I have passed by a few Gatineau busses recently that have a very interesting poster on their side. No, it’s not the “God probably doesn’t exist so stop worrying and enjoy your life” ad that has caused such a stir (I know that Ottawa has refused to run those ads on OCTranspo – I don’t know if STO was ever approached with a French version). What’s caught my attention is an ad from the Catholic diocese of the Outaouais, which says “Money doesn’t fall from the sky: your Church needs you.”
Maybe Catholicism is sufficiently different from Protestantism that this is an effective strategy, but these ads really surprised me: from my experience, it can be a big enough challenge to get people who actually attend a church to support it financially – and this campaign appears to be aimed at those members of the Catholic church who aren’t actually there on Sunday morning. So, my first thought was that this was basically an ineffective campaign, and unlikely to pay off in more returns than it will cost to run the ads. But, as I said, I’m not Catholic – so maybe there are enough people who have a cultural/historical connection to the church that they will contribute, even if they don’t attend regularly.
But it also makes me wonder if they’re missing the point – the church shouldn’t exist just to self-perpetuate . . . it is only of value if it is serving the spiritual needs of a community. The shrinking church attendance in the past two generations suggests that churches are not meeting the needs of the community. And the fact that the diocese is running these ads suggests that there are not enough people involved in the community who are meeting the financial needs of the church. So, maybe the church needs to shut some buildings down and let go of the expensive bricks and mortar that are probably a large portion of its operating budget. Or maybe it needs to think about reaching out to whoever the target audience of the ads are, and finding out why they aren’t coming to the church (and subsequently not giving), rather than guilting them into paying a system that they appear to not be getting anything out of. I guess what I’m saying that these ads seem to address the symptom of a lack of revenue, rather than the root cause: the lack of relevance of the Church in today’s society.