Five Practical Suggestions for Parishes

In preparation for the launch of the Parish Health Ministry in 2006 we were asked to visit each Deanery – to explain this new ministry. Many persons have asked us about the impressions left by the visits.

The following are a few very practical suggestions based on what we encountered. If you don’t have time to read this here is a summary – get a better sign, cut the lawn, clean the fellowship hall, get a flip chart and then an LCD projector and screen. Please do it sooner than later.

Holy Transfiguration Parish in Livonia Recently Improved Its Sign
Another Attractive Sign

1. Take a Good Look at Your Parish Sign
Ascendant worship, discipleship, stewardship and continuity with the ancient deposit of the Apostles is important, but what is the first thing a visitor sees? Your sign.

Unfortunately many of the signs on churches we visited are in a state of utter disrepair. Faded. Broken. Chipped paint. Overgrown with bushes. Inaccurate service times. Advertising of parish events that are over.

Changeable Copy Sign

An outdated sign says – “this community is coasting and tired”. Worse it says “this community is threadbare and needs money.” Most persons looking for a church are looking for something vibrant – not tired or financially broke. At least give yourself a chance to get them through the door.

What kind of sign? Personally we prefer a wooden, sand blasted, raised letter sign that has some “design” to it. (see above left) They demonstrate beauty, care and love for the Temple and environs in a way that “changeable copy” (see right) signs simply do not. (But that’s a matter of opinion.)

If you can do nothing else –mow the lawn!

2. Cut the LawnSigns are not cheap. High quality, large signs easily cost thousands of dollars and create work to install get permits, maintain etc. But don’t use that as an excuse. Take a good look at your sign.

Cutting the lawn however only takes modest effort. We were invariably impressed with tidiness and interior beauty of the Temples we visited –even those with only basic facilities. The exterior view was often a different story. It was rare to find a church where the grounds did not need attention. In most cases getting the lawn trimmed, planting a few flowers or even basic foundation planting would have made a major impact in curb appeal.

Properly bringing Orthodox Christianity to America is about much more than advertising, websites, and programs designed to get people in the door. But after all is said and done if you are going to bring people in your community to the Church you eventually have to get them into the church.

Do your parish a favor and cut the grass.

Storage Cabinet

3. Tidy Up the Hall

We’ve already commented on the generally well cared for naves of the Temples we visited. Eventually the guest/ prospective Orthodox Christian will enter the social hall. It is fine to be homey – bulletin boards, posters, church school artifacts and announcements give the place life. Clutter does not.

Far too many stops exhibited totally out of control fellowship spaces. Staging grounds for flea markets. Leftovers from coffee hour. This does not indicate doing things in good order. Look around and clean it up.

(Hint: It is possible to actually purchase storage cabinets!)

Flip Chart Easel – Get a sturdy one

4. Get a Flip Chart

Say what? If you’re having trouble with productive meetings it may be because you lack the tools to conduct a useful meeting. In point of fact it is hard to have a good meeting in most of our parish spaces.

To do this you need to write the agenda on a viewable page, keep track of ideas, focus on key points and summarize. By the way you should get an easel that is foldable yet sturdy – this will not be cheap — plan on at least $150. The item shown at right is $250. Paper and pens go without saying.

LCD Projector

5… Better Yet an LCD Projector

While no meeting tool is as useful and flexible as a flip chart or white board, it is becoming extremely important for effective meetings and for education activities to have an LCD projector. This allows you to use pre-packaged presentations like the Inquirers Class, to project parish council agendas on a screen and to share pictures or graphics that can help the group to converge. You can probably find a new LCD projector that can work for you for $400. There are many factors to consider, brightness, size or room, type of presentations, portable or ceiling mounted etc. These go well beyond the scope of these comments. Yes to use the projector you need to connect it to a computer. Perhaps this is another article.

(To be fair, at least one forward thinking parish on our tour had such a projector — much appreciated.)

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