So far in this series, I’ve covered the first two questions of seeker-oriented outreach:
Now, let’s take a look at the third question:
3) How can we make it easy for seekers to decide to visit the meeting?
This is the step in which the seeker, who has been considering the possibility of visiting the meeting, makes the mental shift from “maybe sometime” to “I’m going next Sunday.” This is a step that we never see, but it’s also a crucial turning point and a step that can be very difficult to take.
How can we make it just a little bit easier?
The meeting’s website is aesthetically appealing with photos of diverse people and contains clear, welcoming information about Quakerism, meeting times, and meeting locations. I said before that having a bare-bones website is better than not having a website at all, and that’s still true. If just having something is as much as you can manage, then by all means, do what you can manage. But when you can, go back to the website and punch it up a little. Start posting great photos. Add sections specifically for newcomers. If no one in your meeting has the necessary skills to build a website that is slick and modern, hire somebody. Especially for younger generations, a well-designed website is a sign of relevance to the modern world.
The meeting’s website and Facebook page are frequently updated, and messages are answered promptly. Make sure that someone in your meeting is committed to updating, updating, and updating. If possible, schedule between three and ten Facebook posts every week, with as many photos and videos included as possible—visual posts play much better than text-only on social media. For the website, change the events and announcements at least every two weeks, and once a week is better. This way, the potential visitor browsing your website can think, Oh, look—there’s a potluck three days from now. Maybe that’s the right time to give this a try. It also helps a lot if messages from potential visitors—whether they come in through the website, the Facebook page, or a phone number—are answered quickly, completely, and warmly.
Friends carry multi-age flyers/materials when they do service/witness in the community. This one will almost certainly take a couple of Friends working together, because the Friend who’s inclined to do service and witness activities in the community might not be the same Friend who’s inclined to produce and make photocopies of outreach materials. Let different Friends with different gifts work together to make sure that every time a Friend does a public event in the community, that Friend has take-home materials about the meeting at the ready for anyone who might be interested. It’s one thing for the potential visitor to attend a Friends’ activity in the local library and be intrigued; it’s another for that potential visitor to be able to carry home a pamphlet with the meetinghouse address on it and a page of Quaker stickers for his preschooler.
The meetinghouse is accessible to those with mobility challenges and is visibly intergenerational. The seeker who uses a wheelchair is very unlikely to decide to visit if she sees four steps leading up to the front door. Install ramps and smooth pathways to make the meetinghouse as physically accessible as possible. If you use microphones in meeting for worship, say so on your website so that those who have trouble hearing know that they’ll be able to participate. And if the meeting has children, make that obvious from the outside as well. A swing set or toddler slide in the yard indicates that you’re family-friendly. So does a banner hand-painted by kids.
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?
One more time, the gratitude challenge. 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 have designed and maintained a really amazing website, who update your Facebook page frequently, who carry Quaker materials into the community, or who have helped to make the meetinghouse more accessible and family-friendly? If so, can you make it a point to notice their work and thank them for their service sometime in the next week?