During group discussions at the National Missions & Evangelism Conference, individuals shared about activities their parishes are doing to connect with their communities. Community engagement is a vital part of sharing Christ’s love in the world. Many of our parishes are at a loss for what to do to bring people onto their campuses or let them know they’re welcome. Below we share three distinct ways to boost community engagement.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Norfolk, Virginia has hosted the St. Maria of Paris Community Dinner for a few years. From the parish’s webpage: “The Community Dinner is a weekly event during which a free meal is prepared by volunteer parishioners and delivered in our Hellenic Center to anyone who wishes to attend. Initially advertised through local non-profit outreach ministries and eventually through word-of-mouth, attendance has grown from 20 guests (and 35 portions served) to over 60 guests (and over 80 portions served) each week. To manage the workload associated with the weekly preparation and delivery of the dinner, volunteers are organized in teams, each team organizing a meal once every few months. This provides a sustainable level of effort for everyone involved.” The chairperson of this ministry maintains a binder of information about how to organize it, which they are willing to share with other interested parishes. Contact the Annunciation parish office to get in touch.
Presvytera Karen Lesko of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Murrieta, California reaches 60,000 people for free through her work promoting the parish’s annual festival on Facebook. Businesses in the area know her efforts work, and as a result they are eager to purchase advertising in the festival program book–the parish made $20,000 profit on ad sales alone this year! Social media ministry is not only useful for fundraising–it is also a powerful tool for letting people know your parish exists, giving them a sense of what happens on the church campus, and inviting them to “come and see.” Here’s how it works: The individual who manages the parish Facebook account joins city and county-specific groups (i.e. Temecula Talk, Murrieta Talk, and other buy/sell/trade groups). Once they join, they can share parish events within the group. For example, Temecula Talk has almost 39,000 members, and when it’s time for the festival, Presvytera Karen posts daily reminders about the festival with vibrant, professional pictures of the food, dancers, venue and other activities in that group. In addition, she posts sponsor ads and promotes their businesses and services for the rest of the year. Check out the Temecula Greek Festival page to see the actual posts. Presvytera Karen is happy to offer consultation or mentor parish social media volunteers–feel free to Facebook message her at Karen M Lesko.
Blessing of Law Enforcement
In response to the apparent increase in police violence this past summer, the parish of St. John the Baptist in Beaverton, Oregon reached out to a parishioner police officer and asked if his department would be interested in participating in a prayer service to honor the departed and ask for God’s protection and guidance. The event was advertised throughout the county–in the sheriff’s office and 13 police departments. The prayer service began with memorial prayers for the departed and concluded with petitions and prayers for the protection and wisdom of all law enforcement personnel. The service text is available here. Parishioners provided cookies and coffee for a simple reception afterwards in the church hall. The consensus among all involved was that this beautiful and positive event could become an annual tradition.
There are so many ways to be a beacon of light in your community! Send us your stories and we’ll share about them in an upcoming blog post.