Sunday, May 23, 2010

Transparency Requires Reading

One of the oft mentioned frustrations of Pastors is how often congregations are accused of "hiding" things that are there in full, public view -- a good example the newsletter.  The newsletter of our congregation includes a huge amount of information from snippets about the Church Year to the venerable Pastor's Column to mission updates.  But that is not all.  Nearly all the details of all the happenings in the congregation are there for everyone to see -- dates, times, places, and MORE!  And still there is more.  Requests for assistance, people, resources, information, and the like dot the pages of the newsletter.  Schedules of group activities and special events tell everyone who, what, when, how, and why (and even what it costs, if there is one).  A calendar and schedule of servants (from acolyte to ushers and everything in between) keeps everyone up to date.

In addition to the published newsletter, there is a 4x8 ft bulletin board just off the narthex that has all the financial reports, the minutes of the meetings, copies of the Synod publications (Reporter, etc.) and any other groups that the congregation belongs to and more... These are put up month after month as the new reports give way to the old (and the past 3-6 months worth of reports can be found under the current one.

BUT... and here's the rub... in order for this transparency to work, people have to READ them!  I am amazed at how often people will ask me about something that has been in the newsletter for months -- as if they have never heard it before?!?  I hate doing verbal announcements on Sunday morning but somethings are just not being read and it is important that they be heard even if they are not being read.  Even then people will ask basic questions about something that they just heard explained.

I really dislike announcements but I must admit that I should not complain about a few things said here and there.  I once watched a video of an Easter service at one of the largest parishes in Synod only to be blown away when the Pastor stopped his Easter sermon for, you guessed it, an announcement from another staff member.  So he gave several minutes of announcement on this forthcoming event and then yielded his time back to the man in the pulpit who finished off his sermon, as it were.  I guess that was an announcement they wanted all but those nodding off during the sermon to hear!

For all the good it does to make this information available, it accomplishes little good if no one reads is.  Of course, I do get a wicked kind of satisfaction saying to folks who ask about something, "Oh, well, it was in the newsletter for several months. Didn't you read it??????"

When the Church is accused of not being transparent it may be due to the lack of information available.  Or, it may be due to the fact that no one is reading what is there...  Either way, the folks in the pew are in the dark when they do not need to be.


Carl Vehse said...

"I once watched a video of an Easter service at one of the largest parishes in Synod only to be blown away when the Pastor stopped his Easter sermon for, you guessed it, an announcement from another staff member."

I've also seen that during another sermon when a pastor let a female staff member present what was essentially a commercial/trailer for a church growth initiative/ fundraiser that was to have the big kick-off in a few of weeks, before getting back to his sermon wrapup.

Unfortunately, the pewsitters cannot switch channels, although I was tempted to go out to the fellowship area to see if the coffee and donuts were ready.

Dr.D said...

In the Anglican Mass, there is a time appointed specifically for the announcement of Holy Days, Fasting Days, publication of the Banns, and such other notices as are required. This occurs typically following the Creed and before the Sermon.

This is usually kept very brief, with most announcements of events being limited to "Be sure to read about XXX in the Church Newsletter" or wherever the information is to be found. It is simply a reminder to the people that the information is out there, and specifically where it is to be found. There is no need to lay out all the details in the middle of the worship service.

Pr. Chris Hinkle said...

Twenty percent of ADULTS are functionally illiterate.

Steve said...

Fist of all, you are right on the money. Why aren't we taking responsibility ourselves to read? $20.00 says, most of the news and notes are on the top of car sun visors or in the bottom of someones purse.

I'm curious on how other churches handle announcements, spoken that is. Personally, I DO NOT like the announcements at the start of the service. First, it's disrupts the service. You've been in, listening to pre-service music and/or the prelude setting the tone or reflection for worship that will begin. And now, that comes to a crashing hault with........"THIS JUST IN!....." Bad placement in my opinion.

We do, however have a brief period of announements led by our pastor after the closing hymn and between the postlude. Or in otherwords, when worship is over. He also does a good job in my eyes that might help combat some of your frustrations in people feeling uninformed as well. He asks everyone before he dismisses us if "there are anymore announcements." It's a great time to speak up! If fact, I would go as far as he even at times ENCOURAGES them to do so. If they come to him ahead of time and ask can you announce 'x' he will say, i'll have you share that after the service. And then he will either call them up, or they will just stand up where they are seated and address the congregation.

Then we are released. Cue the music! Onward Christian soldiers marching out the door..... :o)

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

As the saying goes, people need to hear something seven times three different ways before they will remember it. I hear you on the church announcements, put it in the bulletin, announce it in church, put it on the radio, and you'll still have people saying "nobody told me." I've threatened on occasion to have a separate 'Service of announcements' when the volume of things I was expected to remind everyone of seemed to take more time than the Divine Service.

I know of a congregations that decided to not mail their newsletter anymore in order to save on postage. The newsletters were placed in the members church mailboxes. Of course the church secretary recieved a few amgry phone calls complaining about why they weren't getting their newsletter anymore, and how much they needed it to know what was going on. And when she told them that they were now being put the church mailboxes the inevitable complaint came 'why didn't anyone tell us about this?' To her distinct pleasure she was able to say 'we did, it was in the newsletter!'

Tapani Simojoki said...

The placement of verbal notices — thorny indeed. In my native Finland, without fail notices follow the sermon, prior to the offertory hymn. They begin with announcements of baptisms and burials (usually accompanied with a prayer for the newly-baptised/bereaved). Not a bad place, since (a) people are in listening mode anyway (b) there is a natural transition in the service at that point.

In my congregation (and generally in the ELCE), the notices come at the end of the service, and are usually given by the chairman of the congregation or another officer. Pros and cons to that.

For my money, the ideal time is after the service over a cup of tea/coffee — but then you miss out on those who don't stay behind.

Pastor Peters said...

Though I am not entirely sure about this practice, we do the announcements about 5 minutes before the prelude begins so that these announcements are separated from the actual liturgy. At the end of the announcements I remind people to take time during the prelude to prepare themselves to meet Christ in Word and Sacrament, and that confession and absolution are the supreme preparation. Then the prelude and opening hymn and no more talk but lessons, sermon, and liturgy...