Parish Planning Tips For Ash Wednesday

You likely have an Ash Wednesday operations plan that you’ve used with your ministries every year, and you plan on using that again. It has never failed you and has served your parish well. Planning will be easy, quick, and business as usual. 

But, before settling for the usual, could it be better? 

Chances are that most of your congregation on Ash Wednesday will include your actively involved parishioners and a good amount of folks you might only see three times a year. It’s the beginning of their Lenten journey with you, and one of your highest-attended Masses of the year. Why not use this one hour you have with them to make more connections, provide more engagement opportunities, and impact their faith life like never before?  

Use this powerful moment to give them a memorable and holy Lenten experience.

That said, don’t toss out that handy plan you’ve kept around all these years—let’s weave together a new plan to kick off a transformative Lenten season.

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Find Your Department’s Top Tips

We know that there are lots of great planning ideas out there. Don’t get distracted or stalled in the ideation phase. We’ve put together a list of our top tips and broken them down into sections for each of your departments so you can quickly find what you need and start integrating them into your Ash Wednesday planning.


  • Rally The Troops

Schedule an all-hands meeting with your staff and ministry leaders. They’ll need your guidance and leadership during this exciting and stressful time. 

Make the most of their time (and yours) by creating an agenda that goes over each ministry’s expectations, deliverables, and deadlines. Make sure to carve out time for each ministry to talk about ideas that worked last year and how you can build on those wins this year. It’s also a great opportunity to share your staff schedule, the communication plan, and where they can find the latest information that might affect their department. 

Time is limited, so have a predetermined start and end time. Don’t let long and drawn out meetings exhaust them before the real work even begins. Provide snacks and a fun atmosphere to help you foster motivation and teamwork. But most importantly, inspire them! Their gifts of time and talent should be encouraged and nurtured for the glory of God.

  • Plan For Livestreaming

Livestreaming weekend Masses have become the new normal and you may already have your videographer booked on a recurring basis for these days. Make sure they’re available to provide the same services on Wednesday.

  • Organize The Confession Line

Confession lines can be confusing and can cause unnecessary anxiety during what should be a reflective and quiet time with God. Don’t let your parishioners worry and have to wonder, “Is Father in the booth? Are you next? Who’s next?” Make stress-free confessions the goal this year and create a system that clearly lets those waiting in line know when a priest becomes available, where each priest is located, and what language he speaks.

  • Train Your Hospitality and Safety Ministries

Prep your ministries with information and procedures in the event of an emergency. Have a first aid kit ready and available at the back of the church so your volunteers can quickly grab and help a parishioner in need. Also, make sure to block off an area on your property for emergency vehicles to have easy access to the main entrance of your church. Having these plans in place can save a life. 

Keep in mind that this is a crucial time for reaching out to your inactive members and visitors. Help your volunteers know what to say, what small groups to recommend, questions to ask, or upcoming events they might be interested in attending. It’s often the small, kind gestures that can make a new person feel like they belong.

Evangelization and Communications

  • Curate Lenten Content

Create your parish’s very own Lenten workbook. It’s a special way of adding a personal touch to your parishioner’s journey to Easter. It can include daily or weekly activities, prayers, reflections, meditations, or QR codes that lead to videos with your pastor so parishioners can follow along.

  • Update Your Lenten Information Online

In the busyness of planning, it can be easy to forget to make simple updates to your website, social media, and parish app. Make sure to post your schedule for Ash Wednesday Masses, Stations of the Cross, Fish Fry, and parish mission, along with a video message from Father inviting them to join you in the journey with Christ.

  • Create A Small Group

Small groups have proven to be transformative experiences, especially for large parishes. The intimate environment allows you to get to know the people you serve and makes them feel at home while deepening their relationship with Christ. Create a small group focused on Lent and promote their meeting schedule leading up to and on Ash Wednesday.

  • Invite Them To Take The Next Step To Connect

At the end of Mass, invite attendees to take home Lenten materials at the back of the church, meet your hospitality ministry outside for coffee and donuts, or to the Lenten small group that meets that evening. Whatever you do, don’t let them leave without an invitation to take the next step to connect with you. Planning those next-step opportunities are important to nurturing connection and belonging. So make sure those are ready to be promoted on Ash Wednesday.


  • Update Your Voicemail

It’s easy to get caught up in planning all the details and then forget the little things. Make a note to update your voicemail recording with your Lenten schedule. Many of your attendees will search for your schedule online, but there are still parishioners out there who depend on your voicemail recording to keep them informed about what’s going on at your parish.

  • Lock In Your Priest Schedules

Get your priests’ schedules aligned with times for confessions, Stations of the Cross, and retreat dates. Consider providing confessions in other languages and make sure you have a priest available to serve.

  • Staff Your Masses

Get aligned with your ministry leaders and make sure your Ash Wednesday Masses are staffed with liturgical ministers and volunteers. Request a schedule from your leaders so you know who to expect and if they’ll need  your help finding replacements.

  • Plan For A Large Crowd

It’ll be a good idea to budget for more ashes, bulletins, envelopes, books, or chairs. It’s challenging to plan for large Masses like this, but having enough materials and equipment available to accommodate everyone who comes through your doors will make them feel at home.


  • Set Up QR Codes For Giving

QR codes make giving to your parish easy. Parishioners can simply pull out their phone, open up their camera app, and scan the code that takes them to your giving page. Pushpay’s giving solutions makes generosity easy, secure, and engaging with animations that erupt after every gift.

  • Create An Instructional Video With Your Pastor

Prepare a video that explains your giving solution and how it will help your parish fulfill your mission. Put together a script that outlines the steps givers need to follow so Father can feel comfortable in front of the camera. Have your video editor add music and imagery if necessary and make the link readily available for your staff and leaders to promote on Ash Wednesday.

  • Acknowledge and Welcome First-time Givers

Ash Wednesday is such an important opportunity to make your people feel known and acknowledged. Monitor first-time gifts and make sure you send a timely thank you and welcome message within two days. Keep track of your recurring givers, too, and help them know how much it means to you that you can count on their gifts every week. They’re the lifeblood of your community.

You have so much momentum to build on this month. We can’t emphasize enough how important this opportunity is to grow your parish. Having the procedures and software in place to help you manage Ash Wednesday will help reduce the stress and burnout that comes from planning a large significant event. Over 14,000 churches, parishes, and (arch)dioceses rely on Pushpay’s leading-edge software ParishStaq to help them fulfill their mission. Schedule a demo today and discover how we can support your mission.

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