A Parish Ministries Survey
By Fr. Daniel Kovalak
VISITOR’S CARD VERSUS GUEST BOOK
A PARISH MINISTRIES SURVEY
Following the OCA Parish Ministries Conference at St. Tikhon’s Seminary (Summer, 1997) our Parish Council began discussing ways we could more fully involve our parishioners in the life of the Church on a regular basis. We felt that an evaluation of the gifts, talents and interests of our faithful would not only allow us to better focus our programming, but also further develop a community environment conducive to growth and a more fruitful witness. The discussion eventually led to the creation of the Parish Ministries Survey.
The survey was on the agenda and introduced at our Annual Parish Meeting (citing the perceived voice of the laity at the Ministries Conference that essentially said “We’d like to helpTell us how.”) Parishioners were asked to complete and return it prior to leaving the meeting. They were mailed to those absent so as to be as comprehensive as possible in soliciting the input of all parish members.
Results and Process
Merely the appearance of so many different areas under the title “ministries” was in itself enlightening to many who seldom thought in these terms. It was easy for people to see where they could fit in to do the work of the Church. Generally, core parishioners (who would check everything) seemed inclined to volunteer for more, given additional opportunities. But the survey offered some surprises; unanticipated interest from some folks. (Is there an aspiring church reader begging for a chance?)
An overview of the surveys was shared with the Parish Council. The responses were encouraging. The lines requesting additional suggestions were carefully addressed for further discussion. We felt that if one person wrote a suggestion, others were thinking about it.
Areas where parishioners expressed a desire to volunteer were tabulated and names compiled on lists for further reference. It is a bit of a luxury for a busy priest to have a list of certain people available for certain jobs as needs arise. e.g. instead of announcing a general clean-up day, we simply call those who expressed a desire to help, or if a college student needs a ride to church, it’s a matter of finding a willing parishioner nearby, or when a vestment needs some mending, one woman offered to sew.
Interest in a prayer chain was notable. Though we were unable to solicit a chairperson, we began to set aside time in our weekly study group to pray for people, thus satisfying the need (that continues to grow).
Offering alternative times for study groups stressed the importance of education. Though there was no alternative that prevailed (we meet weekly on Mondays), people realized that they should be learning. Suggested topics for lectures/retreats were immediately addressed in programming.
Fund-raising projects generated some enlightening discussion on Christian stewardshipbeyond meeting the budget.
Outreach resulted in an awareness that all parishioners help to create a “visitor friendly” parish, and ultimately motivated two parishioners to join an Orthodox Mission Team!
Overall, the Parish Ministries Survey is a viable tool for any parish (with perhaps minor variations). It should be noted, however, that appropriate follow-up is vital to show that “voices have been heard.”
VISITOR’S CARD VERSUS GUEST BOOK
How do we welcome visitors into our parishes? In many cases, parishes are content with asking them to sign a guest book. That’s nice for keeping a record of visitors, but not necessarily for knowing something about them in order to minister to them. Too often, the guest book route allows visitors to escape without anyone knowing who they were and no one prepared to greet them by name.
Our parish has had great success by using a visitor’s card. Not only does it request basic information, but questions where the visitor is coming from; who they are and what they’re looking for. This information is important for appropriate follow up.
Over the years, we have developed a certain technique to effectively use the cards. Here’s how it works.
We have assigned greeters (actively-involved parishioners who generally know who’s who) stationed at the candle counter prior to every service. When visitors enters, the greeter welcomes them, introduces him/herself, hands them a visitor’s card and pen, (with the church name on it) asking them to complete it, and leads them to a place beside parishioners who will help guide them through the service. The greeter soon returns to collect the completed card.
The greeter is also (normally) the person assigned to take the collection. As he/she approaches the iconostas for a blessing with the collection basket, completed visitor cards are in the basket for the priest to remove them. At the conclusion of the service, the priest can thus welcome the visitors by name and, after the veneration of the cross, parishioners can introduce themselves, lead them to the literature rack, and invite them (“drag them!”) to fellowship hour.
Subsequently, the priest follows up by communicating with the visitors based on the information they provided. In cases where the visitor was simply an Orthodox Christian passing through, a note is sent saying “thanks for joining us.” In cases where visitors expressed interest in the church, a phone call (within two days maximum) is made to pursue their interests.
Further, the visitors cards are also available whenever people come in to tour the church, for certain services aimed at the community, or for perogi customers who just want to “take a peak.”
We have found that invariably everyone who completes the card at least would like to receive our monthly newsletter. Thus the welcome mat continues to go out beyond their initial visit…and sometimes brings them back, again and again!
A sample of a visitor’s card appears on the next page, ready for your parish to photocopy (preferably on heavy card stock) and put into use.
So, keep the guest book for funerals and weddings. The visitor’s card is a superior tool for ministry!