Bob and Steve, here. We’ve been thinking about how we fund large capital projects in our parishes. You know – new sanctuaries, new parish centers, new schools, new sports fields, new elevator to heaven1. These are the things that force our unfortunate pastors to give the “Sermon on the Amount” speeches at the end of Mass. There’s got to be a better way to develop a sustainable revenue stream. And that’s what this article addresses.
In the spirit that “grace builds on nature” and Catholicism’s particular genius for adopting and transforming aspects of pagan culture, we’ve decided to look to successful areas of commerce for inspiration.
Toll Roads. Who hasn’t experienced the joy and liberation of EZPass? While other poor schlepps are stranded in 80-car deep lines at the cash-only toll booth lanes, you glide by at an effortless 60 mph in the EZPass lane. Who wouldn’t welcome that same feeling of freedom when exiting the Church parking lot? We propose introducing the EZMass. For a small fee, you get to bypass the parking lot chaos. For a slightly less-small fee, you get priority parking adjacent to the EZMass lane.
Then there’s the airline model. First let’s face the facts that big sanctuaries cost big money. More space means more interior finishes (more carpet, more paint, etc) and higher utility costs for heating and cooling. If we go with the airline seating model we can easily pack the same number of parishioners into half the space. The back half of the church would have pews so close together, you’d wish you were in coach row 42. Of course, ample leg room is available up front for a small upgrade fee. And if you want the first class experience, you should check out the Lay-Z-Boy recliners in the front row.
When it comes to draining customer’s bank accounts by feeding their every desire, the sports and entertainment industries stands proud. There are so many things we can learn from their bloodthirsty take-no-prisoners approach to fleecing their target audience. Where to start? Let’s face it, stained glass windows are so middle-ages. All of that annoying colored glass severely cuts into the passive solar heating benefits. And all of that carcinogenic lead – it’s as if Marlboro and Lucky Strike got together and said “what’s the best way to make windows?” Lastly, and most importantly, they only show one image – the same thing all the time. Boooorrrrr-ing! One of the sports industry’s innovations stands out – the JumboTron — a huge Sony Trinitron video display. We propose a huge display we’ll call the “Trinity-tron.” Replace those stained glass windows with Trinity-trons. The possibilities are endless. Those ads at the back of the bulletin – the ones that no one reads? Ta da!!! Now they’re bigger than life and won’t be a bit distracting from the homily. Think of the premium advertisers will be willing to pay! Speaking of homilies – an advertiser could sponsor (for a modest fee) a homily count-down clock. And imagine Matthew 24:362 with a glowing ad for your local funeral home. Now there’s impact!
This brings us to the PBS fundraising approach as a sustainable source of high-net revenue: Homily Extortion. Oops, that was a typo. We meant, Homily Shakedown. Oops again – that darn auto-correct. The Homily Thon – that’s it. A funding goal is posted on the Trinity-trons. The homily continues until the funding goal is reached or exceeded.
We can look to retail to show us the way to streamline revenue collection. We can build in credit card terminals to take micro payments (including crypto currency, of course!). Even old-school basket collections can be modernized with drones. If equipped with proper artificial intelligence the drones will have the capacity to shakedown (there goes the auto-correct again) well-healed parishioners.
Fleece the sinners. This approach charges fees for unholy activities. Plan to leave Mass between communion and the final blessing? Remember, Judas was the first to leave mass early3. Don’t forget your Mastercard for the “Judas” turnstile. And what about reconciliation? There’s gold in that booth. Venial sins are “on the house” but mortal sins will cost you dearly. After receiving your absolution and penance, you swipe your credit card to unlock the door to exit. [Note: Father needs to resist the urge to say “Thank you, come again.”]
Lastly there’s that other well-oiled cash cow to look to – the federal government. “Well oiled”, you scoff? What other organization is as effective at picking our pockets? And how do they do it? With the promise of services and protection backed up with a heavy hand of fear and intimidation. Remember “never let a crisis go to waste”? The folks inside the DC beltway are masters of keeping us always needing more of, well, whatever they want to spend our money on. Mother Church protects us from the biggest threat of all – eternal damnation. She just needs better marketing.
Seriously now, sometimes a mechanical system in the church basement goes kaput. As a regular parishioner, you’ve probably never seen it, but you’re part of the community at the hour of need. Sure, the church could put your name on a plaque, but maybe recognition shouldn’t be a factor in your decision to support your corner of God’s kingdom. And of course, we apologize in advance if your next parish capital campaign has a line-item for a Trinity-tron.
1 ADA replacement for the 1970’s Stairway to Heaven.
2 “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”