This September, my parish, St. George Church in Prescott, Arizona, will be participating in the National Back To Church Sunday for the third year in a row.
I believe this is an excellent opportunity for outreach and I’ve outlined some important, easy-to-do things that can be done RIGHT NOW to prepare and welcome home to the Church those who are desperately looking for it!
First of all, get your priest behind you. Just ask him to bless what you are doing. May he would even write an editorial to the local paper reminding your community that God is the author of faith and freedom. Ask him to consider preaching a special sermon on that day, on the Gospel, the Resurrection, and deciding to live as a disciple! Some visitors may never have the chance to hear it again, so this is a good time to hear it in an Orthodox Church.
Then, get listed on the National Back To Church Sunday Directory. Follow the link and sign in. What could be easier?
Next, get some free or low cost business cards from Vistaprint (I’m not paid to recommend them, I just like their work), or whoever can do it for you. Make sure to include the following information on the card:
- “BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY”
- The date of your Back To Church Sunday – most churches are participating on Sun. Sept. 18th.
- Your parish website address.
On the back include any of the following that you can.
- Address &/or map to Church
- Phone number and email for contact
- THE TIME OF THE SERVICE ON THAT SUNDAY
Order a small amount, 250-500, and pass them all out. All of them. Get them into the hands of everyone who can do it. It is a simple thing to do. Don’t let one card sit undistributed. Get them all out.
Also, get information out for free, via the Local Chamber of Commerce, free newspaper ads, free community bulletin boards, the local Cable Access TV (a great and often forgotten venue), Public Service Announcements via local radio stations. USE THEM ALL!
Include in the bulletin on that day some information to make visitors feel comfortable. For example, in our weekly bulletin, we ALWAYS include the following information prominently displayed in the first pages of the bulletin:
First Time Visitors
We are happy that you joined us today, and we want you to know;
- Visitors and children are always welcome at all of our worship services.
- You won’t be asked to do anything that will make you uncomfortable.
- We don’t expect visitors to contribute anything to the financial support of our parish.
- Our children worship with us, and we love having them here.
If you are not an Orthodox Christian, we invite you to partake of the blessed bread distributed at the end of the service, to fill out a “Welcome” card (available in the Narthex), and to join us after the service for some hospitality.
If you are an Orthodox Christian, please introduce yourself to Fr. John before the service begins, so that, if possible, you may receive the Holy Mysteries of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The point is to make visitors as relaxed and comfortable as possible so that they can enjoy their visit without worrying about what may happen next or what the expectations will be for them. We set them at ease. We never ask them to introduce themselves or stand up and be recognized during the announcements. We always personally invite them to stay and eat (our Coffee hour includes a full pot luck lunch every week, so everyone can have a full meal afterwards).
Finally, get a small team together to meet and greet visitors for that particular day. Let the Choir director know and any readers or chanters – they should know that there will be first time visitors on that day. They’ll appreciate the opportunity to bring beauty to someone’s life on that day.
Even if you are doing this alone and by yourself, don’t discount this opportunity to reach others for Christ.
What next? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have good introductory material for visitors or inquirers?
- Is the pamphlet rack full?
- Are there Orthodox Study Bibles available for purchase?
- Does the parish have an introductory handout for visitors stating service times, Bible Studies, etc.?
- Are there any good books by converts for converts, such as “Becoming Orthodox,” “Door To Paradise”or “Light From The Christian East” in our bookstore?
Need some advice? Have a good idea you want to share with others? Go ahead and write them in the Comments section, and let the outreach begin!
Whatever else you do, don’t do nothing! Souls depend on it.