PMR - Evangelism, Catecumenate, and Parish Growth

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Fr. George:
See: "An experiment - Parish Ministry Resource threads" for more info - http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,15087.0.html

This thread is for the discussion of programs (and ideas, projects, plans, etc.) dealing with bringing people into the Church, either via Evangelism, bringing back those who have left, baptizing the youth, bringing in the spouses of a mixed marriage, etc.  This is also a place to discuss how to educate them about/in the faith once they're here, and how to properly prepare them for life as an Orthodox Christian.

Have at it!

TinaG:
Well, this seems straightforward enough:

   How do we get more people to come; how do we get more people to stay; how do we get those who have strayed to come back? 

Tamara:
Quote from: TinaG on March 20, 2008, 11:12:38 PM

Well, this seems straightforward enough:

   How do we get more people to come; how do we get more people to stay; how do we get those who have strayed to come back? 


Hi Tina,

Here are a few ideas to get your questions rolling.

One idea to get people to come was an idea an elderly Orthodox man gave to me a while back. He said have a church luncheon or barbacue at the parish and invite the neighbors. The occasion could be to show gratitude to those who live near the church who may have to deal with cars parked in front of their homes on Sundays, holidays, and church events. In other words, try and be a good neighbor. Give the neighbors a tour of the parish after the luncheon and make them feel like honored guests.

If at some later date they show up for Vespers or Divine Liturgy they will feel at home and will know some of the folks and hopefully the priest when they visit.

I am no expert on how to get folks who visit to return but I have noticed that many of the parishioners in my parish will invite visitors over to their home for dinner after the first initial visits. The friendliness of the people in my parish was what made my family want to come again. Everyone made us feel welcomed and at home. But more importantly, they wanted to get know us.
Door greeters would be a must so that if someone new walked through the door the greeter could make sure they had a service book and bulletin, help them find a seat, and possibly introduce the visitor to other members and the priest after the service.

But another more innovative way to bring people into the parish is have a ministry in the parish that supports individual homeless or near homeless individuals. My parish supports three individuals who live life on the edge. They are all trying to put their lives back together with the monetary and moral support of our parish. This type of support as intrigued one of these individuals into attending services. He now attends our parish services regularly and helped mc our dessert auction a few weeks ago.

Your last question is more difficult. I would almost say the priest should be the first one to contact the lapsed member to see why the person no longer attends. Then, depending on the answer, the priest could possibly enlist the aid of other members in trying to welcome the person or family back into the parish. But this problem would need an individualized response since folks can leave the church for so many different reasons.



Tamara:
I just want to add that the neighborhood luncheon idea would work really well in an ethnic parish. This form of evangelism is a such a natural fit because most Orthodox ethnicities love to invite people over for a good meal.  :D  Plus, most of the ethnic parishes have some excellent cooks as members who love to share their culinary abilities with large groups.

But a Texas styled-barbacue, southern comfort food lunch, or California sushi fusion/salad bar meal  :D would work just as well.

TinaG:
Those are some wonderful, creative ideas Tamara! 

I'd thought of something on a similar line as the neighborhood party.  An Evening With St. Nicholas neighborhood party around the time of the saint's feast.  Get someone dressed as St. Nicholas to take pictures with the kids, they each get a framed photo with a message on the border ("An Evening With St. Nicholas, date, St. Anthony Orthodox Church, address, website), and a goody bag that includes an icon of the saint.  Their families could have cookies, hot chocolate in a large tent set up on the lawn, the choir could sing carols or we get a mariachi band too.  Give church tours, etc...   Now the biggest problems - money to get it going (advertising, tent/chair/table rentals, etc...) and the one problem we have the most - getting enough eager volunteers to pull it off.  That is the perennial problem with most volunteer organizations, churches, or groups.  It's 10% of the people doing 99% of the work.  Very frustrating.

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