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« on: October 10, 2009, 01:44:28 AM »

Hello all!

This November will mark the 100th Anniversary of the parish my Great Grandparents helped found in 1909. Every member of my father’s family (myself included) has been baptized, married, and buried through this parish. At the risk of sounding un-Orthodox, it’s something I’m rather proud of.  Smiley

As joyous as this occasion is, there is much cause for concern in addition to celebration. For the parish is dying. I remember when I was a child it was standing room only during Liturgy. Today, if we have 40 people on a Sunday, we’re lucky.  Sad

Part of the reason for the large decline in membership is that many of the parishioners and their families have simply moved away, and the demographics of the town have changed. When the parish was founded it was an industrial town populated mostly by Slavs.

Since that time the children and grandchildren of the founders have gone on to college, moved out of town, and on to bigger and better things.
Today the town is mostly populated by Indians and Puerto Ricans, who surprisingly show little interest in a Ukrainian Orthodox parish. Wink

As an effort to encourage growth, the parish is currently having their website re-designed, has created a page on Facebook, and have started bi-monthly inquirer classes that are preceded by Vespers.

In honor of our 100th Anniversary, a large write-up is being done in the local paper prior to the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy that will be celebrated on Nov 8th. (If you need a UOC Bishop that day, you’re out of luck; they’ll all be in Carteret, NJ!)

We are also planning two “Outreach Sundays” where we are going to encourage everyone to “bring a friend” to church, or to reach out to a family member who may have wandered away from the faith.

Yet with all of this, I still feel more can be/should be done.

That is why I am coming to you.

As this board is largely made up of converts, my question to you is this: what attracted you to your parish specifically, and what would you recommend as a good outreach ministry for an Orthodox parish?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Oh, and if you are in the Central New Jersey area on Nov 8th, feel free to PM me for details on the Heirarchal Divine Liturgy. We’d love to have you join us!

In XC,

Maureen

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« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2009, 08:27:07 PM »

33 pages of arguementation over evolution vs. creationism, and nobody has any suggestions on Parish growth?  Undecided Cry
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2009, 09:18:59 PM »

I was reading the transcript of a speech from a church conference. The priest giving the speech was a convert. His father was a Protestant pastor.

During his teenage yearsn the priest remembered one church was assigned to-a church that was not in decline but in fact was in danger of dying out all together.

The road back to life for this church was a Missions and Evangelism Conference. They had visiting missionaries who had served abroad and actually in the homes of church members.

I think its a great idea.Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2009, 09:31:41 PM »


Hi Maureen! 

I know exactly what you are talking about.  Our parish membership is also on the decline.  The reason mostly is that the children of the parishioners have moved away.  Unfortunately, many if not most, have married outside the Church and have left to attend their spouse's church, or no church at all. 

However, the new wave of Ukrainian immigrants is actually slowly filling up our church again.  Even though it seems like there are two "camps" -the original members, and the nova-chvilya (new members)...it seems to be getting better with time.  At first, the two were like oil and water.

We are now trying to insitute a "fellowship" hour with coffee and sweets.  The point of this is that many people end up congregating in the parking lot to catch up.  This way they can come in and sit...and the old and new members will mix.

The sisterhood is joining our Junior Ukrainian Orthodox League kids to accomplish this.  I hope this will make everyone more comfortable and they can bring along their friends, etc.

We are also going to begin offering courses for parishioners and friends.  This will begin the Sunday after Pokrova (our Feast Day - which will be minus bishops...because it seems some other church is celebrating 100 years that same weekend!  Wink ).  The classes will be English classes for our Ukrainian immigrants, and Ukrainian for us Americans who don't speak Ukrainian or wish to brush up on it.  Additionally, there will be a Religion course for adults.

I don't know if this will work, but, the thought is to entice people to come for lessons, see and fall in love with our church.

As mentioned above, we have a Saturday school for kids - preschool onward.  They are taught Ukrainian (reading, writing...), choir, history, culture and religion.  Currently we have about 30 children enrolled. 

We have started a Chapter of the Jr. UOL last year in our parish.  This Orthodox League is great for the kids.  We have many children in the Jr UOL who do not attend the Saturday school.  This keeps them in the church community.  We do fund raisers, put up a Christmas Store (sell kutia, dried fruits, ornatments, cards...), a Pascha Store (sell pysanki, pysanki supplies, egg dyes, baskets, cards, take kovbasa orders....), decorate the church for Christmas, participate in services...  The kids have a blast and this keeps their families in the church...and hopefully the kids, as well.

We were thinking of offering Pysanki lessons, iconography lessons, etc. 

The Romanian church down the road from us had a huge festival a couple weeks ago.  I stopped by after Liturgy to support my fellow Orthodox.  They had the church doors swung open so visitors could walk through.  The priest was available to give tours, etc.  Festivals always draw in the neighborhood.

Our area also has a council of pan-Orthodox churches.  My parish doesn't really participate, but, I've been to the events.  They sponsor workshops for Sunday school teachers, missionary seminars, dances, singles' nights, fund-raisers, plus the Lenten Vespers (each Sunday in a different church).

Of course you can invite the bishops to come more often.  The church is always packed when the bishop is in town!   Cheesy

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« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2009, 09:36:23 PM »

Fwiw, there was a short thread on Orthodox Evangelism about a year ago, and there were some suggestions given there that might be of interest.

Quote
As this board is largely made up of converts, my question to you is this: what attracted you to your parish specifically

I like the priest. That's really the main reason for me, as unspiritual as that might sound. There's a parish about 4 miles from where I live, but instead of going to that parish I go to a parish 15 miles up the road.  The parish close to me is friendly, don't get me wrong. And the people at the parish I go to are friendly as well, in addition to them having a nice bookstore, a big banquet hall, and lots of nice iconography. But it really does come down to my relationship with the priest.

Quote
and what would you recommend as a good outreach ministry for an Orthodox parish?

One thing that's a possible ministry is helping people without transportation. This can be something like getting people who don't have transportation to Church. Or it could be something like helping someone without transportation to go grocery shopping or something like that. Along the same lines, someone with automotive knowledge could help people with showing people routine car care if they are unaware of how to maintain their car. This may seem unspiritual, but people are probably more likely to come to Church if they feel like they are getting something out of it, even if that something is practical advice. Or, if there are doctors in your parish, you could set up a mini-clinic to help people who can't afford health insurance (what could be done might be limited, but it'd be better than nothing). You could see about setting up a place outside Walmart or somewhere and collecting food for food banks. Or publically collect money, food and toys around Christmas time. You could sponsor seminars, debates, etc., which wouldn't necessarily involve investing a ton of money if you started small and tapped into the local community (e.g. find a member of your parish who is knowledgable, and invite someone from a local secular humanist club or something to debate some issues). Anyway, that's all I have at the moment. Good luck with your outreach, the "bring a friend" thing sounds like a good idea. Congrats on your 100th anniversary as well. Smiley
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« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2009, 10:36:13 PM »


Hi Maureen! 

I know exactly what you are talking about.  Our parish membership is also on the decline.  The reason mostly is that the children of the parishioners have moved away.  Unfortunately, many if not most, have married outside the Church and have left to attend their spouse's church, or no church at all. 

Hi Liza!

Yes, that's unfortunately the large cause of our decline. Even those who have not moved away, their children have stopped going to church. I was talking to one of the mother's in the Church last Sunday. Her daughter and I made First Holy Confession together. Of our class of 15 or so students, only her daughter and I still attend church.

However, the new wave of Ukrainian immigrants is actually slowly filling up our church again.  Even though it seems like there are two "camps" -the original members, and the nova-chvilya (new members)...it seems to be getting better with time.  At first, the two were like oil and water.

That's great that you're experiencing some growth. Unfortunately we don't have any new immigrants moving to the area. On the one hand this is bad for our parish, but on the other hand, I think its time to move beyond our Ukrainian identity and bring Orthodoxy to the community of Americans around us. I'm not suggesting we forget about our Ukrainian roots, just not to let it define us as Christians. I think you know what I mean.

We are now trying to insitute a "fellowship" hour with coffee and sweets.  The point of this is that many people end up congregating in the parking lot to catch up.  This way they can come in and sit...and the old and new members will mix.

The sisterhood is joining our Junior Ukrainian Orthodox League kids to accomplish this.  I hope this will make everyone more comfortable and they can bring along their friends, etc.


Sounds like a great plan! Coffee hour is one of the great things about Orthodoxy. It allows people to get to know one another and have fellowship. Not just co-exist in worship and go on with their weekly lives unnoticed. It really creates a sense of community.

We are also going to begin offering courses for parishioners and friends.  This will begin the Sunday after Pokrova (our Feast Day - which will be minus bishops...because it seems some other church is celebrating 100 years that same weekend!  Wink ).  The classes will be English classes for our Ukrainian immigrants, and Ukrainian for us Americans who don't speak Ukrainian or wish to brush up on it.  Additionally, there will be a Religion course for adults.

I don't know if this will work, but, the thought is to entice people to come for lessons, see and fall in love with our church.

As mentioned above, we have a Saturday school for kids - preschool onward.  They are taught Ukrainian (reading, writing...), choir, history, culture and religion.  Currently we have about 30 children enrolled.

That's awesome! Unfortunately we only have about 20 kids in our parish from pre-school to 12th grade. Sad

We have Sunday school after church, but like everything else, it's in decline. 

Sorry we're being a Bishop-hog for two weeks in a row. Wink For some reason the Anniversary committee thought it would be good to have the Heirarchal Divine Liturgy on our actual feast day (the 8th) and the banquet the following week.

We have started a Chapter of the Jr. UOL last year in our parish.  This Orthodox League is great for the kids.  We have many children in the Jr UOL who do not attend the Saturday school.  This keeps them in the church community.  We do fund raisers, put up a Christmas Store (sell kutia, dried fruits, ornatments, cards...), a Pascha Store (sell pysanki, pysanki supplies, egg dyes, baskets, cards, take kovbasa orders....), decorate the church for Christmas, participate in services...  The kids have a blast and this keeps their families in the church...and hopefully the kids, as well.

While we technically have had a Jr. UOL for over 50 years, we currently don't have enough kids to have a large membership, and the group never seems to do anything. Even when I was a member, all we did was raise money to go to the Annual Convention, host coffee hour occassionally, and help out with the Epiphany banquet that is now defunct.

In a lot of ways, it feels like the parish has been living in the shadow of its former glory for the past 30 years.

Thanks again for your insight Liza. Please keep my parish in your prayers, for I don't want to see it die.

In XC,

Maureen
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« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2009, 10:49:28 PM »

Fwiw, there was a short thread on Orthodox Evangelism about a year ago, and there were some suggestions given there that might be of interest.

Thanks! I'll check it out!

I like the priest. That's really the main reason for me, as unspiritual as that might sound. There's a parish about 4 miles from where I live, but instead of going to that parish I go to a parish 15 miles up the road.  The parish close to me is friendly, don't get me wrong. And the people at the parish I go to are friendly as well, in addition to them having a nice bookstore, a big banquet hall, and lots of nice iconography. But it really does come down to my relationship with the priest.

I definitely can relate to this statement. When I moved to Atlanta and was looking for a parish, the two elements that helped me decide on which parish to call "home" were the priest and the sense of community. Fortunately, it just so happened the parish I chose also happened to be the one closest to my home.


One thing that's a possible ministry is helping people without transportation.

This is a great idea! I'll have to talk to my priest about it.


Or, if there are doctors in your parish, you could set up a mini-clinic to help people who can't afford health insurance (what could be done might be limited, but it'd be better than nothing). You could see about setting up a place outside Walmart or somewhere and collecting food for food banks. Or publically collect money, food and toys around Christmas time. You could sponsor seminars, debates, etc., which wouldn't necessarily involve investing a ton of money if you started small and tapped into the local community (e.g. find a member of your parish who is knowledgable, and invite someone from a local secular humanist club or something to debate some issues).


These are all great ideas. When I was in Atlanta the Ladies Philopticos society used to host a dinner every December where they would collect toys for "Toys for Tots." While I don't think we could pull something off like this this year (with the anniversary in November, events in December would be tough) but it's a good idea for next year.

Anyway, that's all I have at the moment. Good luck with your outreach, the "bring a friend" thing sounds like a good idea. Congrats on your 100th anniversary as well. Smiley

Thank you! Please keep us in your prayers!
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« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2009, 11:06:54 PM »


Converts would be great...but, we don't have any. 

There's a huge Baptist church down the road from us (former RC Seminary) and the whole neighborhood located near the church go there. 
They are more exciting it seems.  Maybe it's because the church broadcasts its "services" on TV live.

Now, that's an idea!  Let's broadcast our services!   Wink

It's not likely we'll get any converts in the near future.  The environment is simply not conducive to it.  Not that we wouldn't welcome them with open arms, it's just that I don't see it happening.  Too many differences between our church and it's immediate neighborhood.

That's why we are trying to keep (via Jr. UOL and school) the kids in the Church.  We are trying to make the church a part of their life, where they wouldn't want to leave it when they grow up.  We are placing our hope in the next generation versus gaining new members from the outside.

We have also absorbed a few individuals who went to a Russian church that faded away.  It was a lovely church building, with lovely iconography...and it simply fell into disrepair.  The neighborhood around it deteriorated.  Graffiti was all over the outside walls.  People were scared to go to church.  It was sad. 

The neighbors were hispanic, so the parish even tried serving the Divine Liturgy in Spanish to entice them...but, it didn't work.

I will keep your parish in my prayers.

Maureen, would it be possible for our kids to be pen-pals with yours?  They might have fun communicating with a "sister" parish.

Give the bishops our best when you see them - for TWO whole weeks!  Tell them our Pokrova Feast Day simply won't be the same without them!



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« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2009, 11:43:11 PM »


Converts would be great...but, we don't have any. 

I hear ya. We have a few, I'm just trying to figure out how to get MORE.

Now, that's an idea!  Let's broadcast our services!   Wink

This isn't a bad idea. St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Fr. Lauderdale, FL broadcasts the Divine Liturgy live every Sunday at 10 AM. It can be viewed on OCN. (http://www.myocn.net/index.php/The-Divine-Liturgy-Broadcast-from-St.-Demetrios.html) It's a good thing to know, in case you can't make it to Liturgy on a Sunday.

It's not likely we'll get any converts in the near future.  The environment is simply not conducive to it.  Not that we wouldn't welcome them with open arms, it's just that I don't see it happening.  Too many differences between our church and it's immediate neighborhood.

This is our challenge; to make the neighborhood realize that it is not about culture, but about CHRIST.

We have also absorbed a few individuals who went to a Russian church that faded away.  It was a lovely church building, with lovely iconography...and it simply fell into disrepair.  The neighborhood around it deteriorated.  Graffiti was all over the outside walls.  People were scared to go to church.  It was sad. 

How tragic!

I will keep your parish in my prayers.

Thank you! It is St. Demetrius Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Carteret, NJ.

Maureen, would it be possible for our kids to be pen-pals with yours?  They might have fun communicating with a "sister" parish.

I will talk to the head of the Jr. UOL about this. I think this is a good idea. Smiley

Give the bishops our best when you see them - for TWO whole weeks!  Tell them our Pokrova Feast Day simply won't be the same without them!

Will do!

The Pokrova is my Name's day, so I have a special affection for the day as well.

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, may the Lord bless both of our parish's with new growth in both numbers and spirituality!
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« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2009, 12:06:48 AM »

Amen!
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« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2009, 11:10:28 AM »

Hello all!

This November will mark the 100th Anniversary of the parish my Great Grandparents helped found in 1909. Every member of my father’s family (myself included) has been baptized, married, and buried through this parish. At the risk of sounding un-Orthodox, it’s something I’m rather proud of.  Smiley

As joyous as this occasion is, there is much cause for concern in addition to celebration. For the parish is dying. I remember when I was a child it was standing room only during Liturgy. Today, if we have 40 people on a Sunday, we’re lucky.  Sad

Part of the reason for the large decline in membership is that many of the parishioners and their families have simply moved away, and the demographics of the town have changed. When the parish was founded it was an industrial town populated mostly by Slavs.

Since that time the children and grandchildren of the founders have gone on to college, moved out of town, and on to bigger and better things.
Today the town is mostly populated by Indians and Puerto Ricans, who surprisingly show little interest in a Ukrainian Orthodox parish. Wink

As an effort to encourage growth, the parish is currently having their website re-designed, has created a page on Facebook, and have started bi-monthly inquirer classes that are preceded by Vespers.

In honor of our 100th Anniversary, a large write-up is being done in the local paper prior to the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy that will be celebrated on Nov 8th. (If you need a UOC Bishop that day, you’re out of luck; they’ll all be in Carteret, NJ!)

We are also planning two “Outreach Sundays” where we are going to encourage everyone to “bring a friend” to church, or to reach out to a family member who may have wandered away from the faith.

Yet with all of this, I still feel more can be/should be done.

That is why I am coming to you.

As this board is largely made up of converts, my question to you is this: what attracted you to your parish specifically, and what would you recommend as a good outreach ministry for an Orthodox parish?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Oh, and if you are in the Central New Jersey area on Nov 8th, feel free to PM me for details on the Heirarchal Divine Liturgy. We’d love to have you join us!

In XC,

Maureen



I think, though I am often very wrong, that a parish in the United States, probably needs to be relevant e.g. local traditions to the culture it is located.  If the parish feels ukranian and even the language is foreign then that will cause those who may come not to come out feeling disconnected though connected, if that makes sense.  In a sense I would also think that many youth would also leave for the same reasons, they grew up in a diffrent culture, their identity is in the new culture, things of the old culture are relevant though a certain amount of disconnection would be natural.
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« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2009, 02:38:08 PM »

I think, though I am often very wrong, that a parish in the United States, probably needs to be relevant e.g. local traditions to the culture it is located.  If the parish feels ukranian and even the language is foreign then that will cause those who may come not to come out feeling disconnected though connected, if that makes sense.  In a sense I would also think that many youth would also leave for the same reasons, they grew up in a diffrent culture, their identity is in the new culture, things of the old culture are relevant though a certain amount of disconnection would be natural.

I agree, and I think there is truth to this. I can attribute my detour in the Baptist Church partially to this.

Fortunately, we are trying to move beyond it. We are trying to have at least one Liturgy a month entirely in English, and incorporate more English hymns in the Liturgy. (It is currently 70% English, 30% Ukrainian.)

I don't think our parish will ever entirely shake the "Ukrainian feel" to it, but we're trying to be more American. I think one of the good things our parish has going for it is that there are only a few immigrants in our parish. Most of the parishoners are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation American, so that a newcomer to Orthodoxy wouldn't feel completely isolated, especially at Coffee Hour where people make friends/connections. Also, most of our parishoners are married to non-Ukrainians, so it's not like there is a zenaphobia to non-Ukrainian ethnicities.

Heck, even our Pani Matka is of Swedish-American descent! Smiley

We are trying, really we are.

It just breaks my heart to look down from the choir loft into a Cathedral that could easily seat 400, and only see 40. Sad
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« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2009, 04:12:38 PM »

Ah sadly demographics are what they are but I think that your church is giving it a good try. It's hard to face change. I too came bakc to Orthodoxy from a detour into evangelicalism. But I will say I had no desire to return to an ethnic ghetto (no offense intended) Instead I attend an Antiochian parish with all English services and 50% converts. My main concern is raising my child in Orthodoxy first and the ethnic traditions take a back seat. I find that if yor parish returns to its roots in Orthodoxy you will be surprised that you will begin to grow again. Catechism and inquirers class (I think you mentioned that) A full cylce of services (Vespers, MAtins, Liturgy) observance of feast days (not just Pascha and Christmas). This is the start. people are starving for what Orthodoxy can provide and they don't find it at  bingo and pierogi sales. I hope I haven't offended. But I think you are headed down the right path. 
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« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2009, 04:42:58 PM »

As has already been said, the biggest thing will be having more services in English and holding catechism classes.

On a liturgical level, the quality of your choir can be a major liability or asset. A trained director and/or a good voice or two works wonders. Might even be worth importing someone from New York (for a small stipend).

On a pastoral level, research shows that one of the most effective things a church can do to grow is visitation. Lots has been written on this. We Orthodox already have the priest visit us for house blessings, so we're ahead of the game, but an intentional, well thought out barrage of pastoral visitation -- including to homes of lapsed members and even just to homes within walking distance of the parish -- will yield fruit (and bring the existing community together).

On a practical level, it's imperative that the Church have good signage, well cared-for external grounds and available parking. Believe it or not, people have done research on this as well, and those things make a big difference in attracting visitors.

You might not be able to offer all of that, but it's well worth your time to spruce up the landscaping/paint job and, above all, to make sure that the Church interior is very clean. Most visitors notice these things, and, truth be told, they also have a subliminal effect on parishioners as well. What's that addage about a disorganized desk equaling a disorganized mind? Same goes spiritually for the Church building, I think. I've been in a number of churches that obviously had not dusted (much less polished) their candle-holders or bothered to remove wax from the floor in probably 10 years. That's just an example. I've seen far worse. If the sanctuary is holy and we actually participate in angelic worship, then, naturally, we would care for these things with great regularity (as they do every day in monasteries). An example of teaching by doing, instead of saying.
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« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2009, 05:54:08 PM »

As has already been said, the biggest thing will be having more services in English and holding catechism classes.

On a liturgical level, the quality of your choir can be a major liability or asset. A trained director and/or a good voice or two works wonders. Might even be worth importing someone from New York (for a small stipend).


I was just speaking with the Choir Director about this two weeks ago. This is something we plan on working on. The difficult part is that there are some Sundays where we will only have 4 people singing, other Sundays we'll have a full choir. Also, we are in desperate need of Male voices. Sad

On a pastoral level, research shows that one of the most effective things a church can do to grow is visitation. Lots has been written on this. We Orthodox already have the priest visit us for house blessings, so we're ahead of the game, but an intentional, well thought out barrage of pastoral visitation -- including to homes of lapsed members and even just to homes within walking distance of the parish -- will yield fruit (and bring the existing community together).

This is a good idea. Maybe when the holidays roll around we can do something. I mean, something even as simple as caroling can warm a person's heart and help them see that people care.

On a practical level, it's imperative that the Church have good signage, well cared-for external grounds and available parking. Believe it or not, people have done research on this as well, and those things make a big difference in attracting visitors.

Fortunately, this is one area we have well covered. Smiley Over the years the parish has done a decent job of keeping things neat and tidy, but with the 100th Anniversary this year we have had new landscaping put around the church and the refractory, have installed new icons in the Sanctuary and the Nave, and we are having new carpeting installed next week. A parishoner also has paid to have the bathrooms in the church building renovated, and expenditures have been made to clean up the Banquet Hall. One of our parishoners is also the Cleaning Lady for the parish, and she does a wonderful job of keeping things clean.

(On a personal note, I think it's good to have a parishoner in this position; this way they have a vested interest in taking care of the parish.)

If you are a part of Facebook, you can see pictures of the parish by going to our site:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=124013&id=150305601769#/pages/Carteret-NJ/St-Demetrius-Ukrainian-Orthodox-Cathedral/150305601769

As I said earlier, we are in the process of giving a makeover to our webpage. As a matter of fact, I just sent over a large amount of the content to the developer today. We are planning on having it all done in time for the Anniversary on November 8th. Smiley

These are all wonderful ideas! Please keep them coming!

After the New Year (when things settle down a bit) I want to start a Lending Library to encourage Spiritual Growth. Orthodox books are generally inexpensive, and if everyone donates a book, it won't be long before we have a nice little library for our parish. This is something that can benefit current parishoners as well as newcomers for years to come.


I don't want my parish to die, and I'm not going down without a fight. Your help is appreciated!!
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« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2009, 08:55:52 PM »

As has already been said, the biggest thing will be having more services in English and holding catechism classes.

On a liturgical level, the quality of your choir can be a major liability or asset. A trained director and/or a good voice or two works wonders. Might even be worth importing someone from New York (for a small stipend).

On a pastoral level, research shows that one of the most effective things a church can do to grow is visitation. Lots has been written on this. We Orthodox already have the priest visit us for house blessings, so we're ahead of the game, but an intentional, well thought out barrage of pastoral visitation -- including to homes of lapsed members and even just to homes within walking distance of the parish -- will yield fruit (and bring the existing community together).

On a practical level, it's imperative that the Church have good signage, well cared-for external grounds and available parking. Believe it or not, people have done research on this as well, and those things make a big difference in attracting visitors.

You might not be able to offer all of that, but it's well worth your time to spruce up the landscaping/paint job and, above all, to make sure that the Church interior is very clean. Most visitors notice these things, and, truth be told, they also have a subliminal effect on parishioners as well. What's that addage about a disorganized desk equaling a disorganized mind? Same goes spiritually for the Church building, I think. I've been in a number of churches that obviously had not dusted (much less polished) their candle-holders or bothered to remove wax from the floor in probably 10 years. That's just an example. I've seen far worse. If the sanctuary is holy and we actually participate in angelic worship, then, naturally, we would care for these things with great regularity (as they do every day in monasteries). An example of teaching by doing, instead of saying.

What you have written is true on the research done and what has been discovered.  The baptist church I attended for years started to give away five dollar gas cards and books to all first time visitors.  It sounds kind of caniving, but it did bring many people back.  Yet, what really worked in growing the church wasn't all the gimmicks, but showing true compassionate love for people and simply inviting them to church, telling them there is a better way, etc.

Love them.
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2009, 12:43:28 AM »


I think your church is very special too; the photos on Facebook are so beautiful.  So many great suggestions have been made that all I can say is whatever ideas you choose to implement, they must be done very well.  A sloppy effort on multiple fronts isn't as effective as picking one or two and really doing them right.  Be creative, be bold, but don't be ill-prepared and uncommitted. 

The other things I really feel strongly about are English services and Church School not Greek or Russian, etc.... School.  If you want your kids to speak Language X then they'll learn it best from you at home.  If you want them to "learn" Church, then use that time to expose them to as many services as possible and have a real Orthodox learning experience for them in Church School. 

Don't give up the fight, no matter how hard it is.  I just came from a parish council meeting where we talked about our problems with church growth and parish problems.  It can be really discouraging but that's the way Satan wants you to feel.  And by all means, reach out to the Missions & Evangelism experts.  Bring them in if you can and get an honest, frank opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of your parish. 

And above all, pray individually and communally.  I'm sure there hasn't ever been a revived parish that got there without a strong spiritual renewal.
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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2009, 11:47:29 AM »

I also think the Christian faith must be presented within a scriptural (but not sola)  context in America. Collectively (I beleive) this is what Christians and non Christians are most familiar with and having the Holy Bible visible in the nave (whether in a pew or elsewhere) with inserts with scriptural references to faith & worship basics (for ex. to explain the use of icons in worship as opposed to worship of graven images a reference to 1 Kings 6 (esp. 6:23-38) could be helpful & I do not think terminology like "windows to heaven" will resonate until one is truly Orthodox). One OCA parish I have visited has the Orthodox Study Bible (NT & Psalms) in every pew and this is a good faith and smart way to show that Orthodoxy is "Biblical" to a visitor)..... Perhaps some literature that compassionately explains that the church is for salvation and spiritual needs & not a social service agency but also providing lists of social service agencies that able parishoners can support actively or financially & the unable can avail. ....Perhaps have the church become part of a network that hosts the homeless (from a responsible shelter)  for a weekly stay (our parish used to do this annually but most sadly it was discontinued). 
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2009, 12:50:29 PM »

What a beautiful Church! I do not have any suggestions other than what was provided here, but you all have my prayers. Lord have mercy on Your servants and Your house!
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2009, 04:31:06 PM »

And above all, pray individually and communally. 

No one can under emphasis prayer! 
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« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2009, 05:38:09 PM »

My humble suggestions
1.   Pray, myself and 9 others game into our church at the same time. This is just after the older ladies completed a novena for new members.
2.   Members should invite friends and relatives to liturgy.
3.   Put up a large visitors welcome sign. – Orthodox Churches can be scary to enter especially for Protestants; modern Roman Catholics will also be confused.
4.   Have designated new person greeters, train them to assist inquirers. Most people are not used to following a service book.
5.   Have a Bible study in the hall- put up a large sign to attract drive buys.  Protestants/ Catholics/non believers are attracted to Bible studies. Make sure it is taught by someone who is dynamic and wise. Do a topical study on something of interest or relevant. Avoid mumblers. Ease people into Orthodoxy.
6.   If your choir is bad, most guests assume the church is dead. Invest in the choir.
7.   Marketing, contact local newspaper and get an article written about the Church. Run ads on Christian radio. Set up a booth at local community events – fairs etc.
8.   People are looking for Community, and closeness to God. If your church is a place of love – people will be attracted.
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« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2009, 08:05:56 PM »

What a beautiful Church! I do not have any suggestions other than what was provided here, but you all have my prayers. Lord have mercy on Your servants and Your house!

Thank you, thank you very much! Your prayers are greatly coveted!
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« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2009, 08:28:03 PM »

My humble suggestions
1.   Pray, myself and 9 others game into our church at the same time. This is just after the older ladies completed a novena for new members.
2.   Members should invite friends and relatives to liturgy.
3.   Put up a large visitors welcome sign. – Orthodox Churches can be scary to enter especially for Protestants; modern Roman Catholics will also be confused.
4.   Have designated new person greeters, train them to assist inquirers. Most people are not used to following a service book.
5.   Have a Bible study in the hall- put up a large sign to attract drive buys.  Protestants/ Catholics/non believers are attracted to Bible studies. Make sure it is taught by someone who is dynamic and wise. Do a topical study on something of interest or relevant. Avoid mumblers. Ease people into Orthodoxy.
6.   If your choir is bad, most guests assume the church is dead. Invest in the choir.
7.   Marketing, contact local newspaper and get an article written about the Church. Run ads on Christian radio. Set up a booth at local community events – fairs etc.
8.   People are looking for Community, and closeness to God. If your church is a place of love – people will be attracted.


Thank you, these are all very good suggestions.
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« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2009, 11:42:15 PM »

...we are having new carpeting installed next week.

Perhaps when the new carpet is being installed, you could have the pews relocated to the edges of the nave for those that require seating, but for the rest encourage bows, prostrations, and greater rigor in the worship experience.  If there were a surplus of pews, you could donate the excess to another church in need.

One OCA parish I have visited has the Orthodox Study Bible (NT & Psalms) in every pew and this is a good faith and smart way to show that Orthodoxy is "Biblical" to a visitor)

Most of your suggestions sound like you're talking about a very particular type of Protestant visitor in an older age group.  Most people aren't skimming the pews looking for Bibles at their first liturgy.  In fact, it would be misleading, considering that Orthodox Christians do not typically "following along" in their Bibles during the Gospel reading.
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« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2009, 11:51:54 PM »

...we are having new carpeting installed next week.

Perhaps when the new carpet is being installed, you could have the pews relocated to the edges of the nave for those that require seating, but for the rest encourage bows, prostrations, and greater rigor in the worship experience.  If there were a surplus of pews, you could donate the excess to another church in need.

While I appreciate the suggestion, we're not giving up our pews. Smiley

Ukrainians are not Russians in ethnicity, or in forms of piety. Smiley Wink

In all seriousness though, I know that idea would not fly with the Parish Council. Especially since the majority of our parishoners are over the age of 75, use an elevator to get into church, and canes and walkers to move around. Increased rigor is the last thing these people want. Also, I fail to see how it would attract newcomers to the parish.
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« Reply #25 on: October 25, 2009, 11:43:18 PM »

I am just curious to see how your parish is doing. Have you come up with any other ideas since?

BTW, there's 38 pages on the evolution thread now Wink
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« Reply #26 on: October 26, 2009, 11:08:12 AM »

Quote
As this board is largely made up of converts, my question to you is this: what attracted you to your parish specifically

With the caveat that I don't intend this to sound mean or critical, I was attracted precisely because there was a large number of converts. There were several Orthodox parishes closer, but they seemed to have an invisible sign out front - "No non-(insert ethnic group here) need apply." Now, let me say here that the first Divine Liturgy I attended was at a small Greek Orthodox mission parish, and they couldn't have been nicer, and I was coming from a strongly German Lutheran church where everyone was related in one way or another to everyone else. But the Greek friends who invited us actually recommended we go to the mostly convert Orthodox parish.

Quote
and what would you recommend as a good outreach ministry for an Orthodox parish?
One Greek Orthodox parish I know of has a family outreach Sunday (on Valentine's Day) where parishioners are encouraged to bring non-Orthodox family and friends, as well as Orthodox family and friends who are perhaps not regular churchgoers. Also schools, pre-K and pre-school programs as well as afterschool care seem to be a good way to involve your parish in the community.
One thing to consider, for outreach to be effective, it has to be honest. That is, you have to decide to feed the homeless or run a pre-school as a ministry, because it's a way for your parish to serve, not simply to get more folks in the door.

Demographics are probably the real reason for the decline anyway, rather than anything your parish is doing or not doing.

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« Reply #27 on: October 26, 2009, 11:55:25 AM »

I am just curious to see how your parish is doing. Have you come up with any other ideas since?

BTW, there's 38 pages on the evolution thread now Wink

Thanks for checking in!

As our 100th Anniversary is in 2 weeks, our parish has been soley focused on getting everything read for that. We've had new icons written, new carpeting installed, new signs put on the outside of the church, the domes reguilded, bathrooms redone (not as exciting or theologically significant as icons, but nevertheless important!), side altars repainted, and many, many other things. Next weekend we are going to have a "work party" to clean, polish, and buff everything to perfection!

In addition to this we have been working on getting a new website put together, which I hope will aid in bringing new people to the parish.

I sent off a list of "simple suggestions" to a Parish Council member to pass on to Father. With the Anniversary coming up, I'm not anticipating on seeing any of them implemented until after the celebration.

I am in charge of setting up two outreach Sundays for our parish. I'll let you know how they go.

While there are some people in the parish that are really interested in growing the parish, there are others who are interested in keeping it an ethnic club. All I can do is try to implement different things that I believe will work, and leave the rest in God's hands. As a friend reminded me, I'm just the vessel, not the driving force for growth or change.

Keep us in your prayers!

In XC,

Maureen
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« Reply #28 on: November 01, 2009, 05:56:18 PM »

For those who may be interested, my parish made the front page of the local paper yesterday.  Grin Here is the online article:

http://www.mycentraljersey.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009910300357

There were beautiful photos of the interior of the church in the "print" edition, but they were not included in the online edition.  Sad
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« Reply #29 on: November 01, 2009, 06:01:42 PM »

Congrats! Smiley  It's strange that they wouldn't put the pics online if they went to the trouble of putting them in the paper. Well, in any event, good for you all.
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« Reply #30 on: May 02, 2010, 02:40:01 PM »

I'd like to revive this thread to ask a question. Besides the obvious like a website, word of mouth and just having services, what types of evangelism, letting people know about an Orthodox parish, are considered permissable?

- Billboards
- TV Commercials
- Public Access Channel Advertisement
- Radio Commercials
- Newspaper Ads
- Mass Mailings
- Putting pamphlets/brochures under windshield wipers
- Going door to door
- Preaching in a public place
- Hosting things like AA meetings
- Participating in something like Angel Food Ministries
- Special Free Breakfasts (e.g. on the first day of deer season)
- Food/ethnic festivals

I know that many of these methods are "foreign" to Orthodoxy, but I wonder if new methods aren't needed to reach a new audience.  How far do we take the idea that we should "become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Cor. 9:22). On the one hand, I don't want to promote "modernizing" Orthodoxy, but on the other hand didn't Paul use innovative methods of preaching in his time (e.g. Acts 17:16-34)? Is there something inherently sinful about, say, a mass mailing? Does it cheapen Orthodoxy? How so?
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« Reply #31 on: May 02, 2010, 03:02:21 PM »

Download some of the Thomas Hopko lectures, burn them to a cd and then hand them out to people  Smiley

http://ancientfaith.com/specials/hopko_lectures

Or this guy

The Essence of Christianity is a good one

http://www.philokalia.org/zalalas.htm
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« Reply #32 on: May 02, 2010, 03:33:53 PM »


I was introduced to the Greek Orthodox Parish through my girlfriend. Which leads me to think about an outreach to those baptized in the Church and are still relatively close to the area, so one could consider a targeted mailing to those. May get a few to start attending regular once again.

Our parish occasionally hosts a Parish Dinner open to the public, and places a huge sign in front advertising the Dinner. The cost for adults is $10 which seems reasonable for the type of Greek food offered. It is a way to invite non-Orthodox for an introduction to the Parish community before inviting them to a Liturgy.
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« Reply #33 on: May 04, 2010, 07:52:39 AM »

Thanks Arn1
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« Reply #34 on: May 05, 2010, 12:20:16 AM »

Fwiw, I compiled a list of many of the suggestions in the thread, and added a few more...

- Invite Guest Speakers or sponsor seminars
- Give Lectures or organize debates
- Using the skills of parishioners (e.g. a mechanic can help teach about cars, doctor, lawyer, etc.)
- Bible Study
- Sunday School
- Full cycle of services, or as many services as you can manage
- Book Club
- Collect food for food bank
- Collect money, toys or food around Christmas time
- Collect donated goods and money for homeless shelters
- Have "bring someone to liturgy" program a few times a year
- Have an inviting, up-to-date website, with videos, pictures, and lots of information
- Attend festivals (e.g. summerfest) and set up a booth
- Use pamphlets, booklets or leaflets to teach visitors about the Orthodox Faith
- Have people that are assigned to catechise catechumens
- Have inquirer classes once a month where questions can be answered
- Have choir practice
- Pay to have choir director or some members of choir take voice lessons
- Priests can do more visitations than just house blessings, or at least make phone calls, not just for members but also the lapsed and inquirers
- Have a clean property and parish, have it well-marked, well lit (for evening services)
- Have adequate parking, and ask the younger people to park further away, so that visitors and the elderly can park closer
- If you're not using a bulletin each week, start offering one
- Start a Church library, even if it's just half a bookshelf, and loan books out
- Sell icons, books, etc. Again, it's not how much space you have, it's the idea that you are doing it
- Capitalize on the riches of Orthodoxy by making sermons both relevant and patristic/scripture based
- If you aren't doing a coffee hour or meal after liturgy, consider starting.
- Organize potlucks or dinners for 4-6 times a year
- Assign greeters to welcome people
- Assign someone knowledgeable and friendly to welcome new people or inquirers, make them feel welcome, and let them know that they can answer any questions that they have at coffee hour after the services
- Give out a free book explaining orthodoxy to any new inquirers
- Have service books and Bibles in every pew (if you have pews), or have them available for use
- Make sure parishioners are friendly and helpful, but not nosy
- Put up a "visitors welcome" sign
- Run ads on Christian radio
- Use a public access/info channel
- Ask the local paper if they want to do a story on you at Easter or Christmas or another Feast of the Church, or for an anniversary or new opening
- Consider doing a mass mailings, at least to the addresses of people that you have on file but who are not regular attenders
- Encourage parishioners to talk about their faith with friends and family
- Encourage parishioners to live their faith 7 days a week, not just for a couple hours on Sunday
- Hosting things like AA meetings, Cub Scouts, etc.
- Participating in something like Angel Food Ministries
- Have special free breakfasts (e.g. on the first day of deer season)
- Have food/ethnic festivals
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« Reply #35 on: May 05, 2010, 12:39:02 AM »

Thanks Asteriktos!

I appreciate you reviving this list. After Finals are done this week, I will send this list on to my priest. Smiley
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« Reply #36 on: May 05, 2010, 12:41:43 AM »

In case anyone hasn't seen it, here is the new website:

http://stdemetriusuoc.org/

(Many of my Greek friends upon viewing the website for the first time asked if my priest is a Bishop because of the miter he is wearing. In Slavic tradition, the mitre of a proto-presbyter is generally elaborately decorated like that of a Bishop, sans cross on the top. I've been told that this is because years ago the Tsar wanted to honor a priest, and so he gave him a decorated miter.)
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« Reply #37 on: November 07, 2010, 07:55:38 AM »

I was talking with my priest last night, and he mentioned two ideas that he plans on implementing in our parish:

1. Have an "open house" night every few months at Vespers. Put an ad in the paper, have parishioners invite non-Orthodox friends and family, etc. This would be a good night to ask more involvement from choir members in Vespers as well. Afterwards have some refreshments, and perhaps some conversations about Orthodoxy can be had.

2. To encourage more participation in services other than the Sunday Divine Liturgy, ask members of certain groups to come to Vespers, weekday liturgies, etc.  So, for example, ask the youth to come to Vespers on every first Saturday of the month (and then they can go do a group activity afterwards if they want, like go to a movie or go out to eat or something).
« Last Edit: November 07, 2010, 07:57:58 AM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #38 on: August 19, 2012, 12:20:20 AM »

Any more thoughts on parish growth and/or evangelism?
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« Reply #39 on: August 19, 2012, 06:24:15 PM »

Any more thoughts on parish growth and/or evangelism?

I think we need to consider that handmaidenofgod lives in a very different situation from what most of us (including yourself) are use to. In this situation I think the competition has to be sized up in regard to what they are doing.  If you go to:
http://orthodoxyinamerica.org/, you will find that there are 10 other orthodox churches within a 6 mile radius of the center of the St. Demetrius zipcode (with St. Demetrius being 1 mile away). This situation is outside of my realm of ideas.

I was considering the "if you are Ukrainian Orthodox, you are Ukranian" approach. This often works for some Greek Orthodox converts that like Greek culture and I would include myself in the notion that if you are Greek Orthodox you are Greek (along with the opposite that if you are not Greek Orthodox (despite your heritage) you are not Greek). I realize this is a somewhat irrational bias so there is no need to start complaining about it.

Given the situation a demographic analysis within a 3 mile radius of the church is appropriate.

My gut reaction without any additional information is to throw out the English and go 80% Spanish and 20% Ukranian for the services.

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« Reply #40 on: August 22, 2012, 07:33:56 AM »


There's a Russian church in my area.  It's a beautiful church, with amazing iconography.

Over the years, their neighborhood demographic has changed, and is now mostly populated by Spanish speakers.

With the same issue in mind, the parish began services in Spanish....hoping to attract the "walk ins".

They advertised and put leaflets in mailboxes....It didn't work.

None of the neighbors came to any of the services.

The church is close to having to shut its doors permanently.


We have another church in our area struggling to survive, which is Ukrainian.  Many of the parishioners of my current parish used to attend services there some 50 years back.  However, with the next generation growing up, the church has switched to English, with only a few elderly Ukrainian speakers left.

The use of English did not attract any new parishioners, only chased away some of the Ukrainians who wished to pray in Ukrainian...and hasn't attracted any of the new immigrants.

They are about to close their doors, as well.

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« Reply #41 on: August 22, 2012, 01:37:16 PM »

^^^ This is sad but it seems that all was tried was right and the good fight was fought.
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« Reply #42 on: August 22, 2012, 05:43:37 PM »

How is Handmaiden's parish doing? Has anything new been done that worked? Did anything not work?

My parish is in a situation that exactly matches what was described in the OP. I'm interested.
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