In my last blog entry, I covered the first question of seeker-oriented outreach:
Now, let’s take a look at the second question:
2) How can we help seekers find their local Quaker meeting?
Most people, having decided ahead of time that they specifically want to attend a Quaker meeting, could probably manage to locate one that’s somewhere near them. Friends General Conference has a Quaker Finder on their website. Friends World Committee for Consultation keeps a pretty good list, too. And in many areas, Googling “Quakers near me” will come up with something.
But for many seekers, the journey might not be that straightforward. The person might Google “faith communities near me” or might have the idea of searching for a faith community in the back of their mind while going about their ordinary lives—running errands, dropping kids off at school, and scrolling through social media feeds. If we hope to reach seekers engaged in these less active and/or less specific searches, we’re going to have to step things up a little.
How do we know if we’re doing that?
The meeting has a website. You don’t have to have the Sistine Chapel of websites, but you do need something that can pop up in a Google search. A bare-bones website might include the name of your meeting; a couple of pictures; the physical address of the place of worship; time of worship; whether you have programs for infants, toddlers, kids, and teens; and an email address and/or phone number where people can ask for more information.
The meeting has a Facebook page and runs social media ads. The majority of people under the age of forty no longer use websites; instead, their exclusive source of information and communications is social media. Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat are all popular, but Facebook has the largest user base by far, with 68% of people in the United States having a Facebook account and two thirds of those people checking Facebook every day. Your meeting absolutely needs a Facebook presence, and social media ads are a good idea too—not to mention incredibly inexpensive and a lot easier to manage than you might think.
The meetinghouse has clear signage, visible from the road. Some meetings have rental spaces and can’t manage this for that reason, but legal requirements are (in my opinion) the only good reason not to have clear, large signage. At a minimum, the sign should say the word Quaker and should list the worship time or times, and that much must be visible to a car driving by. In smaller print, you might list options for children. If yours is a welcoming and affirming congregation, that’s good to put on your sign, too.
Friends do regular service and witness in the neighborhood community, outside the meetinghouse walls. Again, this is something that I’ve talked about in the past. It’s a huge part of expanding our definition of outreach. If those living in our communities never see us except when we’re walking in and out of our place of worship, then we give the impression of being insular and self-involved, no matter how much service and witness we might be doing in the broader world. Do we show up for community functions like parades and street fairs? Do we throw fundraisers for local schools, community centers, and food pantries? Do we clean up public parks or gardens? And do we do these things while wearing T-shirts, hats, or buttons that say QUAKER?
Is your meeting doing these four things to help seekers find their local Quaker meeting? If not, might you personally feel called to step up in any of these ways?
I’d like to offer one more challenge, too. I talked in the first blog of this series about the ways in which outreach has many parts and how each of us has gifts and callings to participate somewhere in the broader definition of outreach. Are there people in your meeting who created the meeting website, who maintain the meeting’s social media presence, who ordered/designed the signage, or who do regular service and witness in the neighborhood community? If so, can you make it a point to notice their work and thank them for their service sometime in the next week?