their programming in light of how well they are fulfilling the motivations, expectations, perceptions people have - and in looking at how the programming meshes with these six things. Knowing more about that can help us design offerings and publicize them in ways that honor who the target audience is. It isn't good enough to say, in effect - "Hello, we are the Church, we know what's good for you, please come to our event."